Integrative psychosynthesis therapy

Humanistic and integrative psychotherapists take into consideration how the external world affects the client, and will explore the significance of social, cultural and political experience. Humanistic and integrative psychotherapy is available in a range of settings in the public, private and voluntary sectors and benefits individuals, couples, children, families, groups and organisations.

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As previously mentioned, Psychosynthesis utilises the realm of the imagination to activate deep sources of wisdom within an individual not available to the conscious mind. In complement to expanding awareness, there is the development of the capacity to Will.

UKCP | Institute of Psychosynthesis

Assagioli set much store by people learning to face the challenges that life set them - the blessings of obstacles he called them. For people to rise to such challenges, they need to have developed their potential for creative and authentic action, which is what the Will gives. One significant area for the application of Will work is that of mid-life in which so many existential questions confront us as individuals.

Here the willingness to listen to what our heart, our inner prompting are telling us and not betray our true calling, even it is hard or painful, is a challenge in which Psychosynthesis psychotherapists have given particular attention. Although Freud took the Oedipal story as the central myth of his psychoanalysis, he failed to recognise the blindness that comes when the 'ego' is enthroned as king. This century has been one that will be remembered both for its technological advances and for its barbarism The redemptive process of restoring soul and spirit and healing the alienation from which our materialistic culture suffers, is the primary purpose of Psychosynthesis psychotherapy.

Assagioli often said that human evolution needed to balance the development of outer technologies with that of inner powers. This has never been more true as we enter a new millennium. The Grail has long been a source of inspiration for those seeking to develop their inner powers. It counterpoints the typical heroic endeavour by showing how its heroes had little idea for what they were searching and spent much of their time being lost. Sounds like psychotherapy does it not! Even more pointed for our frantic busy lives are the challenges for Perceval to learn to wait.

In one encounter, he sees a woman Sigune holding the dead knight who was her love. Perceval is unable to be present to her deep sorrow and wants to rush off to avenge his death. He is astonished that she sits silently waiting, simply waiting. Another important area is that of 'psychoenergetics'. This is the meeting place between those practitioners who work primarily with dialogue and those who work with energy.

They meet in the new ideas about the 'Field' which converge from quantum physics, systems theory, and alchemy. Some psychosynthesis psychotherapists have been exploring new ways of working with the Field as applied to the therapeutic relationship, in which the traditional concepts of transference and counter-transference are revisioned. Within psychotherapy there is a movement away from traditional conceptions of transference and counter-transference as a subjective replay of childhood history to an appreciation of the therapeutic field as a dynamic and archetypal third space between the dyad of therapist and client as in Swartz-Salant, The Mystery of Human Relationships.

In this shift of attention away from the intrapsychic life of the client to the field of 'transitional space' as Winnicott called it, therapists are making the move from thinking in terms of interaction between the two to a recognition of the mysterious 'Third' as a sacred presence that is not the product of any interactions. Asimilar message was given by the ancient alchemists who saw the movement from the Two to the Three as the vitalisation or quickening of the soul. The alchemists have also reminded us that there is more of the soul is outside the body, than inside.

The soul is not actually our soul , but we are part of a bigger soul - Anima Mundi - the soul of the world. Carl Rogers said that the more you go deep inside yourself the more you find the whole of humanity. The present challenge for psychotherapy is to not so much to be mirroring our narcissistic clients but rather to look through the mirror of ourselves into the collective and see how our inner life reflects that of our environment. We might call this Gaia empathy. Psychosynthesis is ideally suited for the application of psychotherapeutic thinking beyond the consulting room, as it has an abstract model of how complex organisms or organisations can value individual parts and choices, while at the same time take an holistic overview.

If psychotherapy is to regain its radical edge, it will need not only to reconnect with its lost Soul but also to recognise that the context for suffering and healing is planetary as well as individual. To the extent that we can recognise our culture is itself within the throes of a mid-life crisis with classic manic defenses, then we can recognise how important this work is. Humanistic and existential psychologists are more aware than ever that all persons possess certain underlying needs and values and that if these are denied, denigrated or unfulfilled, then certain forms of illness or meta-pathologies will result.

Abraham Maslow. The danger with such an inclusive attitude as the one Assagioli proposed is that it is too open. Assagioli acknowledged this in an interview with Sam Keen. Those who have come after Assagioli have had the responsibility to ground his vision in good clinical practice. On the other hand evolutionary extinction often come from specialisation. Conversely an open attitude has meant that the very excellent developments elsewhere in psychotherapy could be discriminatively integrated into Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy without threatening its identity.

The common ground is both the attitude of 'Synthesis' and a number of principles, which create an overall context or holding framework. Different schools of Psychosynthesis training have offered various emphases so giving a pluralistic spectrum. In reality this is not much different from the many different Freudian and Jungian schools of thought. In a broad look at how Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy functions today, we shall examine three main themes.

Firstly we shall draw on the work of Abraham Maslow , in setting out the third force, Humanistic Psychology. Secondly, we will focus on the Imagination as the central medium through which the craft of Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy is practiced and thirdly, examine the ways in which the open framework of psychosynthesis has allowed it to effectively integrate recent developments in psychotherapy across many disciplines and traditions.

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Assagioli drew widely on the writing of Maslow and linked Psychosynthesis with Humanistic Psychology in his first book. Assagioli, What Maslow called "the farther reaches of human nature" Maslow, , fitted well with Assagioli's ideas of 'height psychology' and the human drive for self realisation. Both stressed the importance of starting to explore identity from within the individual, the capacity of the individual to take responsibility for their choices in life and to rise to the challenges which life presents.

Like the humanistic emphasis on potential and 'growth', Psychosynthesis offers a vision of 'What We May Be', as Pierro Ferrucci has entitled his book.

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  • Assagioli was seeking to give an optimistic and encouraging message about the capacities of the human psyche in contrast to Freud's pessimistic conclusions about human nature. In a much quoted letter to Bingswanger, Freud described his work as limited to exploring the ground and basement of the 'house', leaving the attic to be explored by others. Assagioli did just that. In looking at the bias towards height in Psychosynthesis it is important to place Assagioli's contribution within its historical setting.

    The beginning of the twentieth century marked the phenomenal success of science in explaining the world and the rise of technology in controlling nature. In a Promethean whirl of excitement with 'his' new found powers, 'man' was set to conquer all - even his own psyche. Assagioli warned against an outer technology that was not balanced by the development of inner awareness and wisdom. Assagioli was together with Maslow and others, offering an anti-thesis to the dominant Freudian paradigm.

    He was a visionary who sowed the seeds of many current ideas and methods in Transpersonal Psychotherapy. Perhaps most germane, was his recognition of the spiritual longing in our present cultural wasteland. Formerly an individual took himself so to speak for granted.

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    He accepted himself as he was, or, more frequently, he identified himself with the group to which he belonged, family, tribe, clan, class, or nation or, if he was religious, with some great Being or God. But in our time, which may well be a time of total crisis, all these identifications fall away and the individual is thrown back on himself.

    This baffles him, he does not know who he is and this is the chief reason for the widespread 'existential anguish'. Assagioli's root metaphor was the idea of synthesis, which begins from the premise that we are essentially whole in our nature - not good or perfect but whole. Whatever fragmentation, alienation and splitting we have suffered in order to psychologically survive, the spiritual self is calling us towards our healing - our unity with the divine. From this viewpoint our suffering may become the means to awaken to our true nature. Rather than trying to untie the knots of our alienation, we could create a new perspective for our identity by shifting our attention away from the habitual patterns of conditioning to the underlying wholeness of who we essentially are.

    In many ways Assagioli was reiterating what spiritual teachers have said over centuries, namely that we are asleep to our true nature and we need to 'Wake up'! This call mirrors Maslow's attempts to formulate a new psychology which would give rise to a 'meta-counselling' that looked to the neglected higher motivations and aspirations of human beings.

    A chief difference between Maslow and Assagioli was that between theoretician and practitioner. Assagioli was interested in developing methods which would respond to the search for inner wisdom in clients and facilitate a transformational process by accessing unexplored aspects of their psyche. He knew, like William James, that it was possible to experience and explore far greater potentials in human than could be reached by rational language and discourse.

    Watzlawick suggested that psychotherapy relies too much on helping clients with left hemispheric, linear tools of explanation, argument, analysis and interpretation.

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    The more expansive modes of consciousness of the right hemisphere, imagery, symbolism, metaphor and myth, seem to be the best path to therapeutic change because they access most directly the individual's implicit wisdom. The imagination is the medium through which many processes in Psychosynthesis happen.

    The psychosynthesis approach emphasises the exploration of the symbolic process through the use of creative visualization and mental imagery. These more subtle methods elicit spontaneous images and facilitate clients sinking down below their rationale mind to access their inner source of healing and wisdom.

    In common with Jungian analysts and many humanistic and transpersonal psychotherapists, Psychosynthesis psychotherapists have a deep trust in the unconscious wisdom of the psyche. This includes a faith in the psyche's capacity for self-healing and a belief that symptoms, dreams and moods, while uninvited by the conscious mind, can all be forms of self-repair. The role of the psychotherapist, in keeping with the idea of the Therapae, mentioned in the introduction, is to facilitate a conscious acceptance and cooperation with these inner forces.

    In working with images, as with other methods, the Psychosynthesis psychotherapist balances the appropriateness of active and receptive methods of working according to the needs of the client.

    Institute of Psychosynthesis

    If transference was Freud's thesis and 'Be here now' the antithesis of humanistic psychology, then the synthesis position is to work with both transference and more dynamic methods. This gives the psychosynthesis psychotherapist the challenge of great flexibility. In terms of the transference, we see that unmet needs from childhood and ungrieved idealisations form the basis of deep unconscious impulses which need to be given a place within the therapeutic relationship. The difference from the classical psychodynamic position is in the mutuality of the process and the acceptance of the therapist risking being infected by the client.

    What allows a psychosynthesis psychotherapist to enter into this process so fully is the sense of being held by a power greater than themselves. The I-thou of the relationship is the container that holds both personalities - client's and therapist's.

    The growing awareness in the psychotherapeutic field that there is no one right answer or method leads us to the need for flexibility on the part of the therapist and the ability to adapt their style of working to the specific needs of each client. For one client a direct confrontation may be necessary, while for another a more imaginative approach using story and myth might be more appropriate. The beauty of Psychosynthesis is that it is inclusive of different levels of working. There are a wide variety of methods employed to meet the diversity of needs presented by different people whether they be suffering from early wounding, neurotic conflicts or existential questions about who they are and where their life is going. Many Psychosynthesis psychotherapists make use of Ken Wilber's idea of the distinction between pre-ego and trans-ego issues and the importance of neither confusing a psychotic break with a peak experience nor reducing a mystical experience to a wish to merge with mother.

    Openness is maintained by allowing different methods to complement each other rather than attempting to make everything fit together. Thus the coherence of Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy is not threatened by the inclusion of complementary ideas and practices from other disciplines. In fact the openness of Psychosynthesis demands this assimilation without which it would be a rather abstract approach.

    This also fits with Assagioli's own style which was to borrow freely from wherever he felt was complementary. Conversely, one method that was originated in Psychosynthesis which has been widely borrowed by other disciplines, is that of Subpersonalities.. This has been concept has been widened by Miriam, Rowan and others so that it now links object relations, complexes, need theory, belief systems and archetypal theory.

    The importance of such seminal ideas in linking theory from different schools of thought is the paradigm case for the synthetic, integrative nature of Psychosynthesis. History of Psychosyntesis Origins Ritual urges are as real, basic and fundamental as sexual and aggressive drives; they should not be reduced to sublimation or pathological distortion of the sexual and aggressive components of the personality - although in many neurotic cases such elements are, of course, also present. Our true origins lie in the future.

    Future What we hope to see developed over a period of years - and certainly do not claim has yet been achieved - is a science of the Self, of its energies, its manifestations, of how these energies can be released, how they can be contacted, how they can be utilized for constructive and therapeutic work. Assagioli For the hundred years of its existence, psychotherapy has been developing within the analytic paradigm first set by Freud and enlarged by Jung.

    What is radical now at the beginning of the 21st century? Present Humanistic and existential psychologists are more aware than ever that all persons possess certain underlying needs and values and that if these are denied, denigrated or unfulfilled, then certain forms of illness or meta-pathologies will result.

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    Abraham Maslow The danger with such an inclusive attitude as the one Assagioli proposed is that it is too open. The difference from the classical psychodynamic position is in the mutuality of the process. This site uses cookies to ensure we give you the best possible experience on our website.