July 24, 2013
This introduction to Psychosynthesis provides a good framework for upcoming posts.
Next week I will bring you an article that describes a relationship I have had with a friend and colleague for several decades and who has provided lots of good feedback on my books. I think it will help you understand the connection I have with her if I set the stage with some of the philosophy and experience she and I share.
I’ll begin with quotations from Healing Relationships is an Inside Job: When the Connection Between You and Another Person is Strained or Broken, which she helped me edit.
In 1911, Roberto Assagioli, an Italian psychiatrist, developed a school of psychology and philosophy in the art of living called “Psychosynthesis” that I believe accurately, clearly, and holistically describes the human psyche. He created a model of how we are often driven apart by conflicting parts of ourselves, which his student, Piero Ferrucci, describes it this way in the book, What We May Be:
Each of us is a crowd. There can be the rebel and the intellectual, the seducer and the housewife, the saboteur and the aesthete, the organizer and the bon vivant—each with its own mythology, and all more or less comfortably crowded into one single person. Often they are far from being at peace with one another. As Assagioli wrote, ‘We are not unified, we often feel that we are, because we do not have many bodies and many limbs, and because one hand doesn’t usually hit the other. But, metaphorically, that is exactly what does happen within us. Several Subpersonalities [false selves] are continually scuffling: impulses, desires, principles, aspirations are engaged in an unceasing struggle.
Now, it’s time for me to describe how these parts of ourselves can cause great difficulty with others if they are not understood and managed by the “true self.” It isn’t easy to explain, or to draw, the true self and its relationship to self-awareness, but the model I like best sees the true self as being at the center of a circle. Everything that happens to us is experienced within that circle; however, the true self does not attach itself to any of them. It simply and calmly notices our thoughts, our feelings and emotions, our relationships, our needs and desires, our body and physical sensations, and what we do.
Because the true self is not attached to any of these experiences, but only observes them, it can say:
- I am more than my opinions, ideas and beliefs.
- I am more than my emotions and feelings.
- I am more than my relationships.
- What I want and desire and what I have does not define me.
- I am more than what I do.
- How I look or feel does not limit me.
Unfortunately for our relationships, we have an ego. . . . that draws attention to itself. Like the true self, it also notices our thoughts, emotions, desires, actions, sensations, and relationships, but it attaches itself from one to the other. At one moment the ego is entirely focused on our thoughts and opinions. The next moment it is overcome with emotions. A short while later it becomes aware of something it wants and it’s off again in another direction.
Because the ego jumps back and forth from one sensation to another, from one moment to the next, it sees you quite differently than the true self does. Consequently, it thinks:
- You are your thoughts.
- You are your emotions.
- You are what you want.
- You are your possessions and the size of your bank account.
- You are how you look and how you feel.
- You are what you do.
- You are defined by your family and your relationships.
Eva Fugitt, teacher and author of He Hit Me Back First!: Development of the Will in Children for Making Choices, adapted some of Assagioli’s techniques for the classroom and describes the process this way:
. . . This [self-] awareness is gradually brought into consciousness through a series of techniques, including imagery and visualization, designed to achieve harmony and synthesis within a person and between the person and her surroundings. Psychosynthesis, then, is a process of connecting with the Self—the core of our being—so that it can direct our life and relationships with joy and wisdom. For children, I simply say it is getting in touch with the Wise Part Within us.
In order words, since “psyche” means self and “synthesis” means integration, Psychosynthesis is simply a way of “getting your act together.” It is a perspective that most closely parallels what I observe in both myself and others, and which has been used as the model for other theories of the human mind, although different terms are sometimes used.
If you are interested in understanding this approach to self-awareness and its relationship with healing relationships, please check out the page describing the book at Healing Relationships is an Inside Job.