Deepening his understanding of the will from a psychosynthesis perspective has given Paul Henry a clearer insight into his experience of being an alcoholic in recovery. Finding work, initiating a new relationship, asking for a loan, and introducing ourselves to someone who can help us, are all examples of the will at work.
Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis, describes these aspects of will as: strong will, skillful will, good will and transpersonal will. He says, in order to gain a complete picture of the will, and a grasp on how to train it, we first need to understand these aspects and qualities of the will. Misunderstandings about the will arise from the misconception that strong will represents the whole will. Using strong will, the car might be pushed from one point to the other. However, using skillful will, the ignition key may be located and the car driven.
To extend the analogy further, if, on the journey, a hitchhiker is picked up, this could be considered an illustration of good will. Good will is endowed with strength and skill and characterised by qualities like compassion, selflessness, surrender and service to others.
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In both cases, to achieve the desired outcome, a directive energy, with the qualities of humanity, strength and skill, guides the process, using effective, healthy communication. Some directors rule through fear and achieve their end using a dictatorial approach, imposing their strong will through force and manipulation. Strong, skillful and good will all concern personal self. Experiences of transpersonal will are widely reported in the psychotherapy community.
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The various aspects of will have different qualities and characteristics that can be placed along a spectrum between two polarities: love and will. The quality expressed in the AA quote above is surrender, one of the qualities of good will: compassion, selflessness and surrender. These qualities appear at the love polarity, 2 whereas energy, mastery and determination appear at the will end. People often develop one quality of the will at the expense of another. This can lead to certain qualities always being called upon and others overlooked, causing an imbalance to develop and leading to distortion.
Whenever our will is suppressed, violated or ignored, pain and illness arise, and the hurt goes all the way to the core, causing the connection between I and self to become fractured. Deepening my understanding of the will has given me a clearer insight into my alcoholism and the impact of this illness on the will.
Alcoholism leads to a state of no will, where pain and illness, arising in the form of grave psychological and physical disturbances, go all the way to the core and erode human freedom and personal power. Without help it is too much for us. All I could think about was the next drink. I had an uncontrollable physical craving for alcohol, a mental obsession for oblivion, and a spiritual malady.
Initially engaged in resisting the urge to drink, my will had distorted and was fully engaged in acquiring the next drink. For me, many will qualities became limited or unavailable: choice and freedom associated with mastery had distorted into inertia and procrastination; courage and daring associated with initiative had become fearfulness and introspection.
Alcoholism also distorted my subpersonalities. The inner critic that may have formerly cautioned moderation, now continuously scolded me. And the inner judge, who once weighed the consequences, now constantly condemned me. These harsh taskmasters gave rise to feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and failure, and brought me to my knees — to no will. Positive desire or wish 8 had been supplanted by survival instinct and the I-Self connection had become weakened or fractured.
This higher-lower splitting is largely repressed but has a profound and pervasive effect, causing painful inner conflicts.
He will be at the jumping off place. He will wish for the end. Surrender enabled me to move away from no will and spiritually reconnect with others.
This apparent difference of opinion may be more a question of chronology. When I was at the stage of no will I had to undergo a spiritual awakening in order for my will to emerge.
The Superconscious and the Self, by Roberto Assagioli/Vargiu
This happened through a process of complete surrender to a power greater than myself: a Higher Power. Working with subpersonalities and disidentification exercises, the will moves from shadow to purpose, from no will to recognition that the will exists. My first experience of this was losing the compulsion to drink, one day at a time. This experience was fragile at first, but as days were added together, my will was devloping and emerging. My experience in AA In the second phase, the realisation of having a will, Assagioli talks about the will being like a muscle that requires constant exercise in order to become healthy and remain healthy.
This mirrors my AA experience. My will grew stronger by following simple suggestions: daily prayers, writing an evening journal, phoning another alcoholic daily, reading AA literature each morning, and getting to three meetings a week. Remaining clean and sober for 18 years has required continued and rigorous work. I will always be an alcoholic physically. Sharing experience with other alcoholics in AA meetings and helping newcomers to find courage, are examples of transpersonal and universal will at work.
Clients with addiction issues will often be driven by distorted will. Contrasting extremes of distorted will succeed one another — absolute control following complete abandonment and vice versa. For a client who appears positive about change, a simple act, such as making daily entries in an evening journal, might begin the process of rekindling healthy will, which may be developed and strengthened.
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Beyond creating an empathic relationship with clients, acknowledging and exploring their subpersonalities using visualisation, guided imagery and chair work will help them get to know these parts of themselves and enable them to disidentify; understanding that they are more than these parts — allowing the rebuilding of the I-Self connection on which will depends.
Long term, I will hold my client bifocally, mindful of will and listening for emerging purpose, week by week, and adjusting my strategy accordingly.
References 1. Ferrucci P.
In the attempt to indicate what is ineffable, beyond words, various terms have been used: Atman, Tao in its transcendent sense , The Void, Suchness, the Immovable Mover, The Omega Point. The experience of the Self has a quality of perfect peace, serenity, calm stillness, purity, and in it there is the paradoxical blending of individuality and universality. It remains at the center, immovable. One way we can begin to realize this is by opening ourselves to the experience of infinity. For we can have the awareness of infinity, the perception of infinite space, without losing our sense of individuality.
Infinity IS … and man gropes to a feeble but increasingly profound realization of its existence.
The same can be said concerning eternity. And the experiences of eternity and of infinity — of transcending the limitations of time and space — combined, lead to their synthesis , the experience of universality. The fundamental point is that identification with the universal does not mean loss of identity, rather its enhancement and intensification. This has been clearly stated by Radhakrishnan:. The petals of the lotus represent whirlpools, or vortexes of energies of various quality, and as these vortexes develop, interact, and become highly organized, they symbolize the opening of the lotus.
They correspond to the transpersonal, superconscious functions and processes. Instead the radiant jewel at the center represents the hub, the hinge, the Self … a spark of universality, the unmoved mover. Here we find again all processes sustained, and in a sense included, in an immutable reality. The fact that all processes can be contained in an immutable, central core is another aspect of the paradoxical nature of the Self.
Yet this has been realized experientially by many people. Here is one such account, reported with unusual clarity and detail at the culminating point of an inner exploration using a guided mental imagery technique:. Guide: Let it slowly come nearer … let it become one with you.