What is psychosynthesis?

By Bonney & Richard Schaub
January 27, 2021

Psychosynthesis is a transpersonal psychology. Simply meaning beyond the personality, transpersonal refers to the deeper natural resources of peace, wisdom, purpose and oneness in our nature. The goal of psychosynthesis is to bring our deeper resources into our daily lives.

The Foundations of Psychosynthesis

Psychosynthesis was first developed by Roberto Assagioli (1888–1974). A colleague of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Assagioli was the first person to practice psychoanalysis in Italy. In 1910, he left the psychoanalytic movement because he felt its view of human nature was too limited. He objected to the standardization of ideas and techniques, believing that there should be an individual method for each person. He began to develop his own psychospiritual model of human development and opened an institute in 1927 in Rome. He chose the term “psychosynthesis” to give a name to the impulse in each person to develop, learn, and evolve. His early work ended in 1940, when he was arrested as a pacifist and jailed by Mussolini’s fascist government. After his release, he lived under police surveillance. In 1943, he was persecuted by the Nazis and was forced into hiding. His institute was reopened in 1951 at his home in Florence. There he saw patients and trained professionals until his death in 1974. His work is now continued at more than 100 psychosynthesis institutes around the world.

What Is the Higher Self?

Assagioli’s theory of the unconscious deviated from many of his contemporaries in psychoanalysis. While others saw unconscious motivation as a collection of base, biological needs, Assagioli claimed that the unconscious also encompasses nobler impulses, such as love, ethics, and creativity. He believed that repressing either impulse could be harmful. In his view, therapy should help foster these higher instincts. The hidden source of wisdom and guidance within each person is considered his or her “higher self.” The higher self, although part of a person’s nature, is different from one’s personality. While an individual’s personality makes him or her unique, the higher self is concerned with universal values, such as compassion, truth, and life purpose. The higher self may be considered apart of the brain or mind, although it is just as often experienced in the body. The goal of psychosynthesis is to explore and utilize the concealed resources of human thought.

Psychosynthesis Therapy

A person may experience psychosynthesis therapy individually or within a group. At the start of each session, participants are encouraged to talk about their problems with a therapist or with the group. As a person proceeds to express his or her thoughts or emotions, the therapist may intervene to help a person clarify a particular image or memory. According to psychosynthesis, people can overcome conventional ways of viewing their problems when they are able to access the insight within their imaginations. A therapist may draw from a variety of techniques to help a person enter his or her imagination. The therapist begins by helping a person to relax and withdraw his or her attention from the outer environment and concentrate inward. A therapist will then use guided imagery techniques to help a client enter his or her imagination and focus on a particular thought, feeling, or sensation. Finally, the therapist will ask this person to express these images. Depending on what method works best, a therapist may help evoke these images through visual art, movement, music, analysis, personality study, traditional psychotherapeutic techniques, maps of consciousness, and many other methods. In accordance with Assagioli’s theory, the techniques that a therapist may use in a session will vary with each person.

Benefits of Psychosynthesis

The higher self is a crucial part of psychosynthesis therapy. Therapy is not intended to develop the higher self, because it is thought to already exist in each person. Psychosynthesis therapy is used to acquaint people with the resources of their higher selves and equip them with the ability to approach problems imaginatively and to better understand themselves. The therapist’s role is to help a person gain the inner skills to become aware of his or her higher self.

By Bonney & Richard Schaub

Bonney has an M.S. from Adelphi University as a clinical specialist in adult psychiatric/mental-health nursing and is a board-certified Nurse Coach. Richard has an M.S. from Hofstra University in rehabilitation counseling and a Ph.D. from St. John’s University in counseling psychology.

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