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What is Psychosynthesis?

Psychosynthesis is a philosophy and an approach to life. It was conceived by Roberto Assagioli (1888 – 1974) – an Italian medical doctor and psychoanalyst, who was both a scientist and and a mystic. He intended it to be widely applied as a benefit to humankind: from the personal and interpersonal (relational) realms to the wider educational, social and political arenas. From medical sciences to the expressive arts; to global and universal concerns, to community building and the vision of what he called “spiritual airways” between nations and across continents. Initially the concept was called Bio-psychosynthesis (from bios – meaning body) and the psychotherapeutic aspect of it was just one strand of the quest towards self-development, self-knowledge and self-realisation.

There are over 50 Psychosynthesis centres world wide – many are specific psychotherapy training institutes and many are educational centres for applied Psychosynthesis courses.

A key tendency of development and growth that Assagioli observed in his research and in his patients was that of a central unifying principle, and that no matter how flawed or damaged an organism, there seems to be a natural movement that flows from a centre towards synthesis. As a doctor in the Bergholzi Hospital in Switzerland, where Carl Jung also worked, Assagioli noticed that within even his most mentally and personality-damaged patients, there seemed to be a (probably unconscious) pull from the core of their being towards growth and wholeness. It was as if, despite or beneath the damaged egos, the vulnerable and shattered personalities, there still existed within them a kind of unifying centre that was intact and whole. This central unifying principle within us Assagioli named the self or ‘I’, and often the initial developmental work focuses on enabling an experience of an inner self, and acknowledging and strengthening our connection with it. This first - before delving into all the ‘problems’ and pathology.

The process of identifying diverse parts of our personality – such as our ego defences, (our sub-personalities and polarisations), becoming aware of what they need and giving expression to them, frees us to move more towards self-acceptance, integration, synthesis and wholeness.

Assagioli observed that this principle was reflected externally - as a greater, deeper or higher unifying principle – that of a Universal of Higher consciousness and working with this principle includes looking at meaning and purpose in our lives, - whether personal, ethical, vocational, creative, or ‘right action’ choices, and how to manifest these

Psychosynthesis uses a variety of tools to access and deepen our connection with our inner self - or ‘I’ – and exercises to help train the Will, or open the Heart. It also enables us to strengthen our links to a Universal, Transpersonal or Higher Self and Will. Techniques such as free drawing, inner dialogue and meditation, creative visualisation, movement, Gestalt role-play, writing, body and energy work are used – and the tenets of what is now called Mindfulness can be found within Psychosynthesis.

You may of course work with a Psychosynthesis Psychotherapist and experience only a few – or none - of the ‘techniques’ – but what you will have a felt sense of is of being seen as more than your pathology. The ‘problems’ you present are heard, contained, respected – but they are not seen as the sum total of who you are – but rather as distortions that block you from connection with your soul, your true self. In the Psychosynthetic therapeutic alliance there is a response to and an honouring of that healthy, unifying core in you – the inner authentic and whole part of you. It is as Buber named it – an I-Thou recognition.

Thus in Psychosynthesis we explore not just our soul’s wounding but also our soul’s potential, so that we can become and manifest more of who we are – so that we can come home to our selves. It is often called a Psychology of the Soul.

"From a still wider and more comprehensive point of view, universal life itself appears to us as a struggle between multiplicity and unity - a labor and an aspiration towards union. We seem to sense that - whether we conceive it as a divine Being or as a cosmic energy - the Spirit working upon and within all creation is shaping it into order, harmony, and beauty, uniting all beings (some willing but the majority as yet blind and rebellious) with each other through links of love, achieving - slowly and silently, but powerfully and irresistibly - the Supreme Synthesis" Roberto Assagioli