Psychosynthesis and Culture

  • Helen Palmer


This paper is a keynote address the author gave in Oslo, Norway, at a psychosynthesis conference in 2015. The conference organiser had heard Helen present at a Conference in Rome in 2012 on the development of psychosynthesis in our bicultural nation and multicultural society. He invited her to speak to ‘Sensitivity and Resourcefulness in Multicultural Work’. This paper is how Helen responded to that invitation based on her experience as a psychosynthesis practitioner in Aotearoa. This paper is about how culture shapes identity as people negotiate the developmental tasks of being human. There is a tension between acknowledging that our most fundamental cultural identity is of being human, while not minimising or denying diversity and cultural difference. Shadow dynamics of power and privilege in dominant and minority group positions need to be explored. The author suggests that the psychosynthesis practice of disidentification is the key practice for managing the demands of deep cultural work. She discusses her own cultural formation as a heterosexual white woman of European ancestry raised in the Pākehā dominant culture in a bicultural context of colonialism. She invites people to engage with their own exploration. The paper tracks the development of her thinking — both from interaction with other cultures and in postmodernist thought — to examine the ontological and metaphysical assumptions the Eurocentric version of psychosynthesis makes about identity. The author concludes that disidentification helps us manage our anxious and hostile reactivity to violence and murderous ‘othering’ behaviour. If we aspire to increasing psychological maturity and awakening our heartfelt responsiveness we can keep finding our way with courageous compassionate action.

How to Cite
Palmer, H. (2020). Psychosynthesis and Culture. Ata: Journal of Psychotherapy Aotearoa New Zealand, 24(1), 57-66.