In this chapter, Assagioli begins by discussing the importance of planning and programming the psychological dimension of one's personal life. He recommends carrying out a personal psychosynthesis and engaging in interpersonal and social psychosynthesis. Clearly, he intends to convey that planning and programming are not just for projects, but rely on the personal psychosynthesis of the one doing the planning and programming.
He then claims that the personal psychosynthesis and personal life plan depend on following the "rules and techniques" common to all planning and programming. He lists four such rules.
The first and most important rule is "to formulate ... the goal to be reached, to retain it unswervingly in mind through all the stages of execution, which are often long and complex." One essential thing in following this rule is to continue to focus on the ends to be achieved rather than to get lost in allowing the means to themselves become the ends. He says, "a vigilant and energetic will is indispensable for maintaining the means in their place, ... being master of them, while only using those that truly serve the intended purpose, and (only) to the extent they serve it."
The second rule is to consider whether an intended program can be realized. We are to examine its feasibility in terms of the "capacities, circumstances and resources"... we have "at our disposal."
A third rule in planning is to establish right cooperation with others, exploring whether others are doing something similar, and cooperating with their efforts rather than trying to duplicate them. "What are needed are the wisdom and humility to acknowledge what has already been done, or is in preparation, in the same direction as our projects, and then to cooperate ... with those who are doing or propose to do the same thing."
The fourth rule of planning is recognize, distinguish among, and properly sequence the phases of planning. The phases of planning are: formulation, programming, structuring, project-making, model or pilot project. Assagioli gives the example of a student of his who wanted to operate from different and higher motives than the materialistic ones that were driving him (he formulated the issue). The planning for the change he wanted to make involved establishing a program of increasing his awareness of how materialistic considerations influenced him, and to "choose which ones he would like to reduce". Then, structure was selected, that of making choice about motives to act upon, as awareness had increased. The project was to expand his awareness of materialistic drives. And, a pilot project was selected, doing an evening review of how he had been influenced during the day by materialistic thoughts, feelings or actions. Over time, the student was able to be more intentional about reducing materialistic motives and getting in touch his his higher values.
Assagioli says it is important to realize that what may seem to be a step-by-step process often also requires the ability to keep all the "steps" in mind at once. He compares this to mountain climbing which involves vision, foresight and attention simultaneously to the distant goal, the immediate objective and full attention to action steps. He calls this a "trifocal vision" of the "perception and retention in mind of the distant gaol and purpose; the survey of the intermediate stages which extend from the point of departure to the arrival; and the awareness of the next step to be taken." Also important are issues of timing and duration within each stage and between stages. Finally, plans must be flexible so that they can be adjusted as circumstances require.
Then Assagioli addresses the personal and transpersonal psychosyntheses, stating that "(c)areful planning and patient execution of a life plan and subplans are necessary if one is to fulfill (one's) personal existence and become all that (one) can." As each person's life plan necessarily involves the lives of others, there is also a need for interpersonal and social psychosynthesis. "Moreover, the individual life plan must be coordinated, integrated and harmonized with plans that include other people."
A Note on Social Psychosynthesis
In this section of the chapter, Assagioli considers the relationships between the individual and society. He recommends using the principles he laid out in his pamphlet, Balancing and Synthesis of Opposites, (New York, 1972). He presents a diagram of a triangle with Conformity, Adaptation, and Rebellion at the base. These are considered to be on a continuum with each other. However at the top of the triangle is the point labelled Transformation. Transformation resolves the polarity between conformity and rebellion. From a higher level one can "be an integral and effective member of society while maintaining his independence fully. This position (transformation) stands for action in and on society, in order to transform it." This statement leads into a discussion of the responsibility each person has to find some time and space, however small, to be "inwardly free."
Assagioli ends this chapter with reference to the Universal Plan, and the necessity of the individual to remain in its flow, to find their own place in the current. He says that "we can know something of it and glimpse its broad lines and especially its evolutionary direction, and thus recognize it is the direction of the greatest good." "...(W)isdom is necessary for harmoniously interweaving the individual plan in the Universal Plan; and will is need for ... proceeding on a straight course."
"...the true and natural function of the will as this stage is to direct the execution."
(Note that these days, it would be more common to call this stage 'the direction of the implementation'.)
The will directs implementation by "taking command of and directing the various psychological functions": sensation, emotion/feeling, impulse/desire, imagination, thought, and intuition. In his analogy of driving a car, Assagioli says that before a person gets in and drives the person she or he checks the tires, gas levels, etc. The analogy in the direction of the implementation is that there is certain preparatory work in "the development and cultivation of the various psychological functions and with will-function of the self." Once we get in the car to drive, we are generally able to drive without having to painstakingly consciously focus on every movement we make, as we did when we were first learning to drive. We have integrated patterns of behavior and attention that allow us to drive and notice the scenery or carry on a conversation with someone else in the car. Similarly, if we have developed the psychological functions, our will can simply direct them in carrying out their activity. However, most of us will require conscious and focused training and strengthening of the psychological functions and practice in using them with focused awareness.
Assagioli goes on to identify and elaborate the various ways that the will helps us to use and direct each of the psychological functions.
- Sensation - The will is used to bring sensations into conscious awareness and keep attention focused rather than allowing our attention to drift to distractions. It prompts us to concentrate on the "task of receiving, assimilating and integrating the messages brought in by the senses." It directs us to persist in training the power of observation.
- Emotions - The will connects and relates to the emotions. Through skillful will we transmute or sublimate certain emotional energies. If the emotions are very strong, the will directs the discharge of intense energies through catharsis, symbolic satisfaction or even some degree of satisfaction. We are advised to pay attention to the level of "energy charge" of the will itself.
- Imagination - First, Assagioli says, the Psychological Laws from the chapter on Skillful Will, provide us with much information about how the will can work effectively with the interactions among sensations, images and desires/impulses. He suggests the will can be engaged to systematically train the imagination so that it can form and hold all kinds of sensory images. We can also use creative imagination and the techniques of the Ideal Model. The will, therefore, has a rich field in which to work, with regard to the imaginative function.
- Thought - Assagioli says that the will focuses attention on a particular problem, which the mind can examine, reflect upon, and generate possible solutions or hypotheses, and ways to test them.
- Intuition - Here the will cannot exert a direct influence, and there may be an inverse relationship between the exertions of the will in this regard and the activity of the intuition. Instead, Assagioli says, the will can clear a channel of communication from the superconscious to the intuition by eliminating distractions. In addition, the will "can formulate (clear and concise) questions to be addressed to the superconscious sphere." Answers may emerge fairly quickly or may take some considerable time to appear.