Psychosynthesis Model of the Self

The Psychosynthesis Model of the Self

Psychosynthesis was developed by Assagioli who trained as a Freudian analyst (he was the first psychoanalyst to practise in Italy in 1910) and built on the psychodynamic tradition.

Assagioli’s map of the psyche is often represented by what is called the Egg Diagram as in Figure (1). The main body of the ‘egg’ is divided into three sections: The Lower Unconscious, The Middle Unconscious, The Higher Unconscious. The middle Unconscious contains the Field of Consciousness in the centre of which is the Personal Self or ‘I’. This personal Self has the opportunity of connecting with the Higher self.

eggdiagram01

Figure (1): The Psychosynthesis ‘Egg’ Diagram

Whitmore who worked with Assagioli before his death and set up the training centre in this country defines these elements of the map in the following way: –

  1. The lower unconscious corresponds to what Freudian psychology calls the unconscious: the fundamental drives and complexes charged with intense emotion…
  2. The middle unconscious is formed of psychological elements similar to our waking consciousness, containing the memories, thoughts and feelings of which our everyday life is interwoven. This awareness is accessible to us by tuning in or remembering, and contains recent or near present experiences. It points not to what we have been or could be, but to the evolutionary state we have actually reached.
  3. The higher unconscious, or superconscious, is the ‘home’ of our higher aspirations and intuitions, latent psychic functions and spiritual energies. This includes artistic, philosophical, scientific or ethical revelations and urges to humanitarian action. Assagioli attributes to this realm the source of the higher feelings (such as compassion, joy), of genius and of states of contemplation, illumination and ecstasy. Most of us have had, at some time, a moment of superconscious experience when wee felt most fully who we essentially are.
  4. The field of consciousness contains those elements of our personality of which we are directly aware. This includes the incessant flow of sensations, images, thoughts, feelings, desires and impulses, which we may immediately and consciously observe, analyse and judge.
  5. The personal self or ‘I’ is the centre of our consciousness, a point of pure self-awareness and will …. This centre is distinct from the changing contents of our consciousness.
  6. The transpersonal (or Higher) Self is the point of pure, essential being, which is unaffected by conscious experience. It is not an experience but the One who experiences, the Experiencer. The personal self is considered to be a reflection of the Self and its projection in the field of the personality. The self is the point of synthesis of our whole being, of individuality and universality, or our connection with the larger whole of human existence.
  7. The collective unconscious can be defined as the accumulated psychic environment that surrounds us. The boundary that separates us from it is permeable. It is analogous to the membrane delineating a cell which permits a constant and active interchange with the whole body to which the cell belongs. Such processes of ‘psychological osmosis’ are occurring all the time between human beings and their environment.

(1991, p114)

The three sections of the map also have a time correspondence. The lower unconscious is associated with events in the past. The middle is to do with the present and the higher unconscious is to do with our potential, which is to be realised in the future. It is interesting to think of the different type of children’s story, which may be associated with the lower, middle and higher unconscious.

So how can this psychosynthesis model, which may on first examination seem of a somewhat erudite nature, assist in the attempt to improve children’s emotional literacy and sense of self through the use of narrative? In order to understand this it is necessary to move on to the psychosynthesis concept of subpersonalities.

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Therapeutic Story Writing book coverTherapeutic Storywriting – A Practical Guide to Developing Emotional Literacy.

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