As Psychosynthesis practitioners we sometimes forget to really value and appreciate the wisdom and beauty of the psychology in which we are trained. We easily forget the legacy of Roberto Assagioli and the tradition we are coming from amidst the emerging developments within our field.
But there are certain insights which never change because they are based on fundamental truths and facts of life. Some of these insights constitute, according to Assagioli, the Seven Core Concepts of Psychosynthesis. In my recent publication, The Soul of Psychosynthesis, I explore these core concepts and the roots of Psychosynthesis, and what I found was really amazing.
Assagioli wrote the following important statement just before his death: “While Psychosynthesis is offered as a synthesis of various therapies and educational approaches, it is well to keep in mind that it possesses its own original and central essence.” It is crucial that any psychosynthesis practitioner has direct experience with these seven areas; in Assagioli words they “constitute the sine qua non of Psychosynthesis training”.
These experiences are:
2. The personal self
3. The Will: good, strong, skillful
4. The Ideal Model
5. Synthesis (in its various aspects)
6. The Superconscious
7. The Transpersonal Self
These concepts are familiar to many practitioners, so why do they constitute the very foundation of Psychosynthesis? Let me offer some thoughts on the subject based on what I explore in my book.
Disidentification and the personal self
Disidentification is the mother of the many techniques we use in Psychosynthesis; it reveals the true nature of our identity as a point of pure self-awareness and will. Disidentification is the tool we use to discover our identity as consciousness itself. This is a radical and profound experience with many levels of understanding, and the process has a potential to reveal the different stages of the self, from the personal to the Universal Self. Assagioli ingeniously applied one of the most widely used spiritual exercises in the East – Neti Neti – meaning I am "Not this, not that," within mainstream psychotherapy. In Vedic Hinduism it was intended to reveal our spiritual nature as Brahman.
By letting go of identifications with our body, emotions, thoughts, roles and behavior we gradually come to terms with one of the fundamental facts of life. We are the observer behind that which arises in consciousness; we are not the content of consciousness.
By applying this technique in Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy we are practicing one of the most fundamental healing modalities at hand today: Awareness Based Psychotherapy. The primary purpose with this technique is to train the client to discover himself as a loving observer (the true personal self) and to observe whatever arises in consciousness. Using this technique the clients learns to connect with and accept all the different states of consciousness, in particular in the lower and middle unconscious, and to become aware of what is going on in their body, emotions and mind at any given moment. This is possible when we can disidentify from our suffering and create a loving space where we can hold our pain in compassion. Through this process the self becomes truly transcendent and immanent in relation to that which we observe. The Awareness Based Psychotherapy creates a loving center and a harmonic atmosphere within.
The Will and the Ideal Model
The next fundamental and essential aspect of Psychosynthesis is the discovery of the will as part of our ontological nature. The will becomes a fact when we experience the-will-to-be-self. The will is the living force driving our need for authenticity and uniqueness. The will is the dynamic or masculine face of the self, the authority of the self, and it gives us the incentive to truly master our nature.
There’s not much freedom or joy in observing and accepting that we are slaves to limiting attachments. Without the will we are too passive and can easily fall prey to inner and outer influences in our life. The main focus in our work with the will is to define our authentic identity at our present level of development. Out of infinite possibilities we use the will to choose who we are, and in this way we become unique individuals in our expressions and actions.
We apply Will Based Psychotherapy when we mirror or explore the clients’ authentic needs, values, resources and qualities. In this way we can start to answer the question: “Who am I”? Our clients become focused when we help them to define their identity and set goals for how to express their identity in action. The outcome of Will Based Psychotherapy is power – the power to be whoever we choose to be.
This is where the Ideal Models comes in, they are images of what we could be. Assagioli understood that our entire self-perception rest on internal self-images, most of them false because they are adopted from the external environment. But we can create new self-images, because the same psychological material within can be impressed with an authentic intention. This is where creative meditation comes in, because the work with ideal models are based on our ability to visualize. Once again he applies one of the most prominent techniques of the East and combines it with his psychotherapeutic insights.
There is an evolutionary drive towards unity and wholeness in cosmos and as above so below. This is one of the fundamental facts of life. Assagioli was a true evolutionary; he maintained a positive outlook on life and had faith in the essential goodness that drives evolution. But he also acknowledges the suffering caused by inner and outer conflicts between opposing forces. We all have to conquer forces such as aggression, selfishness and greed in order to find harmony and peace within.
We can harmonize the struggling parts in us when we have found our inner center–the loving and dynamic observer. Here is when subpersonality work and Creative Psychotherapy become relevant. When we are disidentified, we can “play with” the inner voices that are creating opposition, and limit our self-expression. We can draw them or enact them using chair work. Sometimes we can encounter and transform them with the use of guided dialogues and imagery, but this requires an ability to work from the center of our self-awareness and will. In some cases the psychotherapist must be the client’s external unifying center until the client is ready, but the vision is held internally.
Why is this so? Because the qualities and the radiance of the self create synthesis –the blending of love and will create wholeness. The result of synthesis is flow, an ability to express our identity with spontaneity and ease.
The Superconscious and the Transpersonal Self
It is not for everyone to explore the farther reaches of our human nature, but Assagioli actually created a spiritual psychology which can take us all the way to Enlightenment. The techniques of awareness meditation, visualization and transformative practices can expand our consciousness from the personal to the universal.
The first steps are to get in touch with the meaning and purpose of our life. This gives us a sense of being connected to the whole and a humanistic or altruistic focus, without eliminating the personal aspects of our life. We connect to the world with our unique creative gifts and we explore the Superconscious dimensions of our nature. In Psychosynthesis this is the practice of Transpersonal Psychotherapy.
But there’s a deeper or more radical expression of this spiritual process, where the personal self starts to blend with the Transpersonal Self. Here our sense of being as separate individuals, imprisoned within a body and a psychic atmosphere, merges with an open, boundless and purposeful awareness. To define the Transpersonal Self is impossible, because how can the mind grasp the trans-mental? We can only use symbolic language to point to this profound experience. This old affirmation is one of my favorites:
I am a point of light within a greater Light.
I am a strand of loving energy within the stream of Love divine.
I am a point of sacrificial Fire, focused within the fiery Will of God.
The main influence at this stage in psychotherapy is the direct transmission of the Transpersonal Self from the psychotherapist to the client.
The legacy of Roberto Assagioli is profound and his Seven Core Concepts are perspectives to perceptions of the utmost importance. It is my suggestion in the book that there are seven ways to Self-realization:
Disidentification – is a way to Freedom
The self – is a way to Presence
The will – is a way to Power
The ideal model – is a way to Focus
Synthesis – is a way to Flow
The Superconscious – is a way to Abundance
The Transpersonal Self – is a way to Love
Kenneth is a graduate of the Trust's Psychotherapy MA programme and Director of Training and Education at the Norwegian Institute of Psychosynthesis. His book The Soul of Psychosynthesis - The Seven Core Concepts is available now.
Training – A Statement from Roberto Assagioli, 1974,
The Soul of Psychosynthesis, Kenneth Sørensen, Kentaur Forlag, 2016