volontà cenerentola

The will: “Cinderella” of modern psychology

Excerpt from an interview by Peter Stewart with Petra Guggisberg Nocelli for the EPA – European Psychosynthesis Association – translated by Valeria Ballarotti.
Assagioli described the will as “the Cinderella of modern psychology”. How are Assagioli’s teachings on will relevant in the 21st century?

Very much so! In my opinion, they have never been as relevant as now, in this globalised world. Especially the pandemic has made that very evident.

Will was really the “Cinderella” of the 20th century psychological landscape. So, somewhat jokingly, I wondered who the stepsisters might be. Perhaps behaviourism and psychoanalysis that proposed an image of the human being in which there was no place for the will: the man-machine governed by stimulus-response mechanism; and the ego servant of three masters, as Freud himself had defined it.

Obviously, a revision of the Victorian conception of the will was necessary. Indeed, and this is very important, Psychosynthesis does not deny at all that there are “places” in the psyche governed by the stimulus-response mechanism; or that the human being often finds himself torn between the drives of impulses and desires on the one hand and the demands of the superego and the external world on the other.

But alongside these determined aspects, Psychosynthesis has kept the ashes of the fundamental importance of other, vital aspects, which we cannot renounce. These times of profound uncertainty and change are clearly demonstrating this. I am thinking of awareness and self-awareness, freedom, intentionality, responsibility (understood as the ability to respond).

Thus, if Assagioli refused to embrace an impotent image of the human being, he did not, however, re-propose, somewhat camouflaged, the idea of an omnipotent, oppressive and repressive will either! For Psychosynthesis, the will has nothing to do with the satisfaction of all our desires, with the idea of success, of infinite growth, with the idols (for to speak of ideals seems inappropriate) of today’s consumerist society.

Will is instead the capacity to take care of oneself, others and the world with strength and intelligence; it is self-regulation, harmonisation, integration. Will is psychological training, resilience, trust, integrity, courage. Will means, above all, having a clear vision and defined goals, inspired by ethical values that guide committed and effective action.

And I would say that never before have these aspects been so crucial.

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