Psychosynthesis is a therapeutic approach that focuses on personal growth and development. Practitioners of psychosynthesis believe individuals need to synthesize various aspects of the self to become more evolved and self-actualized.
Psychosynthesis was developed by Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli. He compared psychosynthesis to existential psychology. Existential psychology is based on several premises, including the understanding that a “whole” person is more than the sum of his or her parts.
Therapists who practice psychosynthesis believe that each of us have a large amount of potential that is untapped. The goal is to find the power within ourselves to reach our fullest potential. By doing this, problems such as depression can be avoided or overcome. The end goal is for the client to discover themselves on a spiritual level and to incorporate what they find into their everyday lives.
To support this, psychosynthesis includes seven different core concepts:
- Personal self
- The ideal model
- The superconscious
- The transpersonal self
Disidentification describes being unattached to the fixed identification of particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, and instead being able to consciously drift through them. This allows the person to interact with all of them as a means of having a deeper experience. Disidentification can be as unpleasant as it can be serene due to the wide array of feelings we can experience, such as depression and anxiety.
As an example, after acknowledging that we have a certain feeling, such as sadness, disidentification occurs when we further understand that we are not our feelings—in this case sadness—in fact, are much more than this single component of ourselves.
Personal self refers to self-awareness, which is different from our thoughts, feelings and sensations. For example, a therapist practicing psychosynthesis would help a client with depression to practice selfawareness in terms of how their depression was affecting them.
The personal self has to do with our introspection and experiences. Consciously observing the contents of our experiences reveals the nature of one’s personal self.
Assagioli maintained that in addition to consciousness, the self has transpersonal will, which is an expression of the self and a call to action. In this way, the self compels the human personality to express its higher qualities such as compassion and to perform acts of kindness.
Will involves three different categories; 1) the aspects which make up will, such as strength, goodness and skill, 2) the qualities of will, such as organization, determination, initiative, concentration, mastery, and persistence, and 3) the stages of the act of will which are purpose, deliberation, choice, affirmation, planning, and direction of execution.
The purpose of will is to balance and utilize any experienced energies and activities without repression. An example of will being used by a therapist with a client with depression would be motivation-building. This can be particularly useful with depression since motivation is something that is often lacking in people with depressive disorders.
The Ideal Model
The ideal model is made up of four stages: 1) exploration of the personality, 2) the emergence of “I” (or the personal self), 3) contact with the self, and 4) response to the self. Guidance from the self should be present in every stage. Synthesis describes the movement toward unity of the ideal model and within the personality.
When treating depression, the belief is that the symptoms will lessen once unity within the personality is realized. This is achieved by synthesizing the sub-personalities within ourselves.
Ultimately, the ideal model in psychosynthesis is an awareness and understanding of how you wish to be in the world. That desire and vision provides direction and guidance for change and growth. In the case of depression, you would first visualize your ideal model—yourself without depression—and your therapist would guide you; capitalizing on your motivation as well as your vision of wellness in order to achieve this goal.
Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.
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