How Does Psychosynthesis Therapy Work?

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate” – Jung

Every person is an individual, and the psychosynthesis of each person follows a unique path.  At the same time, the overall process of psychosynthesis can initially be divided into two elements:  personal and transpersonal.  In personal Psychosynthesis, the integration of the personality takes place around the personal self, and the individual attains a high level of functioning in terms of work, relationships, and general living that is meaningful and satisfactory to the individual.

At the transpersonal level the person learns to achieve alignment with and to transmit the energies of the transpersonal Self, manifesting such qualities as responsibility, the spirit of cooperation, global perspective, love and purpose, and having access to inner guidance and wisdom.

Often the two elements overlap:  there can be a considerable amount of transpersonal activity long before the stage of personal integration is complete.

STAGES IN PSYCHOSYNTHESIS

Near the very beginning of his main book on the subject, the founder of Psychosynthesis, Roberto Assagioli, asserts that the primary aim of psychosynthesis psychotherapy is ‘The conscious and planned reconstruction or re-creation of the personality, through the cooperation and interplay of client and therapist.’ Later, he delineates the stages for this harmonious development of the individual as being:

‘1. Thorough knowledge of one’s personality.

2. Control of its various elements.

3. Realization of one’s true Self – the discovery or creation of a unifying center.

4. Psychosynthesis: the formation or reconstruction of the personality around the new center.’

The first stage, thorough knowledge of one’s personality, is a tall order but no one is expected to achieve some final goal with this work. To think so would be hubristic and in any case unachievable. The point is to be in process, willing to enter into a mindful reflection on what emerges from the unconscious. This can require considerable patience and is not to be rushed; indeed, a willingness to enter into the process is actually far more important than any apparent results. This stage of the work also requires the courage necessary 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. Psychosynthesis can be used for short-term counselling, but its psychotherapeutic application does not offer – nor would it want to offer any kind of ‘quick fix’.

As the work of exploring the personality proceeds, the client is also learning to find ways to control its various elements, what Assagioli called the second stage of development. This control is, however, not about achieving any kind of rigid mastery of 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. Development in psychosynthesis is a fluid, non-linear process. 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.’ To use an analogy often attributed to Assagioli, if the psyche is a house, we are concerned with the basement, ground floor and upstairs of this house.

Whilst the work of therapy is being done, Assagioli states ‘the harmonization and integration into one functioning whole of all the qualities and functions of the individual must be aimed at and actively fostered – the central purpose of psychosynthesis.’ The primary way for achieving this integration is through a process of disidentification from what controls us coupled with a growing awareness of the deeper choice that comes from self identification, the alignment of the personality with the Self. To achieve this end, a psychosynthesis psychotherapist will work towards the client becoming both arbitrator and then director of the development of his or her own psyche.

‘At first the therapist plays the more active role. Then his influence becomes more and more catalytic … in the final stage the therapist gradually withdraws and is replaced by the Self, with whom the patient establishes a growing relationship.’

Although they proceed in tandem, and the division is essentially artificial, in psychosynthesis we consider there to be two mutually interdependent aspects of therapeutic work. Firstly, there is personal psychosynthesis, fostering the development of a well integrated personality. Secondly, there is what is usually termed transpersonal (or spiritual) psychosynthesis, the aim of which is the realisation one’s higher nature and purpose in life. Both these aspects of the therapeutic process are important for harmonious development of the personality, and both are necessary for a ‘full’ psychosynthesis that includes all of Assagioli’s four fundamental stages of the process.

Often, perhaps usually, a client is not aware of these stages, partly because, as said, the division is artificial as both are happening concurrently, but also because it is a principle in psychosynthesis not to impose any kind of spiritual belief system or affective requirement on the client. Indeed, some theorists avoid using any of the more ‘spiritual’ or ‘esoteric’ descriptions in their psychosynthesis work and have found ways to express these aspects in a neutral way. For instance, describing its purpose, Whitmore states ‘Assagioli maintained that the purpose of psychosynthesis is to help integrate, to synthesize, the multiple aspects of the individual’s personality around a personal centre …’ In many cases this is all the work that is attemptable or desirable. A psychosynthesis psychotherapist will always keep in mind, however, the possibility of working towards an alignment with the higher Self. Whitmore continues: ‘… and later to effect a greater synthesis between the personal ego and the transpersonal Self.’

(from Will Parfitt: http://www.willparfitt.com/faq-page-1/)

Here’s another article by Will on the Journey of Psychosynthesis and here is a pretty good overview of Psychosynthesis as a Transpersonal therapeutic modality.

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