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What is Psychosynthesis?

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Psychosynthesis is a therapeutic approach that focuses on personal growth and development and involves among other things, the integration of logical thought and a richer, multidimensional system of analogical thought.

According to the Synthesis Center in America – “Psychosynthesis is a name for the process of personal growth: the natural tendency in each of us to harmonize or synthesize our various aspects at ever more inclusive levels of organization… All living things contain within them a drive to evolve, to become the fullest realization of themselves.  This process can be supported consciously, and Psychosynthesis is one means to do this.”

I will start this blog by including a piece by Piero Ferrucci, Italian author and Psychosynthesis expert who writes “If I had to get embarrassed and describe in a few words what Psychosynthesis is, I would say that it is a TRAINING IN THE ART OF LIVING and that is based on five fundamental points:

  1. We hurt ourselves unnecessarily.

With wrong mental habits, prejudices, negative images of ourselves and others, remnants of past traumas, tensions that no longer have a reason to be, inner ghosts left too free, we harm ourselves and others. But with a few precautions, this work of unconscious self-harm can be avoided.

  1. We can do ourselves good.

By this, I mean that there are some easy techniques with which we can improve the quality of our life. Just using them, we can put latent or misused energies at our service.

  1. There are unexpressed potentials in us.

In any age of life, in any situation we find ourselves, there are resources of intelligence, strength, love, creativity in us which we have not yet manifested. We have not reached our final version yet. There is always room for some new development.

  1. Even if we are conditioned by our genetic inheritance, by the society in which we live, by our history, by a thousand factors beyond our control, we still have a wide space of freedom in which we can make choices. Choices of values, ideas, behaviours.
  2. Relationships with others are fundamental.

By this, I mean that each of us not only has relationships with others, but it is these relationships, in the sense that the relationships we have with others are the substance of our life.

These relationships are strong and true, or weak and false; they are fertile or destructive; they are stuck or in progress; they are alive or dead. As our relationships are, so is our life. And luckily, we can change our relationships.

In reality, the only right way to understand Psychosynthesis is by getting into it little by little, understanding its concepts, and above all to practice it, because Psychosynthesis is above all practice.

For many years I have been trying to explain myself and explain what psychosynthesis is. And I always discover deeper levels, new aspects, and perspectives. It is an exciting adventure because Psychosynthesis guides us to the discovery of what a human being is. And there is never an end to this discovery”.

As a psychotherapist, supervisor, academic and founder of ICPPD, I have a deep appreciation of Psychosynthesis as a psychology for living and as a way of being. From my limited understanding and study of Psychosynthesis over the last fifteen years, and also, this approach to healing and therapy has underpinned the holistic approach that is experienced throughout all training programmes at ICPPD since its establishment over 13 years ago, including BA in Holistic Counselling and Psychotherapy, Diploma in Supervision across Professions – A Holistic Approach, and Diploma in Expressive Arts.

Psychosynthesis is a therapeutic approach brings together different orientations in psychotherapy – Psychoanalysis, Humanistic Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology.

Psychosynthesis psychology was developed by Roberto Assagioli (1888–1974), who was a medical doctor, contemporary of Freud and Jung, and the first psychoanalyst in Italy. In the 1960s, along with Maslow, he was one of the founders of the emerging field of transpersonal psychology, helping to define essential transpersonal concepts such as peak experiences.

Assagioli, unlike Freud believed in a more inclusive concept of humanity – one that integrated spiritual as well psychological elements.

The spirit of Psychosynthesis is the underlying philosophy and lived ethos of all our academic and professional offerings at ICPPD in Athlone and our outreach centres in Dublin and Galway. This ethos is supported by all at our college, including tutors and administrative staff.

Psychosynthesis is a psychology of hope, with a focus on our history and a focus on how individuals can have a purposeful future, and how it is possible to redirect our lives towards meaning and values. Psychosynthesis has also been described as “a psychology of the Self, in that the realms of human experience also include matters of soul and spirit, alongside physical and emotional experiences and thoughts and mental processes.” (Institute of Psychosynthesis, London).

Regarding spirituality, Assagioli proposed that the word “spiritual” includes “all states of awareness, all the functions and activities which . . . [possess] values such as the ethical, the aesthetic, the heroic, the humanitarian, and the altruistic”. This definition agrees with that of Maslow (1954), who noted that mystical experiences, as described by James (1943), are a subset of the broader realm of peak experiences, which can also include non-religious feelings of ecstasy, wonder, and awe.

As a transpersonal approach, the journey of psychospiritual development understands suffering from a multi-dimensional perspective. Working as a practitioner or indeed as a client, I need to learn to self-reflect and to recover a more soulful way of living and being in the world. This in therapeutic practice may mean reconnecting to what is often a lost language of soul, this can be done through imagination, writing, poetry, and music, working with metaphor, storytelling, dreams and visions, intuition, all of what in psychosynthesis is considered connection, meaning making and a journey of soul making.

One of the key concepts of Psychosynthesis is Sub-personalities. In simple terms they are the parts of our self that we adapted to survive, and to get our needs met that may need integrating in our current life and then, this process will bring us more into alignment with our true self and the potential of our wholeness. Assagioli (1965), the founder of Psychosynthesis, defined subpersonalities as “the functions of an individual in whom various psychological traits are not integrated…One should become clearly aware of these subpersonalities because this evokes a measure of understanding of the meaning of Psychosynthesis, and how it is possible to synthesize these subpersonalities into a larger organic whole without repressing any of the useful traits”.

Judy, my inner judge aspect says “um, Christine, who do you think you are, and how are you going to be able to articulate your view?” Sophie, my kind loving wise part says “ah, Christine, breathe, you are wonderful, let your light shine, be yourself, that’s enough, you are enough!”

In wholeness and synthesis, I take both aspects in my loving arms and thank them both, for they both belong. I relax, all is well in this moment. As Assagioli said – “There is no such thing as certainty, only adventure”.

Does Psychosynthesis have a place in today’s world?

We live in a world that is rapidly changing and is a time of uncertainty. On a global level and here in Ireland many changes are occurring currently, in the field of education, transformative learning, citizenship, environmental issues, mental health and well-being to mention a few.

Personal growth is related to spiritual growth in that, as individuals develop healthy, actualised personalities, they are then able to move beyond a focus on self and personhood toward a wider and more universal understanding of their reality. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, to which he ultimately added self-transcendence as the ultimate need, and personal psychosynthesis prepare and support the individual to enter conscious relationship with the deeper and more meaningful parts of their lives. This is then expressed through higher qualities such as peace and altruism.

As we endeavour to become more inclusive as a society and navigate pandemics, uncertainty, and chaos and become more accepting of difference, perhaps a psychology like Psychosynthesis with its theoretical framework which acknowledges ambiguity in terms of personal and spiritual integration will support a global community, and the aspiration of serving humanity, and how this still begins with an individual’s unique expression of living a meaningful life within their context of personal well-being, home, and community. The words of Gandhi come to mind – “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

 

Next 30-hour CPD Certificate in Psychosynthesis will commence at ICPPD on January 2024 – Click here for more info

 

References:
Assagioli, R. (1965). Psychosynthesis. New York: The Viking Press.
Ferrucci, P. From ‘Introduzione alla Psicosintesi’ Source @psicosintesiarezzo
Institute of Psychosynthesis, London. www.psychosynthesis.org (accessed 02/06/23).
James, W. (1943). The varieties of religious experience. New York: Modern Library
Maslow, A. (1954).  Motivation and personality. New York: Harper & Row.
Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a psychology of being. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand.
Synthesis Center: https://www.synthesiscenter.org/ps.htm  (accessed 02/06/23).