Know, master and transform yourself

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(in Italian with English translation)

The whole Psychosynthesis process can be summarised in the motto know, master and transform yourself.

Know thyself does not just mean “analyse your thoughts and feelings and examine your actions.” This is, above all, an exhortation to discover our most intimate and authentic being and learn about its wonderful potentialities (Assagioli, 1971, p. 90). But where and how should we start this process of self-awareness? In Psychosynthesis, the general rule is to move “from the known to the unknown”. It is recommended we start from that which is directly observable, from an examination of the conscious aspects of the personality, and then expand our inquiry into an extensive exploration of the vast unconscious regions in all its dimensions: lower, middle and higher. A prerequisite for such exploration is that we adopt the stance of the inner observer. In other words, we need to develop the capacity to cognitively distance ourselves, or disidentify, from what is observed.

What follows this phase of inner exploration and discovery, is the task of mastering our inner life and all the forces that are at work within us. Such endeavour is based on a fundamental principle which Assagioli (Assagioli, 1965, p. 22) articulated as follows:


“We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified.

We can dominate and control everything from which we disidentify ourselves.”

If, then, the phase of self-awareness leads to the discovery of the passive dimension of the self, considered as the spectator of psychic life (the observer), the next phase, that of mastery, entails the activation of its dynamic qualities, namely, of the will. Rather than being manipulated by conscious and unconscious elements, the self, who has learnt to know them better and to distance itself from them, can therefore implement strategies for managing and directing them most effectively.

Closely related to this ability for self-mastery, is our capacity for self-transformation. Change is at the heart of Psychosynthesis, and a great variety of active techniques is employed to support this process of transformation. Change is inevitable: our personality changes, and so does the world around us. But such ongoing transformation can take place either:

  • outside of our awareness, due to unconscious pressures or environmental conditioning within the family or society;
  • or as the result of deliberate and positive action, based on self-knowledge and a clear assessment of what we want to achieve and why.

One the fundamental goals of Psychosynthesis is to allow people to regain a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives so that they can not only adapt with ever increasing awareness and flexibility to inevitable changes and transitions, but also feel empowered to be agents of change, steering their own development in their chosen direction. The table below offers a summary of the process we have just outlined:

Stage

Task

Know yourself

  • examine the conscious aspects of your personality
  • explore the vast regions of the unconscious
  • develop the capacity to disidentify/self-identify become the loving observer of your inner dynamics (discovery of the “passive” qualities of the I-Self)

Master yourself

  • develop further the capacity to disidentify-self-identify (self-awareness and self-compassion)
  • activate and develop the will
  • implement strategies to regulate and master the conscious and unconscious aspects of your personality (discovery of the “active” qualities of the I-Self)

Transform yourself

  • foster an inner attitude of increasing awareness and flexibility towards inevitable inner and outer change
  • utilise the most appropriate techniques to actively promote the change you have willingly chosen to pursue (conscious reconstruction or re-creation of the personality)

It is, however, very important to highlight that these three stages should not be considered as a rigid chronological sequence. They refer to ideal steppingstones, distinct but not separate, along the Psychosynthesis path. We might imagine such path as circular or cyclic: we get to know a part of ourselves, master it, transform it and move on to another part of ourselves and so on. Assagioli would often say that Psychosynthesis is a process that never ends.

To further reinforce that these stages or phases of Psychosynthesis should not be considered as a strict, linear progression, it might help to view them as aspects simultaneously existing in the psyche. If, for didactic purposes, we need to present these various aspects (i.e. the examination of the conscious elements of the personality, the exploration of the unconscious, the various steps in the process of personal, interpersonal and transpersonal psychosynthesis) in a particular sequence, the aim is however to offer a comprehensive range of practical tools and points of reference to help us navigate the various areas of psychological work. This spatial dimension also relates to the realisation that we do not move along an ideal evolutionary line from A to B (implying growth is a linear process) but that, in reality, we expand in consciousness, becoming increasingly aware as we move along our path (which relates to a conceptualisation of growth as amplification and expansion, as a widening and deepening cyclical movement).

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