Roberto Assagioli’s The Act of Will, Chapter 3, is about the Qualities of the Will. And Chapter 4 is about the Strong Will.
Here is a definition of ‘Quality’ from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/quality
n pl -ties
1. a distinguishing characteristic, property, or attribute
2. the basic character or nature of something
3. a trait or feature of personality
4. degree or standard of excellence, esp a high standard
5. (formerly) high social status or the distinction associated with it
6. (Music, other) musical tone colour; timbre
7. (Philosophy / Logic) Logic the characteristic of a proposition that is dependent on whether it is affirmative or negative
8. (Linguistics / Phonetics & Phonology) Phonetics the distinctive character of a vowel, determined by the configuration of the mouth, tongue, etc., when it is articulated and distinguished from the pitch and stress with which it is uttered
9. (modifier) having or showing excellence or superiority a quality product
[from Old French qualité, from Latin quālitās state, nature, from quālis of what sort]
Chapter 3 The Qualities of the Will
This paragraph is a very short reprise of chapters one and two. In chapter one, the Will is presented as the dynamic “inner power” that decides, chooses, and persists in doing “what is to be done.” It is intimately tied to the core of the personality, the self. In chapter two Assagioli explains that the qualities of the will are the modes of expression of the-will-in-action.
Chapter Three explores the characteristic ways in which the will in action expresses itself, as exemplified by great and smaller ‘willers.’ Assagioli provides seven sets of such characteristics.
1. Energy – Dynamic Power – Intensity
This dimension of the Will is clearly associated with the aspect of will Assagioli calls strong will. The “power element” is often quite necessary, but is not sufficient for acting either with skillful or good will. And, sometimes, Assagioli says, the will, especially under the influence of the higher aspects of the Transpersonal Will, can act without effort. Assagioli points out that the energy, power, intensity element of the will can be and is experienced when we meet with opposition to acting as we will. Then, he says, we experience the intensity of our will.
2. Mastery – Control – Discipline
This dimension is related to the quality of energetic power. It is essential in training to be able to do something, for example, play a musical instrument, and to acquiring the skills one needs to accomplish some goal. Assagioli discusses discipline – out of favor in the 1970’s, and inhibition.
3. Concentration – One-Pointedness – Attention – Focus
Assagioli states that this essential quality of the will comes into play very strongly in the skillful will aspect. His quotation from Ramacharaka’s Raja Yoga is both delightful and challenging.
4. Determination – Decisiveness – Resoluteness – Promptness
Assagioli relates this quality of will to the stage of Determination, in which the need to decide is addressed and resolved in the stage of Decision. This quality is also needed in the stage of Direction of the Execution of a planned act or course of action.
5. Persistence – Endurance – Patience
My mother would have called this quality or set of qualities “stick-to-it-iveness.” This quality keeps the willer steadfast through long, even seemingly fruitless endeavors, trials and tribulations. Sometimes, as in the case of Viktor Frankl, this quality is expressed in heroic measure.
6. Initiative – Courage – Daring
This quality occupies a middle ground between requiring “full and complete security” on the one hand, and on the other foolhardy risk-taking dare deviltry.
7. Organization – Integration – Synthesis
Assagioli says about this dimension of the will that it “operates in various ways. First as an inner synergy, coordinating the various psychological functions; it is the unifying force which tends toward, and enables one to achieve, personal psychosynthesis. It is also active at the transpersonal level and works toward the unification of the personal center of consciousness, the “I” or ego, with the Transpersonal Self, leading to the corresponding harmonious cooperation of the personal will with the Transpersonal Will (transpersonal or spiritual psychosynthesis).
Chapter Four – The Strong Will
Chapter Four presents a number of exercises to strengthen the will. The first exercise Assagioli presents is to use memory and imagination in reflection on what the lack of strength of will has cost you, followed by reflection on what the advantages a strong will would bring to you, and concludes with imagining and visualizing “yourself as you will be when you have attained inner and outer mastery.” He strongly suggests writing down in some detail the specific details of the first two reflections. Another exercise is to read material about people who have exercised strong will, and books and articles also by writers who write to awaken “inner energies.”
Once motivation is aroused by the first two exercises, the next exercises presented will strengthen the will through exercising it for the sake of strengthening it; through the medium of physical exercise; and through approaching daily life as an opportunity to exercise the will.
In the last few paragraphs of this chapter, Assagioli dispenses some advice I really like. He writes in relation to using the will to alternate between periods of activity and rest, “An ordered rhythm in our activities generates harmony in our being, and harmony is a universal law of life.” This leads into two other counsels. One is to harness other drives or impulses in service of the will, when one lacks the strong will one is trying to develop. He says pride, ambition, or play can be strong incentives and the will can use them. The other counsel is to take the attitude that opposition from others or difficulties in relationships offer us opportunities, the “parallel bars,” on which our will can exercise.
Some Questions for Reflection
How would you assess your own current state of will vis a vis the qualities of the will Assagioli presents?
Which quality of your will was especially present/absent this week in relationship to your project?
Did you try any of the exercises to strengthen your will?. If so what did you learn?
Why does RA encourage us to “work in silence”? Is this easy or difficult for you?
This is a guest post about Psychosynthesis, courtesy of Carla Peterson and Hedwig Weiler (http://psychosynthesiswis.blogspot.com/).