Category Archives: Subpersonalities

Harkening Within

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Etty Hillesum in 1939

Seventy-five years ago on November 30th, a young Dutch Jewish intellect died at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her legacy of love and reconciliation, as described in her ten diary notebooks and the many letters that she wrote, continues to inspire people around the world. Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) was only 29 years old when she died, but during her short lifespan she managed to live a life of contemplative spirituality and practice in a world that seemed to be falling to pieces around her.

Hillesum grew up in a non-religious home of intellectuals. Her parents were both teachers – her father taught the classics and her mother Russian literature. Hillesum had two younger brothers, both very talented but mentally unstable. She describes having grown up in a “chaotic and sad situation … a madhouse where no human being can flourish.” Continue reading

Something to Declare

Unconditional love Copyright Simon Carey

© Copyright Simon Carey

Less than a week ago I arrived in the USA after a four-year absence. I am here to visit my 93-year-old mother and a dear friend who has recently become ill. Before leaving Italy, I anticipated that I would experience a clash of subpersonalities. How would the American part of me emerge and what would the European part of me do about her?

Upon arrival, instead of a passport control agent, a machine took all my biometrics and a computer compared them with my passport. I am now in a NSA database somewhere… But a real person in uniform did stop me and asked, “Do you have anything to declare?”

Immediately I felt a subpersonality fight her way forward. She wanted to say: Continue reading

Collect Your Mind

martha-and-mary

Assagioli’s note from Freedom in Jail

In his book Freedom in Jail (now available for purchase), Assagioli referred twice to the Gospel story of Martha and Mary, and even indicated that he wanted to have an Appendix that would reflect upon it. This appendix was never written, but later his eloquent essay was: “Martha and Mary: The Active Life –The Contemplative Life.” [1]

In this blog and the next, we will take a closer look at his essay. First of all, Assagioli asks that we read this gospel story with an open mind. So let’s begin with the story:

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The Long Road to Paradise

bomarzo_monsterWhat can I say, as an American who has found refuge in Europe for the past 21 years? Everyone else is busy saying it all. On one side – shock, dismay, fear. On the other – glee, revenge, hope of becoming great again.

I’m afraid I saw this coming a long time ago – like 21 years ago? – and am not surprised. But it is still painful to watch. I can’t bare to hear his name ever again. And yet it will undoubtedly resound in history. Her name has quietly sunken into the “what-might-have-been” (The WMH-bin). Buried under heartache and broken pride.

Of course, this all happened because of _________________ (fill in the blank). But underneath it all, what we really have to face is the moral and spiritual crises we are in. As Assagioli wrote:

“Everything that happens is a mix of good and evil in various proportions. This is only to highlight that each aspect is equally real.”

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Inside Out Turned Outside In

Inside Riley's Headquarters. From right to left: Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, Sadness. Photo by Pixar.

At the controls in Riley’s  brain Headquarters. From right to left: Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear, Sadness. Photo by Pixar.

Yesterday I went to see the new Pixar movie Inside Out. It is an intelligent 3D-animated feature about 11-year-old Riley who moves with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. But the real stars of the film are her five emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear, who are busy operating Riley’s outer behavior from her brain Headquarters. I will not go into details about the story, but I did find it entertaining, fun, and thought provoking. The movie has received rave reviews and is topping all kinds of records for ticket sales.

Today in the Guardian newspaper, one movie critic has warned shrinks to stay away from the movie. (Oops! Too late!) Psychology professionals (along with some parenting forums) are reportedly outraged that Sadness is shown as fat, frumpy and unattractive, and Joy is slim, pretty and smart. What is the film saying? That fat people are sad and thin people are full of Joy?

Actually, from a psychosynthesis perspective, this discrepancy could have easily been explained (and the movie would have been much richer) if the five emotions had actually been five different subpersonalities. Like our subpersonalities, in the movie each emotion not only has feelings but also a body and mind as well. All are embodied in a type of human form. Sadness is the color blue and, okay, let’s say full-bodied, while Joy is a slender and an adorable version of Tinkerbell. In addition, all five emotions have cognitive functioning, that is, they all contemplate, calculate, make decisions, and integrate new ideas and experiences, especially when they have to find a way to reconnect to Riley.

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Fulfilling Your Real Needs

The Dreamer and the Judge

The Dreamer and the Judge

A few weeks ago, we looked at the subpersonality process as experienced by Maria and her integration of two subpersonalities, Miss Victorious and Miss Silent.

As previously mentioned, the subpersonality integration process includes the following stages: recognition, acceptance, coordination, integration, and synthesis.

This week, let’s look at each of these stages in detail.

Recognition

We begin to recognize our subpersonalities when we consciously choose to identify the different roles we are playing in different situations with different people. A good place to start is with any conflicts you might be facing at the moment. In particular, what roles seem to no longer be successfully working? For example, one client strongly identified herself with a subpersonality called Stella who wanted no problems and needed perfection, control and certainty. This subpersonality was obviously challenged by the uncertainty and ambiguities we all must face in our everyday lives.

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Playing with Dream Symbols

dreamsAssagioli wrote little about dreams or how to interpret them. Despite being a student of Freud’s and colleague of Jung’s, he felt that dreams reveal only a partial aspect of the human personality. He also believed that only part of the unconscious is able, or willing, to express itself through dreaming. He wrote that dreams that occur during the psychosynthesis process reveal the dreamer’s energetic forces, environment, and the inner world that birthed the dream.

In the last blog, I wrote about symbols and how we can consciously use them to further our personal and spiritual growth. We can also use the symbols that unconsciously appear to us in our dreams. Dreams are expressions of our life force, and the symbols that appear in them can be interpreted a multitude of ways from both a personal and collective perspective. Jung was once asked for advice from someone who had the idea of publishing a dictionary of symbols. His response was not to do it, since each symbol would require an entire book!

Jung’s general advice about how to look at a dream is:

“Treat every dream as though it were a totally unknown object. Look at it from all sides, take it in your hand, carry it about with you, let your imagination play around with it.”

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