Psychosynthesis vs. Jungian Psychology

Medion   DIGITAL CAMERAWhile most people are at least familiar with the term “Jungian psychology,” few have ever heard of psychosynthesis. You might have wondered yourself what the difference is between them. These differences are certainly not easily condensed into a snappy sound bite!

This might be partly due to the fact that the two men – Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974), the founder of psychosynthesis, and Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961), the founder of analytical psychology (also referred to as Jungian psychology) – knew each other early in their careers.

They probably first met in 1907, when Assagioli was spending time at the Psychiatric Clinic at Burghölzi, University of Zürich. While studying in Zürich, Assagioli came into contact with psychoanalytic theory and worked directly with Jung and Eugen Bleuler, famous for his discovery and work on schizophrenia.

Figure 2 Jung_1910-rotated

Carl Gustav Jung around the time he met Assagioli. They both attended the Clinic at Burghölzi, pictured behind.

Assagioli wrote about meeting with Jung at his villa in Küssnacht, during which they had “animated conversations” in Jung’s study, which Assagioli noted was full of books and curious exotic objects. “Among psychotherapists,” Assagioli wrote: “Jung is one of the closest to the conceptions and practice of psychosynthesis”.

To fully explore the similarities and differences between psychosynthesis and Jung, you would need to devote many hours researching the two psychologies and then writing a book. Nevertheless, I have (boldly!) compiled an overview (Also in a handy table, see Psychosynthesis and Jung in a Nutshell Table Landscape) to help compare and contrast these two great visionaries’ understanding of the human psyche.

In this blog, I briefly describe a few of their similarities. I then mention two of their main differences. (Click here to read the full article: Psychosynthesis and Jung in a Nutshell).

Similarities

They are transpersonal psychologies. Psychosynthesis and Jungian psychology integrate the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience within their frameworks. Both psychological approaches recognize and proclaim the reality and importance of spiritual needs and a spiritual dimension of the human psyche. This spiritual dimension includes the need to reach an understanding of the meaning of life and to believe that it has a purpose of a spiritual nature.

They include the concept of a collective unconscious. According to Jung, the human collective unconscious contains shared structures of the unconscious mind such as universal symbols, instincts and archetypes. Assagioli included the collective unconscious in his diagram of the human psyche, also referred to as the “egg-diagram.”

The process of psychosynthesis is very similar to the process of individuation. Psychosynthesis and Jungian psychology prefer to understand human beings from the perspective of their health as opposed to their pathologies. Jung aimed to produce for each client a profound transformation of the personality and its integration by means of what he called the “process of individuation.” Assagioli stated that this process and its phases are “akin to psychosynthetic therapy”.

Two Main Differences

Figure 4 Unconscious according to Jung

Assagioli’s note from his archives about Jung’s view of the unconscious.

Different ways of viewing the unconscious. One major difference between psychosynthesis and Jungian psychology is how each defines the unconscious, including the collective unconscious.

In Assagioli’s model of the human psyche, he divides the personal unconsciousness into lower, middle, and higher unconsciousness. Jung does not make this distinction, which Assagioli says “lumps everything together into a great mishmash”.

Jung undervalued the Will. Jung did not fully believe in free will. He also did not believe in determinism, but rather something in between the two. From Jung’s perspective, we are all capable of making conscious decisions, but, we are not capable of making any decision without some influence from both the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious.

Figure 5 002789 Jung speaks of will

Assagioli’s note criticizing Jung for not giving directions on how to “educate” the will.

This perspective is in sharp contrast to psychosynthesis, in which the will is given a pre-eminent position. Assagioli states that:

“The will has a directive and regulatory function, one that balances and constructively utilizes all the other activities and energies of the human being without repressing any of them”.

Not only does psychosynthesis recognize that the will exists and that we have a will – but it extends even further to the fact that we are will.

In his historical survey of the will, Assagioli criticizes Jung’s omission:

“While he recognized and even emphasized the reality and the dynamic function of goals, aims, and purposes, he did not make an investigation of the various aspects and stages of the will, nor did he include the use of the will in his therapeutic procedures.”

Conclusion

I will end with Assagioli’s thoughts about Jung that are generous in spirit as well as full of admiration and gratitude:

Figure 3 014888 The word JungJung has been a courageous and genius pioneer, who has opened new ways and dimensions to the human mind. His contributions have been of great value, he has most of all liberated us from the narrow limits of objectivism, of purely …descriptive study.

He has immensely expanded the field of psychoanalysis, demonstrating as well the propensity and need for spirituality…Thus he successfully invites one to pursue the course of individuation, that is, to discover and develop one’s own true being, one’s own Self. There he indeed deserves our great appreciation and our deep gratitude”.

Click here to read the full article Psychosynthesis and Jung in a Nutshell.

References

Assagioli, R. (n.d.) Archivio Assagioli – Firenze, ID Doc: 1901,13546. Downloaded from archivioassagioli.org.

Assagioli, R. (1974). Jung and Psychosynthesis. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 14: 1, pp. 35-55.

Assagioli, R. (2002). The Act of Will. London, UK: The Psychosynthesis & Education Trust.

Giovetti, P. (1995). Roberto Assagioli: La vita e l’opera del fondatore della Psicosintesi [Roberto Assagioli: The life and work of the founder of Psychosynthesis]. Edizione Mediterranee, Roma.

Jung, C. G. (1966). The Practice of Psychotherapy (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.), Bollingen Series XX. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1969). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.), Bollingen Series XX. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, Dreams, Reflections, A. Jaffé, ed. (R. Winston and C. Winston, trans.). New York: Vintage Books.

Meachem, W. (2016). “Carl Jung’s Concept of Humanity and Theory of Personality,” Owlcation, October 15, 2016,

Rosselli, M. & Vanni, D. (2014). Roberto Assagioli and Carl Gustav Jung, The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 46:1, pp. 7-34

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