We are dominated by everything with which we have identified ourselves. We can dominate and control everything of which we dis-identify ourselves.Roberto Assagioli, Psychosynthesis, 1998.
The Basics of Psychosynthesis
The deliberate and purposefully use of self-identification – or dis-identification – is the foundation of psychosynthesis. The longer I work with clients in practice, the more I see and experience in myself and my clients, how important it is to become familiar with the process of identification and dis-identification. We generally have no idea what it means to become a conscious participant in this process. An experience that ultimately leads to freedom and responsibility.
From concept to experience
I have to admit that when I got to know the ‘concept’ of identification and dis-identification, I couldn’t immediately experience what this could really mean. In the beginning it remained mainly a cognitive exercise that invited me to come into the experience, but mainly lingered in my head. It took a lot of years before I learned to connect experiences not only in my head but also with my feelings and my body. Now I can see how indicative that was for the strong survival mode I had adopted to protect myself from unconscious experiences and changes that I was not ready for at the time. Because for the admission of the often unconscious, repressed and split-off experiences, sufficient security and a healthy I is needed to be able to integrate these experiences into the whole personality.
From not being aware to becoming aware
When I am working with a client I see how he or she transitions from one identification to another. Sometimes such a transition is very clear but usually very subtle. The client is usually not aware of this at all. And that is very understandable. Imagine … … that we were all the time aware of these constant ‘transitions’ in our thinking, our feelings and our behaviors. It would be as if after years of driving we should still be paying conscious attention to every action. Then we wouldn’t get around to driving and taking a ride at all. Fortunately, most of the information is stored in our unconscious database and we can rely on our ‘automatic pilot’ for most of the day, which is controlled from this database. It is largely out of our control. Fortunately!
Slowing down the process
And this is exactly why it is important to work with a facilitator to ‘slow down’ these unconscious transitions so that you can look at them, bring conscious attention to them and get away from them for a while. On your own, it is quite difficult to get into this ‘delay’ and become familiar with what we call the position of the ‘observer’ in psychosynthesis. An experienced counselor can support you in this and familiarize you with the process of dis-identifying, for example, behavior, roles, thoughts, beliefs, feelings, emotions and physical sensations.
Make it visible
When I notice that a client is stuck in a certain dynamic of thoughts, feelings or in the ‘drama’ of their own story, I often propose to look together at what is happening and give the client feedback on what I see or experience. Then the presence of the supervisor as an external observer is important to facilitate an opportunity in which to ‘work’. After all, the client has a reason to be here! In order to be able to work with a certain theme, it is important to be able to use different methods to get into the so-called ‘slow-motion’ to make the dynamics visible.
Working with sub-personalities
One of the methods to be able to participate in the work is working with ‘sub-personalities’. By the way, a method that is not only used in psychosynthesis but is also used in other forms of therapy only than is mentioned otherwise. Last week I worked with a client who got stuck in what she called “negativity.” To support her in the process of dis-identification (breaking away from the part in her that is ‘occupied’ by negativity) I placed a chair in front of her as a representative of the ‘negativity’. With this you place a part of your own inner world outside yourself so that you yourself become the observer of what you have placed before you. In this way it is possible to perceive it outside yourself, to become detached from it and to make contact with it from the observer within yourself. In this way you can dialogue with the different parts within yourself without coinciding with them.
In 2015 Pixar Animation Studios released an American animation film that in an ‘animated’ way introduces you to the inner world of a little girl Riley and how she is guided by her different emotions; pleasure, fear, anger aversion and sadness. If you have time, it is worth checking out the movie.
Dis-identification and identification
Working with sub-personalities, like the constellation method (IoPT), is a way in which parts of yourself are made visible in the space so that it can be perceived without coinciding with it and then work with it. And although the process of dis-identification is part of working with sub-personalities and working with constellations, it is important to become separately familiar with the process of dis-identification and identification with the I or self. Identification with the observer, with the part within yourself that does not coincide with your thoughts, feelings, emotions or bodily sensations. Through which you can become increasingly aware that you have thoughts, feelings, emotions and a body and that you are more than that. That there is an experience within yourself of perception, of pure consciousness, of love and will. The text of the exercise is included at the end of this article. You can also listen to the exercise here.
“The experience of the point of self-awareness at the level of the personality is the first step towards the experience of the Self, or in existentialist terminology, to the experience of the essence of Being. …… This problem of finding the self, experiencing the self, and directing one’s life from the center of itself, is a basic problem of our time, in which the tendency towards conformism is so strong .”Roberto Assagioli, Psychosynthesis, 1998
From lower self to higher Self
Psychosynthesis counseling is therefore aimed at supporting the client in his or her request for help, his or her intention / desire, in the way to the experience of the self that usually precedes the experience of the self with a capital S, so that the client is able to direct his or her life from the center of himself. Psychosynthesis distinguishes in the process between personal and trans-personal psychosynthesis. Personal psychosynthesis is an important process in order to develop a healthy I and stability in the personality.
I think that Assagioli’s view of psychosynthesis was way ahead of his time and that he was aware of the degree to which we have become identified with life as it occurs to us in the present time. When we do not “wake up” we remain in the intoxication of the issues of the day and conform to a way of life that keeps us more and more away from who we really are. Wouldn’t it be great to let what Assagioli claims in his vision, namely ‘Mastery’, become reality and develop about ourselves?
We are dominated by everything with which we have identified ourselves. We can dominate and control everything of which we dis-identify ourselves.Roberto Assagioli
The dis-identification exercise
The dis-identification exercise is a basic exercise in psychosynthesis. You learn to perceive that you have a body, thoughts and feelings, but you are not! (dis-identify). Then we connect (identify) with our inner center, our core, who we really are. From this ‘self’ we are of course connected to our Higher Self, eternal source of light and qualities within us.
Sit comfortably. Feel your feet on the floor, possibly rub your feet on the floor. Feel supported by the seat of your chair and the backrest. Move what you want to move … Be aware of your breathing, in ….. and out …. Feel that with each exhalation you relax more and more.
Bring your breathing into a rhythm that suits you.
Go with your attention to your body … and experience your body … your body is a precious instrument that carries you in the world … And say within yourself: ‘I have my body … and I am more than my body …. ‘
Now turn your attention to your feelings … and observe what feelings there are ….. many feelings that can go through you throughout the day … positive feelings and negative feelings ….. And say to yourself, ‘I have feelings … and I am more than my feelings …’
Now turn your attention to your thoughts …. and observe what thoughts there are …. all kinds of thoughts going through your head, often all day long ….. positive and negative and neutral thoughts. .. And say within yourself: ‘I have thoughts … and I am more than my thoughts ….’
Move your attention to the inner center behind your sternum, at the level of your heart, and breathe through this …. Say within yourself: ‘I am a center of silence … of pure self-awareness … and of Will … “From here I am connected to my Higher Self, eternal source of qualities ….” Now let a quality come to you from your Higher Self. And breathe this quality through you.
Now be aware of your breathing, make contact with yourself, with your body. You can do this by moving a little. Come out at your pace with your attention from within and open your eyes automatically.
Uit: Psychosynthese Meditaties, 2015