This essay will choose to discuss model (b) ‘I’ and the sense of identity, particularly in relation to the work of John Firman. This essay aligns with the definitions of “I” and Self as outlined by Assagioli (1965), that “I” is one’s sense of personal self, the centre of our consciousness and will, and not to be confused with the psychological contents of consciousness. Assagioli recognized a powerful integrative principle acting within the human psyche – the Self, stating that “I” is a “projection” or “reflection” of Self, seeing Self as the Ground of Being, the luminous Source from which our being flows. I agree with Firman’s (1997) singular use of the term Self to refer to the entirety of “I”s deeper being. Through the process of psychosynthesis, Assagioli believed that the “I” could become freed up to establish itself as an autonomous centre serving the Self, and it is this “freeing up” of “I” from its surrounding “contents”, including its many constellations of personalities, known as subpersonalities in psychosynthesis, that can allow for a person’s authentic sense of identity to emerge.
This essay will focus on the fundamental nature of empathy in psychosynthesis thought, as an inherent quality of “I”, with its source in Self, and how, through the emerging sense of my own sense of “I”, the development of my own personal centre, this psychological tool assisted in my understanding of my own development, and was in fact utterly key to it. I will then discuss and critique the “I”s possible application to clinical work, especially in relation to the importance of developing empathy. Empathy in this sense refers to the potential of “I” to be fundamentally loving towards all aspects of the personality (Firman and Gila 2007). This emergence of “I” may be seen as the heart of psychosynthesis therapy, and the pre-requisite for authentic self-expression in the world, as Assagioli affirms, “I am a living, loving, willing self” (Assagioli 1973, 156).
It is precisely the ability of the therapist to provide an authentic unifying centre for the client that Assagioli emphasized as imperative to the development of personal identity, seeing such a unifying centre as “An indirect but true link, a point of connection between the personal man and his higher Self, which is reflected and seen in that object” (Assagioli 1965,25). Thus, the empathic, relational interaction with such an external unifying centre conditions the formation of an inner representation or model of that centre, which can be called an internal unifying centre. In this sense the inner centre becomes capable of fulfilling the same function as the external one.
In psychosynthesis, the “I” is taken as the sense of identity with its roots in Self. Assagioli (1965) affirmed the essential unity of “I” and Self, but he was also careful to maintain a distinction between them, since “I” is one’s personal sense of self flowing from the more universal nature of Self. In psychosynthesis, it is this relationship, between “I” and Self, that forms the very ground of Self-realization, defined here as one’s sense of authentic relationship. Assagioli’s insight into the nature of personal identity, or “I”, is central to psychosynthesis thought, and he was also clear not to confuse such personal identity with organizations of psychological content. Rather he saw “I” as distinct but not separate from any contents of experience, from any and all processes or structures of the personality” (Firman & Gila 2007, 9).
One primary way Assagioli stressed to reveal the nature of “I”, was through introspection, an act of self-observation, attending to the ever arising contents of experience in consciousness. “…the point of...