Psychosynthesis was developed by Italian, Roberto Assagioli. By 23 Assagioli spoke eight languages, had travelled widely and trained as a neurologist and psychiatrist in Italy and Switzerland. In Zurich, dissatisfied with psychoanalysis, he started to develop his own psychology.
Returning to Italy he practised as a therapist and writer developing his ideas alongside Carl Jung and others.
Despite imprisonment under Mussolini, the destruction of his family home and the death of his only child, Assagioli continued his work and in 1965 he set out his approach in his book, “Psychosynthesis”, covering the principles and techniques of Psychosynthesis therapy. He continued to champion the development of his ideas writing and teaching until his death, aged 87, in 1974.
Psychosynthesis offers a model of human nature that includes all aspects of human experience including the spiritual. This model is best illustrated in Assagiloi's Egg Diagram
(see below). In its understanding of the psyche Psychosynthesis agrees with the generally accepted view that healing childhood trauma and developing a healthy personality are necessary aims of therapy. However, Psychosynthesis goes on to suggest that the pursuit of human growth and potential can also be supported, and that further still, the spiritual dimensions of human experience can be attended to and nurtured.
The psychosynthesis approach
Psychosynthesis therapy offers an approach that seeks to address the two parallel interdependent processes that underpin psychospiritual development:
1. The process of self-actualisation or personal psychosynthesis; involving the healing and integration of aspects of the personality, the personal self, by identifying and establishing control over them.
2. The process of Self-realization or transpersonal psychosynthesis; involving establishing contact with one’s deepest callings and directions in life, sometimes glimpsed in creativity, spiritual insight and expanded states of consciousness, and orienting the personality around these expressions of transpersonal Self.
Psychosynthesis is orientated towards the whole being allowing for a wide variety of techniques and methods to be used for personal integration and transpersonal Self-realisation including: Dialogue, journalling, Gestalt techniques, dream-work, guided imagery, body-work, cognitive-behavioural techniques, affirmations, and meditation.
However, the attitude and presence of the therapist or ‘guide’, as a ‘unifying centre’, are of far greater importance than the particular methods used.