Tag Archives: Roberto Assagioli

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/).

Appendix Four of Roberto Assagioli’s The Act of Will is titled “Historical Survey.” In these few pages, Roberto Assagioli summarizes “briefly some of the more significant views of those who have dealt with the subject of the will.” Beginning with Patanjali, moving through theologians and philosophers such as Augustine, Duns Scotus and Leibniz, Assagioli points out that they held the will as being essential to human being and action. He goes on to discuss some psychologists’ conceptions of the will, asserting that many psychologists have not been clear about what the will consists in, whether it is conscious or unconscious, or originates in one or another psychological function. And some have denied the existence of the will altogether, in favor of asserting a philosophy of determinism. In the work of humanistic, existential and transpersonal psychologists, Assagioli finds greater acceptance of the importance of the will, some interest in research within a broader and “more refined” scientific method, and an openness to the idea that the will can also relate to a transpersonal dimension of experience.

Chapter One situates The Act of Will in contemporary culture. Assagioli describes the strained quality of much of life in these times, its frantic pace, and the multiplicity of demands and responsibilities faced by contemporary humans. He states that disparity has been increasing between these external demands and the degree of internal strength and resilience to meet them. This creates more disturbance, discouragement and frustration. He describes two ways of meeting this situation. One is by simplifying external life to the extent possible, and the other is by strengthening the “inner powers”. There are limits to the ability to simplify. Strengthening the inner powers is essential and in this, the will is foundational. “There are two reasons for this: the first is the will’s central position in man’s personality … his very self. The second lies in the will’s function in deciding what is to be done, in applying all the necessary means for its realization and in persisting in the task in the face of all obstacles and difficulties.” The chapter ends with the same thought that ends Appendix Four, “Therefore I believe that the right procedure is to postpone all intellectual discussions and theories on the subject, and begin by discovering the reality and the nature of the will through its direct existential experience.”

I am struck by how well Assagioli was able to see the then-contemporary culture in which he lived. If anything, the concerns he expressed about the tension, the exhausting demands, responsibilities and pace of life, have only been magnified 30 years later. Now as never before, ability to focus, to attend and to sort through the magnitude of what we face is eroded by a deluge of fragments of information, images and sensory overload. Now more than ever humans need to cultivate the capacities of will as a dynamic regulating, integrating dimension of the self.

Chapter Two begins the description of what is an existential experience of the will. It occurs in three phases, Assagioli says: recognizing that the will exists; realizing that I have a will; and discovering that I am a will. He describes some ways that discovery of the will can come about. He discusses resistances to experiential exploration and development of the will. These are related to misunderstanding of the nature of the will, human inertia, and unwillingness to exert the effort or pay the price to develop the capacities of will. However, with some effort, a person can begin to understand that she or he has a will that is intimately tied to his or her own self. Unlike an earlier phase in which consciousness is identified with the contents of consciousness, when a process of self-identification is engaged, self-consciousness strengthens, and consciousness is no longer identified with its contents.

As one begins to understand that there is a very close relationship between the personal self (the ‘I’) and the will, one becomes aware of the need to understand just what that relationship is. One wants to know how to increase and consolidate the existential experience of ‘I’ and will. Assagioli presents the famous “star diagram” to explicate the set of relationships among personal self, will, and psychological functions. “Through the will, the I acts on the other psychological functions, regulating and directing them.” Then he goes on to assert that there is a Transpersonal Self and a Transpersonal Will, which “is a function of the Transpersonal Self.” He presents the well-known “egg diagram” to show these relationships. More on this in a later chapter.

Next, Assagioli describes the aspects or facets of the will, and states that each can be trained. These aspects are: the strong will, the skillful will, the good will, and the Transpersonal will. He briefly describes each of these, noting that each has a relationship with the others. Together they can balance, modulate and enhance each other. The chapter ends with remarks on the Transpersonal Will, which is the “will of the Transpersonal Self.” Assagioli points to the “field of relationship within each individual between the will of the personal self or I, and the will of the Transpersonal Self.” That field of relationship “leads to a growing interplay between, and ultimately to the fusion of, the personal and transpersonal selves, and in turn to their relationship with ultimate reality, the Universal Self, which embodies and demonstrates the Universal, Transcendent Will.” Note the direct and vertical line from I and personal will, to Transpersonal Self and Transpersonal Will, to Universal Self and Universal Will.

It will become clear that through training the will in its various aspects, qualities and phases, we can grow in our awareness of personal self, transpersonal (higher) Self, and unity with Universal Self.

This is a guest post about Psychosynthesis, courtesy of Carla Peterson and Hedwig Weiler (http://psychosynthesiswis.blogspot.com/).

Roberto Assagioli was exposed to many creative outlets at a young age, such as art, and music, which were believed to have inspired his work in Psychosynthesis. By the age of 18, he had learned eight different languages: his native Italian, English, French, Russian, Greek, Latin, German, and Sanskrit.

Roberto Assagioli received his first degree in neurology and psychiatry at Istituto di Studi Superiori Pratici e di Perfezionamento, in Florence in 1910. It was during this time he began writing articles that criticized psychoanalysis, in which Assagioli argued a more holistic approach. Once he finished his studies in Italy, Assagioli went to Switzerland, where he was trained in psychiatry at the psychiatric hospital Burghölzli in Zürich. This led to him opening the first psychoanalytic practice in Italy, known as Instituto di Psicosintesi. However, his work in psychoanalysis left him unsatisfied with the field as a whole, as he felt that it to be too incomplete.

In 1938, Assagioli was arrested and imprisoned by the Fascist government, due to his Jewish heritage, and his humanistic writing. He was placed in solitary confinement for over a month, until he was released and returned to his family. During World War II, his family’s farm in Florence, Italy was destroyed, and both he and his family fled underground. Tragically, his son died at the age of 28 from lung disease, which was accredited to severe stress from the harsh living conditions during the war. Once the war had ended, he returned to his work, and began his legacy, known as psychosynthesis.

The years after the war were relatively calm, and it was during this time that he founded various foundations dedicated to psychosynthesis, in Europe and North America. Assagioli lived a long and prosperous life, and had a happy forty-year marriage, until he died at age 86 on August 23d, 1974.

Roberto Assagioli is famous for developing and founding the science of psychosynthesis, a spiritual and holistic approach to psychology that had developed from psychoanalysis. Assagioli insisted that psychosynthesis was a legitimate science, which was continuously developing, and which agreed and disagreed with theories formulated by other psychologists, particularly Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

Trained in psychoanalysis but unsatisfied by what he regarded as its incompleteness as a whole, Assagioli felt that love, wisdom, creativity, and will, were all important components that should be included in psychoanalysis. Assagioli’s earliest development of psychosynthesis started in 1911, when he began his formal education in psychology. He continued his work on psychosynthesis right up until his death.

He was largely inspired by Freud’s idea of the repressed mind and Jung’s theories of the collective unconscious. Freud and Assagioli were known to have corresponded, although they never had the chance to meet. Assagioli considered Jung’s theories to be closest in the understanding of psychosynthesis.

Roberto Assagioli accredited much of his inspiration for psychosynthesis to his month-long incarceration in solitary confinement in 1938. He used his time in prison to exercise his mental will, by meditating daily while in prison. He concluded that he was able to change confinement into an opportunity for inner-investigation.

In the December 1974 issue of Psychology Today, Assagioli was interviewed by Sam Keen. Assagioli also highlighted the differences between psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis: Perhaps the best way to state our differences is with a diagram of the psychic functions. Jung differentiates four functions: sensation, feeling, thought, and intuition. Psychosynthesis says that Jung’s four functions do not provide for a complete description of the psychological life. Our view can be visualized like this: We hold that outside imagination or fantasy is a distinct function. There is also a group of functions that impels us toward action in the outside world. This group includes instincts, tendencies, impulses, desires, and aspirations. And here we come to one of the central foundations of psychosynthesis: There is a fundamental difference between drives, impulses, desires, and the will. In the human condition there are frequent conflicts between desire and will. And we will place the will in a central position at the heart of self-consciousness or the Ego.

Roberto Assagioli also asserted about the will: The will is not merely assertive, aggressive, and controlling. There is the accepting will, yielding will, the dedicated will. You might say that there is a feminine polarity to the will –the willing surrender, the joyful acceptance of the other functions of the personality.

Roberto Assagioli’s works include:
* 1906 – Published in Farrari’s Magazine – Gli effete del riso el le loro applicazioni pedagoiche a.k.a., Smiling Wisdom (Italian)
* 1909 – Doctoral dissertation, La Psicosintesi (Italian)
* 1965 – Psychosynthesis: A Collection of Basic Writings by Roberto Assagioli ISBN 0-9678570-0-7 (English)
* 1974 – The Act of Will by Roberto Assagioli ISBN 0-670-10309-8 (English)
* 1993 (posthumously) – Transpersonal Development: The Dimension Beyond Psychosynthesis by Roberto Assagioli ISBN 1-85538-291-1 (English)

Source: Wikipedia