Stages of the Volitional Act

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 11, pages 135-139

The act of will consists of six sequential phases or stages. They are:

  1. The Purpose, Aim, or Goal, based on Evaluation, Motivation, and Intention
  2. Deliberation
  3. Choice and Decision
  4. Affirmation: the Command, or “Fiat,” of the Will
  5. Planning and Working Out a Program
  6. Direction of the Execution

1. The aim, or goal: The chief characteristic of the volitional act is the existence of a purpose to be achieved; … the aim must be valuated and assessed; then it must arouse motives which generate the urge and the intention to achieve it.

2. .. Many possible goals exist. .. choice has to be made … preferable goal determined through deliberation

6. Finally comes the direction of the execution. This is a specific task of the will, the proper function of which is not to carry out the execution directly, as is commonly supposed. The will can and should make skillful use of the other psychological and bodily functions and energies existing in the personality: thinking and imagination, perceptions and intuition, feelings and impulses, as well as the physical organs of action.

Purpose – Aim – Goal – Valuation – Motivation – Intention

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 12, pages 140-150

Classical psychology took account only of conscious motivations. Then, by contrast, psychoanalysis concerned itself only, or almost only, with unconscious motivations and urges, thus arriving, for all practical purposes, at the negation of the will.

Authenticity does not consist in giving in to a bad motive simply because it exists.

In considering motivations, then, one is helped by distinguish between two classes which we may designate respectively as drives and urges, and reasons. Drives and urges can be conscious or unconscious and can be generically regarded as spontaneous tendencies which “move” us or tend to do so. Reasons, on the other hand, to be really such, must be conscious and have a cognitive, mental aspect.

At the present time we represent the sum of all the evolution of the past from the mineral kingdom on; but evolution does not stop with so-called Homo sapiens: evolution is continuous, and our task is to carry forward and foster this great evolutionary impulse, without, however, repudiating the preceding stages!

What is important is to make sure that the lower motives are aligned with the higher motives, and that it is these that are in control and determine the action.


The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 13, pages 151-169

Thus the prerequisite of thinking–and deliberation–is an act of restraint, of inhibition.

To modern ears, the word “inhibition” carries a rather unpleasant sound; it brings to mind repression and its unfortunate consequences. It can be said that today there is a veritable phobia regarding repression. Therefore, it is worth while clarifying the great difference that exists between :repression: and conscious control.

It is necessary to consider the consequences of the action that we are proposing to take. This is an exercise in foresight. … ; what is needed is empathy, that is , the capacity to enter, so to speak, into the skin of others, and by means of intuitive imagination, become aware of the effects our words and acts may produce.

Inspirations and Intuition … Let us now examine another way of making decisions, especially those that are determined by motives originating in or arriving via the higher unconscious (superconscious) in the form of illuminations, inspirations, and urges to action, both inner and outer. Broadly speaking, such motives can be considered transpersonal in character:

These difficulties should not deter us either from using the approach of arriving at correct choices, or from following our higher promptings. On the contrary, those who do not have spontaneous inspirations or intuitions can make use of the available methods for activating the superconscious and for linking it with the conscious personality. The most reliable ones are the various procedures of receptive and reflective meditation.

Consulting with Others – Finally, there is also the subtle and indefinable but genuine effect of the mere presence of a willing and understanding listener. This can be said to be “catalytic”

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