Psicosíntesis Counseling

ITA   |   ENG   |   ESP

Psychosynthesis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roberto Assagioli was born in Venice (Italy) on February 27, 1888. He was an extraordinary person and an outstanding thinker in the world of psychology and spirituality of the last century. Among his many fields of interest and work, he served as a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, writer, educator, researcher and spiritual seeker—and, of course, as the founder of Psychosynthesis. His writings, translated into several languages, are read and studied around the world, even more nowadays than when they were originally published. Psychosynthesis has transformed the lives of many people and today, more than ever before, it has become one of the most salient approaches to unfold our potential, live joyful lives and maintain right relationships with ourselves, others, and the world.

 

Considered one of the most brilliant and opened minds of the Italian and world psychology, Assagioli was for long better known abroad than in his homeland. Only in recent decades did his thought begin to spread across the world and trans-disciplinarily, thanks to the enthusiasm of all those whose lives have been changed by Psychosynthesis, and thanks to the hard work of trainers and practitioners of Psychosynthesis.

 

Assagioli graduated in medicine in Florence in 1910 with a dissertation in which he examined psychoanalysis. Back in those days psychoanalysis was barely known in Italy. Given the fact that he spoke several languages, including German, perfectly well, he could keep correspondence with Freud and Jung. Assagioli helped them bring psychoanalysis in Italy by translating materials, writing in scientific journals and by establishing his own clinical practice. In fact, he was one of the first Italian members of the International Psychoanalytic Society, group to which he devoted his full attention for some years). He founded the journal Psiche in 1912, where the first writings of Freud where made available to the Italian scientific community.

 

Soon, however, Assagioli distanced himself from orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis. He considered that psychoanalysis was a valid, indeed a necessary step towards integration, but not the only one and certainly not the last step towards unfoldment of human potential. For Assagioli, Freudian psychoanalysis is mainly engaged in the lower aspects of the psyche, but the psyche includes other aspects:

 

“We pay far more attention to the higher unconscious and to the development of the transpersonal self. In one of his letters Freud said, “I am interested only in the basement of the human being.” Psychosynthesis is interested in the whole 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 sunbathe or look at the stars.”

 

Instead of focusing on the pathological aspects of the person, Assagioli always stressed the need to direct our attention to the healthy, positive aspects, to the areas of potential, and to the development of latent qualities: “Making use of our gifts and qualities gives us our greatest satisfaction and joy. This is a profound discovery. I wonder if people pursue material goods, money, power, and “fun” because they have never experienced the joy of true Self-expression.” In this sense, he was a true pioneer, a precursor that paved the way for humanistic and transpersonal psychology and philosophy.

 

“After having discovered [various elements of our personality], we have to take possession of them and acquire control over them. The most effective method by which we can achieve this is that of disidentification. This is based on a fundamental psychological principle which may be formulated as follows: We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can dominate and control everything from which we disidentify ourselves.”.

(de http://www.psicoenergetica.it/psicosintesi.htm)

 

Assagioli was always interested in researching the transpersonal aspects of the psyche and was himself a committed spiritual server. He studied meditation, Eastern spirituality and different Western religious philosophies, as well as classical and modern philosophical thought. Progressively, he became to formulate an approach that could integrate the common points of this Ageless Wisdom in a vision of the human being he called Psychosynthesis. This vision is characterized by the recognition that in all human beings there are a number of components or sub-personalities that are often in conflict with each other and of which we are not aware. Psychosynthesis offers a way to know, accept and transform them, bringing them to harmony and synthesis. Assagioli writes:

 

“If we consider Psychosynthesis as a whole, with all its implications and developments, we realize that it shouldn’t be envisaged as a particular psychological doctrine or as a procedure that is only technical.

 

It is firstly and before all, a dynamic conception and even dramatic one of our psychological life that is described as a permanent and conflicting interaction between the different forces of diverse nature, on one hand, and a unifying center that incessantly strives to control, harmonize and utilize them.

 

Moreover, Psychosynthesis utilizes numerous techniques of psychological action, aiming at firstly the development and perfecting of the personality, and then of it harmonious coordination and its on-going/growing unification with the Self. These phases can be respectively called “personal” and “spiritual”.

 

 

The image of Psychosynthesis Counseling combines the ovoid diagram of Assagioli, symbol of the human constitution, and the lotus flower, symbol of the human soul.

The ovoid diagram of Assagioli is a simplified representation of the complexity and depth of the human experience. The diagram shows a model of the human psychic in all its dimensions. This diagram should not be considered as definitive or fixed representation, but as an attempt to outline a multifaceted reality, constantly developing and “osmotic”. The basic idea is that the human personality is constantly unfolding, integrating new aspects and that each area or dimension can, and in fact influences the others. The horizontal areas of the diagram represent a certain temporality: past, present and future of a human being that grows psychologically and spiritually and is oriented towards self-realization by integrating one’s own history, present and future potential for self-actualization. On the vertical axis are two points of light, the Lower Self or I and the Higher Self. The Self is everywhere present integrating each individual component and supporting the person to self-realization and growth.

The lotus flower is used to represent, in the Ageless Wisdom Tradition, the Soul, Higher Self, or the divine spark. Assagioli used the image of the Rose in some of his visualizations, probably because is better known than the Lotus Flower. This Flower (or Egoic Lotus, as is sometimes called) is the omniscient, immortal principle in us and in every being. Spiritual development is a Path towards continuous evolution, symbolized by the opening of the twelve-petal lotus, that gradual reveals the Light, Love and Power of being human.

 

Assagioli founded the Institute of Psychosynthesis in Rome in 1926. During Fascism, the Institute was closed down and numerous of the initiatives Assagioli had begun were abruptly discontinued under pressure of the rule. Many writings dating those years were burned and cultural and scientific activities censored. However, at the end of the war, Assagioli rebuilt and reestablished the Institute and resumed his private practice as a psychotherapist and trainer. During the same period he married Nella Ciapetti, who would become his lifelong partner. Their son Ilario was born the same year. In 1940, at the outbreak of World War II, Assagioli was arrested for being an "internationalist" and a "pacifist," and probably an underlying reason was his Hebrew origin. During the time he spent in prison he wrote one of his most beautiful manuscripts "Freedom in Jail", a hymn to freedom and human creativeness. Here are some passages:

 

“I realized I was absolutely free to choose this or this other attitude on the face of the situation, free to give it this or this other value and meaning.

 

I could rebel or submit passively to it, vegetating; or I could abandon myself to the “pleasure” of self-pity, assuming the role of martyr; or, I could take the situation with a sporty attitude and humor, considering it as a new and interesting experience.

 

I could take this period as a time to take care of myself and rest, or turning it into a period of intense reflection on my personal affairs, pondering on my life or on scientific and philosophical problems; or, I could exploit the situation to undergo a self-induced training of my psychological faculties and experiment on myself. Finally, I could take it as a spiritual retreat.

 

I realized that it was completely up to me how to go through it, that I was actually free to choose one or more of these activities or attitudes; and that, inevitable, my choice would have precise effects that I could anticipate and of which I was fully responsible.

 

In my mind there was no doubt about this essential freedom and power, as well as there was certainty of the privilege that it represented and of my responsibility towards myself, my family and life”.

 

 

Released after 45 days, Assagioli moved to his country house for shelter during the war. It was during this difficult period that his son became seriously ill and, eventually, passed. These became, most probably, the most difficult years for Assagioli. He, nevertheless, tried to maintain his characteristic calm and optimistic mood, keeping alive his many service activities. Of all these experiences he sought to learn something, gain insights and reinforce his belief in the need to promote self-awareness and selfe-ducation. Education, in this context and in the context of this website’s mission, consists in bringing back to surface our qualities and potential. We can constantly undergo growth and unfoldment, through the cultivation of a constructive attitude towards life. That was Assagioli’s message, and that is the meaning of “synthesis.”

 

After the war, Assagioli moved back to the city of Florence, where he resumed his activities and re-founded the Institute of Psychosynthesis which is still active and carries out numerous and significant activities: it is the headquarters of the Center for Psychosynthesis at Florence, it homes the School for Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy, and of course it is still Casa Assagioli, with an active Archives and Library project.

 

During the rest of his life Assagioli devoted full attention to the worldwide network of psychosynthesis projects that were spreading quickly. He also wrote prolifically, particularly on the Will. His book The Act of Will comes from this period. In it Assagioli “exhumes” the psychological function of the Will, as it had been neglected from other psychological approaches. As he said:

 

“The will is not merely assertive, aggressive, and controlling. There is the accepting will, yielding will, the dedicated will. You might say that there is a feminine polarity to the will – the willing surrender, the joyful acceptance of the other functions of the personality.

 

Since the outcome of successful willing is the satisfaction of one’s needs, we can see that the act of will is essentially joyous. And the realization of … being a self … gives a sense of freedom, of power, of mastery which is profoundly joyous”.

 

 

During the 1960s and 1970s, newer centers opened, conferences were held, books written. Assagioli spent long weeks traveling, drafting material for distance and in-site courses, training people and groups, and also counselors, psychotherapists and coaches. Roberto Assagioli died peacefully in 1974, at his residence in Capolona, in Arezzo, Italy.

 

He is in a way still inspiring us all and pointing into new, exciting directions.