Formulating Christmas Blessings

goodwill yellowAre you dreading this holiday season? The incessant music. Crowds of anxious consumers. The proliferation of plastic made in China? Unwanted gifts and the duty of buying gifts unwanted? The unreasonable pressure of a perfect Christmas dinner on the table. Forced encounters with others with whom you would rather not? Fake joy…

Rejoice! There is a simple way out. It’s called “Formulating Blessings.” Anyone can play and it’s absolutely free!

Assagioli and Isabelle

Roberto Assagioli and Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng (August 1965)

I recently received this psychosynthesis approach to transforming negative judgments into blessings from Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng, a student of Assagioli’s and a pioneer teacher of psychosynthesis at the international boarding school that she co-directed. She was inspired to create this “game” in 1975 after lamenting to Assagioli that being responsible, aware and disciplined 24/7 was “difficult.” Assagioli responded with his usual gentle and enigmatic smile: “It is not easy.”

Instead of seeing her life journey of personal and spiritual psychosynthesis as a “mission impossible,” Küng suddenly felt that Assagioli brought her task to the threshold of possibility and action.  Instead of lamenting, she was able to ask herself: “Okay, so how do I do this? And where do I begin?”

Step-by Step Guide to Formulating Blessings

Formulating Blessings[i] is a step-by-step approach for converting negative judgments into benedictions. So let’s begin!

You start with a piece of paper and pen and draw five vertical columns.

  1. In the first, left-hand, column, write a judgement, for example, “Uncle Harry is a racist.” Write ten or so judgements that are currently running around in your head. For example: “My neighbor’s Christmas lights are obnoxious.” “Aunt Sue is an idiot.”
    Benediction Game Example
  2. Look at your list and circle all the adjectives. For example: racist, obnoxious, idiot.
  3. In the second column, write an OPPOSITE QUALIFYING ADJECTIVE, for each of the adjectives you circled. A qualifying adjective is one that is a constructive evaluation of the reality. For example:
    “someone who likes people who are different from himself,” “tasteful,” and “skillful”.
  4. Take the sentences in the first column, exchange the adjective you circled with its opposite that you wrote in the second column, NEGATE the sentence and write it in the third column. So now, you might have:“Uncle Harry is not someone who likes people who are different from himself.”
    “My neighbor’s Christmas lights are not tasteful.”
    “Aunt Sue is not skillful.”

    Through these steps, your judgment has been reformulated into a statement that is more encouraging, as it holds the goal that needs to be achieved by the individual. For example, Uncle Harry needs to learn how to like people who are different, the neighbors need to learn what is tasteful, and Aunt Sue needs to learn skillfulness.

003432 goodwill techniques

Assagioli’s note from his Archives

Goodwill. Techniques / Consultations Conferences. Examining the problem from every point of view. Including the problem in a larger whole, a wider frame of reference – seeing the connections with the total situation. Consider it from above. Solve it from above. Readiness to partial sacrifices, renunciations, by all parties, in order to have a greater benefit for each and all in the whole. Renunciations, rightful compromises, in the present for greater fruits in the future. An inclusive, “completed point of view”.

  1. You are now half-way to your benediction! The next step is to introduce a TIME factor. With the time factor, you qualify the sentence further by stating more precisely when or how often the action occurs. You might add words like: “often, every so often, momentarily, or just during the holiday season.” Or you might realize that you have to actually change the sentence to past tense, because the action only occurred once. For example, here are the three sentences augmented by time.“When he feels vulnerable, Uncle Harry is not someone who likes people who are different from himself.”
    “My neighbor’s Christmas lights, which are up just during the holiday season, are not tasteful.”
    “Aunt Sue was not very skillful when confronting her landlady.”

Can you feel how much things have changed for you inwardly so far?

  1. The next step is to write what each person NEEDS, what action they might take. For example:“Uncle Harry needs to watch a different TV News channel and meet people different from himself in a safe setting.”
    “My neighbors need to feel that they are adequate, even with fewer Christmas lights.”“Aunt Sue needs to learn how to express herself and her boundaries in a clear, impartial way.”
  1. Finally, you can reflect on the HELP you might be able to offer each individual. There are all sorts of possibilities, each depending on the context. But whatever you do, always remember to first dis-identify from whatever situation you are facing. Remember that Assagioli said that the guiding psychological principle of dis-identification is:

“We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can dominate and control everything from which we dis-identify ourselves.”

outdoor-christmas-lights-11For example, with your neighbors, since the holiday season is only temporary, you can simply decide to use your skillful will and not identify with their Las Vegas display of Christmas lights. You can use humor to endure the flashing onslaught, as they are only temporary. If you feel comfortable enough, you could decide to talk to the neighbors about how you feel about the lights, maybe asking for some boundaries to be put in place around their display.

With your relatives, things are often trickery. Years ago in California, I attended a lecture by Ram Daas and will never forget his words:

“If you really want to do spiritual work, go home for a weekend.”

You might feel comfortable enough to express your feelings to those close to you. Or instead, you could try changing your inner attitude. For example, you might simply decide to pray for Uncle Harry and Aunt Sue, or radiate light and love towards them, or choose to only encounter them when you feel strong and clear enough to dis-identify from their “lack of skillfulness” or “vulnerable fear of the other.” In my client work, I have seen such an inner change of attitude work miracles on many different kinds of relationships. When you change inwardly, so does the world around you.

Now that’s a Christmas Blessing!


[i] Many thanks to Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng for allowing me to share “Formulating Blessings,” which I have slightly modified here. Küng introduced the original exercise to her teachers at her boarding school, who successfully implemented it to constructively assess students.

In 1978, Küng presented “Formulating Blessings” at the National Psychosynthesis Convention in Rome to 250 people. Teachers present at that time were able to successfully put it into practice with parents of difficult adolescents.


Christmas Group Therapy

The Vivid Color of Ixoras

freedom to pollute with bronze statue of refugee

Statue of Liberty carrying the declaration “Freedom to Pollute” next to a bronze statue of climate change refugee, at the Bonn Climate Change Conference.

It’s been a week since the closing of the Bonn Climate Change Conference. A small victory occurred with the passing of a global insurance plan that by 2020 will help protect 400 million poor and vulnerable people around the world. The project, called the InsuResilience Global Partnership, aims to provide insurance against damage caused by global warming.

Naturally, this project is fraught with controversy. Instead of having the richer nations, who are generally the bigger polluters, pay for climate disaster relief, this initiative actually pushes poor people in poor countries to pay an insurance premium.

016705 Dante on greed

Assagioli’s note on greed from his Archives,

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From Sexual Instinct to Channeled Love

Fear Less Love More

Artwork by Mary Beth Volpini. See more at drawntocolor.com

Let’s talk about sex. The sexual instinct that is… Lately, the media has been giving it a bad rap. Every day there is another report of a woman being assaulted by a Hollywood mongrel, fellow actor, news anchorman, US president, or fashion photographer. This is not new news. Nearly every woman has encountered this type of aggressive behavior (in various degrees) during her lifetime. I still do, even at the age of 62!

Come on guys, grow up! Sublimate and transmute already!

Let’s talk about sexual energy from a psychosynthesis point of view. Assagioli did more than 100 years ago in his article “The Transformation and Sublimation of Sexual Energy.” First, I want to say that this is mainly a male problem. For some mysterious reason, men have more difficulty holding sexual tension. This is a general fact. There are, of course, exceptions… Continue reading

Resting on Angel Wings

Mother of Horus Isabelle Bagdasarianz-Küng without saying

The Mother of Horus. (Photo by Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng)

How can we cope with the overpowering images and messages from the daily news? Hurricanes, fires, mass murder, nuclear threats, and crazed world leaders can be overwhelming, pushing us towards a spiral of negative thoughts. Naturally, we want to be informed about what is going on in the world so we can make clear decisions and activate change. But we also need to find the right balance in our lives so we don’t feel lost in the constant swell of bad news.

The key is to seek equilibrium. Like feasting on salty food all day, when we only nourish ourselves by munching on the news, we can make our hearts and minds ill. We need to refresh ourselves with the taste and sound of spring waters, waters that might help us flush the salty taste from our mouths and renew our bodies and souls.

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The Poor Man of Assisi

Figure 1 Francis

Fresco in the Sacro Speco (‘sacred cave’) of St. Benedict in Subiaco, possibly the oldest and most faithful image of Francis.

Pace e bene! Peace and all that is good! These words of Saint Francis (1182-1226) go beyond divisions, faiths and institutions, right to the core of our shared humanity. Today in Assisi, people are gathering to celebrate his feast day. Having chosen a life radically dedicated to transcendent values, Francis often appears in Assagioli’s writings. Assagioli would have naturally been familiar with Francis, who (along with St. Catherine of Siena) is one of the patron saints of Italy. In fact, upon meeting Assagioli, Frank Vanderlip described him as a modern day St. Francis:

“There seemed to me to burn in this man the pure flame of a love of justice and humanity… He seemed to have a calm and serene understanding of the causes of the troubles of the world and a sensible apprehension of where materialism is leading the world. He expressed such a cheerful hopefulness that a better road is at hand if the world will but take it.”[1]

Can Money and Spirituality Mix?

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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. Continue reading

The Poem that Crossed Borders

Lotus flower 3

Assagioli writes that the Lotus is a symbol of Synthesis.

Next week I will be at Casa Assagioli in Florence, helping Gruppo alle Fonti host their International Meeting. The theme this year is “Synthesis,” a mighty big concept to come to terms with in less than a week. In anticipation, I have begun to reflect on what Synthesis means. The word comes from the Greek word syntithenai, in turn deriving from syn meaning “together” and thtehnai meaning “to put, place.”

Assagioli Triangle Equilibramento

One of Assagioli’s triangles from his Archives.

The concept of Synthesis is complex because it is not only a quality or a state of being, but also a continual process, an attitude, an approach. I have written a number of blogs about Assagioli’s ideas on the synthesis of polar opposites. Basically, synthesis occurs when a pair of opposites continually interact until they are brought into equilibrium. Ultimately the opposites are transmuted into a transpersonal quality. Assagioli liked to draw triangles to illustrate his idea of balancing and transmuting these opposite energies into higher spiritual qualities. Continue reading