Assagioli presents how a woman can find meaning as grandmother and as an inspirational woman and give his view on the differences between men and woman.
By Roberto Assagioli, translated from Italian by Gordon Symons. Original Italian title: Tipi E Gradi Della Psicosintesi I– (Types And Degrees Of Psychosynthesis I). From the Assagioli Archive in Florence.
Before proceeding in our examination of the various types and degrees of the unification of oneself, or of psychosynthesis, we must complete what we have said about the different ways in which women can implement their female vocation, at the same time becoming aware of themselves, bringing together and channeling their inner energies, and performing beneficial action towards others.
We still need to mention two of these ways. We have said that when the mother has finished performing her active maternal function with her children, she must be able to find other activities and other interests on which to focus her inner and outer energies. In addition to the various activities we have spoken of, there is one to which the mother can dedicate herself, and which can become a renewed form of motherhood for her: it is dedicating herself as a grandmother to her grandchildren. In this feminine function, the mature woman, but still internally alive and active, can indeed be, in some respects, a mother again, or rather a wiser, more serene and composed mother. She can partially replace and integrate the work of the mother of her grandchildren. And in this work, as in any gift of true and high love, the woman herself is enriched and benefited. In this continued activity, her inner faculties remain agile and fresh, continue to develop, and she remains in contact with the life that unfolds around her: in a word, she remains psychologically young.
Among the most significant examples, I will mention that of Countess Gabriella Spalletti Rasponi, Founder and President of the National Council of Italian Women, who while with youthful enthusiasm followed every new cultural and spiritual current, going to Rome and hosting […] promoters, from Coué to Keyserling, latterly gave a shining example of that family education about which she had organized a memorable Congress. She, already seventy years old and of unsteady health, wanted to follow closely the education of a young nephew, so she re-studied Latin and Greek with him, to have an intimate knowledge of his soul and encourage his development. There are therefore many beneficial possibilities for the grandmother’s maternal function, which is usually free from the mother’s frequent excesses and errors. But it can often have this a flaw, which must be consciously eliminated to avoid harm to her grandchildren: excessive indulgence and weakness towards their whims and naughtiness.
What has been said for the grandmother may apply, to a certain extent, to the renewed paternal function of the grandfather.
Another female function which must not be passed over in silence, and which is one of the noblest and highest, is that of the inspirational woman. We have here an example of intertwining and fruitful integration of male and female elements in the same person. The inspiring function is in fact exquisitely dynamic, active and propulsive; in a certain sense, it is a spiritual fertilization, and is therefore psychologically positive, one could almost say virile. On the other hand, the poet and the artist who, inspired by a woman, create the work of art within themselves and then express it and give it life, fulfill psychologically a maternal, feminine function.
This confirms what we have already said, that is, that the artist has in his constitution a considerable measure of female psychological elements, such as emotionality and imagination. I can’t stop to talk at length about the inspiring woman. I will only refer to such fine psychological analysis of the inspiring woman, and of those who were inspired, is found in the following books of the Schuré: “Femmes inspiratrices et poètes annonciateurs” and “Les prophètes de la renaissance” (also published in Italian translations by the publisher Laterza di Bari) .
Instead, I think it appropriate to dwell a little on the study of the differences in male and female psychology, precisely for the direct purpose of psychosynthesis. We can say that between the woman and the man there is a different polarity. In the external physical world, man is positive and woman negative. Man has active, dynamic and constructive functions; the woman – in general – has the function of looking after the family. In the emotional and imaginative sphere, the polarity is different: here the woman is the more positive, active and better developed, while the man is less positive and is more easily influenced. In the mental and intellectual field there is a new inversion of polarity: the man is eminently active, positive, more developed, a reasoner, logical and rational, while the woman in this field is generally less developed and not very active. But there is also another sphere, often overlooked, which is the intuitive and spiritual one (in a generic sense), in which the woman has well developed faculties while the man has not.
Now, important qualitative differences correspond to these different polarities which are helpful in explaining many deficiencies, many imbalances, dissociations and internal conflicts, and even many nervous and psychic disorders. These differences have been studied precisely by C.G. Jung, who pioneered this obscure and complex field.
Generally speaking, it can be said that in the average man, so-called normal man, while the virile qualities and psychological functions – such as thinking, combativeness, constructiveness, etc. – gradually develop and become more and more explicit in their corresponding external manifestations, on the other hand, the female qualities and internal functions such as sensitivity, feeling, imagination and intuition remain at a primitive and almost atrophic stage. They participate only to a small extent in the normal process of development and refinement, and in the normal clarification and maturation. So, he can often, in that sense, remain a primitive, almost a barbarian.
His imagination, generally compressed in the unconscious, emerges with uncomfortable, vain and not infrequently low fantasies, which he himself is ashamed of. His sentiment tends to remain primitive; he has no finesse or plasticity. He often goes from bursts of almost wild passion to hardness and dryness, and vice versa to almost childish insensitivity and weakness, and to excessive sentimentality like a boy. His intuition is generally rudimentary, such as to be, in practice, non-existent. He wants to solve all problems, ideal and practical, with the mind, with reasoning, without taking into account the more subtle and imponderable elements, so that he often makes mistakes. Life with its unforeseen events demolishes the beautifully ordered projects and programs that have been cleverly designed and formulated in his mind. Then he blames it on people and events, instead of blaming himself and his inner limitations.
The opposite happens in women. Virile psychological functions, especially thinking and reasoning, are often rudimentary, childish and primitive. The woman on the intellectual side often has opinions and preconceptions, and superstitions, to which she is tenaciously attached; she does not let herself be moved even by the evidence of the facts and sound reason. These opinions can sometimes be right, if suggested by intuition, but they are often wrong, when they are the result of personal emotion, imagination and family and social traditions which are accepted without criticism.
This is typical of women. The average woman does not question herself about the validity of what she believes. Intellectuality, mental activity manifests itself as a tendency to discuss analytically, generally, with often personal and non-objective topics. It is easy to see that this one-sidedness, this developmental deficiency can cause serious harm.
Man and woman are such incomplete beings, almost psychologically mutilated, that this state of theirs often makes it difficult for them to find mutual integration, so as to constitute – at least together, by uniting their qualities – a complete human being. In fact, the man, in whom female functions are rudimentary, does not know or understand or appreciate the woman. He feels attracted, even in an irresistible way, towards her, he vaguely feels that she possesses things that are missing in him, but he does not know how to come close to her internally. He gives the impression of being a strange, elusive and chameleon-like being; the changeability, the imagination, the sharpness of his sensitivity, the richness and plasticity of his imagination diconcert and confuse him. He cannot grasp the finesse and nuances of his feelings; his intuitions arise in him, but not understanding their nature and genesis, they leave him perplexed and generally skeptical.
In her turn, the woman, unable to escape from her subjectivism and personalism, indeed often not even trying to do so, has no understanding of virile qualities and activities. She loves man with personal, possessive and jealous affection. But even loving him, she does not know or appreciate his world, his feelings and his ideals; she sees only the negative side.
She tends to regard him as a savage who mercilessly crushes the delicate butterflies in his rough hand, who tramples and spoils fragrant and colorful flowers without regard; a bad boy who tends to get into fights with others, who risks his life in reckless ventures, who loses himself in the complicated toys of his machines, who neglects and forgets those who love him, in order to search for ancient ruins, rare manuscripts, and to build complicated theories and systems.
I purposely wanted to exaggerate and describe some extreme cases, to provide more evidence for what I wanted to point out. But fortunately, things are actually generally much better than that, or at least, less bad! In fact, it is not uncommon to gradually develop a certain mutual understanding and integration, with life experience and as a result of efforts at adaptation, and also by virtue of the painful bumps that make you stop and think. Note that this can also happen outside of marital cohabitation, in various social relationships. The qualities of the opposite sex become gradually known, understood and appreciated.
That is already a lot. But you can go further, you can take another important and decisive step in your psychosynthesis, in your own inner unification. That is, to recognize that the qualities we see in the opposite sex are manifestations, external projections, so to speak, of qualities and faculties that remained latent, rudimentary, and repressed in our unconscious.
Thus, with the help of these development models that are incarnate in people of the opposite sex, we can develop the part that was lacking in us, make it become “adult” and more psychologically complete. Of course, there will always be a prevalence of the specific psychic characteristics of one’s sex, but the others, despite being quantitatively less developed, can still be brought to an adequate degree of evolution, refinement and awareness.
We will see in the second part of our course – dedicated to the implementation of Psychosynthesis – the methods by which this result can be reached. There is a whole art, a technique, in seeking in our unconscious those rudimentary faculties and those undeveloped elements, and subjecting them to intensive training.
In these last four lessons we have seen how you can find your unifying center in a function, in a task, in a social or family activity. Through this task, through this social or family function, the human being is realized, his faculties are developed, and he is integrated and unified, that is, he fulfills his own psychosynthesis. However, this only applies to a certain type of person, a well-determined psychological type: that of the extrovert.
This method does not apply to another important human type: that of the introvert. I talked about these two psychological types extensively in the course held last year, but given that there are several new listeners, and also to recall – I think not unnecessarily – some notions that are perhaps partially forgotten, I allow myself to make a quick summary of what I exhibited last year.
These two “types” are fundamental, and were also more or less known in the past; but he who has the merit of having developed and deepened the study, is the eminent Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung.
The two types are characterized by opposite directions of their internal interests, one centripetal and the other centrifugal. In centrifugal motion, called extroversion, or direction towards the outside, the interest turns towards the external world, which constitutes a field of attraction, a magnet for the personality. Instead in the centripetal motion, or introversion, the interest detaches itself from the external world and turns towards the subject itself, which with its modalities and qualities becomes the center of attention, the inner field of observation and activity.
This double movement of interest, of psychic energy, alternates rhythmically in normal man. Each of us has moments in which he immerses himself in the world and in external life, identifies himself almost with it, allows himself be moved and swept along; moments when he wants to express and impose his creative energy on the outside. Conversely, everyone has other moments in which he detaches himself from external objects, turns inwards and focuses on himself.
But this rhythmic alternating is not always the same, neither in magnitude nor in intensity. Thus two opposite human types can be observed and distinguished: that of the extrovert, in which the vital interest is directed more often and more intensely towards the external world; and that of introverted ones, in which interest for subject himself and for his inner activity prevails. The real existence of these two types is easy to prove, if we take into consideration some salient personalities of one or the other.
For the introverted type I will point to Immanuel Kant, whose lack of interest in the outside world was such that he did not deign to move from the small native town of Königsberg, while his constant inexhaustible interest in the life of the inner world, his thought that he tried tirelessly to think of himself, gave us the monument of the Three Criticisms.
Another example, that of Proust, the French novelist who closed himself in a cork-lined room from which he hardly ever came out, and where he analyzed the more subtle and elusive motions of his own soul and that of others. Among the extroverted people, first of all, the great men of action who, all facing outwards, impressed on the world the footsteps of their passage: Julius Caesar, Napoleon, etc. Among the moderns, the great men of action in industry, commerce and other fields.
There are also more differentiated psychological subtypes, which require more careful analysis. There are in fact active and passive extroverts, as well as active and passive introverts. In addition, introversion and extroversion can be distinguished in the various fields and in the various species of human activity. Extroversion in the physical field: men of action; in the emotional field: the lover turned fully towards the loved one; extroversion in the mental field, when intellectual activity is aimed at practical, technical problems; extroversion in the spiritual and mystical field, which is shown by the active apostolate of the mystics.
Introversion too, has its manifestations in every field. In the physical field it is represented by the attention – often excessive and morbid – for one’s body and its sensations; in the emotional field, the analysis of one’s emotions; in the mental one, analytical, psychological and philosophical activity. Introversion in the spiritual and intuitive field is given by mystical intuition, meditation and contemplation.
Finally, I will mention one last important fact: that is, one can be extraverted in one field, and introverted in another. Extroverted in the practical, active and physical field, and introverted in emotions. For example, the man who is not psychologically developed, is precisely an extravert in the physical and mental fields, and a rudimentary, passive introvert in the emotional field. Similarly, the woman is extroverted in the emotional field – with her emotions turned inwards, and her attachment to people and objects – and introverted in the world of physical activity and in the intellectual field. All this only as a general rule; there are also many exceptions.
The relative methods for implementing psychosynthesis are necessarily very different for all these various “types”.