Origins of Psychosynthesis
Developed by Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli, Psychosynthesis is an approach to psychology which studies a person as both a personality and a soul. In this article we explore the origins of Psychosynthesis.
Assagioli, like Carl Jung, was trained in Freudian methods of Psychoanalysis, but by the time he wrote his doctoral thesis in 1910, Assagioli was moving away from Psychoanalysis. He commented on some of the “limitations of Freud’s work” (Assagioli, 1965, p280) and would later state that his thesis contained the beginning conceptions of Psychosynthesis. Like Freud, Assagioli understood the importance of healing childhood traumas and developing a healthy ego structure, but he veered away from Freudian assumptions that reaching into the depths of the psyche was sufficient for maximal growth.
Rather, drawing from the study of many psychological and spiritual traditions – including Jungian and existential psychology, Buddhism, Yoga, and Christian esoteric study – Assagioli asserted that opening to “height experiences” was also necessary. A well-functioning ego was important but insufficient on its own, as its purpose was to prepare the ground for the further blossoming of human potential into what Abraham Maslow would later call “self-actualisation”, and beyond that to spiritual and transpersonal dimensions (Wikipedia, 2012; Young Brown, 1983).
Thus Assagioli’s vision for human growth and development encompassed both the dimensions of personal growth – as seen in models such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs leading to self-actualisation – and also transpersonal development, as glimpsed through peak experiences, unitive states of consciousness, and moments of inspired creativity and spiritual insight. In addition, Psychosynthesis recognised the validity of the quest toward “Self-realisation”: that is, contacting one’s deepest life purpose and calling, which tends to include aspects of both personal and transpersonal development.
With this focus on both immanence and transcendence, Psychosynthesis was an early forerunner of both humanistic psychology and transpersonal psychology (Assagioli even sat on the boards of both the Journal of Humanistic Psychology and the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology). His writings sit nicely alongside of existential/humanistic approaches which attempt to understand the nature of the healthy personality, personal responsibility and choice, and the actualisation of the personal self.
Also, however, Assagioli’s conception relates to the field of transpersonal psychology, with its focus on higher states of consciousness, spirituality, and human experiencing beyond the individual self (Wikipedia, 2012). While Psychosynthesis is broad and inclusive, centred more on the quality of beingness of the practitioner than any technique he or she uses, it nevertheless has a body of seven main concepts which Assagioli believed should be included in any Psychosynthesis training program. These seven main concepts are: 1) Disidentification, 2) The personal self, 3) The will: good, strong, skilful, 4) The ideal model, 5) Synthesis (in its various aspects), 6) The superconscious, 7) The transpersonal Self.
- Assagioli, R. (1965). Psychosynthesis: A manual of principles and techniques. New York and Buenos Aires: Hobbs, Dorman & Company.
- Wikipedia. (2012). Psychosynthesis. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved on 8 October, 2012, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychosynthesis.
- Young Brown, M. (1983). The unfolding self: Psychosynthesis and counselling. Los Angeles: Psychosynthesis Press.
This post is an extract from the Mental Health Academy “Principles of Psychosynthesis” CPD course. In this course participants will get acquainted with the basic principles of Psychosynthesis: its assumptions, core constructs, and understandings about what makes a being human, and what, therefore, may be the best means of facilitating that being’s growth toward its fullest potentials. Click here to learn more and access this course.