The Good Will
In chapter seven, Roberto Assagioli turns his attention to the interpersonal, social context. He discusses the fact that humans do not live in isolation and must interact in personal and social relationships. He emphasizes the importance of the Will for the “many attempts (that) are being made to replace competition with cooperation, conflict with arbitration and agreement, based on an understanding of right relations between groups, classes and nations.” He points out that to arrive at “harmonization” of the wills of those concerned with any particular effort, individual wills must discipline themselves and choose aims that are “consistent with the welfare of others and the common good of humanity.”
The individual accomplishes the tasks of such discipline and choice-making by eliminating obstacles and actively developing and expressing a good will. Selfishness presents a significant obstacle. It can be countered by skillful use of the will. Moreover, good will must be mobilized to give energy to make the effort. Another obstacle is self-centeredness, lack of understanding another’s perspective and insistence on one’s own point of view. Such lack of understanding is itself an obstacle and requires “the intention to understand and also the relinquishing of … self-centeredness …”. Assagioli says that humanistic psychology provides people with the means for increasing their understanding of others. Humanistic psychology through presents knowledge of how humans are constituted, how humans vary individually and as groups, and promote understanding and expansion of empathy. Empathy is “the projection of one’s consciousness into that of another being. … (A)pproaching him or her with sympathy, with respect, even with wonder, as a “Thou” and thus establishing a deeper inner relationship.” Deepening empathy results in a wider and greater appreciation of the “wonder and mystery of human nature.” We become aware that human nature involves conflicts and suffering, and a core of goodness and possibility for change in everyone.
With that understanding, Assagioli claims, …(W)e are induced to drop the ordinary attitude of passing judgment on others. Instead a sense of wide compassion, fellowship and solidarity pervades us.” We can both accept the be-ing of others, and also their potential for becoming. We become aware that we have some responsibility for how we influence others, as well. “And the more we are aware of this, the more we can see to it that our influence is beneficent and constructive.” And this hinges on our intention. “The good will is … a will that chooses and wants the good.”
Love and Will
Chapter eight begins with the claim that, “One of the principal causes of today’s disorders is the lack of love on the part of those who have will and the lack of will in those who are good and loving.” From this point, Assagioli explores the types of love: love directed toward oneself; maternal and paternal love; love between men and women; fraternal love, altruistic love; and humanitarian love; impersonal love; and love of God.
Some “observations … about the general nature of the most important relationships between love and will” follow. As he implied earlier, Assagioli says that usually, love and will are not in balance, but are most often found in inverse relationship. He points out that love is attractive and magnetic and outgoing, while will is more “dynamic” and has a tendency to be “affirmative, separative, and domineering.” The differences can lead to opposition of love and will. To love well, is an art that requires use of will.
“To love well calls for all that is demanded by the practice of any art, indeed of any human activity, namely, an adequate measure of discipline patience and persistence. All these we have seen to be qualities of the will.” Good loving and good willing both require knowledge about human beings, which is obtained through humanistic psychology. (See above.) After a certain amount of knowledge is obtained, three methods can be undertaken that will lead to “the harmonization and unification of love and will.” The three methods are: developing the weaker of love and will, such that both are available; awakening and manifesting the higher aspects of both love and will; and, operating them together in alternation so that each arouses and reinforces the other.
Developing the weaker of love and will means that “emotional types…must see to the progressive development of the will and its increasingly active employment” and “volitional types … have to take particular care that the quality of love tempers and counterbalances it employment, rendering it harmless and constructive.” The will training might consist in “cultivation of aspects in which it may be deficient.” This may mean that the person has to overcome inertia or resistance. Where love needs to be strengthened, fear may need to be addressed.
Awakening and manifesting the higher aspects of love and will requires that we first of all recognize that there are lower and higher aspects of both. Compassion is a higher form of love than possessiveness is, for example. And, domination is a lower form of will than directing the will towards non-ego-involved and constructive ends.
Gradual fusion of love and will and their resultant synergy takes place over time, is part of the whole process of psychosynthesis, and “anyone who sets himself to practice it soon realizes how difficult it is.”
The Principle and Technique of Synthesis
Assagioli says that achieving “a synthesis between love and will demands much skill in action.” Among other things, it “calls for persistent vigilance, for constant awareness from moment to moment.” This kind of ‘mindfulness’ “makes possible the active intervention and commitment on the part of the self, who is not only an observer, but also a will-er, a directing agent of the play of the various functions an energies.” To bring about the synthesis (not a compromise, but a “higher unity endowed with qualities that transcend those of either”) wisdom is essential. Wisdom works by regulating from a higher level, that of the Transpersonal Self, which is “a higher unifying center of awareness and power.” The process of transpersonal psychosynthesis “constitutes the high effort, the central drama of man, who, either consciously or unconsciously, aspires to this goal, or is pushed toward it by his inability to find lasting satisfaction or a true peace until he has attained it.”
This is a guest post about Psychosynthesis, courtesy of Carla Peterson and Hedwig Weiler (http://psychosynthesiswis.blogspot.com/).