Chapter 11: Growth Resources in Psychosynthesis
Psychosynthesis was developed by psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli, who was born in Venice, Italy, in 1888. He had his medical and psychiatric training at the University of Florence, where he also studied philosophy and psychology. Assagioli was part of the original psychoanalytic group in Italy, but around 1911 he began to move beyond Freud, developing his own approach. He continued to change and develop psychosynthesis until his death in Florence in 1974. Until relatively recently, his work was not widely known outside of Italy. But in the last decade his books have been translated into many languages, and psychosynthesis institutes have developed in various parts of the world. In this country his ideas are influencing a growing number of therapists as well as persons in the human potentials movement.
Psychosynthesis is a whole-person approach to healing and growth. It is one of the most productive sources of both concepts and methods for growth-oriented counselors and therapists. Psychosynthesis is explicitly growth-centered. With prophetic insight, Assagioli declares: ” Only the development of his inner powers can offset the dangers inherent in man’s [sic] losing control of the tremendous forces at his disposal and becoming the victim of his own achievements. . . .
This is indispensable for maintaining the sanity and indeed the very survival of humanity.”(1)
Psychosynthesis is also explicitly spiritually oriented. Many of its methods are useful in facilitating spiritual growth. The impact of psychosynthesis on pastoral counseling theory and practice has been relatively slight, even though it is potentially invaluable as a resource for any spiritually oriented counselor. The full incorporation of this approach is one of the challenges for the future of pastoral counseling.
Until the last few years, I did not sense the significance of psychosynthesis and therefore did not take time to explore this therapy in depth. When I did, I was excited by its riches and struck by the many parallels with the approach that I was by then calling Growth Counseling.
Psychosynthesis’ Insights About Growth
In discussing the affinities of his views with those of Carl Jung, Assagioli states his wholeness orientation:
In the practice of therapy we both agree in rejecting “pathologism,” the concentration upon morbid manifestations and symptoms of a supposedly psychological “disease.” We regard man [sic] as a fundamentally healthy organism in which there may be a temporary malfunctioning. Nature is always trying to re-establish harmony, and with the psyche the principle of synthesis is dominant. . . .The task of therapy is to aid the individual in transforming the personality, and integrating apparent contradictions.(2)
Assagioli has an appreciation for the way in which the intensive study of pathology by psychoanalysis and depth psychology has enlarged and deepened our understanding of the human psyche. But he also declared:
The pathological approach has, besides its assets, also a serious liability, and that is an exaggerated emphasis on the morbid manifestations and on the lower aspects of human nature and the consequent unwarranted generalized applications of the many findings of psychopathology to the psychology of normal human beings. This has produced a rather dreary and pessimistic picture of human nature and the tendency to consider its higher values and achievements as derived only from the lower drives, through processes of reaction formation, transformation, and sublimation. Moreover, many important realities and functions have been neglected or ignored: intuition, creativity, the will, and the very core of the human psyche — the Self.(3)
Psychosynthesis affirms the natural drive of persons to grow by integrating their lives at higher levels. The fact that the growth drive can become conscious in us human beings enables us to cooperate with this drive and thus to accelerate the process of actualizing our potentials.
Assagioli accepted many insights derived from Freud’s brilliant exploration of the “lower unconscious.” Yet he saw Freud’s conception of persons as incomplete and inadequate. When asked about the difference between psychosynthesis and psychoanalysis, in an interview not long before his death, he responded with a striking metaphor:
In one of his letters Freud said, “I am interested only in the basement of the human building.” We try to build an elevator which will allow a person access to every level of his personality. After all, a building with only a basement is very limited. We want to open up the terrace where you can sun-bathe or look at the stars. Our concern is the synthesis of all areas of the personality. This means psychosynthesis is holistic, global and inclusive. It is not against psychoanalysis or even behavior modification, but it insists that the need for meaning, for higher values, for a spiritual life, are as real as biological or social needs.(4)
Here is the “egg diagram,” which Assagioli created to show the interrelatedness of the various dimensions of personality:(5)
Assagioli’s view of human beings is more complex and richer than Freud’s. As the diagram suggests, the unconscious has three levels. In addition to the lower unconscious there is also a middle unconscious, which is accessible to our waking consciousness, and a higher unconscious or “superconscious.” The higher Self, our creative center and essence, is within this higher unconscious. The “I,” or the self of everyday experience, is not one’s ultimate identity. Rather, it is a reflection of the much more creative higher Self. Making our true Self the unifying center of our being is the primary goal of psychosynthesis. The oval delimiting the individual is analogous to the permeable membrane of a cell, which permits active interchange with the whole body. A person is in constant interaction with the wider interpersonal and transpersonal psychological and spiritual environment.
Psychosynthesis seeks to combine the objectivity of science with the passion of a seeker for religious truth. “Spiritual” is used in psychosynthesis to include specifically religious experiences but also the whole range of ethical, aesthetic, and humanistic values. Psychosynthesis recognizes and respects the need of many people for formal religion. But its goal is to help people enrich their lives through direct spiritual experience.
The basic resources for growth come from the higher Self or superconscious. As do other therapies, psychosynthesis seeks to help people utilize their sexual and aggressive energies creatively. But it also aims at helping them use “the potent superconscious spiritual energies, which have a transforming and regenerating influence on the whole personality.” Assagioli emphasized the remarkable potency of these spiritual energies when he declared: “This release may be compared to that of intra-atomic energy latent in matter.”(6) The energies of the higher Self exert a continual pull toward the actualization of our higher potentialities.
For Assagioli, the spiritual growth drives are as natural as the sexual and aggressive drives of the lower unconscious:
May I emphasize the fact that the elements and functions coming from the superconscious, such as aesthetic, ethical, religious experiences, intuition, inspiration, states of mystical conscious- ness, are factual, are real in the pragmatic sense . . . producing changes both in the inner and the outer world. Therefore, they are amenable to observation and experiment, through the use of the scientific method. . . . Also they can be influenced and utilized through psycho-spiritual techniques.(7)
The will, understood as the capacity for decision, planning, and purpose, is regarded as a key resource in all phases of psychosynthesis. The will is a muscle-like part of the personality that can be strengthened and developed by will-training exercises. Decision and action, guided by an effective will, are the main thrusts of growth toward higher levels of integration. Assagioli writes: “The will is like the conductor of an orchestra. He is not self assertive but rather the humble servant of the composer and the score.”(8) Among all our potentials, the power of the will should be given priority in striving to create both more complete, integrated selves and a better world. Only by the mobilization of the creative powers of the will can the human family avoid destroying ourselves by our runaway technology.
The imagination is another essential growth resource in psychosynthesis. Images and symbols are accumulators and transformers of the psychological energies that empower all growth, whether in therapy, education, or in other contexts. For this reason, the use of guided imaging has a key place in the practice of psychosynthesis.
When one considers the patriarchal climate of the era in which his thinking developed, Assagioli was remarkably liberated in his attitudes toward women. He had a strong emphasis on androgynous wholeness in his understanding of growth. Following Jung’s thought (without most of Jung’s patriarchal biases) in seeing “masculine” and “feminine” components, he declared: “Only by accepting both the masculine and feminine principles, bringing them together, and harmonizing them within ourselves, will we be able to transcend the conditioning of our roles, and to express the whole range of our latent potential.”(9) He emphasized the need in our society for women to be more involved in social and political life and thus to bring greater compassion, altruistic love, and respect for life into the public arena. He affirmed the right of women to combine the public roles with traditional family roles, if they choose, or to give their full energies to social and political roles. He called for a new society that is neither patriarchal nor matriarchal, but a global culture incorporating the best contributions of both men and women. With buoyant optimism, he declared: “All of this is within our reachùfor not only is it very beautiful — it is very human.”(10)
What are the resistances to growth in psychosynthesis? Growth can be blocked by a variety of forces on various levels of the psyche. Assagioli pointed to the conflict between inertia and the craving for security, on the one hand, and the drive toward growth and adventure on the other. Resistance to growth can result from the way emerging needs and drives threaten old securities. Growth also can be blocked by failure to use the will constructively and by overidentification with one of the “subpersonalities” within individuals. The therapist’s or client’s acceptance of a traditional view of psychopathology can limit growth by causing them to ignore the essential resources for growth in the Self — will, imagination, creativity. Furthermore, inadequate ideals and heroes/heroines can diminish actualization by depriving a person of growth-enhancing goals and models of the good life.
The Process of Growth
A therapist begins psychosynthesis by discovering the particular needs stemming from the unique problems that an individual is facing. If growth is being blocked by unresolved conflicts in the lower unconscious, therapy has an analytic phase in which traditional psychotherapeutic approaches may be used. But analysis — “a separating of the whole into component parts in order to understand the nature, function and relationship of these parts”(11) is seldom more than a minor part of therapy. The primary emphasis, as the word “psychosynthesis” suggests, is synthesis — “an integration, a wholeness, a unity, a harmonious use of all your potentialities.”
Although there are three phases of the process of psychosynthesis, in actual practice the phases do not necessarily occur in succession or separately. Often they take place in a back-and-forth or parallel manner, depending on the unique growth needs of the individual. If, for example, initial exploration reveals serious ethical and religious conflicts, as is often the case, these may be taken up in therapy immediately. The first level of psychosynthesis is personal synthesis. This phase aims at the synthesis of the conflicted or competing “subpersonalities” around the conscious self or ego (a method for doing this is described later in this chapter). The second level, “spiritual synthesis,” aims at integration around the Self, the higher spiritual center. This process seeks to realize the superconscious potentials of personality — the capacities for meaning, values, love, altruism, and for aesthetic, scientific, and spiritual creativity. New creative energies are released in one’s life and relationships as synthesis occurs around this spiritual center. The purpose of life, as understood in psychosynthesis, is to manifest this Self as fully as possible in one’s everyday life and relationships.
Assagioli saw the process of spiritual development as “a long and arduous journey, an adventure through strange lands full of surprises, difficulties, and even dangers.”(12) Disturbing crises often precede and result from a spiritual awakening. But he also saw the joy in growth. Responding to Maslow’s call for a “technology of joy,” Assagioli defined enjoyment as that which results from the satisfaction of any need; pleasure he saw as resulting from the gratification of a “basic need” (Maslow’s term); joy from the satisfaction of a higher need. He declared: “Acts of good will have rich and sometimes amazing results. Altruistic, humanitarian activities give deep satisfaction and a sense of fulfilling one’s true purpose in life. As an Eastern sage said, ‘World tasks are like fires of joy.'”(13) Self-actualization gives one a joyous sense of power, freedom, and mastery. Full transpersonal Self-realization, involving communion or identification with the transcendent Reality, results in what Assagioli called Bliss.
The third level of the process of psychosynthesis, according to Assagioli, is transpersonal synthesis. This phase aims at getting one into a harmonious relationship with other persons and with the cosmos. Clearly psychosynthesis is a system-oriented approach. The integration of synthesis of interpersonal relationships, of the individual with various groups, with the whole human family, and with the spiritual reality called God — all may be a part of this third phase of growth. The essential unity of these different relationships is understood as a transpersonal spiritual oneness. Since persons live inextricably in relationships, a “good will” always involves harmonization with the wills of others and with nature. An inclusive ecological awareness is present in Assagioli’s understanding of growth:
Selfeenteredness is deeply destructive to the cooperation without which a person cannot live a full life in community. This same principle applies to an individual’s relation to nature and the universe. No person can take an arrogant stand and consider himself unrelated to the universe. Like it or not, man [sic] is part of the universal will and he must somehow tune in and willingly participate in the rhythms of universal life. The harmonization and unification of the individual and universal will is one of the highest human goals, even if it is seldom realized.(14)
There is an outreach thrust in Assagioli’s thought which I find refreshing: “Inner experience is not an end in itself but a means to a deeper, more dynamic and effective involvement with and service to humanity.”(15) It is significant that Assagioli attempted to launch a “Will Project” aimed at generating good, strong, transpersonal wills to improve relationships in families, between different racial and religious groups, and among nations.(16) In a recent paper in the psychosynthesis journal Donald Keys describes what he calls the “synthesis of the nations,” the process by which planetary values and a sense of global responsibility are developed through the “planetization of our consciousness.”(17)
The therapist takes an active role in the early phase of psychosynthesis, utilizing whatever methods are needed to actualize that dimension of a person’s potentials. Gradually, the individual exercises increasing responsibility, and the therapist becomes primarily a catalyst in the growth process. In the later phases the role of the therapist is gradually taken by the individual’s higher Self, of whom the person has increasing awareness and identification. The inner wisdom of one’s own higher Self is seen as the most valid source of guidance. Knowing this (as Robert Gerard points out) gives a therapist a sense of both humility and hope:
If you recognize the existence of a spiritual Self with a capital “S” then you also recognize as a therapist that there is within your patient (within all of us, for that matter) an inner source of love, of intelligence, of wisdom, of creativity, of inner direction and purpose. . . . It can help a great deal if the therapist has a conviction, drawn from direct experience, that regardless of how wretched, confused or sick the individual may appear on the surface, there is this inner center of psychological health, of wisdom, of purpose, which is there to be evoked.(18)
The therapist’s central task is to help the person become aware of and learn to use this inner wisdom and power for healing and growth.
The nonhierarchical, egalitarian style of psychosynthesis is expressed in Assagioli’s view that having a therapist, although an advantage, is not essential: “Psychosynthesis can be applied by the individual himself or herself, fostering and accelerating inner growth and self-actualization. . . , Such self-psychosynthesis should be practiced . . . by every therapist, social worker, and educator (including parents).”(19)
Weaknesses from the Growth Perspective
The weaknesses in psychosynthesis seem to me to be relatively minor, when viewed in the context of its many strengths. Although this therapy has a thoroughly ecological-systemic conception of growth, the lion’s share of attention in psychosynthesis circles has been given to intrapsychic growth. Consequently there has been too little effort invested in applying psychosynthesis to interpersonal relationships and to impacting the wider structures of society and the ecosystem. Fortunately, the systemic emphasis seems to have become stronger in recent years. Hopefully it will become an increasingly central concern of therapists who are developing the theory and practice of psychosynthesis.
The emphasis on the will runs the danger of all approaches to growth that highlight intentionality. This is the risk of encouraging what Karen Homey called the “tyranny of the oughts and shoulds.” Pushing oneself toward high ideals can produce unproductive frustration and even despair. It is noteworthy that Assagioli warned of this danger. In discussing the use of ideals and action plans in therapy he emphasized that these need to be “authentic,” that is, in line with the natural development of the person. Assagioli saw that a “genuine ideal model” can help one tap the resources of the higher Self. Using the power of images, such a model releases the energies of change.(20) Falling into the trap of perfectionism is seen as being prevented by getting in touch with the wisdom of one’s higher Self.
Assagioli seems to underestimate the tenacious resistances to growth in us human beings and in society. His enthusiasm for the importance of the will in growth caused him to underemphasize the considerable extent to which the wills of us human beings are “in bondage” (as Martin Luther put it).
Growth Methods from Psychosynthesis
The choice of particular therapeutic methods in psychosynthesis is made in light of the emerging growth needs of each individual. I shall now describe some of these tools which I have found useful. Let me recommend that you try them yourself before you attempt to use them in counseling or therapy or in growth groups:
Disidentification and Self-Identification. This exercise is a way of identifying the “I,” or center of consciousness, around which personal synthesis can occur. According to psychosynthesis theory, we are dominated by that with which we are identified. As a middle-class male, I frequently become overidentified with my work and with striving for material security and “success.” When I do, my anxieties in that one area of my life dominate my sense of identity and self-worth. To that extent that I disidentify myself from my job, my professional roles, and my anxiety about material things, I free myself inwardly from being the captive of my work and of things. It becomes easier to view my job in a more balanced perspective as only one important dimension of my life and not the center of my identity or worth.
The first part of this exercise is disidentification. Read the following statements a few sentences at a time and then close your eyes and repeat them in your mind silently. Or ask someone to read them to you sentence by sentence while you repeat them inwardly. Sit in a comfortable position, relax, and close your eyes.
I affirm: I have a body but / am more than my body. My body may find itself in different conditions or sickness; it may be rested or tired. . , . My body is my precious instrument of experience and action in the outer world. . . . I treat it well; I seek to keep it in good health. . . . I have a body, but l am more than my body. (21)
In a similar way, disidentify your self from your feelings and emotions (I have emotions, but lam more than my emotions, and so on); your desires; your intellect and thoughts; your job; your social roles (e.g., father or mother, husband or wife, your job roles); your relationships; your problems. Go through the whole list, taking one aspect of your life at a time. Be aware of those aspects with which you feel overidentified. (I find this exercise helpful when I am investing excessive energy in a part of my body that is giving me trouble — for example, “I have teeth and they are causing me discomfort at this moment, but I am more than my teeth.”)
The second part of this exercise is self-identification. After finishing the disidentification process, repeat the following:
What am I then? What remains after discarding from the center of my identity the physical, emotional, and mental contents of my personality? . . . It is the essence of myself — a center of pure consciousness and self realization. It is the permanent factor in the ever varying flow of my personal life. It is that which gives me the sense of being, of permanence, of inner security. I recognize and affirm myself as a center of consciousness. I realize that the center not only has a continuity of self-awareness but also a dynamic power; it is capable of observing, mastering, directing and using the psychological processes in my physical body and in my mind. I am a center of awareness and of power.(22)
It takes most people considerable practice before the profundity of this simple exercise is experienced fully.
Getting to Know Your Subpersonalities. Each of us has a diversity of semiautonomous subpersonalities within us. TA emphasizes the Parent-Adult-Child sides of our personalities; gestalt therapy focuses on the Top Dog vs. Under Dog sides. Psychosynthesis has identified hundreds of other subpersonalities. I can recognize many subpersonalities within myselfùthe Mystic, the Materialist, the Crusader, the Sneak, the Doubter, the Playful Kid, the Prisoner, the Clown, the Dreamer, the Cynic, the Good Professor. When our subpersonalities are unknown to us, they produce inner conflicts and diffusion in our sense of “I-ness.” It facilitates our growth to get to know, understand, and like our subpersonalities. By so doing, our self can learn to direct their expression according to our goals and needs. Thus they become allies and resources for enriching our identity, our life, and our relationships.(23) Here is an exercise for getting to know one’s subpersonalities:
“Sit comfortably and relax. After closing your eyes, take a few deep breaths. Imagine a big wooden door in front of you. On the door there is a sign that says SUBPERSONALITIES. Imagine that they all live behind the door. Now open the door and let some of your main subpersonalities come out. Just observe them. Don’t get involved. Be aware of them.”(24)
Now choose a subpersonality that seems most interesting to you. Carry on a dialogue with this one, finding out what it is like and what it wants and needs./ Now let yourself become that subpersonality. Discover how this feels./ Be yourself again and choose another subpersonality with whom to get acquainted. Take all the time you need to develop the best possible relationship with all your subpersonalities one at a time on successive occasions of growth work.
Will Training Exercises. There are six stages of willing, according to Assagioli; (1) the existence of a purpose to be achieved; (2) deliberation on the various goals and their relative importance; (3) making a decision on one important goal and setting aside the others; (4) confirmation of the choice by an affirmation of this goal by will; (5) development of a plan to achieve the goal; (6) directing the implementation of the plan. Will strengthening occurs as one moves intentionally through these stages.
Try this, now. Reflect on the various goals you would like to accomplish within the next week./ Choose one that has high priority and is achievable./ Confirm the choice by affirming that you will invest yourself in achieving this goal./ Devise a concrete, detailed plan and then use your will to implement it. If your goal is to strengthen your body, develop a daily program of physical exercise appropriate to your health. If your goal is to increase your sense of being in charge of your life or to decrease the amount of time you waste, plan and implement a realistic, meaningful schedule for yourself. I recall a client who was plagued by the chronic chaos of trying to accomplish too many things in a given period of time without a prioritized schedule. After a week of implementing a carefully prepared, realistic schedule, he reported: “I feel as though I’m on top of my situation. It’s like I’m running my life rather than having circumstances run me!” It is important to become aware of and deal with the subpersonalities that interfere with the functioning of your will — the Self-doubter, the Saboteur, Lazy Bones, and others.
Imagination Training. Images can be used at many points in the process of growth. Some of the common images used in psychosynthesis include seeing oneself walking along a stream, being in a meadow, visiting a house, becoming a lion (to get in touch with one’s strong, assertive side), and so on. One’s active imagination can provide both motivation and energy for growth. (It activates the energies and creativity of the right hemisphere of our brains.) Assagioli observed that “images and mental pictures tend to produce the physical condition and external acts corresponding to them.”(25)
This principle is being used effectively in many areas. The use of imaging by cancer patients, as pioneered by the Simontons (see chapter 8), is one productive application. The next time you have a sore muscle from overexertion of some kind, try relaxing that part of your body and, in your imagination, surround it with a warm, healing energy as you visualize it as well again. Do this several times a day and be aware of the effects. This imaging process seems to release healing energy within the body. If you are worried about some demanding event in the future, try this brief daily exercise: See yourself in your imagination coping with that event in a strong, effective way. Even see yourself enjoying it. Or, if you regard yourself as a shy person, image yourself behaving as a confident and competent person who is obviously respected by others.
Symbolic Identification. This method, developed by Robert Gerard, involves “becoming” an admired person or thing in one’s imagination. One identifies with certain qualities in the person or thing and is thus able to “own” resources within oneself that have been ignored. Psychological provincialism is becoming increasingly costly on our shrinking planet. Symbolic identification can help us develop the global consciousness and caring which are needed for survival on a livable planet. Martha Crampton reports: “Symbolic identification may … be used to expand our consciousness and to gain a deeper sense of participation in, and oneness with the universe. ‘Becoming’ such natural symbols as flowers, a tree, a rock, a river, the ocean, the sun, or even the galaxy, can be particularly valuable for this purpose.”(26) I suggest you try identifying with a sluggish, polluted river for a while; then identify with a clear, joyful mountain stream./ Be aware of the differences of the impact of these two images./ Or identify with a growing tree or an unfolding flower. Let the images feed your inner life./ Or try symbolic identification with a person or people in great need in your community or in other parts of the world.
Discovering the Self. Psychosynthesis offers a variety of methods for facilitating spiritual growth by opening oneself to the creative energies and wisdom of one’s higher Self. I have found one of the most valuable to be the exercise of imagining myself journeying up a mountain path to enjoy communicating with my higher Self at the summit. I invite you to experience this now.(27)
Another approach to increased awareness of your higher Self is to picture and carry on an inner dialogue with your Wise Teacher or the Wise Woman or Wise Man within you, or image and consult with your “inner light,” as the Quakers and Mahatma Gandhi refer to the inner source of wisdom. For creative energies to flow it is necessary to relax one’s analytical mind temporarily and simply be expectantly open. After the intuitive images or messages are received they must be tested and understood in the fires of the mind through hard, critical thinking. They then can be translated into constructive action. A busy man described his experience:
“I was feeling very speedy, off center and unstable. So I talked with the Wise Old Man about it and at first he said things like, ‘You need to rest, to trust the process; everything will take care of itself. If you overwork yourself now you won’t be able to do the things you worry about.’ But I simply kept waiting for more; opening myself in a kind of silent expectation. After a few minutes, I experienced a quantum jump in understanding. I saw that the worries had a purpose. The Wise Old Man enabled me to see that the worries were a necessary part of the ‘process’ he had talked about. . . . ‘You’re irritable and strained, and that’s because you’re going through a process of learning to work with people and you don’t know how to do it yet. But the process is very important in the development of yourself as a person who can give something good to the world. It is, as you well know, the necessary step beyond your sweet but ineffective idealism. It is the step to make your idealism practical and useful in the world. That’s why you can be patient with yourself and even take the day off. You’re doing fine.’ “(28)
In facilitating growth work in counseling and in therapy and growth groups, I find it helpful to invite people to view from the perspective of their higher Selves the problems and growth issues with which they’re working. I first experienced the transforming power of this perspective as a client in a relationship with a therapist trained in psychosynthesis.(29)
Erma Pixley, a marriage and family counselor, leads growth groups for women using a variety of psychosynthesis methods. She has the women list the demanding and conflicting roles they play in everyday life and their various subpersonalities — e.g., nurturer, playful child, sensuous lover, counselor. She leads the women in a disidentification, self-identification exercise to become aware of their center of consciousness, which is more than their roles or subpersonalities. She then invites the women to carry on an inner dialogue among their roles and subpersonalities, particularly those which are usurping too much of themselves. She suggests that they bring into this conversation their inner wisdom or higher Self to help them establish balance and integration among their subpersonalities. The women are invited to lift their consciousness to a higher and more inclusive level each day by getting in touch with the essence of all humanity within themselves.(30)
Meditation. Assagioli welcomed insights and methods of enhancing consciousness from the East. (He learned Sanskrit to allow himself to read Eastern mystical texts in their original language.) During the Second World War, he held firmly to his strong convictions about the oneness of humankind. Because of his ideas Mussolini made him a political prisoner. In prison, he worried about his patients in Rome. Quickly he began to observe his own worry, asking himself, “What good can I get from worry? What can I do that is more useful?” This was the answer, which he believed came from his higher Self: “Meditate. You’ve always wanted to, but were always too busy.” Being in solitary confinement, he was not bothered by anyone. He meditated for hours every day. The results surprised him. He never had felt such peace. He recalled that never in his life had he so enjoyed being alive.(31)
Assagioli describes three types of meditation: reflective meditation (to acquire in-depth understanding of our ordinary consciousness), receptive meditation (to open ourselves to the wisdom of the higher Self), and creative meditation (to regenerate and transform our personality). All effective meditation is understood as “inner action” in that it requires will training and results in spiritual energies that produce changes in oneself. Assagioli provides a succinct guide to the uses of the three types of meditation.(32) Receptive meditation is particularly valuable in spiritual growth work. In discussing this, he describes the technique using a mental picture that induces calm, silence, and peace — a tranquil lake mirroring the blue sky, or the starry sky in the silence of the night. He also suggests repeating a phrase such as this one from a hymn of the Greek Mysteries: “Be silent, 0 strings, that a new melody may flow in me.”(33)
For Further Exploration of Psychosynthesis
Assagioli, Roberto. Psychosynthesis, A Manual of Principles and Techniques. New York: Viking, 1971. The basic manual on the theory and practice of psychosynthesis.
—The Act of Will. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1974. A guide to experiencing the strengthening of the will in all its dimensions.
Churchill, Craig M, Contributions of Psychosynthesis Toward a Growth Oriented Model of Pastoral Counseling. An unpublished Ph.D. dissertation written at the School of Theology at Claremont, 1973. Available from University Microfilm, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Haronian, Frank. “Psychosynthesis: A Psychotherapist’s Personal Overview,” Pastoral Psychology, Fall, 1976, pp. 16-33.
—“A Psychosynthetic Model of Personality and Its Implications for Psychotherapy,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Fall, 1975.
Synthesis, The Realization of Self. The psychosynthesis journal, which includes a Psychosynthesis Workbook with practical techniques for enhancing one’s growth. The Synthesis Press, 150 Doherty Way, Redwood City, CA 94061.
The following papers and many more are available from the Psychosynthesis Institute, 3352 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94118.
–Crampton, Martha. “The Use of Mental Imagery in Psycho-synthesis.”
–Keen, Sam. “The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli.” An interview with Assagioli shortly before his death, reprinted from Psychology Today.
–Kretschmer, W. H. “Meditative Techniques in Psychotherapy.” A description of ways to use meditation in therapy.
–Vargiu, James. “Global Education and Psychosynthesis.” The application of psychosynthesis to the development of global consciousness.
1. The Act of Will (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1974), p. 6.
2. Sam Keen, “The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli,” reprinted from Psychology Today magazine, Dec., 1974., p. 98. Copyright, 1974 Ziff-Davis Publishing Company.
3. Psychosynthesis (New York: Viking, 1971), p. 35.
4. Keen, “The Golden Mean,” p. 98.
5. The Act of Will, p. 14.
6. Psychosynthesis, p. 8.
7. Ibid., p. 6.
8. Ibid., p. 100.
9. “A Higher View of the Man-Woman Problem” (an interview with Assagioli by Claude Servan-Schreiber) Synthesis, vol. I, no. I, p. 45.
10. Ibid., p. 49.
11. Psychosynthesis, p. 3.
12. Ibid., p. 39.
13. The Act of Will, p. 200.
14. Keen, “The Golden Mean,” p. 105.
15. Psychosynthesis, p. 207
16. The Act of Will, pp. 205-8.
17. “The Synthesis of the Nation,” Synthesis, vol. I, no. 2, pp. 8-19.
18. Robert Gerard, “Psychosynthesis, A Psychotherapy for the Whole Man” (mimeographed
paper, no date), pp. 5-6.
19. Ibid., p. 9.
20. Psychosynthesis, p. 26.
21. This is paraphrased from Psychosynthesis, pp. 118-19.
22. Paraphrased from Psychosynthesis, pp. 118-19. For further information about this exercise see The Act of Will, pp. 211-17.
23. For an illuminating discussion of subpersonalities, see the paper by James G. Vargiu in “Psychosynthesis Workbook,” Synthesis, vol. I, no. I, pp. WB 9-47.
24. “The Door,” Synthesis, vol. I, no. I, pp. WB 50-53.
25. Psychosynthesis, p. 144.
26. “Answers from the Unconscious,” Synthesis, vol. I, no. 2, p. 145.
27. See Growth Counseling, pp. 126-28, for a full description of this exercise.
28. “Dialogue with the Higher Self,” Synthesis, vol. I, no. 2, p. 135.
29. See Growth Counseling, p. 123.
30. Personal communication. May 1979.
31. This story is from C. W. Henderson, Awakening (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975), p. 170.
32. See The Act of Will, pp. 218-31.
33. Ibid., p. 225.