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Psychosynthesis: Bringing Together Our Humanness and Our Divinity

by Dorothy Firman, EdD

Psychology and spirituality have not always been kindred spirits. But as we move along in our own evolution, the two fields of inquiry have come closer and closer together, and for this we can be grateful. It is not enough to understand our personal traumas, family dynamics, and personality. Nor is it enough to be in touch with our own spiritual longing or sense of the divine. To move through our lives towards wholeness, requires that we know ourselves in both our most human and our most divine nature.

Psychosynthesis, a spiritual psychology whose origins go back to the early 1900’s, offers us a comprehensive view of human development that includes the whole spectrum of human being (or of being human!). We all know how gnarly and knotted up our lives can seem from time to time. We all know how much our past has left its imprint, for better and for worse. We get triggered. We react. We regret it. We try again. Sounds like most everyone’s lived experience. So we have to work on that. We want to be less triggered, less anxious, less confused, less reactive, less stressed. We want to be more balanced, more harmonious, more mature. This is the work of the personality. With courage, we are invited to face our shadow, come to terms with our past and our own wounding and build a better personality: stronger, happier, clearer.

Most psychological theories have some good ideas on how to do that work. But getting that work done (or keeping it in process) is only half of the invitation. It is dinner without dessert. Because even living as a healthy personality, we are not complete. The Call of Self (an oft used psychosynthesis phrase) asks more of us. Purpose, meaning and values define us as much as personality does. Intuition is as important as thinking; love as important as will; being as important as doing. The rest of the work of a lifetime is to explore and expand our deeper Self, our inner knowing, and the truth of our own unique life purpose.

Working with soul and personality; qualities and blocks; and awareness and will, we have the opportunity to build a foundation of mental and spiritual health from which to live our lives.

Psychosynthesis offers a view of the human experience that encourages us to do just that. We are invited always to look at the "both/and" of our lives, rather than the "either/or". Practitioners are trained to see their clients through the lens of bi-focal vision: What isn’t working? and What is emerging?; Where are you now? and Where do you want to be?; What is wrong? and What is right?

Within the psychosynthesis framework we visit a wide range of human experience. Starting with the concept of "I" and "Higher Self", psychosynthesis posits a center of content-less awareness and will that is our true Self. We are more than our stories, our experiences, our passing realities. Like a mindfulness practice, psychosynthesis works towards the experience of being both the observer of our own experience and the one who chooses. A simple but core practice is that of disidentification. I have a body and I am more than my body. I have a mind and I am more than my mind. I have feelings and I am more than my feelings.

And in knowing the particularity of who we are, psychosynthesis works with the experience of subpersonalities: the many me’s. Language of "inner child" and "inner critic" is pretty common in the field these days, but psychosynthesis has been working with and developing the theory of "partial selves" since its inception. We all recognize our own inner child from time to time. When we are hurt or scared, we can feel just like we did when we were young. When we notice ourselves being critical of others or ourselves, we often hear the echoes of our own parents’ criticisms of us. We have many more subpersonalities, unique to our own life experience. Each one tells us something about ourselves and has wisdom to offer us. Each one also needs our help in healing old wounds and changing patterns of behavior. We don’t have to get triggered, the same old way, yet again, over and over. We don’t have to default to old stories of just how hard it is. As we stand back and compassionately hold our wounded parts, we become the more that can heal them. We begin to live in that deep center that is truly Self.

Psychosynthesis offers us much more. It offers a view of the whole human being as one who is in touch, not only with the body, feelings and mind, but also with intuition, imagination and desire. These are the psychological functions that create the richness of human experience and part of our job is to enhance each one so that we can call on them as needed. Sometimes it is thinking that we need, but sometimes it is feeling. Sometimes it is the gift of knowing our sensory world, sometimes it is the magic of intuition. Sometimes it is trusting our desires and sometimes it is trusting the images that offer us guidance.

We are rich, complex and evolving. We are unique, living in the authenticity of our own life’s experience. At the same time, we are one with all life, anchored in our universality. We are in process and we are called to be part of a conscious evolution, not only of ourselves, but also of our world. We are, after all, both human and divine.

Dorothy Firman, Ed.D is a professor of psychology, a licensed counselor, a board certified coach and the director of psychosynthesis training at the Synthesis Center in Amherst, MA. She offers a blog, Living a Life of Purpose on psychologytoday.com (www.psychology today.com/blog/living-life-purpose). She is also the author of many books. For more on psychosynthesis or Dr. Firman visit: www.synthesiscenter.org  and www.dorothyfirman.com .

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