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Chapter extracted from
by Will Parfitt
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or direct from PS Avalon Publishing
Purpose and the Creative Will
Since the outcome of successful willing is the satisfaction of one’s needs, we can see that the act of will is essentially joyous. And the realization of … being a self … gives a sense of freedom, of power, of mastery which is profoundly joyous. (Roberto Assagioli)
Every choice or decision we make is an act of will. We might not be aware that we have chosen, and may even feel like a total victim with no choice at all. Nevertheless, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, it is our choice. Without making a choice, we could not stay where we are or move anywhere else. Without making a choice, we could not either stop what we are doing or continue doing it. Every time we make a choice, we perform an act of will. Our will power is the dynamic energy that brings us into this world and if we consciously connect with this energy it gives us the ability to be and do and become whatever we wish.
We have many different inner powers and the right use of these powers can enable us to make the best choices both for our own well-being and the world around us. We can only make these choices, however, through developing these inner powers in a balanced and conscious way. The discovery of our will and its subsequent training is the foundation of this work, which can be best achieved through direct experience. If we make a comparison with a car, the first thing we have to learn is that there is an engine through which we can choose to move the car. Then we have to find ways of using that engine so that we can travel in the direction that is best for us at any given moment.
Of course, a lot of the time our actual experience is very different from this. Even if we are aware we have a car, it certainly doesn’t feel like we are in the driving seat! We are drifting or muddling along as if we are the victims of our circumstances. We see ourselves as the victims of where we are or who we are, of poverty or depression, of failure or even success! We are the victims of other people who made us whatever we are, or stop us doing what we wish. We feel as if we are not really free to choose what we want. Since childhood we have been told by parents and teachers and other ‘well wishers’ that we need to face the ‘reality’ of life. The message, that we cannot have everything we want, easily becomes one that says we cannot have anything we want.
If someone asks us to do something, the two obvious responses are yes and no. We can say we will or we will not. Yet usually we have a third choice available to us – ‘not for now’. We do not have to limit ourselves by saying yes or no when ‘not for now’ is more appropriate. Sometimes it is right to make quick and immediate responses. The question at hand needs a fast response, or it is so obvious which choice is needed. Often, however, we can take the time to consider our choices and make them in a more centered, balanced way. The more consciousness we bring into our decisions, the more we are able to choose what are the right decisions for us.
In Psychosynthesis, we consider that any act of will actually takes place through six clear stages:
- investigation (finding out what it is we wish to do);
- deliberation (considering all the different things we wish to do at any time and selecting the acts most relevant to our current situation);
- decision (deciding upon the one act that is most important to us at the present time, and clearly formulating and stating this desire);
- affirmation (staying connected to this decision through constantly re-affirming that this choice is what we really desire to achieve);
- plan (thinking about the different ways we can actually make whatever it is happen);
- execution (doing it, finding ways of carrying out the intended plan, either in entirety or step by step.)
Every choice we make involves these six stages to a greater or lesser degree. It might be that for a particular choice we know what we want, hardly have to deliberate over it at all, and are able to quickly plan and execute the action necessary to succeed. For example, our choice to go to a nearby shop to purchase something we need. On the other hand, we might not really know what we want, and we might endlessly deliberate over the choices and never actually decide what to do. Or we might know exactly what we want and yet not know how to go about planning and executing the necessary actions. Our desire could be something well worked out, but for which the execution needs to take place at a particular time. If we choose a sunset, we will only be able to make it happen at the right time of day.
Whilst our acts of will always include all the six stages, they rarely do so in a linear fashion. For instance, whilst planning we may need to go back and deliberate further when we discover that we have not quite got the choice right. Often we need to keep going back to our choice to affirm it over and over. Constantly returning to the affirmation stage to focus on and strengthen our choices is usually a good technique as it reinforces the planning and execution of our desire.
We also have to consider that every choice we make affects everything and everyone else. If I choose to eat this particular orange right now, you will never be able to eat it either now or at any other time. That may not seem so serious – after all, there are plenty more oranges. In other circumstances, however, such knowledge takes on much more significance. For example, someone may choose to ignore their knowledge that lead-free petrol is better for the environment. That they continue buying leaded petrol seems to make no difference, because after all what difference can one person make? Yet in reality the situation will surely be worsening.
We must make our choices clearly and with heart, and be aware of this global effect, yet we must not allow such knowledge to make us impotent. Rather we must try to align ourselves with the flow of nature so that our choices add to rather than subtract from the evolution of consciousness on our planet.
The Stages of Willing
Although the process is, in actuality, continuous, as individuals we can experience the will as having four stages. The first stage could be described as ‘having no will’. It is a common human experience to feel like a victim to outside forces, other people or the circumstances in which we find ourselves. At many times in our lives we all experience a sense of impotency, frustration and an inability to act. Instead of doing what we wish, we become totally reactive to the circumstances or the environment. We feel as if what we are, and what we are able to do or not do, is totally dependant upon what happens outside of us.
At these times we act like a victim to our repressed urges and desires, to basic drives, or to people or events outside of us. When we are coming from this state, when we believe ourselves to be ‘will-less’, our primary motivation is desire. We do not see ourselves as having any control, but instead experience ourselves as ‘slaves of desire’, whether we are fully conscious of this or not. Our one wish is to get our desires met and to avoid as much struggle, effort and pain as possible. If we have to manipulate people we will so long as our desires are met. As we reduce our responsibility in this way we become even more a victim and we can easily sink further into this deadening trap.
In reality, however horrible the situation you are in may truly be, you can make of it what you will. You could be unjustly imprisoned and, as a victim, spend your days bemoaning your fate. You might plot revenge on those who unjustly imprisoned you, those to whom you are a victim. Or you could undertake some other plan of action – you could meditate, write, use the time to make detailed observations of yourself or your fellow inmates, and so on. There are many stories of people doing just this. Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis, when imprisoned by Mussolini, spent his days developing and ‘fine-tuning’ his system of psychology. In other words, Assagioli, in this unjust situation, chose to take responsibility for himself and not sink into a victim role.
Of course, we do not have to be in such an extreme situation to feel like a victim. Think of times right now when you feel like a victim. Perhaps you are a victim to your boss at work, or to your partner, your parents, or even your children! Perhaps you feel like you are a victim to the unjust society in which you live. The key to releasing yourself from this victim consciousness is to realise that, whatever is happening to you, you are creating the situation. We all re-create our worlds afresh each and every moment.
The next stage of the will process is coming to an understanding that ‘will exists’. We might still feel we cannot actually do it, but we know, whatever it is, that it is possible. We realise we have a choice. This choice in any situation is always, as we have already discussed, ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘not for now’. Of course, we may have reached this stage with a part of our personality but be less developed in other parts. Even if this stage of the will is only partially experienced, however, it leads to a shift in awareness from unconscious desires to active, conscious wishes. We might still feel separate, but there is a beginning of responsibility, the knowledge that some choice is possible. We are starting to develop our personal power.
Once we know that the will exists we are able to start working on developing it within ourselves. There are two basic aspects of will power that we can develop and, in Psychosynthesis, we call these ‘the strong will’ and ‘the skilful will’. Strong will is the energy to choose whilst skilful will is the knowledge of how to use that energy. The strong will is like a car, the skilful will the driver. We can learn to develop both strong and skilful will. In most of us, one will be developed more than the other, but there is usually room for improvement in both.
One of the best ways to develop the strong will is to find ways in your daily life of being strong willed. You may hate washing up, for instance, so to develop your will you could choose to do it regularly and with positive attention. You could choose to make physical acts into acts of will. If you were gardening, for instance, you could do it consciously, being aware that each spade full of earth you move, or each flower you plant is an act of will. You might do aerobic exercises, or dancing, and do this not so much just for the exercise value, but because each movement you make you are consciously choosing to make. You could choose to read stories or watch television programmes about great heroic deeds performed against all odds. You can easily devise other techniques for strengthening the strong will, but above all perform these techniques playfully, cheerfully and with interest.
You can also develop skilful will through acts in your daily life. When washing up, for example, you might ask yourself what is the most skilful way to do this, to make it most efficient and with the least expenditure of unnecessary energy? Should you wash the greasy pans or the glasses first? The development of skill is accomplished not only through what you actually do but through the attitude you have to the act being performed. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Part of this skill is being aware of how much energy you put into doing something. If you put in too little energy, it’s like using a spoon to move a mountain; using too much energy, like taking a forklift truck to an egg! Later in this chapter we will discuss further the technique of using daily life to help us develop all aspects of the will.
Once we have developed our will, at least to some degree, we pass to the next stage of the will which in Psychosynthesis we call ‘having a will’. When this stage or level is attained, it can be experienced consciously or unconsciously, but it happens, usually, through a gradual awakening. We start to become a ‘director’ in our life. When we have chosen to play a particular role, we hold both an awareness of the self or centre, and the role that we are playing. We switch between them as appropriate.
At this stage of the will, that is when we consciously realise we have a will, there is a distinct move towards integration. There is less fragmentation and more clarity of choice. We realise that we have a will and we can choose with it. We start to feel more connected to our ‘purpose’ for being alive on this planet at this time. From this place we truly take responsibility for our acts. Of course, we may not be responsible and conscious in this way all of the time, but the amount of time we spend in this state gradually starts to increase.
In Psychosynthesis we call the fourth and final stage of the evolution of the will in the individual ‘being will’. When this stage is reached there is alignment with the transpersonal Self and the deepest, most spiritual aspects of will. We are connected with our innermost understanding. We can reach this level of consciousness through meditation, through silence, or simply through turning inwards and allowing this energy of the Self to permeate through us. Once we have reached this stage, even for a moment, it is inevitable that we will desire to express this deep and meaningful connection in the outside world. Indeed, it is the sign of true ‘spiritual attainment’ not when the person involved can sit for hours in a yoga posture, or perform ‘miraculous’ feats, but rather when this energy is expressed in the world in a way that brings healing and sustenance to his or her fellow beings.
When we start using our will from a centred place, we find we are the source or cause of what happens in our life and are not just an effect or victim to circumstances. We discover there is a distinction between our ‘true will’ or Purpose, which can be defined as the will of the Self, and the energies, such as drives and self-centred desires, that come from subpersonalities. Of course, this is not to say that subpersonalities should not get what they want, their needs have to be met fully before they can truly be transformed. But their wishes are inevitably in conflict with the wishes of other subpersonalities. We experience no such conflicts with the ‘true will’ for this originates from the deepest, innermost core of our being.
We can only truly discover our true will or Purpose when we consciously and actively take steps towards its manifestation. That may seem obvious, but too often we forget this and, instead of following our path a step at a time, we try to leap ahead, not paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. The next step is always of utmost importance, and, in actuality, the only step we can make. Even physically if we try to take four steps at once we are more likely to fall over than succeed. This is even truer when we are talking about inner Purpose. We find it is easier to stay on our path if we pay attention to our immediate position, rather than worrying about something way ahead.
We may have little or no idea of what our true will or Purpose is, but if we reflect upon what Purpose means to us, and what we would like to manifest in our lives that has ‘real meaning’, we can start getting at least an inkling of it. You might like to try some reflective, receptive and creative meditation on ‘Purpose’. Remember that Purpose always follows the rule of non-interference – it cannot be your real Purpose if it involves you interfering with or altering someone else’s Purpose.
When we have connected to our Purpose – through meditation as suggested above, or through any of the other methods used in Psychosynthesis or other ways to self-realization, the next step is to decide how to manifest this Purpose. The techniques for grounding that we have already discussed can be most helpful in this, but the most important thing is to find your own individual ways of manifesting your Purpose. This is where it is often most helpful to have a good guide who will be able to not only help you connect with your Purpose but also help you to find ways to manifest it.
The Good Will
The will is not only active, not only involved with ‘doing’. You could choose, for example, to just be, to pass some time ‘doing nothing’. Indeed, one of the greatest distortions in our thinking about will power is to believe it has to be an effort or strenuous, or that it depletes or uses up energy in some way. On the contrary, when we make conscious, definite acts of will rather than ending up with less energy, we feel energized, more alive, more ‘present’ in the world.
We need to be flexible and be able to find a balance between active and passive acts of will. Both can require strong and skilful will. To say ‘no’ to something, for instance, might require a tremendous act of courage if friends are encouraging you to do it. Or to exhibit patience in waiting for something you madly desire can require great reserves of strong will. The more centred we become, the more able are we to make acts of will, either active or passive, strong or skilful, as the situation requires.
One result of moving towards our centre and making our acts of will more conscious and purposeful is that we find there is another aspect of the will, sometimes called ‘the good will’. Acts of will that are made from the heart, that are filled with sympathy, love, understanding and warmth, are all manifestations of the good will. When we have good will towards someone, whether we act upon it or not, we are connected the energy of the will with the energy of love.
Psychosynthesis theory describes the good will as a synthesis of the archetypes or energies of love and will. An act of good will made towards someone is a dynamic and joy filled process that fosters understanding and co-operation. When we tune into the good will we recognize that whatever we do, it is part of the greater whole of human relations. The good will has also been described as ‘love in action’. In terms of human relations, so long as we only do to others what we would have them do to us, we are tuning into the energy of the good will. The good will, however, is not just being soft and nice, it is dynamic and active.
Imagine what we would be like if we had no good will at all. We would not be able to actively express love, we would take actions that promoted our own interests at the expense of others, we might be suspicious and defensive, judgemental, prejudiced, indifferent to the suffering of others, isolated and so on. On the other hand, we could have too much good will. People would walk all over us, or we might be overly helpful to the point of interference, or we might never be able to say no. We would be so nice we would be really sickly.
With just the right amount of good will, however, we create a true balanced between both love and will, we are co-operative and helpful and exhibit all the qualities of ‘right human relations’. At each and every moment, all of us have the choice as to whether we want to exhibit good will or not. As always we have three options – yes, no, or not for now. Right now we can choose which of these options we wish to take. If we choose to say ‘yes’ to the good will, there will naturally be times when we do not succeed. But whenever this happens, we can always choose to come back to it, centring ourselves again and becoming once more infused with the energy of good will.
The Will in Daily Life
In our daily lives we have lots of opportunities for developing all aspects of the will. Perhaps as a definite act of will we might rise in the morning a quarter of an hour earlier. If we have a special reason for doing this it is, of course, an act of will. But we can also choose to do it simply as a way of training our will, or of developing our power. Each time we utilize a situation from daily life in this way, we strengthen ourselves and become more able to then use our will when we really need it.
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, we might develop strong will through doing the washing up, and skilful will through doing it in an effective way. It might be an act of good will to do it for someone else. Whatever we do in this way to develop our will power we can do with an attitude of joy and interest. We will find then that we will accomplish not only these ‘training’ tasks but all the other tasks in our life with greater effectiveness and ease, without tension and exhaustion.
It is also worth remembering that everyone with whom we come into contact can help us in developing our will, even without their knowing it. If another driver cuts you up, or the traffic is heavy, for instance, it is an opportunity to develop patience and serenity. If your boss at work is always dominating and short with you, you can use his energy to help you develop your force and proficiency. We best succeed in these ways through our attitudes and awareness. We can see our life as a laboratory in which we can both experiment with and develop our will.
The best ways to develop the will through daily life are those that we discover and invent for ourselves. This might include doing something we wouldn’t normally do, or not doing something we normally do. We could, for example, do something today we were planning to leave until tomorrow, or leave until tomorrow something we believe to be urgent. Whatever we choose to do, it is important to do it simply because we want to do it. Then we will find our will power is increasing for once the energy of the will is in motion it generates more and more energy. If we don’t try too hard, but let our desire to be successful flow from our true sense of self, then we succeed with clarity and ease.
Exercise: The Value of the Will
Relax and centre yourself. Think of times in your life when you have missed an opportunity or caused pain to yourself or someone else through your lack of will. Picture these events as vividly as possible and allow the associated feelings to affect you.
Now write down a list of these times in your life with which you have just connected. Let yourself really desire to change yourself so that you have more will.
Reflect on all the opportunities and benefits there would be both for yourself and others if your will was strengthened. Think clearly what these advantages would be, then write them down. Allow the feelings aroused by these anticipated advantages to really affect you. Feel the joy that these opportunities could give you, the satisfaction you would feel if you were stronger willed. Let yourself really feel your desire to become stronger in this way.
Finally picture yourself as having a strong will. Imagine yourself acting in every situation with firm decisions, focused intention, and clear awareness. Visualize yourself walking, talking, sitting and simply being in a way that exhibits your mastery over the will. You are strong, yet subtle, firm yet kind, acting with skill and discrimination.
Realize you can use this technique to strengthen your will whenever you choose.