STAGES OF PSYCHOSYNTHESIS
Roberto Assagioli saw the process of psychosynthesis unfolding through 4 primary stages. Each stage has maps and models to aid in the introspective inquiry, the development of awareness and reintegration of the uncovered discoveries in to our everyday life. The relationship between the client and counsellor is very important and provides a safe space to explore and been seen with the past challenges as well as explore one’s future potential.
1. Thorough knowledge of one’s personality
2. Control of the personalities various elements
3. Realisation of one’s true Self – the discovery or creation of a unifying centre
4. Psychosynthesis: the formation or reconstruction of the personality around the new centre
Stage 1: Thorough knowledge of one’s personality
The first stage, thorough knowledge of one’s personality requires introspective inquiry, courage to enter into what can be difficult memories and reflections and the willingness to stay with the process to allow the fullest exploration of the unconscious. Techniques such as ‘sub-personalities’ allow us to connect with the different voices and or experiences we hear and have of our selves. At work, we may be completely different to how we are at home. Sometimes we can feel completely conflicted with one part wanting one thing and another part wanting the exact opposite.
E.g. ‘I really want to be in a relationship, but I don’t want to get too close because I might get hurt or betrayed, so I’ll keep my heart defended’.
When a part is triggered the world view constricts and narrows to how the world looks through those eyes (often younger eyes), thus restricting our conscious awareness and often contributing to poor decision making. We’ve all seen someone dominated by anxiety or depression, prejudice or ambition, and we’ve all felt ourselves at times to be prisoners of psychological patterns that appear to be beyond our control. Understanding our parts and their needs or fears helps us to build a loving relationship towards them, understand why they developed, when they get triggered in our present life and how to respond to them.
Feelings and how they manifest as sensations in the body is an important part of this inquiry. Often escapism behaviour such as, alcohol, drugs, porn, binge TV watching, video games, occurs because the feeling of anxiety or hurt in the body is so uncomfortable. We will do anything we can to get away from these awful sensations. Building capacity for being with these sensations and an awareness of what they are communicating to us is an important part of the process to understanding, making meaning and integrating our unresolved pasts.
The point is to be willing to enter into a mindful reflection on what emerges from the unconscious. This can require considerable patience and is not to be rushed.
“We are not unified. We often have the illusion of being so, because we do not have many bodies or many limbs, and because one hand does not fight with the other, but in our inner world this is actually the case – various personalities and sub-personalities struggle continuously with each other; impulses, desires, principles and aspirations are in continual tumult.” – Roberto Assigioli
“How often – even before we began – have we declared a task ‘impossible’? And how often have we construed a picture of ourselves as being inadequate?… A great deal depends upon the thought patterns we choose and on the persistence with which we affirm them.” – Piero Ferrucci
Stage 2: Control of the personalities various elements
The seconds stage of the process emerges in relation to stage one. As the work of exploring the personality proceeds, the client is also learning to find ways to control its various elements. The word control needs to be used lightly, its not meant to imply rigid domination over the personality but rather about the control that comes, somewhat paradoxically, from letting go into the process and finding appropriate ways to make happen the choices that inevitably arise when we are able to look out side our long patterns or old ways of being. This also includes us being able to experience our ‘will’ and direct it towards decisions that are life enhancing and authentic to who we really are under the protective layers we developed to survive in the world. As Piero Ferrucci says: ‘When it is balanced and healthy, human growth proceeds in all directions; it looks like an expanding sphere rather than a straight line. It is precisely for this reason that psychosynthesis endeavours to take into consideration all the dimensions of human life which truly matter.’
“self-consciousness involves our being a witness – a pure, objective, loving witness – to what is happening within and without” – Roberto Assagioli
Stage 3: Realisation of one’s true Self – the discovery or creation of a unifying centre
Realisation of one’s true Self and the discovery or creation of a unifying centre is the central purpose of psychosynthesis. This again is not a defined delineated line and happens alongside the previous stages. As harmonization and integration of the various qualities and functions of the personality become whole and new patterns are formed through conscious direction of one’s ‘will’, the ego (what a person is conscious to and the way they know themselves) can transform into a Personal centre of identity. A personal centre of identity (PCI), is a space where we can observe the contents of our experience, a place where we do not get over identified by a single aspect of our personality or experience. It allows us to hold many experiences at once so we can be conscious in our decision making and not react unconsciously to a part of us demanding a need to be meet.
In psychosynthesis this is called dis-identification, it is like being the conductor of your own orchestra, allowing all the instruments to play together in harmony, each one contributing their own unique sound to the cohered sound of the whole. The conductor can be seen as a metaphor for PCI, a guiding space that listens to the different musical sections (parts of our psyche), allows them to play and gently coheres them into an integrated state. In order to reach this conscious observer state of being dis-identified, we must first identify and know well the different parts of our psyche, which is what the previous stages endeavour to do. We cannot dis-identify before we have first identified. The psychosynthesis counsellor is constantly working towards the client becoming the director/conductor of their own psyche.
Piero Ferrucci states ‘At first the counsellor plays the more active role. Then his influence becomes more and more catalytic … in the final stage the counsellor gradually withdraws and is replaced by the Self, with whom the patient establishes a growing relationship.’
Stage 4: Psychosynthesis – the formation or reconstruction of the personality around the new centre
With the development of PCI functioning this allows a more inclusive state to connect with our unique self. It gives us purpose, meaning and values, that is both distinct and interconnected. If we use our orchestra metaphor, the self could be loosely seen as the composer of the music, when the conductor (PCI) is able to listen and direct the different sections of the orchestra (parts of the personality). Then the music of the composer (self) can be played and expressed.
This is what is meant by reconstruction of the personality around the new centre. While psychosynthesis does not seek to impose any type of spiritual or religious belief system, it does have a transpersonal element to it, which is the realization of the higher self. Exploring questions such as ‘what is the fullest expression of my true self?’, and ‘what is the purpose of my life?’. Working in a psycho-spiritual way means meeting and including our challenges, pain and shadow, as well as our light and joy. It means including the full range of human experience and working with the present moment, it simply works with and fosters the way the client makes meaning in the world.
Piero Ferrucci - Quote
“It’s all really very simple. You don’t have to choose between being kind to yourself and others. It’s one and the same.”
Carl Jung - Quote
“What we are not conscious to we are ruled by. – Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Roberto Assagioli - Quote
“Psychosynthesis is a method of psychological development and self realization for those who refuse to remain the slave of their own inner phantasms or of external influences, who refuse to submit passively to the play of psychological forces which is going on within them, and who are determined to become the master of their own lives.”
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