Roberto Assagioli (27 February 1888 – 23 August 1974) was an Italian psychiatrist and pioneer in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology. Assagioli founded the psychological movement known as psychosynthesis, which is still being developed today by therapists and psychologists, who practice the psychological methods and techniques he developed.
His work, expounded in two books and many monographs published as pamphlets, emphasized the possibility of progressive integration, or synthesis, of the personality.
Assagioli was exposed to many creative outlets at a young age, such as art and music, which were believed to have inspired his work in Psychosynthesis. By the age of 18, he had learned eight different languages, namely Italian (his native tongue), English, French, Russian, Greek, Latin, German, and Sanskrit.
It was at this age he also began to travel, mainly to Russia, where he learned about social systems and politics.
In 1922 he married a young woman named Nella Ciapetti, and they had one son together, Ilario Assagioli.
In 1940, Assagioli was arrested and imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government, having been accused of "praying for peace and inviting others to join him along with other international crimes." He was placed in a solitary cell in Regina Coeli prison for 27 nights, until he was released and returned to his family,
Once the war ended, he returned to his work and began his legacy, known as Psychosynthesis. The years after the war were relatively calm, and it was during this time that he founded various foundations dedicated to Psychosynthesis in Europe and North America.
Assagioli lived a long and prosperous life and had a happy forty year marriage until he died at age 86 on 23 August 1974. The cause of his death was unknown. Assagioli did not like to discuss his personal life, as he preferred to be remembered for his scientific work. Very few biographical accounts on the life of Assagioli are available, and most are not written in English.
Inspiration and development - Assagioli is famous for developing and founding the science of psychosynthesis, a spiritual and holistic approach to psychology that had developed from psychoanalysis. He was largely inspired by Freud’s idea of the repressed mind and Jung’s theories of the collective unconscious.
Trained in psychoanalysis but unsatisfied by what he regarded as its incompleteness as a whole, Assagioli felt that love, wisdom, creativity, and will all were important components that should be included in psychoanalysis.
Assagioli's earliest development of Psychosynthesis started in 1911, when he began his formal education in psychology. He continued his work on Psychosynthesis right up until his death.
Freud and Assagioli were known to have corresponded, although they never had the chance to meet. Assagioli said, "Psychosynthesis presupposes psychoanalysis, or rather, includes it as a first and necessary stage." However, Assagioli disagreed with theories formulated by Sigmund Freud that he considered limiting. He refused to accept Freud's reductionism and neglect of the positive dimensions of the personality.
Psychosynthesis became the first approach born of psychoanalysis that also included the artistic, altruistic and heroic potentials of the human being.
Assagioli's work was more in alignment with psychologist, Carl Jung. Both Assagioli and Jung validated the importance of the spiritual level of human existence. Assagioli shared with Jung the insight that psychological symptoms can be triggered by spiritual dynamics. Assagioli considered Jung’s theories to be closest to his understanding of psychosynthesis.
Assagioli accredited much of his inspiration for psychosynthesis to his month-long incarceration in solitary confinement in 1940. He used his time in prison to exercise his mental will by meditating daily. He concluded that he was able to change his punishment into an opportunity to investigate his inner-self.