The Essentials of Psychosynthesis


Psychosynthesis is a spiritual psychology formulated by Dr. Roberto Assagioli, a Jewish-Italian psychiatrist (1888-1974). In my opinion, Assagioli was an under-recognized visionary, although certain major figures in transpersonal psychology do recognize him as a pioneer in that field. Through several decades, and continuing today, Assagioli's concepts and practices are used globally by practitioners in psychotherapy, conflict resolution, education and other fields.

The principles of psychosynthesis are grounded in two interfolding processes. The initial process is `personal psychosynthesis.' It requires the reorganization of a person's sub-personalities, otherwise referred to by Assagioli as `identifications,' for which various experiential activities are recommended for `disidentification.' This creative and liberating process enables the individual to become aware about unconsciously giving too much energy and power to a very limited range of roles and behaviours. That individual, instead, learns how to transform those energies in order to integrate the personality or `self.' Doing so opens up the individual to the wider range of inner qualities that have been awaiting discovery and that can enable the person's fuller, more balanced self-expression.

The more advanced process of `spiritual psychosynthesis' similarly requires a variety of experiential practices, for the purpose of assisting the individual to align the personality with the soul. Assagioli was a spiritual seeker receptive to a diversity of spiritual paths. Regardless, he never wanted to impose spiritual terminology on anyone who was seeking psychological help. He preferred to use inclusive language, such as `Higher Self' as a term equivalent to the soul. For the ultimate purpose in psychosynthesis is to enable a person to grow closer to human potential by awakening, and increasingly live in accordance with, our innate higher qualities, such as compassion, forgiveness, grace, humility and gratitude.

In fact, although Assagioli met Sigmund Freud and helped to introduce psychoanalysis to Italy, Assagioli soon afterward disagreed with the emphasis of psychoanalysis on pathology. Instead, Assagioli agreed with fellow psychiatrists Viktor E. Frankl and Carl Jung, that a serious omission in Freud's formulation of human psychology was recognition of the spiritual dimension. Assagioli devoted his life to an investigation of a comprehensive understanding of the human being, not only as a psychiatrist yet also as a spiritual seeker. As well, he trained students of spiritual psychology who travelled to Florence from different countries to learn from him.

Roberto Assagioli's insights on spiritual psychology developed from his own lived experiences as well as extensive lifelong research. His courage, forgiveness and belief in the evolution of human consciousness helped him transcend life-threatening circumstances. Particular traumatic events further deepened his soulful ability in giving presence to others.

The study of, and training in, psychosynthesis had a profound transformative impact upon my own life, particularly through an intense seven-year spiritual quest during which I researched and produced a Doctoral thesis. In fact, I pioneered psychosynthesis as an academic methodology to explore the unconscious and, indeed, more specifically to explore the soul.

Of course, as for any authentic spiritual seeker, the journey of discovery and learning is ongoing, and the ways to share this knowledge in the wider world are bountiful. Assagioli wrote: "the realization of the spiritual Self is not for the purpose of withdrawal but for the purpose of being able to perform more effective service in the world of men [humanity]."


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