Mark Douglas, founder of TheSeaWithinYou is a professional astrologer and psychosynthesis coach. In this interview he shares fascinating insight into this unique therapeutic approach that integrates astrology in a powerful way. His approach is focused on growth and development, leading to better self-understanding and the discovery of greater meaning and purpose in life.
How did you first become involved with Psychosynthesis?
I became involved with psychosynthesis at the start of my astrological psychology diploma in 2016. I found psychosynthesis concepts were helping me grow and develop tremendously, as vital tools for my astrological work. It’s one thing to point out a troublesome planet in the birth chart. The real magic is the integrating and synthesizing of these parts of ourselves that psychosynthesis does so powerfully.
By the end of my studies I was absolutely taken in by psychosynthesis. Because I could see the psychosynthesis exercises working so well I immediately signed up for the Board Certified psychosynthesis coaching program through the Synthesis Center San Francisco.
How do you combine your practice as a Psychosynthesis Coach with astrology – how did the two come together for you?
I have a 100% client-centered approach. For me, this means I will use any tool to support what is emerging, and what is of purpose, meaning, and value for each client. It’s an evolving process, but I’m committed and I trust the process completely. If I am trained and I feel confident in using the tool – we use it. Nothing is out of bounds in that sense.
In practical terms, I like to start with a full birth chart consultation which allows us to see where the psyche and point of consciousness is — current timings, etc. I use a system called Age Point which is truly gilt-edged, allowing the client to see where they are “at” and what psychological/planetary archetypes are manifesting in their lives. This really speeds up the process, and when matched with an honest birth chart consultation, allows us to come up with an agreed-upon plan, together.
We move forward in a dynamic, agreed-upon manner switching from astrology insights to psychosynthesis exercises. At its core, psychosynthesis coaching is a creative psychology of love and empathy, so there’s a lot of compassionate communication and deep listening on my part. We’re doing deep soul-work, right!? Astrology shows the truth of the developmental phase for the client, and uncovers a huge amount of information. The psychosynthesis process allows us to work directly with this information. It works beautifully and with a bit of effort we can make huge leaps in understanding and development.
A component of my work is helping clients in aligning and integrating subpersonalities (seemingly disparate parts of themselves). I use a lot of imagery (drawing, symbols, guided visualizations) matched with astrological insights. I’ve recently completed a series of coursework and supervision through Dr. Jan Taal at the Amsterdam School for Imagery. I’m absolutely loving the expanded, powerful set of astrology/psychosynthesis/imagery techniques I’m able to fold in and support clients.
Please elaborate on what Psychosynthesis is and how this can be utilized in life coaching?
Psychosynthesis is a transpersonal psychology, sometimes called the “science of the soul” that focuses on personal growth and development. All living things contain within them a drive to evolve, to become the fullest realization of themselves. This process can be supported consciously, and psychosynthesis is absolutely one means to do this. It was founded by Dr. Roberto Assagioli, who was a contemporary of Freud and Jung. However, unlike Freud, he felt psychoanalysis was too limiting, and set out, with his esoteric roots and upbringing, to put his own colours on a psychology of his own making. His mother was a Theosophist and he was close friends with Alice Bailey and the Arcane school.
There’s a short interview with Assagioli that really captures his psychological worldview:
“The emphasis is on the word ‘synthesis’ as opposed to other therapeutic approaches which were more concerned with analysis – or pulling apart. Assagioli felt that we had everything within us to be able to create wholeness, or oneness with the divine source. In one of his letters Freud said, “I am interested only in the basement of the human being.” Psychosynthesis is interested in the whole building. We try to build an elevator which will allow a person access to every level of his personality. After all, a building with only a basement is very limited. We want to open up the terrace where you can sun-bathe or look at the stars. Our concern is the synthesis of all areas of the personality. That means psychosynthesis is holistic, global and inclusive. It is not against psychoanalysis or even behavior modification but it insists that the needs for meaning, for higher values, for a spiritual life, are as real as biological or social needs. We deny that there are any isolated human problems.”
Coaching is completely appropriate with psychosynthesis, largely due to the horizontal “I-Thou” approach between client and coach, or guide. There’s no hierarchy and we partner with clients in supporting their development in a shared capacity. The humanistic approach of Carl Rogers, for example, is extremely evident in this psychosynthesis coaching model. Complete unconditional positive regard and empathy for the client’s unfolding allows the coach to work from a position of curiosity and support. We do touch into the past, but only as far as we need to in order to support our client moving forward. Coaching looks towards action, growth, and living life as a beautiful expression. If Assagioli were alive today I think he would be pushing for more coaching aligned with psychosynthesis.
Traditionally when people feel unwell, it is a visit to the doctors’ rooms and very often treatment is through medication even more so with the rise of anxiety following the world pandemic we have all faced. What are your thoughts on this and the importance of turning to self-healing in a holistic sense?
I think any of the approaches, whether it’s medical prescriptions for anxiety, psychedelics, depression, reiki, psychotherapy, psychosynthesis, pathology, coaching, yoga, etc. are all right in what they accept and wrong in what they reject. There are valid roles within these systems that work extremely well.
When we discount valid systems in the idea of one side being completely valid we flatten reality, limiting our evolution in these fields — holding useful tools away from clients, who we serve. Just last night I was meeting with my friend, a medical doctor, and we were chatting about microdose psychedelics and the major attention the medical world is pouring into them. Clinical trials are underway and he was relating the conferences he’s been to and the successes that, only now, the medical world is aligning with.
I always suggest my clients become informed, learn the difference between counselling coaching, and therapy, and try different modalities until you find what works. It’s never either/or — use whatever works for your personal needs. I have a free referral process and a community of professionals ranging from therapists to astrologers and everything in between. I’m confident the right modality is out there for each client.
In your experience in working with people, what would you say is the number one thing that holds most people back from living the fulfilling life they would like to live?
From both an astrological and psychosynthesis perspective I see so much potential and “super mutant powers” that get repressed through our conditioning which creates distance from the “I” or Self. We lose touch with the magic, if you will, and the promise of our Self. When there’s a lack of congruence between what the outer world expects and what the deep needs inside are, it wears heavy. This is literally the work of a lifetime. It’s sticky, tough, wrought with challenges, and so very worth it.
Do you have any advice for our readers seeking a better self-understanding and purpose?
Absolutely! Play around with the idea that your secret-daydreams, or “peak moments” in life are valid and hold clues to your unfolding. Have a hard look at the elective, chosen, courses you took in college or high school that peaked your interest. When were you most alive and connected with purpose, meaning, and value? It will require some contemplation and gentle walks in the woods but it’s time well-spent. And find a trusted guide that can listen deeply and not bypass those needs of yours. Your deep expression needs to be sung out, and received without judgement. Trust the process of listening to yourself, breathing in, and your Call of Self will absolutely respond.