CHAPTER 1 ‑ Introduction
CHAPTER 2 ‑ Birth Order, Fictional Finalism, Theory of Psychoanalysis
CHAPTER 3 ‑ Style of Life and Social Interest
CHAPTER 4 ‑ Inferiority, Compensation and Superiority
CHAPTER 5 ‑ What Others say about Adler’s Theories
CHAPTER 6 ‑ Questions for Individual Psychologist
CHAPTER 7 ‑  Organ Inferiority and Compensation
CHAPTER 8 ‑  Fictionalism and Finalism
CHAPTER 9 ‑ Striving for Superiority and Style of Life
CHAPTER 10 ‑  Social Interest from an Adlerian Perspective
CHAPTER 11 ‑  Fundamentals of Adlerian Psychology
CHAPTER 12 ‑  Notes From “Understanding Human Nature”
CHAPTER 13 ‑ Style of life
CHAPTER 14 ‑ Individual Psychological Treatment
CHAPTER 15 ‑ Individual Psychological Therapeutics
CHAPTER 16 ‑ Summary of Adler’s Teachings
CHAPTER 17 ‑ Beverly’s Case History and Adler Bibliography
In 1972 and 1973, I went through four quarters of Clinical Pastoral Education  (C.P.E.) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. When I went  there, I was a very outgoing person but inside, l felt inferior. When someone  gave me a compliment, I would smile and say “Thank you,” but inside I would  discount the compliment.
During the second quarter of C.P.E., our supervisor Chaplain Ray Stephens  assigned each student, two pioneer psychologist to present a class on each. I  was assigned to report on Alfred Adler and Viktor Frankl. As I prepared those  two classes, I began to notice a change in how I felt about myself. I recognized  that I could overcome my inferiority feelings (Adler) and that I could have  meaning and purpose in my life (Frankl). As a result of those two classes, I  went from low man on the totem pole to a class leader. The transformation I  experienced (physically, emotionally and spiritually) could be compared to a  conversion experience. Adler and Frankl (Article on Frankl will follow) have  contributed to my understanding of human personality and how I relate to an  individual in the therapeutic situation.

Thyra Boldes once wrote of Adler that he was real, whether he was joking or  serious, whether in private discussion or lectures, his real personality always  seemed to say, “Life is holy. Have reverence for life. Every thing which happens  is important.”

In his youth, Adler was a sickly child which caused him embarrassment and pain.  These early experiences with illnesses and accidents probably account for his  theory of organ inferiority and were the foundation for his theories on  inferiority feelings. According to Adler, each individual has a weak area in  their body (organ inferiority) which tends to be the area where illness occurs ‑  such as the stomach, head, heart, back, lungs, etc. Adler said that to some  degree every emotion finds expression in the body. From his understanding of  organ inferiority, Adler began to see each individual as having a feeling of  inferiority. Adler wrote, “To be a human being means to feel oneself inferior.”  The child comes into the world as a helpless little creature surrounded by  powerful adults. A child is motivated by feelings of inferiority to strive for  greater things. Those feelings of inferiority activate a person to strive upward  so that normal feelings of inferiority activate a person to strive upward so  that normal feelings of inferiority impel the human being to solve his problems  successful, whereas the inferiority complex impedes or prevents him from doing  so.

The healthy individual will strive to overcome her inferiority through  involvement with society. She is concerned about the welfare of others as well  as herself. She develops good feelings of self‑worth and self‑assurance. On the  other hand, some are more concerned with selfishness than with social interest.  She may express this selfishness in a need to dominate, to refuse to cooperate,  wanting to take and not to give. From these unhealthy responses, the person  develops an inferiority complex or a superiority complex. A superiority complex  is a cover up for an inferiority complex. They are different sides of the same  coin. The person with the superiority complex has hidden doubts about her  abilities.

Adler developed a theory of personality based upon: (1) inferiority feelings and  inferiority complex, (2) striving for superiority, (3) style of life, (4) social  interest, (5) birth order, (6) fictional finalism, (7) the creative self, (8)  masculine protest, (9) the interpretation of dreams, and (10) theory of  psychotherapy. I will discus how some of these theories have affected me. Adler  said, “We do not flatter ourselves, we have not explored the last and ultimate  facts, nor have we voiced the last truth. All we have attained cannot be more  than part of the present knowledge and culture. And we are looking forward to  those who are coming after us.” If we, as hypnotherapists, would take that  statement to heart; we would be much better off as a profession. Adler describes four basic life styles: (1) The first type is well‑adjusted and  does not strive for personal superiority but seeks to solve his problems in ways  that are useful to others as well as himself. (2) The second type wants to prove  his personal superiority by ruling others. (3) The third type wants to get  everything though others without an effort or struggle on his own (4) The fourth  type avoids every decision.

Adler believed that an almost radical change in character and behavior will take  lace when the individual adopts new goals. The way to help a person with any  negative responsive life style is to help the person move form reacting wrongly  to life by changing his way of viewing life. People can change, the past can be  released so that the individual is free to be happy in the present and future. Adler’s Fictional Finalism is an interesting concept for hypnotherapist.  Fictional finalism simply states that people act as much from the “as if” as  from reality. One of my understandings of the subconscious mind is that whatever  the subconscious mind accepts as true, it acts “as if” it is true whether it is  or not. When one imagines tasting a lemon, he month waters and often taste the  lemon “as if” there really was a lemon to lick.

According to Adlerian counseling, the counselor explores the current life  situation as it is viewed by the client to include his complaint, problems and  symptoms. The client’s early life and position in the family constellation are  discussed. Adler believed that the order of birth is an important determiner of  personality. The first born is given a great deal of attention until the second  child is born and the first is dethroned. The dethroning experience may affect  the child in a number of ways such as hatred for the second child, conservatism,  insecurity, or may cause a striving to protect other and be a helper. The second  child is in a different situation for he shares attention from the beginning  which may cause him to be more cooperative or competitive. He may strive to  surpass the older child. All other children are dethroned but never the youngest  who is often spoiled. He may seek to be taken care of by others or strive to  overcome all others.

Some favorite questions of Adler were: “And why do you feel like that?” “What  purposed does your illness serve?” “What do you think is the reason for your  reacting that way?” The interpretation puts an emphasis on the individual’s goal  and life style. The Mirror Technique is used whereby the individual looks at  himself. Adler compares the client with a person who is caught in a dark room  and cannot find an exit. The therapist helps the client illuminate the room so  that she can find a way out to a new way of dealing with the problem. Adler  wrote, “Every individual represents both a unity of personality and the  individual fashions that unity. The individual is thus both the picture and the  artist.” Therefore if one can change her concept of herself, she can change the  picture she is painting.

Adler had very little to say about hypnosis, but what little he did say  indicates that he did not understand the clinical possibilities of hypnosis. He  recognized that no one can be hypnotized against his will. He did believe that  the individual who allowed himself to be hypnotized placed himself under the  power of the hypnotist. In spite of his misunderstanding of hypnosis, he offers  a lot to the hypnotherapist with his Fictional Finalism, Mirror Technique,  Family Constellation, and his understanding of Inferiority Feelings and  Inferiority Complex.



Adler stressed that the order of birth was an important determiner  of personality. In spite of their common heritage, siblings are usually very  different from each other. It is not the child’s position in the successive  births that influences his character, but the situation into which he is born  and the way in which he interprets it. For instance: if two children of a family  are born much later than the earlier ones, the oldest of the two may develop  like a first born and the younger one as a second child.The first born child is given a great deal of attention until the second child  is born and then the first is dethroned from his favored position. This  dethroning experience may affect the child in a number of ways. It may cause him  to protect himself against reversals, be conservative and insecure or it may  cause him to develop a striving to protect others and be a helper. “If the  parents have allowed the first‑born to feel sure of their affection, if he knows  that his position is secure, and above all, if he is prepared for the arrival of  the younger child and has been trained to cooperate in its care, the crisis will  pass without ill effects.”

The second child is in a different situation for he shares attention with  another child and is therefore a little more likely to cooperate than the oldest  child. He has a sibling that is older than he is and who is ahead of him so the  strives to catch up. Adler used the Biblical account of Jacob and Esau as an  example for the second child’s striving to surpass the older sibling. The second  child may continue his exaggerated struggle for equally with the older child or  his ambitiousness may result in worthwhile achievement.

All other children may be dethroned but never the youngest who is always the  baby of the family and often spoiled in the process. As he has no followers but  many pacemakers, he may strive to overcome them all. Again Adler uses the Bible  to illustrate his point as he refers to Joseph and David. He includes Joseph  because he was 17‑years‑old when his younger brother, Benjamin, was born. Adler  believed that the oldest child would most likely become a problem child and a  neurotic maladjusted adult with the youngest following closely behind. The  second child is by and large better adjusted than either his older or younger  siblings.

The only child has problems of his own for the mother often pampers him. She is  afraid of losing him, so spoils him as a results of her over protectiveness. As  he has no siblings, his feelings of competition is often directed against his  father or a girl against her mother. In later years when he is no longer the  center of attention, he may have difficulties.


Adler was influenced by the philosopher Hans Vaihinger whose  book, The Psychology of the “As If” was published in 1911. In this book,  Vaihinger proposed that people live by many fictional ideals that have no  relations to reality. These are ideas that cannot be tested and confirmed. Some  of these are “all men are created equal,” “honesty is the best policy,” and “the  end justifies the means.” The fictions may help people to deal more effectively  with the reality or may hinder his efforts to accept reality. Adler took this  idea and came to the conclusion that people are motivated more by their  expectations of the future than they are by the past. If a person believes that  there is heaven for those who are good and hell for those who are bed, it will  probably affect how he lives. An ideal or absolute is a fiction. Adler’s Fictional Finalism is an interesting idea for hypnotherapist. Fictional  Finalism simply states that people act as much from the “as if” as from reality.  One of my understandings of the subconscious mind is that whatever the  subconscious mind accepts as true, it acts “as if” it is true whether it is or  not. When one imagines tasting a lemon, his month waters and often he tastes the  lemon “as if” there really was a lemon to lick.Ansbacher states that there are five points to Adler’s understanding of  Fictional Finalism: (1) The fictional final goal became for Adler the principle  for internal, subjective causation of psychological events, (2) The goal  represented a creation of the individual and was largely subconscious, (3) It  also became the principle of unity and self‑consistency of the personality  structure: from the point of the view of the subject, the fictional goal was  taken (4) as the basis for orientation in the world and (5) as one aspect of  compensation for felt inferiority.


The Adlerian Therapist departed from Freud’s method of  having the client recline on a couch while the therapist sits behind the client.  Adler preferred to face the client and engage in free discussion, not free  association. There are four phases of counseling for the Adlerian: (1) the  relationship, (2) the investigation of dynamics, (3) interpretations to the  client and (4) reorientation.The relationship with the client that the Adlerian seeks to establish is one of  friendliness and cooperation. Adler places a high value on the social  relationship between the therapist and the client.

He believed that this relationship could serve as a reeducation bridge to other  relationships. He felt that all people who fail are deficient in concern and  love for their fellow human beings. He spent a lot of time in an attempt to help  the client develop social interest. The Adlerian’s concept of cooperation  follows as the therapist sets the example of love, concern and friendship. Adler  personally emanated a quiet magic and one felt his inner warmth and interest so  strong that there was immediate rapport between him and the client. The investigation phase explores the current life situation as it is viewed by  the client to include his complaints, problems, and symptoms. The functioning of  the individual in the three major areas of life (work, social, and sex) are  investigated and discussed. The patient’s early life, position in the family  constellation, and his relationships to siblings and parents are discussed. The  following questions and similar ones are often asked, “And why do you feel like  that about it?” “What do you think is the reason for your reacting that way?”  “What purpose does your illness serve?” Gradually the client realizes how he got  into his way of making inappropriate reactions to his problem. Knowing why he  reacts as he does, he has the opportunity to change. As he changes, he is in a  position to substitute a wise for a foolish reaction, a courageous for a  cowardly one, a normal for a hysterical one.

The interpretation phase put an emphasis on the goals and style of life of the  client. The therapist has the client look at his feelings and the purpose for  his feelings. The client will not be told what to do but is shown how he is  living out his style of life and what it cost the client to do so. The mirror  technique is used by which the individual looks at himself. In the reorientation stage, the client is encouraged to drop the old style of  life and take up another that will help him to deal with the realities of life  and receives satisfaction from living. The Adlerian uses encouragement  extensively in their therapy. The purpose of this encouragement is to help the  patient make the transfer from a style of life that is faulty to one that is  healthy. Encouragement is given with the understanding that the client must gain  for himself an attitude toward life that will allow him to approach and overcome  his problems in a realistic manner. To be healthy, the client must learn to  handle his problems with common sense and social interest instead of fantasy.  The therapist should be optimistic, cheerful, tolerant, active and have empathy.  Clients should find the therapist a dependable and benevolent human being. Adler compares the individual who has a faulty style of life with a person who  is caught in a dark room and cannot find an exit. The therapist helps the client  illuminate the room so that he can find a way out to a new way of dealing with  his problems. Adler wrote, “Every individual represents both a unity of  personality and the individual fashions that unity. The individual is thus both  the picture and the artist. Therefore if one can change his concept of himself,  he can change the picture that he is painting.”


“Style of life” or “life style” are common terms for us today. It may come as  surprise to many that Alfred Adler coined those phrases. “Style of life” was the  slogan of Alder’s Individual Psychological and personality theory. It is the  recurrent theme in all of Adler’s later writings and the most distinctive  feature of his psychology. In his writings, Adler used the terms “style of  life,” “pattern of life,” “life plan,” “Life scheme,” and “line of movement”  interchangeably. For Adler, the individual’s STYLE OF LIFE is one’s personality,  the unity of the personality, the individual form of creative opinion about  oneself, the problems of life and his whole attitude to life and others. During the first few years of life, each individual develops a style of life  that greatly influences his behavior. Adler wrote, “If we know the goal of a  person, we can undertake to explain and to understand what the psychological  phenomena want to tell us why they were created, what a person had made of his  innate material, why he had made it just so and not differently, how his  character traits, his feelings and emotions, his logic, his morals, and his  aesthetic must be constituted in order that he may arrive at his goal. If we  could infer the individually comprehended goal from the ornaments and melodies  of a human life and, on this basis, develop the entire style of life (and the  underlying individual law of movement), we could classify a person with almost  natural‑science accuracy. We could predict how a person would act in a specific  situation.” The life style of the individual is considered the key to his  behavior. His major goal is superiority and compensation for his feeling of  inferiority, but he may achieve this goal in a great variety of ways. The striving for superiority is based on the human’s ability to be aware of  himself, of his ability to remember past experiences and to imagine himself in  the future. The individual’s life style is determined by his inventive and  creative power and is an expression of his uniqueness. Each person develops his  concept of self and of people and of the environment which surrounds him in his  own unique and personal way.

Each person has a specific goal that is all his own and make him different from  any other person. As he follows that goal, he adapts early in life a specific  technique for attaining it. The child may feel that he is helpless and that he  can have life only by gaining the support of others. Throughout his life he will  be unable to assert himself constructively, to take direct initiative for his  own destiny. He may develop an illness or disability that demands the care of  others. As the illness develops, it becomes a compensation for the individual’s  failure. He may then say, “If I didn’t have this illness, I could succeed as  easily as anyone else.” The style of life becomes fixed for the individual must  cling to his illness or the bluff of his claim of possible accomplishment would  be recognized. The illness must be convincing enough, both to himself and  others, to maintain the pretence. The patient is not consciously aware that his  illness is an excuse for none fulfillment. Adler wrote, “His chief occupation is  to look for other people to take his burden into account and thus wins his way  to privilege life, judged by more lenient standard than others. At the same  time, he pays the cost of it with his neurosis.” No one is forced to continue  all his life in one direction for when he realizes his mistakes, he can change  his style of life and rid himself of those barriers to a meaningful life. Adler believed that the spoiled child seeks to be the center of attention. The  hated child adopts the goal of escaping to a safe distance from others. The  eldest child adopts the attitude of keeping what is his, the second child seeks  to surpass, and the only child assumes that others will serve and he will rule. Childhood experiences which often, but not necessarily, predispose the child to  a faulty style of life are children with inferiorities, spoiled children and  neglected children. These conditions often produce erroneous conceptions of the  world and results in a pathological negative style of life. Children with  physical or mental infirmities are likely to have a greater feeling of  inferiority than others in meeting the task of life. Unless they make proper  compensations for their inferiority, they will have difficulty in enjoying a  meaningful life. Adler believed that pampering a child was the greatest curse  that could be experienced by a child. They are potentially the most dangerous to  society for they expect others to conform to their self‑centered wishes.  Pampering robs the child of his independence. He is not given the opportunity to  accomplish something for himself. This prevents him using his own power and from  learning to cooperate with others. The neglected child, who was badly treated in  childhood, may become an enemy of society.

Basic life styles: (1). The well‑adjusted does not strive for personal  superiority, but seeks to solve his problems in ways that are useful to other as  well as himself. (2). The second type wants to prove his personal superiority by  ruling others. (3). The third type is the getting type. They want to get  everything through others without any effort or struggle of their own. (4). The  fourth tries to avoid every decision. They are the avoiding type. Adler believed that the style of life came from early experiences but unlike  Freud, the determinist, Adler wrote, “We do not suffer from the shock of our  experience, the so‑called trauma, but we make out them just what suits our  purpose. We are self‑determined by the meaning we give our own experiences. We  are masters of our own actions.”

Adler believed that an almost radical change in character and behavior would  take place when an individual adopted new goals. Adler said that man is not bad  by nature. Whatever his faults have been, faults due to erogenous conception of  life, he must not be oppressed by them. He can change. The past is gone and with  a change in his life style, the individual is free in the present and future to  experience happiness and bring happiness to others.

The style of life is influenced mostly by the quality of the individual’s SOCIAL  INTEREST. Adler wrote, “Social interest is the true and inevitable compensation  for the natural weakness of individual human beings.” Social interest is inborn  but that inborn quality is brought to its fullness by guidance and training. The  child comes into this world completely dependent upon others. A person’s style  of life cannot be understood without considering the people whom he comes in  contact. Relationships with mother, other family members and society affects an  individual in his choice of a style of life. In order to understand an  individual, it is necessary to consider his attitude toward his fellowman and  himself.

The normal person with a well‑developed social interest will adopt a useful  style of life by contributing to the common welfare and thus overcoming his  feelings of inferiority. On the other hand, the impaired individual is  characterized by his inferiority feelings, underdeveloped social interest and in  uncooperative goals of superiority. The impaired solves his problems in a  self‑centered, private‑sense rather than a task‑centered, common‑sense fashion.  In regards to the person who spends much time in support of public causes, but  has little concern for the individual, Adler wrote, “It is easier to embrace the  world than a single human being.” As one learns to contribute to the common  welfare, he comes to have a feeling of worth and value and begins to feel at  home in life. Social interest enhances one’s intelligence, heightens his  self‑esteem, and enables him to adjust to unexpected misfortune. Social interest  gives meaning and purpose to life


Over the past years, I have conducted several seminars and written articles on  Alfred Adler that were received warmly. As a result, I am witting a series of  articles on Adler’s theories that have had an influence on my understanding of  human nature and use of hypnotherapy. Adler did not have a proper understanding  of hypnosis. He understood that one could not be hypnotized against his will,  but once hypnotized, the individual was under the control of the hypnotist. We  are now aware that one is not under the control of the hypnotist for one will  not do anything against his will under hypnosis.

When you hear terms like inferiority feelings, inferiority complex, superiority  complex, compensation, style of life, goal‑directed, family constellation,  fictional finalism, the relationship between body, mind, and spirit, and  psychiatry as the science of interpersonal relations, to mention only a few, you  are encountering ideas developed by Alfred Adler. These ideas and theories were  developed from 1907 when his first book was written until his death in 1937. Adler felt that there is a unity of body and soul so that the psychic attitude  affects the physical and the physical affects the psychic. Adler believed that  to a certain degree every emotion finds some body expression. The individual  will show his emotion in some visible form: perhaps in this posture and  attitude, perhaps in his face, perhaps the trembling of his legs and knees.  Similar changes could be found in the organs themselves. The circulation of  blood is affected as shown when a person blushes or turns pale. In anger,  anxiety, sorrow, or any other emotion, the body always speaks and each  individual’s body speaks a language of its own.

When one person is afraid, he trembles, the hair of another will stand on end,  and a third person will have palpitations of the heart. Still others will sweat  or choke or tremble or speak in a hoarse voice. Some people react to stress with  lose of appetite, while other overate. One people feel the effect of stress in  the head, another in the stomach, another in the bladder, another in the back,  or another in some other part of the body. If examined closely, we shall find  that every part of the body is involved in an emotional expression and that  those physical expressions are the consequences of the action of the mind and  the body. The understanding of the relationship between the mind, body, spirit  is one of Adler’s contribution to Human Trinity Hypnotherapy.


A ground breaking area in the theory of human nature for Adler was his understanding of INFERIORITY FEELINGS, COMPENSATION AND STRIVING FOR  SUPERIORITY. Inferiority feelings and compensation originated with Adler’s early  studies of organ inferiority and compensation. In his book, Study of Organ  Inferiority and Its Physical Compensation (1907), Adler described the process of  compensation for physical disabilities or limitations. Depending on the attitude  one takes toward his defects, his compensation for disabilities or limitations  will be satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Favorite examples for Adler were  Demosthenes, who became a great speaker in compensation for an early defect in  speech; Annette Kellerman, who became a champion swimmer not so such despite as  because of bodily weakness; the limping Nurmi, who become a famous runner.  Others with similar problems did not compensate by excelling but used their  defect as an excuse to preserve their fantasy that they would have gained  prestige had they not had the defect.

From his understanding of organ inferiority, Adler began to see each individual  as having a feeling of inferiority. Adler wrote, “to be a human being means to  feel oneself inferior. The child comes into the world as a helpless little  creature surrounded by powerful adults. A child is motivated by his feelings of  inferiority to strive for greater things. When he has reached one level of  development, he began to feel inferior once more and the striving for something  better begins again which is the great diving force of mankind.” Every person has inferiority feelings whether he will or can admit it. Adler  says that since the feeling of inferiority is regarded as a sign of weakness and  as something shameful, there is naturally a strong tendency to conceal it.  Indeed, the effort of concealment may be so great that the person himself ceases  to be aware of his inferiority as such, being wholly preoccupied with the  consequences of the feeling and with all the objective details that subserve its  concealment. So effectively may an individual train his whole mentality for this  task that the entire current of his psychic life flows ceaselessly form below to  above, that is, from feeling of inferiority to that of superiority, occurs  automatically and escapes his own notice. It is not surprising that we often  receive a negative reply when we ask a person whether he has a feeling of  inferiority. It is better not to the press the point, but to observe his  psychological movements, in which the attitude and individual goal can always be  discerned.

Both healthy individual and the neurotic individual cope with their feeling of  inferiority by compensatory action through gaining power to overcome the sense  of weakness. These aggressive reactions often lead to considerable success in  terms of recognized achievement in some area of life; some accomplishment of  power over others. The healthy individual will strive to overcome his  inferiority feelings through involvement with society. He is concerned about the  welfare of others as well as himself. He develops good feelings of self‑worth  and self‑assurance.

The negative responses to these feelings of inferiority become the inferiority  complex or the superiority complex. Both reflect feelings of inferiority for  they are two sides of the same coin. There are those who act and feel inferior  and those who feel inferior but in denial try to lord it over others. The  interesting thing is that they are both symptoms of a poor self‑image. The  individual with a superiority complex is more concerned with attaining selfish  goals than with social interest. He may express this selfishness in a need to  dominate, to refuse to cooperate, or he may want to take and not to give.  Feelings of inferiority activate one to strive upward so that normal feelings of  inferiority impel the human being to solve his problems successfully. On the  other hand, the inferiority complex and superiority complex impedes or prevents  him from doing so.

Be it noted that feelings of inferiority can be expressed in many different  ways. Adler liked to tell this story about three children who visited the zoo  for the first time. As they stood before the lion’s cage, one of them shrank  behind his mother’s skirts and said, “I want to go home.” The second child stood  where he was, very pale and trembling, and said, “I’m not a bit frightened.” The  third glared at the lion fiercely and asked his mother, “Shall I spit at it?”  All three children really felt inferiority, but each expressed his feelings in  his own way, consonant with his style of life.

These feelings of inferiority lead to a STRIVING FOR SUPERIORITY. The striving  for superiority is innate and carries the individual from one stage to the next.  This striving can and does manifest itself in many different ways and each  person has his own way of attempting to achieve perfection. This idea progressed  through three stages. Adler first came to the conclusion that aggression is more  important than sexuality. The aggressive impulse was followed by the “will to  power” and finally “striving for superiority.” Many people reading Adler come to  the wrong conclusion that striving for superiority is equated with “striving for  power.” Adler described the striving for power as a source of neurosis and  crime. He pointed out that striving for power drives people in useless  directions. Power‑lust is a mental disorder or disease.

All people wish to overcome the difficulties and problems of their life. Each  individual would like to reach a point in life when he feels strong and  complete. Adler wrote, “We shall always find in human being this great line of  activity; this struggle to rise from an inferior to a superior position, from  defeat to victory, from below to above. It begins in earliest childhood and  continues to the end of our lives.” The healthy individual will strive for  superiority through his involvement with society. He will have a concept of  superiority that includes the welfare of others as well as himself. The neurotic  lives his life in constant fear of loss that will express itself in the need to  dominate, to refuse to cooperate, to aggressive and antisocial behavior. Regarding both the health and neurotic striving for superiority, Adler writes,  “If an individual, in the meaning he gives to life, wishes to make a  contribution, and if his emotions are all directed to this goal, he will  naturally be bound to bring himself into the best shape. He will begin to  equipment himself to solve the three problems of life (behavior toward others,  occupation and love) and to develop his abilities.” If he works to ease and  enrich others as well as himself, he shall enrich his own life and others. If he  develops his personality without regards to others, he will make himself  unpleasant and seek to solve the problems of life in unhealthy ways. Understanding feelings of inferiority, compensation, and striving for  superiority should be an asset in counseling your clients. Certainly one of the  biggest problems in our society is the inappropriate handling of feelings of  inferiority. It is our opportunity as therapist and counselors to help people  find ways to best use their feelings of inferiority to benefit themselves and  society.



(When source is known, credit will be given.) Development  of Faulty Lifestyles: due to three faulty childhood conditions: Physical  Inferiority: Sometimes can lead to healthy compensation, but sometimes leads to  strangulation of social feelings. Instead of focusing of adjustment to society,  they become continually preoccupied with themselves and the impression they have  on others. Neglect: Neglected children have never known what love and  cooperation are like. They feel worthless and express inferiority complexes  through suspiciousness, isolation, and maliciousness. Pampering (spoiling): The  most serious of all parental errors. Pampering robs children of their  independence and initiative, shatters their self‑confidence, and creates the  parasitic impression that the world owes them a living. Note: Adler considered  Freud’s patients to be mainly pampered adults, maybe even Freud himself.ALFRED ADLER: SOCIAL FEELING INTEREST: 

(By Erick Pettifor): We cannot judge a  human being except by using the concept of social feeling as a standard, and  measuring their thought and action by this standard. We must maintain this point  of view because every individual within the body of human society must subscribe  to the oneness of that society. We have to realize our duty to our fellow human  beings. We are in the very midst of a community and must live by the logic of  communal existence. This logic determines the fact that we need certain known  criteria for the evaluation of our fellows. The degree to which social feeling  has developed in any individual is the only universally valid criterion of human  values. We cannot deny our psychological dependency upon social feeling. No  human being is capable of ignoring her social feeling completely. For we all know we have a duty to our fellow human beings. Our social feeling  constantly reminds us of the fact. This does not mean that social feeling is  constantly in our conscious thoughts; but it does require a certain amount of  determination to deny it and set it aside. Furthermore, social feeling is so  universal that no one is able to begin any activity without first being  justified by it. The need for justifying each act and thought originates in our  unconscious sense of social unity. At the very least it is the reason why we  seek extenuating circumstances to excuse our actions. Interestingly enough,  social feeling is so fundamental and important that, even if we have not  developed this ability to consider others as fully as most people have done, we  still make efforts to appear as if we had done so. This means that the pretense  of social feeling is sometimes used to conceal the antisocial thoughts and deeds  that are the true expressions of a personality. The difficulty lies in  differentiating between the false and the genuine; it is this very difficulty  that raises the understanding of human nature to the plane of a science.GUIDED AND EIDETIC IMAGERY:

(Henry T. Stein) [Refer to  The Alfred Adler  Institute of San Francisco] For many clients, cognitive insight and new behavior  lead to different feelings. Some clients need additional specific interventions  to access, stimulate, or change feelings. Guided and eidetic imagery, used in an  Adlerian way, can lead to emotional breakthroughs especially when the client  reaches an impasse. Eidetic imagery can be used diagnostically to access vivid  symbolic mental pictures of significant people and situations that are often  charged with emotion. Guided imagery can be used therapeutically to change the  negative imprints of childhood family members that weigh heavily on a client and  often ignite chronic feelings of guilt, fear, and resentment. These techniques  are typically used in the middle stages of therapy. Alexander Muller recommended  the use of imagery when a client knew that a change in behavior was sensible,  but still didn’t take action (Muller 1937). Some clients need a vivid image of  themselves as happier in the future than they presently are, before they journey  in a new direction that they know is healthier.TWELVE STAGES OF CLASSICAL ADLERIAN PSYCHOTHERAPY:

(James Wolf): [Refer to The Alfred Adler Institutes of Northwestern Washington and San Francisco] Classical Adlerian psychotherapy is characterized by  a diplomatic, warm, empathic, and Socratic style of treatment. This climate  embodies the qualities of respect and equality necessary for building a trusting  cooperative, relationship. A full psychotherapy can be envisioned as a  progression though twelve stages. These stages should be considered as teaching  guidelines and should not be interpreted as a systematic procedure.  Psychotherapy is an art that must be practiced creatively. The best therapeutic  strategy is frequently a unique invention for the individual client.1) Empathy and Relationship Stage: Establishing an empathic, cooperative,  working relationship. Offering hope, reassurance, and encouragement. 2) Information Stage: Unstructured gathering of relevant information. Details of  presenting problem and overview of general functioning. Exploration of early  childhood situation, memories, and dreams.

3) Clarification Stage: Clarifying vague thinking with Socratic questioning. Evaluating consequences of ideas and behavior. Correcting mistaken ideas about  self and others.

4) Encouragement Stage: Encouraging thinking and behavior in a new direction.  Beginning to move in a new direction, away from life style. Clarifying feelings  about effort and results.

5) Interpretation and Recognition Stage: Interpreting inferiority feelings,  style of life, and fictional final goal of superiority. Identifying what has  been in avoided in development. Integrating birth order, earliest recollections,  and dreams.

6) Knowing Stage: Reinforcing client’s self‑awareness of life style and feelings  about new successes. Client knows what needs to be done but may feel blocked.

7) Emotional Breakthrough Stage: When needed, promoting emotional breakthroughs  with “missing experiences” that correct past or present negative influences. Use  of role‑playing, guided imagery, and group dynamics.

8) Doing Differently Stage: Converting insight into a different attitude.  Experimenting with concrete actions based on abstract ideas. Comparing new and  old behavior.

9) Reinforcement Stage: Encouraging all new movements toward significant change.  Affirming positive results and feelings. Evaluating progress and new courage. 10) Social Interest Stage: Using client’s better feelings to extend cooperation  and caring about other people. Learning to give generously of oneself and to  take necessary risks. Awakening feeling of equality.

11) Goal Redirection Stage: Challenging client to let go of self and the old  fictional goal. Dissolving the style of life and adopting new values.  Discovering a new psychological horizon.

12) Support and Launching Stage: Launching client into a new, creative,  gratifying way of living for self and others. Learning to love the struggle and  prefer the unfamiliar. Promoting a path of continual growth for self and others. Alfred Adler ‑ (Gaspare Birbiglia): Adler disagreed with the sexual etiology of  neuroses and belief that individuals were motivated by social responsibility and  need achievement, not driven by the inborn instincts. Adler felt that humans  were motivated by social, interpersonal factors. He saw people as having control  over their lives, with each individual developing a unique lifestyle. Adler’s  emphasis is on the conscious rather than unconscious, process, with individuals  assuming responsibility for their life decisions. Adler’s most useful  contribution was his observation of family constellation and birth order. The  concept of family constellation has to do with the child’s interactions with and  perceptions of the family group. Adler associated characteristics with position  in birth order. First children have to be first in order to maintain  superiority. Second children never have their parents undivided attention. The  youngest child resembles an only child and is usually spoiled. Alder’s contributions: 1. The Adlerian view of human nature is essentially  positive. 2. The relationship between the counselor and the client is valued. 3.  The concept of family constellation has been useful and has yielded important  research investigations. 4. Adlerian theory is used by parent‑education groups.  5. The concept of natural consequences has influenced child‑rearing practices.


: (Rudolf R. Dreikurs):  The human community sets three task for every individual. They are: work, which  means contributing to the welfare of others, friendship, which embraces social  relations with comrades and relatives, and love, which is the most inmate union  with some one of the other sex and represents the strongest and closest of  emotional relationships which can exist between two individuals. (p 4‑5) Social interest is expressed subjectively in the consciousness of having  something in common with other people and of being one with them.” AA man who  thinks only of himself, of how he is to uphold his own dignity and of the role  he means to play, is sure to cause trouble within his circle of friends and  acquaintances. (p 5) People who make it their object to get as much as possible  are always clutching emptiness.  None but those who can seek their happiness as  part of the whole, that is to say, in the contribution they themselves can make  to the common‑wealth, can feel satisfied with themselves and their lives. The  social interest is therefore expressed by willingness to contribute without  thought of reward. (p 6)With regard to man in particular, Alfred Adler declares that it is impossible  for us to understand his behavior and actions unless we know his goal. (p 10) He  is not driven through life by his past but impelled to go foreword into the  future ‑ and the force that impels him is not an external force. He moves of his  own accord. All his actions, emotions, qualities and characteristics serves the  same purpose. They show him trying to adapt himself to society. Character is not  determined causally by equipment or instincts. Neither is it formed by  environment, which would bring us back once more to causal determination. (p  23‑14)


: (Hertha Orgler) No one is forced to continue all his life in one direction, no matter what the  direction is. As soon as he realizes his error he can change his style of life  and rid himself of these faults. (p 30) It is evident here that a human being’s  development is not influenced by facts, but the opinion he has of these facts.  (p 31) Adler calls the following methods the three entrance gates to the mental  life. (1) the position of the child in the relation to his brothers and sisters;  (2) the first childhood memory; (3) dreams. (p 32) Adler has emphasized the fact  that all children grow up in completely different situation and that the  position of the child in the constellation of children is of the utmost  importance in the development of its character. Three positions are of special  interest: that of the oldest, of the second and of the youngest. (p 33) Even in sleep the human being is still occupied with his problems. The impetus  which the dream gives him is intended to help him solve his immediate problems  more easily. The dream is also directed toward the future; here the direction  forward a goal can be perceived. The choice of the dream pictures gives us a key  to the life‑style of the dreamer. (p 54) Only when it is realized that the  Superiority Complex covers an Inferiority Complex can one understand that to  those possessed with such striving for power can never be satisfied with what  they have achieved. The deeply hidden doubt of their own abilities spurs them on  to prove always anew that they are superior to others and never allows them any  rest. (p 80)Thyra Boldsen wrote, “Dr. Adler was real. Whether he was joking or serious,  whether in private discussions or in lectures, his real personality always  seemed to say: ‘Life is holy, have reverence for life, everything which happens  is important.’ When he lectured you felt: He is truly a prophet of righteousness  and kindness, teaching these laws which govern human fate to happiness for  obedient and to self‑destruction for the disobedient.” (p 185)


: HEINZ L. ANSBACHER, PH.D. AND ROWENA R. ANSBACHER,  PH.D.A summary of the theory of Individual Psychology might well be helpful to the  reader as an initial orientation to the work of Alfred Adler. To serve this  purpose we submit the following set of propositions which have suggested  themselves to us.

1)There is one basic dynamic force behind all human activity, a striving from a  felt minus situation towards a plus situation, from a feeling of inferiority  towards superiority, perfection, totality.

2) The striving receives its specific direction from an individually unique goal  or self‑ideal, which though influenced by biological and environmental factors  is ultimately the creation of the individual. Because it is an ideal, the goal  is a fiction.

3) The goal is only “dimly envisaged” by the individual, which means that it is  largely unknown to him and not understood by him. This is Adler’s definition of  the unconscious: the unknown part of the goal.

4) The goal becomes the final cause, the ultimate independent variable. To the  extent that the goal provides the key for understanding the individual, it is a  working hypothesis on the part of the psychologist.

5) All psychological processes form a self‑consistent organization from the  point of view of the goal, like a drama which is constructed from the beginning  with the finale in view (1912a, p. 46) . This self‑consistent personality  structure is what Adler calls the style of life. It becomes firmly established  at an early age, from which time on behavior that is (p 1) apparently  contradictory is only the adaptation of different means to the same end. 6) All apparent psychological categories, such as different drives or the  contrast between conscious and unconscious, are only aspects of a unified  relational system ( 1926b, p. 402) and do not represent discrete entities and  quantities.

7) All objective determiners, such as biological factors and past history,  become relative to the goal idea; they do not function as direct causes but  provide probabilities only. The individual uses all objective factors in  accordance with his sty1e of life. “Their significance and effectiveness is  developed only in the intermediary psychological metabolism( so to speak” (  1926b, p. 402) .

8) The individual’s opinion of himself and the world, his “apperceptive schema,”  his interpretations, all as aspects of the style of life, influence every  psychological process. Omnia ex opinione suspensa sunt was the motto for the  book in which Adler presented Individual Psychology for the first time (1912a,  p. 1) .

9) The individual cannot be considered apart from his social situation.  “Individual Psychology regards and examines the individual as socially embedded.  We refuse to recognize and examine an isolated human being” (1926a, p. ix). 10) All important life problems, including certain drive satisfactions, become  social problems. All values become social values.

11) The socialization of the individual is not achieved at the cost of  repression, but is afforded through an innate human ability, which, however,  needs to be developed. It is this ability which Adler calls social feeling or  social interest. Because the individual is embedded in a social situation,  social interest becomes crucial for his adjustment.

12) Maladjustment is characterized by increased inferiority feelings,  underdeveloped social interest, and an exaggerated uncooperative goal of  personal superiority. Accordingly, problems are solved in a self‑centered  “private sense” rather than a task‑centered “common sense” fashion. In the  neurotic this leads to the experience of failure because he still accepts the  social validity of his actions as his ultimate criterion. The psychotic, on the  other hand, while objectively also a failure, that is, in the eyes of common  sense, does not experience failure because he does not accept the ultimate  criterion of social validity.


: ALFRED ADLER: Capricorn books, New  York. 1964:For the understanding and treatment of difficult children. Compiled and  annotated by the International Society for Individual Psychology.

I. How long have the troubles lasted? In what situation was the child,  materially and mentally, when the failings became noticeable? (The following are important: changes in surroundings, starting school, change  of school, change of teacher , birth of younger members of the family, setbacks  at school, new friendships, illnesses of the child or of the parents, etc. )

2. Was there anything unusual about the child previously? Due to bodily or  mental weakness? Cowardice? Carelessness? Desire to be alone? Clumsiness?  Jealousy? Dependence on others at meals, in dressing, washing, going to bed? Is  he afraid of being left alone? Afraid of darkness? Has he a clear idea of his  sex? Any primary, secondary, and tertiary sexual characteristics? How does he  regard the other sex? How far has his instruction in (p 299) sexual questions  proceeded? Step‑child? Illegitimate? Boarded out? What were his foster‑parents  like? Is he still in touch with them? Has he learned to walk and speak at the  normal time? Does he do this without mistakes? Was the teething normal? Had he  any noticeable difficulties in learning to write, calculate, draw, sing, swim?  Has he had any special attachment to any one mother, father, grandparents,  nurse? (Care should be taken to discover the establishment of a hostile attitude  to life, anything that might rouse feelings of inferiority, tendencies to  exclude difficulties and persons, traits of egotism, irritability, impatience,  heightened emotion, activity, eagerness, caution.)

3. Has the child caused much trouble? What things or persons does he fear most?  Does he cry out at night? Does he wet his bed? Does he want to domineer? Over  strong, or only over weak persons? Has he Shown a particular fondness for lying  in the bed of one of his parents? Is he awkward? Intelligent? Was he much teased  and laughed at? Does he shows excessive vanity about his hair, clothing, shoes?  Does he pick his nose? Bite his nails? Is he greedy at table? Has he stolen  anything?  Has he difficulties at the stool? (This will show clearly whether he has given  evidence of more or less activity in striving for pre‑eminence. Further, whether  obstinacy has prevented the cultivation of his instinctive activity. )

4. Did he make friends easily, or was he unsociable, and did he torment people  and animals? Docs he attach himself to younger persons, older, girls (boys)? Is  he (p 300) inclined to take the lead? Or does he stand aside? Does he collect  things? Is he niggardly? Fond of money? (This will show his ability to make  contact with other persons, and the extent to which he is discouraged.)

5. How does the child conduct himself at present in all these relationships? How  does he behave at school? Does he attend willingly? Does he arrive too late? Is  he agitated before going to school; does he hurry? Does he lose his books,  satchel, and papers? Does he get excited about school tasks and examinations?  Does he forget or refuse to do his home‑lessons? Does he waste his time? Is he  grubby? Indolent? Has he much or little concentration? Does he disturb the  lessons? Attitude to his teacher? Critical? Arrogant? Indifferent? Does he seek  help from others in his work, or does he always wait for them to make the offer?  Is he keen about gymnastics and sport? Does he consider himself partly or  entirely devoid of talent? Does he read a great deal? What sort of reading does  he prefer? Is he backward in every subject? (These questions will give an  insight into the child’s preparation for school life and into the results of  experiments at school on the child. They will also show his attitude towards  difficulties.)

6. Correct information regarding his home conditions, illnesses in the family,  alcoholism, criminal tendencies, neurosis, debility, syphilis, epilepsy,  standard of living? What deaths have there been? How old at the time? Is the  child orphaned? Who rules in the family? Is the upbringing strict,  fault‑finding, pampering? Are the children (p 301) frightened at life? How are  they looked after? Stepfather or mother? (This gives a view of the child in his  position in the family and enables an estimate to be made of the influences that  have helped to form the child.)

7. What is the place of the child in the family succession? Is he the oldest,  second, youngest, or an only child? Any rivalries? Frequent crying? A spiteful  laugh? Tendency to depreciate other persons without cause? (Important for  characterology; throws light on the child’s attitude to other persons.) 8. What  kind of ideas has the child at present about his future calling? What does he  think about marriage? What are the professions of the other members of the  family? What are the marital relations of his parents? (From the answers it is  possible to draw conclusions about the child’s courage and his hope for the  future. )

9. Favorite games? Favorite stories? Favorite characters in history and poetry?  Is he fond of interrupting the games of other children? Does he become lost in  fantasies? Day‑dreams? (This indicates his prototypes in his striving for  superiority.)

10. Earliest recollections? Impressive or frequently recurring  dreams? (Of flying, falling, being hindered, arriving too late for a train,  running a race, being imprisoned, anxiety dreams. ) (One often finds in these a  tendency to isolation; warning voices that lead the child to take excessive (p  302)caution; ambitious impulses and the preference for certain persons, for  passivity, etc. )

11. In what respect is the child discouraged? Does he feel  himself slighted? Does he react favorably to appreciation and praise? Has he  superstitious notions? Does he retreat from difficulties? Does he begin to do  various things and then Soon leave them alone? Is he uncertain about his future?  Does he believe in the injurious effects of heredity? Was he systematically  discouraged by those around him? Has he a pessimistic outlook on life? (This will give important viewpoints for discovering whether the child has lost  confidence in himself and is seeking his path in a wrong direction. )

12.  Additional faults: Does he make grimaces? Does he behave himself stupidly,  childishly, comically? (Rather uncourageous attempts to draw attention to  himself.)

13. Has he defects in speech? Is he ugly? Ungainly? Club‑footed? Rickets?  Knock‑kneed or bow‑legged? Badly developed? Abnormally stout, tall, small?  Defects in the eyes or the ears? Is he mentally arrested? Left‑handed? Does he  snore at night? Is he strikingly good‑looking? (Here we are dealing with  difficulties in life which the child as a rule exaggerates. These may lead to a  chronic state of discouragement. A similar mistaken development often occurs in  the case of very handsome children. They get the idea that everything must be  given them to be retained without effort and in this way they neglect to make  the right preparation for living.) (p 303)

14. Does the child speak openly of his lack of ability, of his ‘not being gifted  enough’ for school, for work, for life? Has he thoughts of suicide? Is there any  connection in point of time between his want of success and his mistakes?  (Neglect, forming gangs.) Does he place too great value on material success? Is  he servile? Hypocritical? Rebellious? (These are expressive forms of a  deep‑seated discouragement. They often occur after vain attempts to excel which  have come to grief not only on account of their inherent aimlessness, but also  as the result of want of understanding on the part of those round the child.  After the failure there comes the search for a substitutive gratification in  another field of struggle. ) 15. The child’s positive achievements? Type? Visual, acoustic, kinesthetic? (An important finger‑post, since possibly the  interest, inclination and preparation of the child point in another direction  than that formerly taken. )

On the basis of these questions, which should not be put point by point, but  conversationally, never mechanically, but always naturally and progressively,  there is always formed a picture of the child’s personality. By this the child’s  errors, though they are certainly not justified, will be made quite  intelligible. When mistakes are discovered they should always be explained in a  friendly manner, patiently and without threats.

In connection with the mistakes of adults I have found (p 304) the following  model of examination to be of some value. By adhering to it the expert will gain  well within half an hour a penetrating insight into the individual’s style of  life.

Certainly my own inquiries do not always keep to the rule of the following  sequence. The expert will not fail to notice its agreement with a medical  questionnaire.

By following it the Individual Psychologist, on account of the system by which  he works, will gain from the answers many a hint that would otherwise have  remained unnoticed. The following is approximately the sequence:

1. What are your complaints?

2. How were you situated when you noticed your symptoms?

3. How are you situated now?

4. What is the nature of your calling?

5. Describe your parents in relation to their character, health, the illness of  which they died, if they are not alive; what was their relation to yourself? 6. How many brothers and sisters have you? How are you placed among them? What  is their attitude towards you? How are the others placed in life? Do they also  have any illness?

7. Who was your father’s or your mother’s favorite?

8. Look for signs of pampering in childhood ( timidity, shyness, difficulties in  forming friendships, disorderliness, etc.).

9. Illnesses and attitude to illnesses in childhood?

10. Earliest recollections of childhood? (p 305)

11. What do you fear, or what did you fear the most?

12. What are your ideas about the other sex, in childhood or in later years? 13. What ca1ling would have most interested you, and in the event of your not  having adopted it, why did you not do so?

14. Ambitious, sensitive, inclined to angry outbursts, pedantic, domineering,  shy, impatient?

15. What sort of persons are around you at present?

Impatient? Bad‑tempered? Affectionate?

16. How do you sleep?

17. Dreams? (Of falling, flying, recurrent dreams, prophetic, about  examinations, missing a train, etc.) 18. Illnesses in the family tree? I should like at this point to give my readers an important hint. Any one Who  has Come thus far and has not completely grasped the significance of these  questions ought to begin again from the start and reflect whether he has not  read this book with alack of proper attention, or‑God forbid !‑with a hostile  bias. If I had to explain here the meaning of these questions for our knowledge  of the formation of the style of life, I should have to repeat the whole book.  So this sequence of questions and the children’s questionnaire may very well  serve as a test, since the result will show whether the reader has gone along  with me, that is, whether he has acquired an adequate amount of social feeling.  That, indeed, is the most important object of this book. It is meant to (p 306)  enable the reader not only to understand other persons, but to grasp the  importance of social feelings and to make it living for himself. (p 307)


The following selections on organ inferiority establish Adler as a field  theorist from the very beginning of his work. Written by a physician who until a  few years earlier had been a general practitioner, they are a contribution to  the theory of disease, according to which diseases can no longer be understood  as separate entities. A disease afflicts only the inferior organs. But what  constitutes an inferior organ? Inferiority is a relative concept, relative to  the environmental demands, to the total situation. In this way, outcomes  previously understood as due to independent agents are now seen as the result of  the interaction of forces. The various aspects of such interaction refer to: the  organism and the physical environment, the organism and the social (p 22)  environment, the separate organs with one another, and body and mind. From the point of view of the psychologist, then, the significance of these  selections is, firstly, that they represent an exposition of field theory,  albeit in terms of medical material.

The significance of these selections is, secondly, that they present the first  formulation of Adler’s theory of compensation. It in the organ‑environment  interaction, the balance threatens to turn against the organism, it responds  through attempts at compensation. Through the superstructure of the central  nervous system the mind, as part of the entire organism, will play its part in  the process of compensation or maintenance of equilibrium. Thus Adler arrived at  the concept of psychological compensation. The theory of compensation is similar  to that of homeostasis which Walter B. Cannon presented twenty‑five years later,  and when Cannon’s The Wisdom of the Body appeared, Adler wrote an enthusiastic  review of it ( 1933d) . This relationship between compensation and homeostasis  was recognized in a paper by John M. Fletcher entitled “The Wisdom of the Body,”  where he states: “I am not sure but that in Adler’s mechanism of compensation we  have a phenomenon which may be subsumed under what is described by Cannon as  homeostasis” (30, p. 14) . In another paper Fletcher explains: “Compensation. .  . becomes at once much more intelligible when conceived as hemostatic defense  reaction” (29, p. 86). Since compensation, like homeostasis, aims at maintenance  of equilibrium, it would as the dominating dynamic principle belong to a  relatively static, closed system. Adler’s theory, however, developed into a  completely open system of dynamics in which the dominating force was a ceaseless  upward striving and in which compensation then assumed a secondary role. Thirdly Adler’s writings on organ inferiority are of significance in that they  are an early discussion of the problem of psychosomatic disorders. In the foreword to a reprint edition of the Study of Organ Inferiority, Nolan D.  C. Lewis concludes: “This little book has not only an important historical value  but it presents a number of foci for future research. A thorough investigation  of organ inferiority concepts should be undertaken and included as a part of the  present day trends in psychosomatic medicine” (72,p.ix).

The selections below cover the theoretical essence of the material contained in  the Study of Organ Inferiority ( 1907a ), Adler’s first major contribution, but  are for the most part taken from a summary presented by him in a lecture held  the same year. This lecture contains all the (p 23) theoretical points while  omitting the detailed medical material which represents the greater part of the  original study.

In conclusion of this introduction we should like to point out that the term  inferiority feeling, an integral part of Adler’s psychology, is not to be found  in the Study of Organ Inferiority or its summary . The concept of inferiority  feeling did not appear until three )’ears later ( 191oa: see pp. 44‑45) . The  understandable mistake has frequently been made of assuming that the Study  includes the discussion of inferiority feelings. Yet at this time Adler still  confined himself to objective terms and was not concerned with anything so  subjective as feelings.

As a general remark, we should add that the selections here and throughout this  chapter, aside from the aspects which became integrated in Adler’s system, tend  to be expressed in terms of outdated physiology and deal with drive psychology  which Adler subsequently attacked severely.

Despite tendencies pointing toward unity of the personality, the self is still  absent from the discussion.


: The inferiority to which I refer applies to  an organ which is developmentally retarded, which has been inhibited in its  growth or altered, in whole or in part. These inferior organs may include the  sense organs, the digestive apparatus, the respiratory tracts, the  genito‑urinary apparatus, the circulatory organs, and the nervous system. Such  inferiority can usually be proved only at birth or often only at the embryonic  stage. The innate anomalies of organs range from malformation to slow maturation  of otherwise normal organs. Since there is a strong relationship between  inferiority and disease, we may expect that an inherited inferiority corresponds  to an inherited disease.The fate of the inferior organs is extremely varied. Development and the  external stimuli of life press toward overcoming the expressions of such  inferiority . Thus we may find approximately the following outcomes with  innumerable intermediate stages: inability to survive, anomaly of form, anomaly  of function, lack of resistance and disposition to disease, compensation within  the organ, compensation through a second organ, compensation through the  psychological superstructure, and organic or psychological overcompensation. We  find pure, compensated, and overcompensated inferiorities. (p 24) T


One way by which organ  inferiority itself is through localization of a disease in that specific organ.  This occurs when the inferior organ reacts to pathogenic stimuli from the  environment‑ We wish to replace the obscure concept of “pathological  disposition” by the following proposition: Disease is the resultant of organ  inferiority and external demands. The latter are limited in duration and to a  particular cultural environment. Changes in external demands represent cultural  progress, changes of the mode of living, or social improvements. They are the  work of the human mind and, in the long run, tend to curb excessive straining of  the organs. The external demands are related to the developmental potentialities  of the organs and their nervous superstructure, and they condition the relative  inferiority of an organ when their requirements exceed a certain measure. Within these observations chance, as the correcting factor in development, seems  to be precluded. A clear example would be Professor Habermann’s observation that  members of occupations such as blacksmiths and artillery gunners, who are  exposed to loud noises, are prone to diseases of the ear. It can easily be seen  that not every auditory apparatus is suited for such occupations. But it is also  clear that such injuries regularly give cause for technical changes in  industrial procedure, that continuous employment in certain occupations changes  the affected organs, and that health hazards exist on the path to parity  (Vollwertigkeit ) .In summary, we may say that hygiene and preventive medicine are subject to the  conditions of compensation. All therapeutic methods are likewise aimed at the  compensation of organ inferiority which has become visible. FORMS OF COMPENSATION: As soon as the equilibrium, which must be assumed to  govern the economy of the individual organ or the whole organism, appears to be  disturbed due to inadequacy of form or function, a certain biological process is  initiated in the inferior organs. The unsatisfied demands increase until the  deficit is made up through growth of the inferior organ, of the paired organ, or  of some other organ which can serve as a substitute, completely or in part. This  compensating for the defect through increase (p 25) in growth and function may,  under favorable circumstances achieve overcompensation; it will usually also  include the central nervous system in its increased development. If reflex anomalies of the mucous membranes have been definite1y shown to be  re1ated to the psyche, then this holds even more for chi1dhood disorders, such  as retarded speech development, stammering, blinking, thumb sucking, and eating  difficulties. These are the visible expressions of an a1tered functioning of  inferior organs and represent striking disturbances in the process of  compensation.

Usually, however, the normal grow of the superordinated nerve tracts, that is,  simple compensation through growth, seems to be sufficient to bring about normal  functioning. In this event the organ anomaly remains the same, and upon closer  examination we very often find that unextinguishable remnants last throughout  life. In other cases the defect may have been overcome for all normal conditions  only. It reappears as soon as psychological tension arises but remains hidden at  times of rest. Frequent examples of this are: blinking in bright light,  squinting during close work, stammering during excitement, and vomiting during  emotion. This confirms our guess that compensation is due to overperformance and  increased growth of the brain. This strengthening of the psychologica1  superstructure is shown by the successful outcome; its relation to steady  exercise is easily guessed. Thus a1so in the central nervous system the same  relationships of inferiority and compensation prevail.

In favorable cases of compensation, the inferior organ has the better developed  and psychologically more potent superstructure. The psychological manifestations  of such an organ may be more plentiful and better developed as far as drive,  sensitivity, attention, memory, apperception, empathy, and consciousness are  concerned. In the favorable case, an inferior nutritive apparatus may muster the  greater psychological potency in all re1ations to nourishment. But it may also  be superior in everything related to the gaining of food, since its  superstructure will dominate and draw the other psychological complexes into its  orbit. The food drive will dominate to such an extent that it may find  expression in all personal and social relations, as in gourmandism,  acquisitiveness, parsimony, and avarice. The same holds true for other inferior  organs. This may lead to a more extended sensory life and a more carefu1 and  correct appraisal of the world as far as it is accessible to the organ in  question.

Through this process psychological axes develop according to which the  individual is oriented. This a1ways takes p1ace in dependency on one (p 26) or  more inferior organs. The striving to gain pleasure for these organs becomes  noticeable also in dreams and fantasy, as well as in play and occupational  preference and choice, because in the case of an inferior organ, primitive  activity of the organ ( drive) is always associated with pleasure. Certain  childhood disorders point to this pleasure with such clearness that they are  mistaken for sexual activity . If we carry this thought further, we ultimately  arrive at the supposition that the psychological superstructure of the organ  largely functions as a substitute for the deficiencies of the organ in order to  gain its pleasure in relation to the environment.


Since the inferiority of the deviating  organs comes from the external environment, changes of the environment, organ  inferiority, and corresponding ameliorating brain compensation all take place  under mutual influence. This point of view of mutual interaction seems  applicable also to the origin of highly cultivated psychomotor achievements, to  the origin and development of language and art, to the nature of genius, and to  the birth of philosophical systems and world philosophies. I trust that it will  prove its worth also in respect to the invention and solution of new problems.  This point of view forces us much more clearly than any other to avoid the  pitfalls of abstraction and to observe the phenomena in their context and in  flux. I have pursued it in the field of medical science;perhaps my modest suggestion will meet with approval elsewhere as well. But the picture of the world which is founded in brain compensation cannot  develop unlimitedly, for it cannot give free reign either to its drives or to  its unconscious component. Rather its expressions are limited by the social  environment and by the culture, which, through the drive for self‑preservation,  permit the expressions of the psyche to unfold only when they can fit themselves  into the frame of the culture. Nonetheless the strengthened superstructure of  the inferior organ often assumes new and valuable modes of operation. To be  sure, these ways may also be pathological ways, as in the neuroses. (p 27)


When overcompensation attempts to assert itself in  a cultural manner and in this effort enters into new, although difficult and  often inhibited, paths, the very great expressions of the psyche arise which we  must attribute to genius. Lombroso in his theory of genius dealt only with the  mixed cases and thus arrived at a false conception of the pathological genius.  The inferior organ is not a pathological formation, although it represents the  basic condition for pathology . Under favorable conditions the impulse toward  brain compensation can end in an overcompensation which shows no trace of  pathology .The outcome of overcompensation depends on several conditions; in other words,  it is overdetermined. As one of these conditions we have met the limitations of  culture. Another determiner is the chaining of the dominant superstructure to  other psychological fields. For example, the visual superstructure may be  chained to the auditory organs and to the superstructure of the language organs.  Only these multiple compensations, their confluences and mutual inhibitions give  us an adequate picture of the psyche. The outcome of an overcompensation  depends, thirdly, on its stamina. Nature very often fails in the correction of  the inferior organ, in these cases creating transitory compensations which  easily succumb to attacks. Inability, neurosis, psychological disease, in short,  pathological forms may appear in this event. A small sample from the analysis of  paranoia may serve as illustration. The overcompensation of the inferior visual  apparatus plays an outstanding part, in addition to other apparatus. The drive to see, for example, has become highly developed in a great part of  paranoiacs and has exhausted all visual possibilities in the world. Then an  unfavorable constellation sets in and the weakness of the overcompensation  expresses itself in hallucinatory fits and visual appearances. The forces  constituting reason soon show a similar fallibility, the patient regarding  himself as the object of the visual drive of others.

The positive counterpart may be shown in a small aspect of the psyche of the  poet Schiller for which I am indebted to the Viennese writer Rank, who is  familiar with my views. I should like to preface this example by stating that I  must attribute especially to the dramatic poet a particular and unique  overcompensation of the visual organ. In such overcompensation is founded his  scenic power, the selection and elaboration of his material. In the drama of the  marksman William Tell, Schiller reveals a large (p 28) number of allusions to  the overcompensation of the visual organ, phrases which concern the eye and its  functions. I wish furthermore to point out the blinding of Melchthal and the  hymn to the light of the eyes in William Tell. Schiller himself had weak eyes,  suffered from inflammation of the eyes, and, until adulthood, from the childhood  disorder of blinking. He was much interested in hunting. Weltrich relates that  the family of Schiller received its name on account of strabismus ( schielen ) .  This would be of interest for the study of heredity . I mention this to call  attention to the relationship of the poet to the inferior organ. Signs of an inferior visual apparatus playa large part in the development of  painters ( see also Reich, J ., “Kunst und Auge.” Oesterreichische Rundschau,  Vienna, 1908) . Guercino da Centa, 15th century, was given his name because he  squinted. Piero de la Francesca, who is particularly credited with the art of  perspective, became blind in old age, according to Vasaris. Among the more  modern painters Lenbach had only one eye. Mateyko was extremely myopic. Manet  suffered from astigmatism. Among art students, approximately seventy per cent  have been found to suffer from some optical anomalies.

Among orators, actors, and singers, I have also very often found signs of organ  inferiority. The Bible reports about Moses that he had a heavy tongue, whereas  his brother Aaron had the talent of talking. Demosthenes, became the greatest  orator of Greece. Camille Demoulin who usually stuttered is reported by his  contemporaries to have been very fluent when he made a speech. Musicians quite frequently suffer from ear afflictions. Beethoven and Robert  Franz, both of whom became deaf, are well‑known examples. Klara Schumann reports  hearing and speech difficulties in childhood.

Myths have also, since time immemorial, taken hold of the phenomenon of the  inferior organ and its overcompensation. The myth of the blind marksman who  always hits the target is related to the William Tell saga. The following quotation from Grimm’s German Mythology bears witness to how  closely our conception of compensation and overcompensation of the inferior  organ corresponds to the popular feeling: “We find want of limbs in the heroes  as well as in the Gods. Orin is one‑eyed, Tyr ‑ one‑handed, Loki ‑ lame, Hoeder  ‑ blind, Vidar ‑ dumb, Hagano also one‑eyed, Walkeri ‑ one‑handed, Gunther and  Wieland are lame; and there are a goodly number of blind and dumb heroes.” (Tyr  likeness)

Far from offering those details as complete proof, the example are intended only  to direct the (p 29) theory of organ inferiority and its relation to philosophy,  psychology, and aesthetics.

Confluence and Transformation of Drives (1908): COMMENTS: It was in fact dealt  with already in the preceding part, for both interaction of forces and  compensation imply the unity of the organism. Adler’s next contribution,  presented below, was more specifically concerned with unity, which he conceived  in the form of a “confluence of drives.” At this time, Adler was still a member  of the Freudian circle and still subscribed to drive psychology and hedonism; he  still had the natural‑science approach, seeking to explain mental life as caused  by physiological processes.

In the same paper, he also described the “transformation of drives,” an idea  which came to be of the greatest importance in Freud but which in Adler merely  foreshadowed his later view that all causal factors, including drives, are  relative to the individual’s ultimate goal and style of life.


: HEINZ L. ANSBACHER, PH.D. AND ROWENA R. ANSBACHER, PH.D.When Adler separated from Freud, he had developed away from a biologically  oriented, elementaristic, objective drive psychology and toward a socially  oriented, subjectivistic, holistic psychology attitudes. The present chapter  will show the part which Hans Vaihinger’ s fictionalism, “idealistic  positivism,” played in Adler’s further development in this direction. Vaihinger’ s work appeared in 1911, the same year in the beginning of which  Adler withdrew from the psychoanalytic circle. When Adler presented in the  following year, 1912, his “Comparative Individual Psychology” in The Neurotic  Character, his most important book, this was replete with evidence of Vaihinger’  s influence and contained several sincere acknowledgments of this, such as: “It  was good fortune which made me acquainted with Vaihinger’ s ingenious Philosophy  of “As If” (Berlin, 1911) , a work in which I found the thoughts familiar to me  from the neurosis presented as valid for scientific thinking in general” (  1912a, p. 22).

In our experience, it is impossible to gain a complete understanding of Adler’s  theory, especially with respect to his important concept of j the “fictional  goal,” without 3 knowledge of Vaihinger’s fictionalism. Accordingly, we will  deal with brief presentations of Vaihinger through selections from his book, and  secondly, with Adler’s own fictional finalism. (p 76)

A. Fictionalism By Hans Vaihinger: Fictions, according to Vaihinger, are ideas,  including un‑yet serve the useful function of enabling us to deal with it better  than we could otherwise. This statement, “All men are created equal” would be an  example of a fiction. The statement is in contradiction to realize; yet, as an  ideal, it is of great practical value in everyday life. This sort of fiction  comes close to a working hypothesis which is adopted as a basis for action  because it works in practice, although its truth is dubious. Such fiction can  better be understood by comparing it to hypothesis; while the hypothesis submits  its reality to the test and demands verification, the fiction is a mere  auxiliary construct, a scaffolding to be demolished if no longer needed. As  distinguished from both fiction and hypothesis, dogma refers to an idea which is  considered definitely established. Another aspect of the fiction, helpful in  understanding the concept, is its subjective character. According to Vaihinger  the subjective is fictional.

The main influence of Vaihinger on Adler was to provide him with a philosophic  foundation for his developing subjective finalism, as will be shown in the  selections from Adler in the second part of this chapter. Beyond this, however,  Adler adapted a number of concepts from Vaihinger to his theory of personality  and abnormal psychology; this will be shown in the comments after some of the  selections from Vaihinger which follow.


The mind is not merely appropriative, it is also  assimilative and constructive. In the course of its growth, it creates its  organs of its own accord in virtue of its adaptable constitution, but only when  stimulated from without, and adapts them to external circumstances. Such organs  are, for example, forms of perception and thought, and certain concepts and  other logical constructs.Our subject is the fictive activity of the logical functions; the products of  this activity‑fictions. The fictive activity of the mind is an expression of the  fundamental psychical forces; fictions are mental structures. The (p 77) psyche  weaves this aid to thought out of itself for the mind is inventive. Fictio means, in the first place, an activity of fingere, that is to say, of f  constructing, forming, giving shape, elaborating, presenting, artistically  fashioning, conceiving, thinking, imagining, assuming, planning, devising,  inventing. Secondly, it refers to the product of these activities, the fictional  assumption, fabrication, creation, the imagined case. Its most conspicuous  character is that of unhampered and free expression.

The organic function of thought is carried on for the most part unconsciously.  Should the product finally enter consciousness also, this light only penetrates  to the shallows, and the actual fundamental processes are carried on in the  darkness of the unconscious.

Nominalism naturally declared all general ideas to be ficta, fictiones, without,  however, attaching to fiction the positive meaning which it has for us. The  negative sense of the fiction we call the assumption, for instance, that general  ideas are expressions for something unreal, that is, definitely invented and  fabricated; whereas by its positive sense we mean the realization that these  fictions have nevertheless great practical value, that they serve as the means  for acquiring knowledge.

For us the essential element in a fiction is not the fact of its being a  conscious deviation from reality, a mere piece of imagination‑but we stress the  useful nature of this deviation. If we simply say, “The whole world is our idea  and all forms are subjective,” we get an untenable subjectivism. But if we say:  “Conceptual forms and fictions are expedient psychical constructs,” then these  are closely related to “cosmic agencies and constituents” ( Lass) , for it is  they that call these expedient forms into existence in the organic being. The ”as if” world, which is formed in this manner, the world of the “unreal” is  just as important as the world of the so‑called real or actual ( in the ordinary  sense of the word) ; indeed it is far more important for ethics and aesthetics.  This aesthetic and ethical world of ”as if,” the world of the unreal, becomes  finally for us a world of values which particularly in the form of religion,  must be sharply distinguished in our mind from the world of becoming. It is senseless to question the meaning of the universe, and this is the idea  expressed in Schiller’s words: “Know this, a mind sublime puts greatness into  life, yet seeks it not therein” (Huldigung del Kiinste, 1805). This is  positivist idealism. (p 78)


Freud’s biologica11y oriented system tacitly accepted  a mechanistic, reductionistic positivism; it looked for ultimate causes in the  past and in objective events. As we have seen, Freud held that “in the  psychological field the biological factor is rea11y the rock‑bottom” ( see Fp.  51‑52) , and he anticipated that we may reach ” a (p 87) position to replace the  psychological terms by physiological or chemical ones” ( see pp. 60‑61). Adler’s subjectivism, where values, goals, and secondary motives had replaced  drives and primary motives in importance, was not a physiological reductionism.  If mental events cannot be reduced to physiological events, systematization is  possible only by establishing a hierarchy of these mental events, that is, a  hierarchy of values and goals. This leads to the philosophical position of  teleology and finalism, the determination by final causes. But in this position  there lay the danger of parting from the scientific basis and approaching  theology. It was in Vaihinger s idealistic positivism that Adler now found for  his subjectivistic and finalistic psychology a philosophical foundation which  was acceptable, encouraging, and stimulating.The influence of Vaihinger on Adler finds its most obvious expression in his  term fictional. Three attributes of Vaihinger’s term are important for the  understanding of Adler’s use of it.

1) From the psychological, not logical point of view, Vaihinger s concept of  fiction comes very close to what one would today call the subjective or the  personal frame of reference or the phenomenal field. Vaihinger say’s that the  fictional includes the subjective, “subjective is fictional” (see p. 83) . 2) Fictions are not reducible to objective causes. According to Vaihinger  Fictions are mental structures. The psyche weaves this aid to thought out of  itself; for the mind is inventive” ( see pp. 77‑78) . Fictional structures are  thus creations of the individual.

3) Thought processes, including the fictional activity, are fundamentally  “carried on in the darkness of the unconscious” ( see p. 78) . When Adler combined the concept of the fiction with that of the goal, as in  fictional goal or the guiding fiction, he implied that his view of causality was  subjectivistic, that it was deterministic only in a restricted sense, and that  it took unconscious processes into account. These three points may be expanded  as follows.

1) Adler had already taken the observable forward orientation of the individual  and his concern with the future as the center of his dynamic psychology. By now  describing goals and the future as fictional, he expressed in effect that this  future was not the objective future but a subjective future as experienced in  the present. Thus he avoided the teleological dilemma of the determination of  present events by something which remains in the future. This solution is, of  course, the one generally (p 88) accepted today in one form or another. Wolfgang  Kohler stated it most succinctly from the point of view of Gestalt psychology  when he said: “It is not the actual future, the future as such, toward which we  are directed in our planning, and in which we perceive our goals; it is that  part of an actually present phenomenal field which we call the ‘future’ ” (62,  p. 380) . Adler’s fictional or subjective finalism or teleology does not violate  Kurt Lewin’s principle of the contemporaneity of motivation (68, p. 34) .  Adler’s fictional (subjective) goal is a present one; it derives its great  importance from the postulate that it is an ever‑present goal ( 1930a, p. 5),  although it is not necessarily present in consciousness. “We can comprehend  every single life phenomenon, as if the past, the present, and the future  together with a superordinated, guiding idea were present in it in traces”  (1912a, p. iii). If we translate “as if” into “subjective” we find that this  sentence refers to the subjective past, present, and future as being present in  the phenomenological field in trance.

2) The term fictional goal also expressed Adler’s conviction that the origin of  the goal is, in the last analysis, not reducible to objective determiners.  Although the objective factors of heredity and environment, organ inferiorities,  and past experiences are utilized by the individual in the process of forming  his final goal, the latter is still a fiction, a fabrication, the individual’s  own creation. Such causality corresponds to “soft” determinism, that is,  “determinism from the inner nature of life,” as contrasted to “hard” determinism  “from external pressures alone” (William James, according to Murphy, 84, pp.  644‑645) .  Adler was not aware of the term “soft” determinism, nor of Jaspers’  distinction between external, objective causation and internal, subjective  causation ( see pp. 13‑14) . When Adler rejects causality without qualification,  he is in fact rejecting “hard” determinism or external causation.  Thus each  time the word cause or any of its derivatives is found below, the reader should  understand it to signify external, objective causation, the old causa efficiens.  It is only this which Adler rejected and not internal causation or the old causa  finalis.

3) Finally the fictitiousness of the goal also implies its unconscious nature.  Adler’s goal concept is characterized particularly by the fact that the  individual is largely unaware of his goal, that it is a hidden or unconscious  goal, a goal which the individual does not understand. It is the true nature of  the individual’s hidden goal which constitutes, according to Adler, the  essential content of the unconscious. (p 89)

As the five sections within this part will show: (1) the fictional final goal  became for Adler the principle of internal, subjective causation of  psychological events, similar to Jaspers’ concept of the schema: (2) the goal  represented a creation of the individual and was largely unconscious: (3) it  also became the principle of unity and self‑consistency of the personality  structure; from the point of view of the subject, the fictional goal was taken  as the basis for orientation in the world; and (5), as one aspect of  compensation for felt inferiorities.

One more characteristic of fictional which played a part in Adler’s use of the  word should be mentioned. This characteristic, which belongs to the logical, not  to the psychological, properties, is that a fiction can also be a working  hypothesis, as in the case of the “heuristic fiction” (see p. 80). Accordingly,  the fictional goal was at first used by Adler also as a heurisbc concept in that  he regarded the individual ”as it” he were striving toward a final goal.  Several years later, Adler dropped this last, logical connotation troll his use  of the word fictional. “Our experience and our impressions strengthen in us the  conviction that this heuristic method represents more than an auxiliary method  of research, and that it fundamentally coincide to the largest extent with real  events of psychological development, which are partly consciously experienced  and partly deducible from the unconscious. The goal‑striving of the psyche is  consequently not only our view but also a basic tact” ( 1927a, pp.56‑57). Eventually Adler relinquished the term fictional altogether when speaking of the  goal. However, the three psychological meaning of the term fictional, as  subjective created and unconscious, remained the most essential components of  Adler’s goal concept. (p 90)


HEINZ L. ANSBACHER, PH.D. AND ROWENA R. ANSBACHER,  PH.D.We have seen that Adler tended from the beginning toward a theory of the unity  and self‑consistency of the personality. I Such a theory would need a prepotent  dynamic force. This was at first ) described as the aggression drive, the  outcome of a confluence of drives. After Adler had abandoned drive psychology,  it became the “wanting to be a real man” of the masculine protest. With Adler’s  full commitment to fictional finalism in 1912, the fictional goal became the  principle of unity of the personality and the striving toward this goal the  prepotent dynamic force.

While in the preceding chapter our selections were concentrated on the  theoretical significance of the goal, its origin, and its functions for the  subject, and we omitted as much as possible discussion of the content of the  goal and the goal striving itself, still it became evident that the goal is one  of superiority, that consequently the striving is toward I superiority, and  finally that the striving is compensatory, originating in a feeling of  inferiority .

From then on and throughout the years of Adler’s writings the general  description of the governing dynamic force as one of striving from inferiority  to superiority, from “below” to “above” remained the same. But the meaning of  superiority, or above, that is, the specific goal point, underwent an important  change.

At first, above meant being a real man, power, self‑esteem, security; all these  goal points were expressed in terms of the individual. But in these early days,  Adler as a psychiatrist, wrote in terms of the neurotic patient; it was the  neurotic whom Adler showed as striving for enhancement of his self‑esteem or for  the safeguarding of it. When he generalized from the neurotic, he described the  normal individual as behaving in the same way, only less clearly so and to a  lesser degree. The neurotic was the frame of reference, the standard of  comparison so to speak. (p 101)

Later, above came to mean perfection, completion, or overcoming, goal points  which are no longer fully expressed in terms of the self but which can be  applied to outside objects also. While overcoming may refer to internal  obstacles, it usually refers to external ones; completion usually, refers to a  task; and perfection to an achievement or a product. When Adler wrote in these  terms, the frame of reference was no longer the neurotic, but man in general,  the mentally healthy individual. When he now generalized, it was from the normal  to the abnormal; the abnormal also strives for perfection, although it may  hardly recognized as such.

What brought about this change in frame of reference from the abnormal to the  normal? Originally Adler had drawn his inferences from his patients; regarding  normal individuals, he only knew that they must be similarly motivated. The  difference between the two was one of degree, the normal showing a less  accentuated, less dogmatized, goal of superiority and less urgency in leaching  it than the abnormal. The greater motivation of the neurotic came from his  greater inferiority feeling. But Adler had not answered the question: In what  respect, if any, is the normal more motivated than the neurotic? This question  would certainly need to be answered since the normal would seem to strive as  much as the abnormal, certainly at least in many instances. The change and the answer were made possible by the fact that Adler developed a  criterion for normality, during the period roughly from 1920‑1930. Once he had  such a criterion, he could rewrite his motivational theory in terms of the  normal. Adler’s ultimate concept of social interest becomes this criterion. The  ideally normal individual has an ideal amount of social interest. Thus, while  the neurotic is more concerned with his self‑esteem, and has a personal goal of  superiority, the normal individual, due to his greater social interest, is more  concerned with gaining satisfaction by overcoming difficulties which are  appreciated as such by others as well. He has a goal of superiority which  includes the welfare of others. The difference in motivation between the normal  and abnormal then became primarily one of kind of instead of degree. While the  abnormal is more motivated in the direction of a private intelligence and is  more self‑centered in his striving, the normal is more motivated in the  direction of common sense that is, he is more task‑centered in his striving. When Adler replaced the earlier formations of the meaning of superiority by  striving for perfection, he did not leave the earlier out of account; they were  given a subordinate position in his system, just as he (p 102) had given the  drives and heredity and environment a subordinate place.

Our reason for beginning the presentation of the selections on the striving for  superiority with Adler’s late writings is that thereby we can best present the  entire picture, with all the parts organized according to their relative  significance.

Accordingly, the first part of the present chapter will deal with the striving  for superiority in terms of perfection, and the second part in terms of  self‑enhancement. This will be followed by the discussion of the inferiority  feeling, the origin of all the striving, according to Adler , while the last  section will deal with his further views on the position of drives in human  dynamics. (p 103)

Man as an everstriving being cannot be like God. God who is eternally complete,  who directs the stars, who masters fates, who elevates man from lowliness to  Himself, who speaks from the cosmos to every single human soul, is the most  brilliant manifestation of the goal of perfection to date. In God’s nature,  religious mankind perceives the way to height. His call it hears again the  innate voice of life which must have its direction towards the goal of  perfection, toward overcoming the felling of lowliness and transitoriness of the  existence here below. The human soul, as part of the movement of life, is  endowed with the ability to participate in the uplift, elevation, perfection,  and completion. (p 107)


One of Adler’s favorite devices for teaching and  preaching the “absolute truth” of social embeddedness and the resulting  necessity of a well‑developed social interest was to point out that all the main  problems in life are problems of human cooperation. Although Adler does not say  so, he implies that in present society the satisfaction of almost all  conceivable needs depends on the solution of these problems of cooperation.  These problems represent the ties of the individual to social life and are  somewhat loosely classified into problems of occupation, social relations in  general, and love and marriage.At this point Individual Psychology comes into contact with sociology. For a  long time now I have been convinced that all the questions of life can be  subordinated to the three major problems ‑ the problem of communal life, of  work, and of love. These three arise from the inseparable bond that of necessity  links men together for association, for the provision of livelihood, and the  care of offsprings.

These three ties in which human beings are bound set the three problems of life,  but none of these problems can be solved separately. Each of them demands a  successful approach to the other two.

a. Occupation: The first tie sets the problem of occupation. We are living on  the surface of this planet, with only the resources of this planet, with the  fertility of its soil, with its mineral wealth, and with its climate and  atmosphere. It has always been the task of mankind to find the right answer to  the problem these conditions set us, and even today we cannot think that we have  found a sufficient answer. In every age, mankind has arrived at a certain level  of solution, but it has always been necessary to strive for improvement and  further accomplishments.

When somebody makes shoes, he makes himself useful to someone else, and he has  the right to a sufficient livelihood, to all the advantages (p 131) of hygiene,  and to a good education of his children. The fact that he receives payment for  this is the recognition of his usefulness in an age of developed trade. In this  way, he arrives at a feeling of his worth to society, the only possible means of  mitigating the universal human feeling of inferiority. The person who performs  useful work lives in the midst of the developing human society and helps to  advance it.

b. Society: The second tie by which men are bound is their membership in the  human race and their association with others of their kind. The attitude and  behavior of a human being would be altogether different if he were the only one  of his kind alive on earth. We have always to reckon with others, to adapt  ourselves to others, and to interest ourselves in them. This problem is best  solved by friendship, social feeling, and cooperation. With the solution of this  problem, we have made an incalculable advance towards the solution of the first.  It was only because men learned to cooperate that the great discovery of the  division of labor was made, a discovery which is the chief security for the  welfare of mankind. Through the division of labor we can use the results of many  different kinds of training and organize many different abilities, so that all  of them contribute to the common welfare and guarantee relief from insecurity  and increased opportunity for all the members of society.

Some people attempt to evade the problem of occupation, to do no work, or to  occupy themselves outside of common human interests. We shall always find,  however, that if they dodge this problem, they will in fact be claiming support  from their fellows. In one way or another, they will be living on the labor of  others without making a contribution of their own.

c. Love: The third tie of a human being is that he is a member of one of the two  sexes and not of the other. On his approach to the other sex and on the  fulfillment of his sexual role depends his part in the continuance of mankind.  This relationship between the two sexes also sets a problem. It, too, is a  problem which cannot be solved apart from the other two problems. For a  successful sol1,tion of the problem of love and marriage, an occupation  contributing to the division of labor is necessary, as well as a good and  friendly contact with other human beings. In our own day, the highest solution  for this problem, the solution most coherent with the demands of society and of  the division of labor, is monogamy. In the way in which an individual answers  this problem the degree of his cooperation can always be seen. These three problems are never found apart, for they all throw (p 132)  cross‑lights in on another. A solution of one help toward the solution of the  others, and indeed we can say that they are all aspects of the same situation  and the same problem ‑ the necessity for a human being to preserve life and to  further life in the environment in which he finds himself. (p 133)


Style of life is variously equated with the self or ego (1931b,  p. 4: 1935a, p. 7), a man’s own personality (1931a, p. 200), the unity of  personality (1935a, p. 7), individuality (1931b, p.4), individual form of  creative activity (1935a, p. 8), the method of facing problems (1933a, p 16),  the whole attitude to life (1920c, p. 135) and others.Although in Adler’s earlier writings the emphasis was on the goal, he had from  the beginning used several terms foreshadowing the style of lite. When he was  still mechanistically and biologically oriented and attempted to express the  unity of the individual through the concept of the confluence of drives, he was  also aware of the uniqueness of the individual and of the need to give this idea  an expression. This he did at first with the term psychological main axis. In  1912, in The Neurotic Character, the main axis became the guiding idea which  provides the approach to the fictional goal through the life plan: “We may look  upon every single manifestation of life as it in its past, present, and future  there were contained traces of a superordinated guiding idea. . . Comparative  Individual Psychology sees in every psychological process the imprint, a symbol  so to speak, of the se1t‑consistently oriented life plan” ( 1912a, p. iii) . In  1927 we find schema of life (Lebens‑Schablone) and line of movement used  synonymously with style of life ( 1927a, p. 3) . Finally, in 1933 Adler proposed  the individual’s law of movement as underlying the style of life (see pp.  195‑196).

Unity and Sovereignty of the Self: The child is constantly confronted afresh  with every‑varying problems. Since these can be solved neither by conditioned  reflexes nor by innate abilities, it would be extremely hazardous to expose a  child who is equipped only with conditioned reflexes or with innate abilities to  the tests of a world which is continuously raising new problems. The solution of  the greatest problem would always be up to the never‑resting creative mind. This  remains pressed into the path of the child’s style of life, as does everything  that has a name in the various schools of psychology, such as instincts,  impulses, feeling, thinking, acting, attitude to pleasure and (p 174)  displeasure, and finally self‑love and social interest. The style of life  commands all forms of expression; the whole commands the parts. In real life we always find a confirmation of the melody of the total sell, of  the personality, with its thousand fold ramifications. If we believe that the  foundation, the ultimate basis of everything has been found in character traits,  drives, or reflexes, the self is likely to be overlooked. Authors who emphasize  a part of the whole are likely to attribute to this part all the aptitudes and  observations pertaining to the sell, the individual. They show “something” which  is endowed with prudence, determination, volition, and creative power without  knowing that they are actually describing the sell, rather than drives,  character traits, or reflexes.

Individual Psychology goes beyond the views of philosophers like Kant and newer  psychologists and psychiatrists who have accepted the idea of the totality  [wholeness] of the human being. Very early in my work, I found man to be a  [sell‑consistent] unity. The foremost task of Individual Psychology is to prove  this unity in each individual ‑ in his thinking, feeling, acting, in his  so‑called conscious and unconscious, in every expression of his personality.  This (self‑consistent) unity we call the style of life of the individual. What  is frequently labeled the ego is nothing more than the style of the individual. The very first requisite for a science of psychology is missing from  psychoanalysis, namely, a recognition of the coherence of the personality and of  the unity of the individual in all his expressions.

Gestalt psychology shows a better understanding of this coherence. But we are  not satisfied with the Gestalt alone or, as we prefer to say, with the whole,  once all the notes are brought into reference with the melody. We are satisfied  only when we have recognized in the melody the author and his attitudes as well,  for example, Each and Each’s style of life. (p 175)


: By Rudolf R. Dreikurs, M.D. Alfred Adler Institute, Chicago, Ill.  1953:What forms the personality of a human being? What makes a man act as he does?  What forces govern all the activities of the human mind? These are the  fundamental questions which psychology tries to answer. So many people are now  exploring them and there are so many theories that we are apt to feel confused.  Some assume that the life of each individual is determined by the experiences  and desires of his ancestors (lung). Others regard the Psyche as the battlefield  of a variety of instincts, corresponding to various forms of the sexual instinct  (The Psycho‑Analysis of Freud) . Many think that the most complicated behavior  patterns are the outcome of the automatic action of certain reflex mechanisms,  which are built up and maintained by habit (The Reflexology of Bechterev).  others look upon man with all his functions as the mere product of his  environment, which through the medium of education directs his behavior (The  Behaviorism of Watson). A number of other theories have been advanced by  different pioneers in order to explain psychic phenomena. The leading idea of  the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler is found in his recognition of the  importance of human society, not only for the development of the individual  character, but also for the orientation of every single action and emotion in  the life of a human being.

There are certain species that cannot exist without close contact with their  kind. Man belongs to these. Nature has not fitted him to survive singlehanded.  He is not equipped in the same way as other animals for the struggle tor  existence. He neither has weapons of attack in the form of sharp teeth, great  physical strength and powerful claws, nor is he able to defend his life by (p 1)  extraordinary swiftness or inconspicuous smallness. It seems that men formed  herds exactly like other herding animals simply because this was necessary in  order to preserve existence. [1 It is a well‑known fact that birds fitted to  share the struggle for existence and to rear their young in pairs. gather  together in flocks before undertaking the difficult task which a long journey  involves. Likewise weak, defenseless animals form herds in order to organize a  better defense. The formation of a community is a very effective way of  preserving existence, and therefore it is often adopted. but it is not the only  way. Animals similar to those living in communities are also frequently found  leading a solitary mode of existence ( wild elephants).]

Most of us have no adequate idea of the extent to which man nowadays depends on  co‑operation with his fellow men. We have only to think of the thousands of  people whose labor we employ each day, or need only consider how many people  have co‑operated to provide our houses, clothing, food, and a thousand other  necessities of our daily lives. For thousands of years man has lived in more or  less close social relations with his fellow men and has adapted himself to a  system of division of labor and mutual assistance. The human infant is one of  the most defenseless creatures in the world. He cannot find his food without  help, nor even move alone. In exercising all his functions he depends on the  co‑operation of others.

The question now arises: to what extent can living in a closely knit community  form the character of an individual? It might seem, as Freud maintains, that  human instincts adapt themselves only incompletely and faultily to the reality  of close social relationships, and that the human Psyche is indeed at the mercy  of incompatible demands‑the need for adjustment to the community, and the needs  of innate instincts. [2 Throughout the book the reader will find several  references to the basic differences between Freud’s Psycho‑Analysis and Adler’s  Individual Psychology. Such references are indicated because of the affinity and  contradictions between these two schools of thought, which often puzzle the  student. A thorough comparison cannot be presented in this book, but a few  indications of the different aspects presented by each may contribute to some  clarification. At this point we may refer to one of the basic differences. For  Freud all human conflicts are intra‑personal, caused by opposing conflicts  within the personality structure, i.e., between the person’s Ego, Super Ego and  Id, the unconscious. For Adler, all problems and conflicts are inter‑personal.  This implies a different emphasis on both the origin of conflicts and on  therapeutic procedures. For Freud, the maladjustment with its consequent  disturbance of human relationships originates in the inner‑personal conflicts,  while for Adler the inner conflicts express disturbed human relationships. Freud  emphasizes the inner needs, while Adler emphasizes the significance of the  attitude toward others.] Observation shows that not only among men, but also  among animals, close social relationships, with the very delicate adjustment to  (p 2) the claims of others which is involved in such relationships, decisively  affect the nature and characteristics of species, and even enable some  individuals to free themselves from laws of nature which otherwise prove  generally irresistible. All living creatures feel a compulsion to maintain life,  which causes them to seek for food, and a desire to propagate themselves, which  finds its fulfillment in sex. And yet under certain circumstances men refuse to  obey their natural instincts. Children may choose to refuse food if they think  such tactics are the best they can adopt in a struggle with their parents.  Prisoners starve themselves as a form of protest. Thousands upon thousands of  people who wish to evade the claims of a love relationship suppress every sexual  desire. Man has tamed his natural instincts and subordinated them to his  attitude to his environment; and we find that the bees go to even greater  lengths. They have reduced the sexual instinct‑‑0therwise an all‑powerful  instinct, dominating the whole animal kingdom‑to a precisely ordered function,  which they regulate in accordance with the needs of their commonwealth at any  given moment. They not only command means enabling them to produce males or  females, according to the needs of the group, but they can also allot the sexual  function to certain individuals and deprive others of it by simple changes in  the diet. Thus creatures like bees, who live in the most closely knit  communities known to us, can reverse generally valid biological laws. This  supports Alfred Adler’s view of the importance of society for the development of  individual character among human beings.

When we observe people we find that the nature, character (p 3) and action of an  individual are determined by experiences he encounters in the community within  which he grows up. Here we have seem to approach Watson’s theory of Behaviorism,  according to which man is the mere product of his environment. But if we look  deeper we find that in addition to the influence of environment another vitally  important circumstance remains to be considered. Different people respond in  different ways to the same experience and influences. Man does not merely react.  He adopts an individual attitude. The attitude adopted depends on the  impressions the individual forms in early childhood. Environment is indeed a  forceful factor. Yet this environment is no the individual’s real environment,  but merely his environment as it appears subjectively to him. Therefore the  decisive factor for the development of character is not the influence of  environment, but the attitude to environment which the individual take up. Man  develops his characteristic behavior ‑ by opposition or support, negation or  affirmation, acceptance or non‑acceptance of the group into which he is born. Man’s urge to adapt himself to the arbitrary conditions of his environment is  expressed by social interest innate in every human being. But this innate social  characteristic, which is common to all, must be developed if the individual is  to be qualified to fulfill the complicated demands of the community in which he  lives.

The human community sets three tasks for every individual. They are: work, which  means contributing to the welfare of (p 4) others, friendship, which embraces  social relationships which comrades and relatives, and love, which is the most  intimate union which some one of the other sex and represents the strongest and  closest emotional relationship which can exist between two human beings. These three tasks embrace the whole of human life with all its desires and  activities. All human suffering originates from the difficulties which  complicate the tasks. The possibility of fulfilling them does not depend on the  individual’s talents nor on his intelligence. Men of outstanding capacity fail  where others with far inferior powers achieve relative successes. It all depends  on social interest. The better this is developed and the happier the  relationship between the individual and the human community , the more  successfully does he fulfill the three life tasks, and the better balanced his  character and personality appear.

Social interest is expressing subjectively in the consciousness of having  something in common with other people and of being one of them. People can  develop their capacity for co‑operation only if they feel that in spite of all  external dissimilarities they are not fundamentally different from other  people‑if they feel belonging. A man’s ability to co‑operate may therefore be  regarded as a measure of the development of his social interest. A specific example will help us to visualize the situation more clearly: A man  becomes a member of a group, a club, a political party or some other  association. His social interest expresses itself subjectively in his  consciousness of being a part. Expressed objectively it will show how far he is  able to co‑operate there. On his social interest depends how soon he makes  contact with others, whether and to what extent he can adapt himself to others,  whether he is capable of feeling with and understanding other members. A man who  thinks only of himself, of how he is to uphold his own dignity and of the role  he means to play, is sure to cause trouble within his circle of friends and  acquaintances. (p 5)

Readiness to co‑operate, which is one of the characteristics of a good comrade,  is tested most rigorously in difficult situations. Most people are perfectly  willing to co‑operate so long as everything is to their liking. It is much more  difficult to remain a good comrade in an uncongenial situation. If the tie which  binds a man to a group is weak, he will easily break away as soon as anything he  does not like happens. The stronger his feeling of membership, the more surely  will he remain loyal to the group, even when he cannot enforce his own wishes.  We never find conditions which entirely conform to our wishes in any human  relationship, be it friendship, the family, love or work. Sooner or later,  therefore, we are bound to become involved in critical situations, and the way  we behave then will show whether we are community minded or not. Another characteristic of the good comrade is his readiness to demand less than  he offers. Nowadays most people brought up in large towns are spoiled children,  who measure their happiness and satisfaction only by what they get. This is a  grave error, for which thousands pay in unhappiness and suffering. People who  make it their objective to get as much as possible are always clutching  emptiness. They are insatiable. Only a rare and brief moment of attainment  rewards months or years of covetousness and ambition. None of these who can seek  their happiness as part of the whole, that is to say, in the contribution they  themselves and their lives. The social interest therefore is expressed by  willingness to contribute with thought of reward.

We shall have a sufficiently reliable criterion as to whether any given action  takes into account the needs of the commonweal, if we observe to what extent the  action is objective. Objective action implies suitable and right behavior in any  situation. It is impossible to prescribe how anyone should behave in this or  that situation. Every situation involves a special and very complicated set of  circumstances, and no one can say (p 6) beforehand how they should be handled.  The crucial questions are:‑Have the rules of community life been observed? Is  the individual ready to subordinate himself to them? If so, he will know more or  less the right course to adopt in any situation, no matter how difficult,  because he will be able to regard his problems objectively. He will never be  baffled if he can subordinate ego‑centric wishes to the objective needs of the  group.

In spite of the apparent chaos of present‑day social relationships we have rules  to guide us. These rules are clear to everyone even though they have never been  definitely formulated.

Each person becomes aware of the relentless logic of social life as soon as he  tries to escape it. Success or failure is the answer given by the society to  fulfillment or non‑fulfillment of the life tasks.

Frequently a man whose contacts with the community are superficial appears to be  consistently successful, while another who always seemed to have adapted himself  sufficiently to the needs of society may suddenly break down. The explanation is  that the strength of the social interest is not always put to the proof. If a  man is spared by favorable circumstances from undergoing rigorous tests, he may  easily give others the impression of being able to solve every problem. He is  like a pupil who for some time escapes examinations. His knowledge is taken for  granted. If a man has to endure great hardships his lack of training for life  will be revealed more quickly. But sooner or later everyone has to show how far  his social interest has developed. This moment decides whether his life can be  happy or not. Therefore disaster and misfortune are not inevitable causes of  suffering and discouragement, but test situations, which prove whether people  are ready to co‑operate. While one accepts defeat, another keeps a brave heart.  He never loses his feeling of comradeship with other people and in the end he  wins through.

Yet the social interest does not mean, as misrepresentations of the teachings of  Alfred Adler often incorrectly state, simply a feeling of belonging to a certain  group or class of people, or (7) benevolence towards the whole race. Sometimes  the interests of various groups conflict. (This is the dilemma of a workman on  strike, who may hesitate between his family’s welfare and the need for  solidarity with his fellow workers. ) In such perplexing situations the social  interest causes us to see that the interests of the super‑ordinate group, which  are justified on the ground of objective needs, have the first claim on us. We  certainly want to do what we can to help men to found a society embracing the  whole human race, to whose interests all the special interests of individuals  and groups would be subordinated. But in practice we are still a long way from  realizing this ideal. The social interest has no fixed objective. Much more  truly may it be said to create an attitude to life, a desire to co‑operate with  others in some way and to master the situations of life. Social interest is the  expression of our capacity for give and take. (p 9)


: By Rudolf R. Dreikurs, M.D.  Alfred Adler Institute, Chicago, Ill. 1953:THE LIFE PLAN AND THE LIFE STYLE: At birth the child encounters an unknown world  and a mode of life which he has to learn. Above all he has to learn the rules of  the human community , to perform functions and master the tasks set by life. At  first the child sees only that part of life and of the human community which is  bounded by his environment, the family in which he is living. To him this  environment means “life” and the members of the family seem to be “society” and  he attempts to adapt himself to them.

He seeks to maintain himself within this concrete group by means of a variety of  acquired accomplishments, characteristics, modes of behavior, capacities and  artifices. The difficulties he encounters have been outlined in previous  chapters. If we now examine the situation more closely we find that the child is  bound to get the impression that the difficulties he personally experiences are  the absolute difficulties of life. He does not realize that the other people  round about him are involved in conflicts of an entirely different nature. His  growing intelligence prompts him to overcome the difficulties of his position,  so far as this appears possible, unaided and alone.

This explains why every individual by the time he is four to six years old has  developed a definite character and why any fundamental change of character after  the fourth to sixth year is almost impossible without outside aid through  psychotherapy. Character is therefore simply the manifestation of a certain plan  which the child has evolved and to which he will adhere throughout the rest of  his life.

A child’s life plan does not grow out of a certain peculiarity nor out of  isolated experiences, but out of the constant repetition of the difficulties,  real or imagined, which he encounters. Each individual will find out special  ways and means which appear to be serviceable for his special plan. Out of the  individual’s (p 43) special life plan develops the life style which  characterizes him and everything he does. His thoughts, actions and wishes seize  upon definite symbols and conform to definite patterns. The life style is  comparable to a characteristic theme in apiece of music. It brings the rhythm of  recurrence into our lives. Everyone offers the stoutest opposition to any  attempt that is made for whatever reasons to change his life style. So we can understand why an only child becomes timid if he feels that to be  alone and unaided is the greatest hardship in life‑a difficulty which cannot be  surmounted, and why he betrays himself at every turn if he rates his importance  in the community in terms of the recognition and consideration he gets. We can  understand why the eldest child of a family may live in constant dread of being  supplanted and why a second child may always feel at a disadvantage. It also  becomes clearer why in later life these people continue to behave as though they  were still living in the same situation as in childhood.

In addition to the difficulties encountered within the family circle, the  child’s social environment plays an important part in fixing the life plan. The  family’s position in the community may cause the child to conclude that  community life involves certain social and economic dangers. Social conditions  may determine the ideas he forms about his position in relation to his comrades  and playmates‑in short, in relation to all his fellow beings. In order to  contend with all these dangers he tries to evolve a definite plan. An imaginary example may make the situation plainer. Let us picture a child  growing up in a colony of thieves. He learns that if he is to maintain himself  at all he must keep a careful watch on his property, distrust others and defend  himself against their predatory tendencies. Later on he is able to leave the  colony and live in the ordinary world where thieves do not compose the entire  population. But he continues to behave as before, because his chief fear in life  is to become the victim of a thief. He does not believe the assurances other  people give him that this fear is excessive, and is always looking out for  incidents (p 44) which appear to justify his behavior. Whenever anything is  stolen he feels triumphant. If on the other hand he hears of an honest finder  who has given up his find, he is inclined to dismiss the report as untrue and  say that he is not simpleton enough to believe such a fantastic story . And if  sooner or later it becomes impossible for him to doubt a person’s honesty, he  gets out of his dilemma in another way. This man, he says, must certainly be  crazy‑at least, he is different from normal people.

Probably, however, his companions will appeal to his better nature and tell him  that he really must give up his unreasonable mistrust. He may then try to prove  that he is broad‑minded and actually give his confidence to some person; but it  is practically certain that the first person he trusts will turn out a thief  ‑partly because people of this type have been familiar to him from childhood and  he feels secretly at home with them, and partly because he can turn the incident  to account as an irrefutable argument: “There now, you see what happens if I  believe what you say!” After this he can continue to practice without let or  hindrance the rules of conduct he learned as a child and hold the wickedness of  other people responsible for all the disagreeable experiences he goes through in  consequence.

This obviously imaginary example of a single peculiar circumstance exaggerated  out of all proportion to the real conditions of life illustrates firstly the  importance of the life plan. Secondly it shows that it is possible to persist in  the course first chosen only by grossly misrepresenting facts encountered later.  We are forced to regard everything we see and all our experiences from a biased  standpoint if we wish to preserve intact the mistaken ideas about life and  ourselves which we formed as children. The private logic which each person  evolves appears to justify his mistaken behavior, and prevents him from seeing  that most of the difficulties and disappointments in his life are the logical  consequences of mistakes in his life plan. We “make” our experiences according  to our “biased apperception” and can learn by experiences only if no personal  bias is involved. (p 45)


The theory that each person has an innate  individuality from birth would appear to find confirmation in the fact that  children in the same family ate different from each other. It is indeed admitted  by those who uphold this theory that the parents’ behavior can influence the  child’s attitude, and through this the development of his character, but they  say that the parents treat all the children alike and that therefore the  differences between the children must be attributed to their equipment. Upon closer examination, however, it is found that each child has an essentially  different position in the family and must see all the circumstances of his  childhood in an entirely different light. Besides, in practice the parents never  treat two children alike, but behave very differently to each. There may be a  difference in the affection they feel for the children, and there certainly will  be in the opinions they hold about them. At this point it might be useful to  suggest briefly some points of view which are characteristic of the different  children in a family.Let us begin with the eldest child. The outstanding fact of his childhood is  that at first, though only for a limited period, he was the only child. While he  is the only child he is likely to get far too much spoiling. He is the center of  attraction and the special object of his parents’ care. Then he suddenly finds  himself in the midst of a tremendous experience. A brother or sister is thrust  upon him. Even if the first child is already a few years old he is hardly ever  able to gauge the situation correctly. He notices only that another child now  monopolizes his parents, especially his mother, who devotes herself to him, and  lavishes any amount of time and care on him. He readily believes that the  newcomer will rob him of her love. He cannot know, of course, that he was once  looked after by his mother in exactly the same way and that all the care she  bestows on the second (p. 37) child does not mean that she loves him more. So,  feeling that he has been set aside, the eldest child frequently shows  understandable jealousy when another child is born, even if before the birth of  this child he longed for a brother or sister.

If the mother can make the elder child aware of his undiminished value by  pointing out to him his importance as the elder and therefore more advanced  child. and so enlist his will to co‑operate. he will adapt himself to the new  situation with comparative ease.. But the parents may not understand what is  going on in the elder child’s mind and may grow impatient over his unfounded  jealousies and ailments. If, as is most probable, they then take the younger  child under their protection in order to defend him against the elder child’s  overbearing conduct, the elder child may easily give up trying to win good  opinions by making himself useful, as he probably could do, but become obstinate  and try to take up his parents’ attention by resorting to every possible trick  that naughtiness can suggest to him.

Even if under the most favorable circumstances two children of the same parents  manage to live together in apparent harmony they may become involved in a  competition which, though not always openly declared is none the less deadly.  The elder child tries either to preserve his superiority or, if it is already  endangered, at least to prevent the younger child from attaining superiority.  The older the second child becomes and the greater the part he takes in  activities which formerly appeared to be the prerogative of the elder child, the  more reasonable seems the latter’s fear of being overtaken and surpassed. He  endeavors in every way to safeguard his superior position as the elder and more  advanced child.

What has been said about the first child suggest the situation which the second  child meets. He never loses sight of the brother or sister who has got a short  start of him. He fully realizes that the elder child is endeavoring to impose  his superiority on him. He resents the imputation that he is less important. He  regards everything the other child can do and he himself cannot do as an  indication of his own inferiority. So (p 38) every second child tries to catch  up with the first child. This explains why second children are generally much  more active than first children, whether they choose the line of useful  achievement or naughtiness.

The outcome of the competition between the first and second child depends mainly  on the support each child gets from others. The one who has the parents on his  side is, of course, in a stronger position. Occasionally also an elder child,  like Esau in the Bible, may renounce his birthright because he simply gives up  trying to hold his position against the attacks of thee younger child. The child  who emerges victorious from the struggle is more likely to be successful  throughout the remainder of life than the other, who will always accept defeat  too easily. The duel between the first two children generally decides the whole  subsequent course of their lives.

As frequently observed, however, one child is not always victorious in  everything and the other defeated in everything. One achieves superiority in one  activity and the other in another. When this happens we have the plainest proof  that the development of individual character is influenced even in the smallest  detail by the attitude to environment adopted in childhood. It is not too much to say that we usually find a fundamental difference both as  regards nature and character between the first two children. This becomes easy  to understand if we remember that each of the two tries to achieve superiority  in the very field where the other encounters difficulties. The younger child in  particular develops an almost uncanny power for detecting the elder child’s weak  points and proceeds to win praise from parents and teachers by achieving  brilliant successes where the other has failed. When there is keen competition  and only a slight disparity of ages between two children of the same parents, we  often find that later on at school each does particularly well in subjects in  which the other does badly. If one child is puny and ailing the other grows up  robust and hardy. If one is exceptionally clever at lessons the other tries to  win recognition by success in something else. A child whose rival is (p 39) very  attractive in appearance will probably try to impress people with his  intelligence or courage; but obviously it would be impossible to enumerate all  the variations produced by this preference for the opposite. The difference in character, temperament and interest between the first and  second child often seems to be based on inherited capacities, especially if each  of the children appears to take after a different parent. But a child’s  psychological attitude can make the physical likeness to one parent more  pronounced. A certain similarity may result from imitation of this parent’s  facial expressions, gestures, attitudes and peculiarities of speech; for a  characteristic cast of features is gradually formed by constant repetition of  the same facial movements.

To a far greater extent, however, similarity of nature and character is the  outcome of the child’s special training. It is true that we cannot tell  beforehand why the child should imitate this particular trait. We can only be  wise after the event. Often the child tries to acquire the characteristics of  the parent whose ally in family quarrels he has become.1 He seizes on these  characteristics because he hopes to reach the goal of superiority (p 40) by  evincing like the parent who is his ally a definite character as against the  other members of the family. Actuated by the same desire to gain power, many  children imitate the parent with whom they are in direct conflict. The parent  who counters many wishes and is very severe is the child’s conception of power.  This explains why children may imitate the parent they fear. They merely wish to  have this parent’s power. So we are able to formulate the only fundamental law  governing the development of the child’s character: he trains those qualities by  which he hopes to achieve significance or even a degree of power and superiority  in the family constellation.

In a large family of children the conflict between the first and second child is  repeated under some form or other lower down in the family, but it generally  tends to be less fierce. Consequently children who come in the middle of a  family usually develop more balanced characters. The third child frequently  sides with one of the two elder children. Often two children lower down in the  family treat each other as competitors like the first and second children. If there are four children, the middle child finds himself in a characteristic  situation. He has neither the same rights as the older nor the privileges of the  younger. Consequently, a middle child often feels squeezed out between the two.  He may become convinced of the unfairness of life and feel cheated and abused.  In some instances, the middle child can overcome his predicament by pushing down  his two opponents and elevating himself through special accomplishments. The  position of a middle child is accentuated when three children follow one another  closely, when a girl is between two boys, or vice versa.

The youngest child has a special role to play. Not merely one child, but all the  other children are ahead of him. All the other members of the family spoil him  and regard him as the little one. He generally develops characteristics which  make it likely that other people will help him to shape his life, such as  helplessness, a winning nature and whimsicality. But youngest (p 41) children  often prove very clever if their smallness becomes an impulse for outstanding  achievement.

A boy in a family of girls and vice‑versa one girl in a family of boys is in a  special position. These children will form a characteristic appreciation of  their roles and will develop qualities which help them to play these roles. They  often overestimate the importance of the role of their own sex, because this  represents the essential difference between themselves and all the other  children. Naturally the importance they attach to the role played by their own  sex also depends on the value attached to it within the whole family and above  all on the value attached by the parents to their own sex roles, with the  possible superiority of either the father or the mother.

So it becomes understandable why people adopt a certain attitude to their fellow  beings in childhood, and why above all they get a definite idea of themselves.  We must now try to see why a line of conduct which was reasonable and  understandable in childhood is pursued throughout the rest of life. (p 42)


As we have seen, what most often  endangers the success of the individual’s attempts to fit into the community and  his hope of living a sane and happy life is the feeling of his own inferiority.  So each human being’s chief problem is the problem of his own value. As long as  his value remains unchallenged be is in no danger of creating problems for  himself‑not even when he encounters external difficulties which do not involve  psychological problems but most often provide a stimulus for consistent effort. Uncertain people who come into sharp conflict with their surroundings, including  neurotics of all kinds, have the greatest difficulty in solving this problem of  their own value. But no human being is entirely free from neurosis, least of all  the modern city dweller, since the first human community he knew was most  probably the discordant family of the present day.In obedience to the human law of overcompensation, every human being’s life is  directed toward the goal of increased personal importance. As the individual,  while remaining unconscious that he has set this goal before himself,  nevertheless gives a bias to his whole life and to all his action in his  endeavor to reach it, this fictive goal is the key to the riddle of his whole  personality . The stronger his feeling of inferiority the more complicated his  behavior becomes.

The child who has a constitutional inferiority‑we may include the ugly child,  the pampered child and the child who bas been brought up too strictly in the  same group‑will make great efforts to escape the many hardships of his life and  to ward off the danger of a defeat which seems to threaten at some distant  future date. He feels that he needs a signpost to keep in view (p 46) because he  has no sense of direction. So he has recourse to a helpful fiction. He regards  himself as unskillful, inferior, subordinated and uncertain in judgment. He  finds a guiding line which becomes the normal line followed by his thoughts and  actions when he takes as his second fixed point his father or mother, whom he  endows in imagination with all the power in the world. He then tries to rise  above his uncertainty to the supposed security of his all‑powerful father, and  even surpass him.

All feelings of uncertainty and inferiority give rise to a need for an objective  to guide, reassure and make life bearable. The result is the crystallization and  hardening of every characteristic which represents a guiding line in the chaos  of life and so lessens uncertainty . In the many complications and perplexities  of life the guiding lines are intended to divide right from wrong and above from  below.

In the eyes of the child brought up in the modern civilized world the concepts  masculine and feminine are just such a pair of contraries corresponding to above  and below. Our civilization is mainly a masculine civilization, and the child  gets the impression that while all adults enjoy superior powers the man’s  position is superior to the woman’s. Although she occasionally manages to  encroach on his privileges, he still appears to be more powerful, more important  and more fortunate. He has greater physical strength; he has the advantage in  height; he has a more powerful voice. As soon as the child is able to appreciate  the numerous social privileges enjoyed by men he may easily come to regard the  male as the symbol of power. His concept of masculine will include whatever is  “above” and his concept of feminine whatever is “below.” The woman’s role seems  to be one of service and long suffering. The boy’s goal of superiority prompts  the resolve: “I’m going to be a real man.” From this standpoint he protests  against any treatment which seems likely (p 47) to lower his value. So the  “masculine protest” may become the main fiction of his whole personality . We find that women also have masculine goals if they are unwilling to accept  their sex role. Some desire power, knowledge or strength as an expression of the  masculine ideal. In fact, most people have a masculine goal or an equivalent of  a masculine goal.

The masculine goal is, of course, only a fiction, which determines what is  “above’; and what “below.” and enables the individual to select a guiding line.  Every child creates any pairs of contrary concepts of “above” and “below,” as  his own experiences in life suggest. Even normal children want to be tall and  strong and take command in something‑”like father,” and this final goal  influences their behavior. Any child who feels small and helpless may accept the  guiding fiction that he should behave as if his role was to be superior to  everybody.

The neurotic is not alone in trying to make his life conform to fictions which  increase his sense of personal importance. The healthy person also would have to  give up all hope of orientation in the world if he did not try to make his  picture of the world and his experiences conform to fictions. These fictions  assume very definite shape in times of uncertainty, and find expression in the  individual’s opinions, beliefs and ideals.

The fiction of a final goal of power attracts all human beings, especially  people who feel uncertain of themselves, such as neurotics. The influence of  this fictive goal is enormous. It draws all psychic forces in its direction. A human being’s fictive goals and the guiding lines by which he hopes to reach  his goals remain unchanged throughout his life as long as they are not disclosed  by unusually penetrating self knowledge. That he must have if he is to change  them. A human being’s character is the outcome of his life plan, fictive goals  and guidelines. Passions and “instincts” are exaggerated and intensified  approaches. An apparently spontaneous change of character may occasionally be  observed, but if it was not due to the exercise of an unusual degree of insight,  but to external (p 48) influences, such as a change of environment, it generally  proves to have been superficial. The most cherished goals were not abandoned.  Consequently the fundamental nature of the personality remained unaffected. The  change was merely a change in the choice of means.

An individual may consider being the first as essential for maintaining any  position in the group, because that was how he defeated his competitors as a  child. In that situation he has concluded he was lost and utterly worthless  unless he was first. The way in which he maintains his primacy depends on the  situation in which he finds himself. If he has a chance to be first in his  class, he may study hard to maintain this position. If unable to do so in a  higher school of learning, he may switch to another activity in which he still  can succeed over all others, either by athletic achievements, popularity ,  sexual attraction or some other achievement which he then may cultivate. If  there is no chance‑according to his own evaluation of the situation‑to be the  first by useful achievement, he may shift to the useless side and become the  “worst,” either by misbehavior, drinking, gambling or illness. The destructive  powers of a patient who wants to be the worst patient are as unlimited as the  amount of work and effort which an over ambitious “successful” person uses to  stay on top. (p 49)



We have often drawn attention to the fact that before  we can judge a human being we must know the situation in which he grew up. An  important moment is the position which a child occupied in his family  constellation. Frequently we can catalogue human beings according to this view  point after we have gained sufficient expertness, and can recognize whether an  individual is a first‑born, an only child, the youngest child, or the like. People seem to have known for a long time that the youngest child is usually a  peculiar type. This is evidenced by the countless fairy tales, legends, Biblical  stories, in which the youngest always appears in the same light. As a matter of  fact he does grow up in a situation quite different from that of all other  people, for to parents he represents a particular child, and as the youngest he  experiences an especially solicitous treatment. Not only is he the youngest, but  also usually the smallest, and by consequence, the most in need of help. His  other brothers and sisters have already acquired some degree of independence and  growth during the time of his weakness, and for this reason he usually grows up  in an atmosphere warmer than that which the others have experienced. Hence there arise a number of characteristics which influence his attitude  toward life in a remarkable way, and cause him to be a remarkable personality.  One circumstance which seemingly is a contradiction for our theory must be  noted. No child likes to be the smallest, the one whom one does not trust, the  one in whom one has no confidence, all the time. Such knowledge stimulates a  child to prove that he can do everything. His striving for power becomes  markedly accentuated and we find the youngest very usually a man who has  developed a desire to overcome all others, satisfied only with the very best  this type is not uncommon. One group of these youngest children excels every  other member of the family, and becomes the family’s most capable member. But  there is another more unfortunate group of these same youngest children; they  also have a desire to excel, but lack the necessary activity and  self‑confidence, as a result of their relationships to their older (p 123)  brothers and sisters. If the older children are not to be excelled, the youngest  frequently shies from his tasks, becomes cowardly, a chronic plaintiff forever  seeking an excuse to evade his duties. He does not become less ambitious, but he  assumes that type of ambition which forces him to wriggle out of situations, and  satisfy his ambition in activity outside of the necessary problems of life, to  the end that he may avoid the danger of an actual test of ability, so far as  possible.It will undoubtedly have occurred to many readers that the youngest child acts  as though he were neglected and carried a feeling of inferiority within him. In  our investigations we have always been able to find this feeling of inferiority  and have been able also to deduce the quality and fashion of his psychic  development from the presence of this torturing sentiment. In this sense a  youngest child is like a child who has come into the world with weak organs.  What the child feels need not actually be the case. It does not matter what  really has happened, whether an individual is really inferior or not. What is  important is his interpretation of his situation. We know very well that  mistakes are easily made in childhood. At that time a child is faced with a  great number of questions, of possibilities, and consequences. What shall an educator do? Shall he impose additional stimuli by spurring on the  vanity of this child? Should he constantly push him into the limelight so that  he is always the first? This would be a feeble response to the challenge of  life. Experience teaches us that it makes very little difference whether one is  first or not. It would be better to exaggerate In the other direction, and  maintain that being first, or the best, is unimportant. We are really tired of  having nothing but the first and best people. History as well as experience  demonstrates that happiness does not consist in being the first or best. To  teach a child such a principle makes him onesided; above all it robs him of his  chance of being a good fellow man.

The first consequence of such doctrines is that a child thinks only of himself  and occupies himself in wondering whether someone will overtake him. Envy and  hate of his fellows and anxiety for his own position, develop in his soul. His  very place in life makes a speeder, trying to beat out all others, of the  youngest. The racer, the marathon runner in his soul, is betrayed by his whole  behavior, especially in little gestures which are not obvious to those who have  not learned to judge his psychic life in all his relationships. These are the  children, (p 124) for instance, who always march at the head of the procession  and cannot bear to have anyone in front of them. Some such race‑course attitude  is characteristic of a large number of children.

This type of the youngest child is occasionally to be found as a clear‑cut‑type  example, although variations are common. Among the youngest we find active and  capable individuals who have gone so far that they have become the saviors of  their whole family. Consider the Biblical story of Joseph! Here is a wonderful  exposition of the situation of the youngest son. It is as though the past had  told us about it with a purpose and a clarity arising in the full possession of  the evidence which we acquire so laboriously today. In the course of the  centuries much valuable material has been lost which we must attempt to find  again.

Another type, which grows secondarily from the first, is often found. Consider  our marathon runner who suddenly comes to an obstacle which he does not trust  himself to hurdle. He attempts to avoid the difficulty by going around it. When  a youngest child of this type loses his courage he becomes the most arrant  coward that we can well imagine. We find him far from the front, every labor  seems too much for him, and he becomes a veritable “alibi artist” who attempts  nothing useful, but spends his whole energy wasting time. In any actual conflict  he always fails. Usually he is to be found carefully seeking a field of activity  in which every chance of competition has been excluded. He will always find  excuses for his failures. He may contend that he was too weak or petted, or that  his brothers and sisters did not allow him to develop. HIS fate becomes more  bitter if he actually has a physical defect, in which case he is certain to make  capital out of his weakness to justify him in his desertion. Both these types are hardly ever good fellow human beings. The first type fares  better in a world where competition is valued for itself. A man of this type  will maintain his spiritual equilibrium only at the cost of others, whereas  individuals of the second remain under the oppressive feeling of their  Inferiority and suffer from their lack of reconciliation with life as long as  they live.

The oldest child also has well‑defined characteristics. For one thing he has the  advantage of an excellent position for the development of his psychic life.  History recognizes that the oldest son has had a particularly favorable  position. Among many peoples, in many classes, this advantageous status has (p  125) become traditional. There is no question for instance that among .the  European farmers the first born knows his position from his early childhood and  realizes that some day he will take over the farm, and therefore he finds  himself in a much better position than the other children who know that the must  leave the father’s farm at some time; in other strata of society it is  frequently held that the oldest son will some day be the head of the house. Even  where this tradition has not actually become crystallized, as in simple  bourgeois or proletarian families the oldest child is usually the one whom one  accredits with enough power and common sense to be the helper or foreman of his  parents. One can imagine how valuable it is to a child to be constantly  entrusted with responsibilities by his environment. We can imagine that his  thought processes are somewhat like this: “You are the larger, the stronger, the  older, and therefore you must also be cleverer than the others.” If his development in this direction goes on without disturbance then we shall  find him with the traits of a guardian of law and order. Such persons have an  especially high evaluation of power. This extends not only to their own personal  power, but affects .their evaluation of the concepts of power m general. Power  IS something which is quite self‑understood for the oldest child, something  which has weight and must be honored. It is not surprising that such individuals  are markedly conservative.

The striving for power in the case of a second‑born child also has its especial  nuance. Second‑born children are constantly under steam, striving for  superiority under pressure: the race‑course attitude which determines their  activity in life is very evident m their actions. The fact that there is someone  ahead of him who has already gained power is a strong stimulus for the second  born. If he is enabled to develop his powers and takes up the battle with the  first born, he will usually move forward with a great deal of elan, the while  the first born, possessing power, feels himself relatively secure until the  second threatens to surpass him.

This situation has also been described in a very lively fashion m the Biblical  legend of Esau and Jacob. In this story the battle goes on relentlessly, not so  much for actual power, but for the semblance of power; in cases like this it  continues with a certain compulsion until the goal is reached and the first born  is overcome, or the battle is lost, and the retreat, which often evinces itself  in nervous diseases, begins. The attitude of the (p 126) second born is similar  to the envy of the poor classes. There is a dominant note of being slighted,  neglected, in it. The second born may place his goal so high that he suffers  from it his whole life, annihilates his inner harmony in following, not the  veritable facts of life, but an evanescent fiction and the valueless semblance  of things.

The only child of course finds himself in a very particular situation. He is at  the utter mercy of the educational methods of his environment. His parents, so  to speak, have no choice in the matter. They place their whole educational zeal  upon their only child. He becomes dependent to a high degree, waits constantly  for someone to show him the way, and searches for support at’ all times.  Pampered throughout his life, he is accustomed to no difficulties, because one  has always removed difficulties from his way. Being constantly the center of  attention he very easily acquires the feeling that he really counts for  something of great value. His position is so difficult that mistaken attitudes  are almost inevitable in his case. If the parents understand the dangers of his  situation, to be sure, there is a possibility of preventing many of them, but at  best it remains a difficult problem.

Parents of “only” children are frequently exceptionally cautious, people who  have themselves experienced life as a great danger, and therefore approach their  child with an inordinate solicitude. The child in turn interprets their  attentions and admonitions as a source of additional pressure. Constant  attention to health and well being finally stimulate him to conceive of the  world as a very hostile place. An eternal fear of difficulties arises in him and  he approaches them in an unpracticed and clumsy manner because he has tested  only the pleasant things in life. Such children have difficulties with every  independent activity and sooner or later they become useless for life.  Shipwrecks in their life’s activity are to be expected. Their life approaches  that of a parasite who does nothing, but enjoys life .while the rest of the  world cares for his wants.

Various combinations are possible in which several brothers and sisters of the  same or opposite sexes compete with each other. The evaluation of anyone case  therefore becomes exceedingly difficult. The situation of an only boy among  several girls is a case in point. A feminine influence dominates such a  household and the boy is pushed into the background, particularly if he is the  youngest, and sees himself opposed by a closed phalanx of women. His striving  for recognition (p 127) encounters great difficulties. Threatened on all sides,  he never senses with certainty the privilege which in our retarded masculine  civilization is given to every male. A lasting insecurity, an inability to  evaluate himself as a human being, is his most characteristic trait. He may  become so intimidated by his womenfolk that he feels that to be a man is  equivalent to occupying a position of lesser honor. On the one hand his courage  and self‑confidence may easily be eclipsed, or on the other the stimulus may be  so drastic that the young boy forces himself to great achievements. Both cases  arise from the same situation. What becomes of such boys in the end is  determined by other concomitant and closely related phenomena. We see therefore that the very position of the child in the family may lend  shape and color to all the instincts, tropisms, faculties and the like, which he  brings with him into the world. This affirmation robs of all value the theories  of the inheritance of especial traits or talents, which are so harmful to all  educational effort. There are doubtless occasions and cases in which the effect  of hereditary influences can be shown, as for instance, in a child who grows up  removed entirely from his parents, yet develops certain similar “familial”  traits. This becomes much more comprehensible if one remembers how closely  certain types of mistaken development in a child are related to inherited  defects of the body. Take a given child who comes into the world with a weak  body which results, in turn, in his greater tension toward the demands of life  and his environment. If his father came into the world with similarly defective  organs and approached the world with a similar tension, it is not to be wondered  at that similar mistakes and character traits should result. Viewed from this  standpoint it would seem to us that the theory of inheritance of acquired  characteristics is based upon very weak evidence.

From our previous descriptions we may assume that whatever the errors to which a  child is exposed in his development, the most serious consequences arise from  his desire to elevate himself over all his fellows, to seek more personal power  which will give him advantages over his fellow man. !n our culture he is  practically compelled to develop according to a fixed pattern. If we wish to  prevent such a perilous development we must know the difficulties he has to meet  and understand them. There is one single and essential point of view which helps  us to overcome all these difficulties; it is the view‑point of the development  of the social feeling of this development succeeds, obstacles are insignificant,  but since the (p 128) opportunities for this development are relatively rare in  our culture, the difficulties which a child encounters play an important role.  Once this is recognized we shall not be surprised to find many people who spend  their whole life fighting for their lives and others to whom life is a vale of  sorrows. We must understand that they are the victims of a mistaken development  whose unfortunate consequence is that their attitude toward life also is  mistaken.

Let us be very modest then, in our judgment of our fellows, and above all, let  us never allow ourselves to make any moral judgments, judgments concerning the  moral worth of a human being! On the contrary, we must make our knowledge of  these facts socially valuable. We must approach such a mistaken and misled human  being sympathetically, because we. are ma position to have a much better idea of  what is going on within him than he is himself. This gives rise to important new  points of view in the matter of education. The very recognition of the source of  error puts a great many influential instruments for betterment into our hands.  By analyzing the psychic structure and development of any human being we  understand not only his past, but may deduce further what his future probably  will be. Thus our science gives us some conception of what a human being really  is. He becomes a living being for us, not merely a flat silhouette. And as a  consequence we can have a richer and more meaningful sense of his value as a  fellow human than is usual in our day. (p 129)


: Capricorn books, New York. 1964:We will summarily reject no method and no way of discovering the attitude of the  individual to the questions of life and of finding out the meaning which life  wants to disclose to us. The individual’s interpretation of the meaning of life  is not a trivial matter, for it is ultimately the plumb‑line of his thinking,  feeling, and acting. The real meaning of life, however, is shown in the  opposition that meets the individual who acts wrongly. The task of instruction,  education and healing is to bridge the distance between the real instruction,  education, and healing is to bridge the distance between the real meaning of  life and the erroneous action of the individual. Our knowledge of man as an  individual has existed from time immemorial To give only a single instance, the  historical and personal narratives of ancient peoples‑the Bible, Homer,  Plutarch, and all the Greek and Roman poets, sagas, fairy‑tales, fables, and  myths‑‑show a brilliant understanding of the human personality. Until more  recent more recent times it was chiefly the poet who best succeeded in getting  the clue to a person’s style of life. Their ability to show the individual  living, acting, and dying as an (p 32) indivisible whole in closest connection  with the problems of his environment rouses our admiration to the highest pitch.  There can be no doubt that there were also unknown men of the people who were in  advance of others in their knowledge of human nature and who passed on their  experiences to their descendants. Plainly, both these men and the great geniuses  in the knowledge of humanity were distinguished by their more profound insight  into the connection of the mainsprings of human action with one another. This  talent could only have sprung from their sympathetic bond with the community and  from their interest in mankind. Their wider experience, their better knowledge,  their more profound insight, came as the reward of their social feeling. There  was one feature of their work that could not be missed: that was their ability  to describe the myriad, incalculable expressive movements of the individual in  such a way that others were able to comprehend them without needing to have  recourse to weighing and measuring.

This power was due to their gift of divination. Only by guessing did they come  to see what lies behind and between the expressive movements, namely, the  individual’s law of movement. Many people call this gift ‘intuition’, and  believe that it is the special possession only of the loftiest spirits. As a  matter of fact, it is the most universal of all human gifts. Every one makes use  of it constantly in the chaos of life, before the abysmal uncertainty of the  future.

Since all our problems, the least as well as the greatest, are always new and  always modified, we would (p 33) constantly be involved in fresh mistakes if we  were forced to solve them by one single method‑for instance, by ‘conditioned  reflexes’. This perpetual variety in our problems imposes on us ever fresh  demands, and forces us to test anew any mode of conduct we may have adopted  hitherto. Even in a game of cards ‘conditioned reflexes’ are not of much use.  Correct guessing is the first step towards the mastery of our problems. But this  correct guessing is the specially distinctive mark of the man who is a partner,  a fellow man, and is interested in the successful solution of all human  problems. Peculiar to him is the view into the future of all human happenings,  and this attracts him whether he is examining human history in general or the  fortunes of a single individual.

Psychology remained a harmless art until philosophy took charge of it. A  scientific knowledge of human nature has its roots in psychology and in the  anthropology of the philosophers. In the manifold attempts to bring all human  events under a comprehensive, universal law the individual man could not be  disregarded. The knowledge of the unity of all the individual’s expressive forms  became an irrefutable truth. The transference to human nature of the laws  governing every event resulted in the adoption of varied points of view, and the  unfathomable, unknown regulating force was sought for by Kant, Schelling, Hegel,  Schopenhauer, Hartmann, Nietzsche, and others in some unconscious motive power  that was called either moral law, will, , will to power, or the ‘unconscious’.  Along with the transference of general laws to human activity introspection came  into vogue. (p 34) By this human beings were to be able to predicate something  about psychical events and the processes connected with them. This method did  not remain long in use. It fell rightly into discredit because there could be no  assurance of obtaining objective reports from anyone.

In an age of technical development the experimental method was extensively used.  With the help of apparatus and carefully selected questions, tests were arranged  that were meant to throw light on the functions of the senses, on the  intelligence, character, and personality. By this method knowledge of the  continuity of the personality was lost, or could only be restored by guessing.  The doctrine of heredity which later on came to the fore gave up the whole  attempt and contented itself with showing that the main thing was the possession  of capacities and not the use made of them. The theory of the influence of the  endocrine glands also pointed in the same direction, and concentrated on special  cases of feelings of inferiority, and their compensation in the event of organic  inferiority.

Psychology underwent a renaissance with the advent of psycho‑analysis. This  resurrected the omnipotent Ruler of human destiny in the from of sexual libido  and conscientiously depicted in the unconscious the pains of hell, and original  sin in the ‘sense of guilt’. Heaven was left out the account, but this omission  was afterwards rectified by the creation of the ‘ideal‑ego’, which found support  in Individual Psychology’s ‘ideal’ goal of perfection. Still, it was a notable  attempt to read between the lines of consciousness ‑ a step forward towards the  (p35) re‑discovery of the style of life‑of the individual’s line of movement‑and  of the meaning of life, although the author of psycho‑analysis, reveling in  sexual metaphors, did not perceive this goal that hovers before humanity.  Besides, psycho‑analysis was far too cumbered by the world of spoiled children,  and the result was that it always saw in this type the permanent pattern of the  psychical structure, and the deeper layers of the mental life as apart ofhuman  evolution remained hidden from it. Its transitory success was due to the  predisposition of the immense number of pampered persons who willingly accepted  the views of psycho‑analysis as rules universally applicable, and who were  thereby confirmed in their own style of life. The psycho‑analytic technique was  directed, with great energy and patience, towards showing that expressive  gestures and symptoms were connected with the sexual libido, and making human  activity appear to be dependent on an inherent sadistic impulse. Individual  Psychology was the first to make it sufficiently clear that these latter  phenomena were artificially produced by the resentment of spoiled children.  Still there is here also an approach to the recognition of the evolutionary  impulse‑a tentative adjustment to it. The effort is, however, unsuccessful; in  the usual pessimistic fashion the idea of the death‑wish is taken as the goal of  fulfilment. But this is not an active adaptation; it is simply the expectation  of a lingering death founded on the somewhat doubtful second basic law of  physics.

Individual Psychology stands firmly on the ground of (p 36) evolution and in the  light of evolution regards all human striving as a struggle for perfection. The  craving for life, material and spiritual for perfection. The craving for life,  material and spiritual, is irrevocably bound up with this struggle. So far,  therefore, as our knowledge goes, every psychical expressive form presents  itself as a movement that leads from a minus to a plus situation. Each  individual adopts for himself at the beginning of his life, a law of movement,  with comparative freedom to utilize for this impressions of his environment.  This law of movement is for each individual different in tempo, rhythm, and  direction. The individual, perpetually comparing himself with the unattainable  ideal of perfection, is always possessed and spurred on by a feeling  inferiority. We may deduce from this that every human law of movement is faulty  when regarded sub specie aeternitatis, and seen from an imagined standpoint of  absolute correction.

Each cultural epoch forms this ideal for itself from its wealth of ideas and  emotions. Thus in our day it is always to the past alone that we turn to find in  the setting‑up of this ideal the transient level of man’s mental power, and we  have the right to admire most profoundly this power that for countless ages has  conceived a reliable ideal of human social life. Surely the commands, ‘Thou  shalt not kill’ and ‘Love thy neighbor’, can hardly ever disappear from  knowledge and feeling as the supreme court of appeal. These and other norms (p  37) of human social life, which are undoubtedly the products of evolution and  are as native to humanity as breathing and the upright gait, can be embodied in  the conception of an ideal human community, regarded here as the impulse and the  goal of evolution. They supply Individual Psychology with the plumb‑line by  which alone the right and wrong of all the other goals and modes of movement  opposed to evolution are to be valued. It is at this point that Individual  Psychology becomes a ‘psychology of values’, just as medical science, the  promoter of evolution by its researches and discoveries, is a ‘science of  values’.

The sense of inferiority, the struggle to overcome, and social feelings ‑ the  foundation upon which, the researches of Individual Psychology are based ‑ are  therefore essential in considering either the individual or the mass. The truth  they represent may be evaded or put into different words; they may be  misunderstood and attempts may be made to split hairs about them, but they can  never be obliterated. In the right estimate of any personality these facts must  be taken into account, and the state of the feeling of inferiority, of the  struggle to overcome, and of the social feeling must be ascertained. But just as other civilizations under the pressure of evolution drew different  conclusions and followed wrong courses, so does every single individual. It is  the child’s work to create, in the stream. of development, the mental structure  of a style of life and the appropriate emotions associated with it. The child’s  emotional, and as yet barely grasped, capacity of action, serves him as a (p 38)  standard of his creative power in an environment that is by no means neutral,  and provides a very indifferent preparatory school for life. Building on a  subjective impression, and guided often by successes or defeats that supply  insufficient criteria the child forms for himself a path, a goal, and a vision  of a height lying in the future. All the methods of Individual Psychology that  are meant to lead to an understanding of the personality take into account the  meaning of the individual about his goal of superiority, the strength of his  feeling of inferiority, and the degree of his social feeling. A closer scrutiny  of the relation of these factors to one another will make it clear that they all  contribute to the nature and extent of the social feeling. The examination  proceeds in a way similar to that of experimental psychology , or to that of  functional tests in medical cases. The only difference is that it is life itself  that sets the test, and this shows how strong the bond is between the individual  and the problems of life. That is to say, the individual as a complete being  cannot be dragged out of his connection with life ‑ perhaps it would be better  to say, with the community. His attitude to the community is first revealed by  his style of life. For that reason experimental tests, which at the best deal  only with partial aspects of the individual’s life, can tell us nothing about  his character or even about his future achievements in the community. And even  Gestaltphsychologie needs to be supplemented by Individual Psychology in order  to be able to form any conclusion regarding the attitude of the individual in  the life process. (p 39)

The technique of Individual Psychology employed for the discovery of the style  of life must therefore in the first place presuppose a knowledge of the problems  of life and their demands on the individual. It will be evident that their  solution presumes a certain degree of social feeling, a close union with life as  a whole, and an ability is lacking in it innumerable variations together with  its consequence. This in the main will take the form of evasiveness and the  ‘hesitant attitude’. The interrelated bodily and mental phenomena that make  their appearance with it I have called an ‘inferiority complex’. The unresting  struggle for superiority endeavors to mask this complex by ‘superiority  complex’, which, ignoring social feeling, always aims at the glitter of personal  conquest. Once all the phenomena occurring in a case of failure are clearly  understood, the reasons for the inadequate preparation are to be sought for in  early childhood. By this means we succeed in obtaining a faithful picture of the  homogeneous style of life, and at the same time in estimating the extent of the  divergence from social feeling in the case of a failure. This is always seen to  be a lack of ability to get into contact with other people. It follows from this  that the task of the educationist, the teacher, the physician, the pastor is to  increase the social feeling and thereby strength the courage of the individual.  He does this by convincing him of the real causes of his failure, by disclosing  his wrong meaning ‑ mistaken significance he has (p 40) foisted on life ‑ and  thus giving him a clearer view of the meaning that life has ordained for  humanity.

This task can only be accomplished if a thoroughgoing knowledge of the problems  of life is available, and if the too slight tincture of social feeling both in  the inferiority and superiority complexes, as well as in all kinds of human  errors, is understood. There is likewise required in the consultant a wide  experience regarding those circumstances and situations which are likely to  hinder the development of social feeling in childhood. Up till now my own  experience has taught me that the most trustworthy approaches to the exploration  of the personality are to be found in a comprehensive understandings of the  earliest childhood memories, of the place of the child in the family sequence,  and of any childish errors; in day and night dreams, and in the nature of the  exogenous factor that causes the illness. All the results of such an  investigation‑and along with these the attitude to the doctor has also to be  included‑have to be assessed with great caution, and the conclusion drawn from  them has constantly to be tested for its harmony with other facts that have been  established. (P 41)



: By Erwin Wexberg, M.D. Translated  by Arnold Eiloart, B.Sc. Ph.D., Revised by Bernard H. Shulman, M.D. First  edition published 129 and second edition 1970 by Alfred Adler Institute of  Chicago.Introduction: In the year 1907 the Vienna physician, Dr. Alfred Adler, published  a monograph entitled, “A Study of the Inferiority of Organs.” This paper  represented a successful attempt to place constitution‑pathology on a new basis.  With the help of a wealth of clinical material, Adler proved [Adler first  published his work on organ inferiority in 1907.It was published in English  translation as Study of Organ Inferiority and Its Psychical Compensation. New  York: Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Co., 19l7. The word “proved” is much  too strong Adler’s monograph provides much presumptive evidence and contains  impressive descriptive material. The work has never had adequate follow‑up  studies.] It is an excellent example of an early approach to psychosomatic  studies. that weakness of certain organ systems, e.g., of the digestive tract,  of the urogenital tract, etc., creates a predisposition to disease in the  regions of the respective organ‑system without regard to any extraneous  causation of the disease in question; and that this is the case whether the  weakness be hereditary or caused by injuries suffered early in life‑within the  womb or in early childhood. Thus one finds families in which kidney diseases of  the most varied kind are constantly occurring: chronic nephritis,  nephrolithiasis, tubercLl1osis of the kidneys, may alternate in such families. A  special form of organ‑inferiority was shown to be segmental‑inferiority, a  congenital weakness of certain metamers of the body in which diseases and  anomalies occur in the derivatives of all three germinal layers in the realm of  the segment affected. Characteristic (p 1) is, e.g., the occurrence of naevi on  the breast and on the skin of the back in the case of lung troubles or of  individuals disposed to lung disease. Finally, Adler, in this paper, already  indicated the possibility of the organism physiologically and psychologically  compensating and overcompensating for organ‑inferiorities. The striking  phenomenon that among painters, e.g., one finds many with congenital anomalies  of vision, was, he said, evidently to be interpreted as such a compensation of  the organic defect, a compensation effected within the psychic superstructure.  [The term ‘.psychic superstructure” may imply that the psychic apparatus is  grafted on to the top of a somatic substrate. This editor prefer” to think of  psyche and soma as two manifestations of an overall pattern.] The idea of organ‑inferiority, originating with Adler’s study of it, forms today  an established component of the accepted constitution‑pathology. In the course  of developments Adler himself turned his attention to psychology and entered  into close relations with Sigmund Freud and the then unimportant psychoanalytic  school, whose views he in part adopted, without however, yielding his  independence within the realm of psychoanalysis. This independence of Adler’s  ideas which had their origin directly in the theory of organ inferiority and its  compensation, and had developed from that, led finally to the breaking of his  connection with psychoanalysis. In the year 1912 Adler left the Vienna Psvchov v  analytic Union and joined with a number of collaborators and friends (who, in  part, were also drawn from the Freudian group) , for the further investigation  of the way opened by him, the way of “Comparative Individual Psychology.” Since then the new school has more and more withdrawn from psychoanalysis, and  holds aloof from the essential theses of both the Freudian and the Jungian  schools. [It would be more correct to say it holds aloof from many of the  essential theses. In some points, as eve Wexberg later admits, Individual  Psychology owes a considerable debt to Freud. In other ways IP is in agreement  with Jung.] In particular, it rejects the Freudian instinct doctrine, the libido  theory and the allied psychoanalytic pan‑sexualism. On the (p 2) other hand,  Individual Psychology has retained the real starting point of the Freudian  instinct doctrines, the thesis of “Psychic determinism” and of the possibility  of explaining all mental expressions, including those apparently independent of  the will; and, accordingly, it avails itself of the Freudian interpretative  technique in the realm of dream psychology, of the “psychopathology of everyday  life,” and of the neuroses doctrine. This doctrine of psychic determinism  represents from the point of view of the individual psychology school the really  great and imperishable achievement of Sigmund Freud, but it is otherwise with  his libido theory, which has nothing to do with the former, and which is  regarded as a mistake by the representatives of Individual Psychology. [For the  Individual Psychologist, psychic determinism applies to parapraxes, dreams,  neurosis and almost all behavior. However, the basic determinants are not the  vicissitudes of the instinctual drives, but the Life Style, which shapes and  patterns the drives. Since the Life Style differs from individual to individual,  the determini5m itself differs. Furthermore, Individual Psychologists speak of  soft determinism. A “life style” is an open system and patterns of behavior can  be changed. If the Life Style changes, new psychic determinants (i.e., new  goals) can appear. Thus. the basic philosophic position of Individual Psychology  is “indeterministic.” At the time Wexberg wrote, the concept of unconscious  motives for behavior was not yet so accepted as today.]

Individual Psychology has for its aim, besides the scientific development of  Adler’s ideas, their propogation and their working out in the practice of almost  all walks of life. This movement, completely neutral in politics and religion,  is in many ways equivalent to an ethical reform tendency, although Individual  Psychology neither includes nor assumes any sort of doctrine of morals. [Not  strictly true. Adler’s concepts of the “logic of social living.” his division of  behavior into socially useful and useless; his concept of social interest  (gemeinschaftsgefiihl, communal feeling) and his description of the neurotic,  psychotic ana criminal as various ways of “failing” in life‑all have moralistic  overtones.] Individual Psychology may with some justice be described as a  normative science, but it is normative only in the sense in which scientific  hygiene is normative when it studies the bacterial flora of drinking water with  the admitted purpose of avoiding as far as possible (p 3) any injury to health  by bad water, and accordingly prescribes how a well “should” be situated, or a  water supply constructed.

Normative in this sense every psychology must be which claims to be able to  investigate the conditions of mental disease, because from the knowledge of the  cause of the neurosis naturally follows the theory of how to avoid it. These  norms, however, are altogether relative, valid only under the assumption that  the hygienic aim of Individual Psychology is recognized‑and to this, of course,  no one can be compelled. But that the individual‑psychologic norms are in many  ways closely related to the behests of every community ethic is clearly shown by  this: that prophets and founders of religions have in great part framed their  revealed ethics in harmony with an obscurely felt mental hygiene whose aim is  one in principle with that of Individual Psychology. Only, they have given their  maxims the form of categorical imperatives having a transcendental basis, which  in fact constitutes the essence of ethics as distinguished from the mental  hygiene of Individual Psychology. (p 4)



: By Erwin Wexberg, M.D. Translated  by Arnold Eiloart, B.Sc. Ph.D., Revised by Bernard H. Shulman, M.D. First  edition published 129 and second edition 1970 by Alfred Adler Institute of  Chicago.Individual Psychology claims to have made clear the mental relation between the  human being and the world about him, and by tracing it back to a few biological  principles to have shown it to be an essential component of the natural history  of man. As above set forth, it sees in psychoneurosis above all, a disturbance  in the relations of the individual to the community. Hence, it follows that the  therapeutics based on individual psychologic data must be an etiologic  therapeutic in the proper sense of the word, so far as the hypotheses of  individual psychology are correct. Individual psychological therapeutics aims  directly at correcting the faulty community relation of the individual. [“The individual psychological treatment of the nervous, of the discouraged  ambitious people, consists in discovering their mistakes, in diminishing their  striving for power, in increasing their community feeling” (Adler. “Advances in  Individual Psychology,” Ztschr. f. Individualpsychologie, vol. ii, p. 1, 1923)  .Neuroses and psychoses are modes in which discouraged people express,  themselves. He who has realized this fact of Individual Psychology will do well  to avoid accompanying discouraged people on long excursions into mystical  psychic regions. Conjectures as to primary psychic phenomena even if  incidentally correct, would only be a welcome excuse for them to evade important  problems of life. One thing effective and helpful which may, nevertheless,  result is, as in suggestive and hypnotic therapeutics, the encouragement which  flows uncomprehended (unconsciously? ) from the kindliness and patience of the  physician. It is only in the rarest cases that this form of partial  encouragement suffices; and it is never to be compared with our method, which  creates independence and self‑confidence. because it removes the real causes of  the discouragement” ( Adler, ibid.). “The therapeutically incomparable value of  this investigation lies in the fact that it shows the patient his fictitious,  uncomprehended and logically contradictory guiding idea, and does away with the  resulting obstinate rigidity in thinking. At the same time it cautiously draws  the patient out of his irresponsible position and compels him to take the  responsibility even for his pretexts (fictions) , which are now no longer  unconscious,” Adler, “Nervous Disturbances of Sleep,” Ztschr. f.  Individualpsychologie, vol. i, p. 65.] (p 24)

Step by step, therefore, it pursues this fault, which manifests itself in the  neurotic symptom, to its source, i.e. to the original inferiority feeling of the  child. The first correction has to begin here.

Theoretically considered, it should not be difficult to prove the falsity of the  suppositions on which the reinforced inferiority feeling of the future nervous  patient is built up. In many respects the discouragement of the child seen from  its own perspective, appears not to lack justification. So far as the  inferiority of the child in relation to the adult is a fact, so far it cannot be  denied that the child is at a disadvantage in comparison with the healthy people  around it, the poor compared with the rich, the unprotected and neglected child  of intemperate people compared with the well‑guarded and carefully trained child  of parents conscious of their responsibilities. All the evils with which fate  has burdened an unhappy childhood, as well as any misfortune in later life, are  cited to the physician by the neurotic who seeks to justify his attitude, to  show that he is right. Only, be it remembered that these facts, in themselves  incontestable, may be estimated at any importance which the patient chooses to  accord them. He will overestimate them just in proportion as he needs them. Here  the objection suggests itself: If Individual Psychology is right in considering  all those factors which are calculated to strengthen the child’s inferiority  feeling as etiological factors of the neurosis, then we are faced with a res  judicata; in these unfortunate constellations of a childhood nothing can be  altered; conditioned by these, the development to neurosis goes forward without  pause; an etiological therapeutics is impossible. In this case what individual  psychology could achieve would be only a sort of mental orthopaedics, never a  restitutio ad integrum.

This objection cannot be sustained, for the following reason: because the first  link of the etiologic chain is formed not by the objective facts of the child’s  experiences, but by their subjective elaboration in the child’s mind; and  because we can fix the first error as early as we please. If we consider the  course of events from without, then naturally the regression in the series of  causes will go back beyond the (p 25) subjective apperception attitude of the  child and will stop only at the objective facts‑the indeterminism of the  objective view. But from within, seen from the patient’s point of view, these  objective facts exist only the form of their subjective appearance; he lacks the  standard for deciding whether he has estimated rightly or under or  overestimated. In the very perception of the objective his responsible  personality is already concerned; truth and error, thus seen, are unreal  conceptions. It is the determinism of the subjective experience.’:’ Thus it  comes to this, that everyone might acquit the neurotic of all original guilt and  recognize the necessary course of the phenomena in the neurosis as in all  Nature‑but the patient himself would not be entitled to do this. He has no  legitimate cause of complaint because he is not free of participation in  bringing about those facts which he seeks to make his excuses. For no power in  the world could have compelled him to assimilate his experiences in precisely  such a way‑ and not otherwise. And so in spite of everything there attaches to  him‑not the ethical‑the logical responsibility for a course of life wrong from  the beginning, though the error may have been suggested to him by objectively  unfavorable conditions of life. But a logical error may have been corrected even  subsequently, and all false conclusions arising from it may be eliminated as  invalid. In this sense, the Individual Psychological treatment is to be regarded  as really etiological therapeutics. [“The causality which we find in the psychic  does not consist in a relation as of cause and effect, but we make something  into the cause and make the effects follow” (Adler, “Neurosis and Crime”). “Now,  as for the causes of the discouragement: they are always mistaken. A completely  adequate cause for discouragement does not exist. Only this error justifies us  in undertaking a radical therapeutic, of neurosis” (Adler. “Advances in  Individual Psychology”) “Up to the present there is not the slightest proof that  a heredity, or an experience, or an environment must necessarily result in  neurosis, much less in a particular neurosis. This etiologic necessity, which is  never free from personal tendencies. exists rather in an assumption of the  patient, an assumption which has become petrified” (Adler. “Life‑lie and  Responsibility in Psychosis,” Ztschr. f. Individualpsychologie, Year 1, p. 44,  1914).] (p 26)

The correction of these errors in apprehension of life represents, then, the  analytical part of psychotherapy. This part of the treatment is a sort of  individual psychologic instruction on life. According to the quantity of  material for study with which the patient supplies the therapist, success is  sooner or later attained in making the patient see that the  individual‑psychological interpretation of his previous course of life is the  only plausible one. [Wexberg exaggerates. Even the best therapist does not  always, achieve this success. Wexberg seems to call this the “analytical part of  psychotherapy. It would seem more appropriate to consider this part the  re‑educative aspect of psychotherapy.]

Here occurs the second objection: are we not perhaps imposing on the patient a  one‑sided tendentious conception of his personality? One does not need actually  to distort or to suggest to the patient memories which he never had; it is  sufficient to emphasize the factors in his life which seem to us important and  to disregard the others, and already the proof of our conception of the case is  supplied ‑ or insinuated. To this it must be replied: the systematic application  of the individual‑psychologic principle is no more an insinuation than the  celebrated jest with the Columbus egg was a swindle; it would have been so only  if a definite method of standing the egg on its end had been expressly  prescribed to Columbus. But his achievement consisted precisely in applying a  method of startling novelty. That the egg then stood on its end was, surely, no  trick. It was a matter of course. Just so the novelty of Individual Psychology  consists precisely in the “one‑sided” application of the individual psychologic  optics as a heuristic principle. It admittedly employs a section taken in a  quite definite direction for the investigation of the structure of a  personality; that then everything that lies in this section is to be seen in  this section, i.e. that all the patient’s experiences seen from the individual  psychologic point of view are subject to the individual psychologic  interpretation is certainly not to be wondered at. Individual psychology would  be in the wrong only (p 27) if its point of view were logically untenable, or if  it attempted to deny that these facts might be considered from other points of  view, e.g. from that of the instinct theory, of the physiology of the senses, of  the psychology of thinking, and so on. But this is by no means denied. That in  the course of individual psychologic treatment, however, the specific point of  view of Individual Psychology is explained to the patient, is a quite essential  part of the treatment. [This does not mean that the patient is taught the theory  of Individual Psychology, but is allowed to see the therapist’s way of looking  at his situation. The therapist does so because he believes a new point of view  will help the patient to understand himself and correct his errors. The  Individual Psychologist believes that neurosis is error, a “faulty” relation of  the patient to the community.]

It is, in fact, an absolute necessity to convince the patient, with the aid of  the material which he himself contributes, of the significance (not of the  unique nature) of the individual psychologic standpoint. We use the most active  persuasion and dialectics where it is a question of imparting to the patient the  individual psychologic view of things. For we cannot reasonably demand that  every patient shall discover Individual Psychology anew for himself. For good or  evil we shall be obliged to impart our views to him.

It is a case of a sort of individual psychologic education where we shall not  ignore the principles of a modern pedagogy, which demands, inter alia, that the  student shall make the material to be learned his own by assimilating it.  Theoretical lectures, are here unsuitable, and where it is possible with the  help of some practical example, some experience which he has himself related, to  make plain to the patient the individual psychologic view so that he finds it by  himself, there much is gained. With advanced practitioners this method is a  matter of course. As soon as the patient understands and appreciates the  principles of the teaching he must be brought to apply it independently to the  special case as each new fact comes up for discussion. It is in the nature of  the case that only seldom will even intelligent patients quickly become apt  pupils. For it is easy to understand that (p 28) there will be a certain  resistance to the individual psychologic view of their own experiences, even in  the case of patients who can see the mote in their neighbor’s eye and can judge  it individual‑psychologically just as well as we ourselves can. We shall honor  the truth and facilitate the patient’s task if we admit to him in this respect  we are ourselves not much better; and far removed from infallibility. (p 29)


(Author Unknown)  Second of 6 children. Adler couldn’t walk until 4 years old  due to rickets. Was hit by a car at age 5. Skinny, weak, sickly, and tormented  by his older brother. Felt small, unattractive, and rejected by his mother.  Idolized his father, a personable, successful, wealthy merchant. Was jealous of  his older brother Sigmund. Felt like he was in competition with his brother.  Worked hard to overcome his handicaps and inferiorities. Became very outgoing  and social. His brother despised him because he was different and made friends  easily with everyone ‑‑ people from all group in the multicultural neighborhood  in Vienna where he grew up.

At the University of Vienna, he became an opthalmologist. He read Freud and a  criticism of Freud, and felt prompted to write a defense of Freud. Freud wrote  to him and invited him to join the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society. Adler became  one of 4 charter members of Freud’s group in 1902. For about 10 years they were  good friends, until he resigned his presidency of the Society in 1911 and broke  with Freud. He came to view Freud as inflexible in his views, a power triper,  and obsessed with sex and death.

Was a doctor in the Austrian Army during World War I, wrote readable popular  books, and organized child guidance clinics in the Viennese school system.  Influenced Karen Horney (social factors), Gordon Allport (unity of personality),  Henry Murray (individual traits), E.C. Tolman (purpose), Julian Rotter  (expectancies), and Abraham Maslow (Self‑actualization. Maslow, Rollo May, and  Carl Rogers all studied under Adler, and all gave him credit for having  influenced their thinking. He could be characterized as the forerunner of  humanistic psychology.


Person must be seen in social situation. All important  problems and values are social problems and values. Adler’s approach was a kind  of holistic social “field theory” that predated Lewin. .Adler was not so interested in the unconscious or spirituality. Emphasis on the  social. He viewed people as mostly conscious rather than mostly unconscious  creatures

Referred to private logic ‑‑ our own inner chatterbox that tells us what to do. A COMPREHENSIVE VIEW. Like Freud, Adler gave us an all‑encompassing view of the  human being. An alternative to Freud. For Adler, it was useless to focus on  drives and impulses without giving attention to how the person creatively  directs the drives.


Early in his career Adler put forth the idea of “Masculine  protest.” The desire to be above, like a “real man”. In so doing he replaced  biological, external, objective causal explanations with psychological,  internal, subjective causal explanation.IN MEN: Feminine traits are carefully hidden by exaggerated masculine wishes and  efforts. This is a form of overcompensation, because the feminine tendency is  evaluated negatively in a patriarchal, masculine‑dominated culture. This can  lead to setting the highest, often unattainable goals for oneself. It develops a  craving for satisfaction and triumph, intensifies both abilities and egotistical  drives, including avarice and ambition. Defiance, vengeance, and resentment  accompany it, sometimes leading to continuous conflicts. Pathological fantasies  of grandeur result from overly strong masculine protests. The child may seek to  surpass the father in every respect and thereby come into conflict with him. IN WOMEN. The masculine protest in women is usually covered up and transformed,  seeking to triumph with feminine means. In our culture one may find a repressed  wish to become transformed into a man. Neurotic mechanisms such as sexual  anaesthesia may result. Comments by Adler’s editors Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher:  “When the striving for superiority and overcoming replaced the masculine protest  [in Adler’s thinking], the term became limited to the more restricted meaning of  the preceding paragraph. It referred to manifestations in women protesting  against their feminine role….

“When the masculine protest is increased, it produces such symptoms  as…’frigidity, few children, sometimes a late marriage, a weak husband; and  nervous disorders which are often related to the menses, pregnancy, childbirth,  and the menopause’.

But the masculine protest may also result in positive adjustment. “The  girl…develops a pronounced feeling of inferiority and pushes on vigorously.  She thus discloses a more thorough training which often gives her marked traits  of greater energy. This…can produce a vast number of both good and bad  conseqequences [including] all sorts of human excellents and shortcomings.” Adler was still thinking of the aggressive drive as the basic dynamic principle  when he was young and striving to assert his own ideas in opposition to Freud. NEED FOR AFFECTION. The need for social relationships is present from the start.  If satisfaction is denied to the outgoing seeking for affection, then the child  may turn in on himself or herself in narcissistic self‑love.


The basic dynamic force between all  human activity ‑‑ striving from a feeling of inferiority to one of superiority.  “To be a human being,” he wrote, “means to feel oneself inferior.” Adler  believed that inferiority feelings are the source of all human striving. All  individual progress, growth and development result from the attempt to  compensate for one’s inferiorities, be they or real. For Adler, we’re all  overcoming an inferiority. Feeling unattractive, or don’t belong somewhere. Not  strong enough or smart enough. So everyone is trying to overcome something that  is hampering them from becoming what they want to become. Organ inferiorities become psychologically effective through the intervention of feelings of  inferiority.The meaning of superiority changed through the years. Later it came to mean  perfection, completion, or overcoming. Unlike at the beginning, the frame of  reference was no longer the neurotic, but the mentally healthy individual. It  came to mean not superior over, not competition. Rather it became like  self‑realization.

A ceaselessness and universality of striving. The striving for perfections is  innate in the sense that it is a part of life. Throughout a person’s life, Adler  believed, he or she is motivated by the need to overcome the sense of  inferiority and strive for ever higher levels of development. Inferiority  complex: When an inability to overcome inferiority feelings heightens and  intensifies them. In the mentally ill, the goal of superiority turns in the  direction of wanting to domineer over others, lean on others, leave tasks of  life unsolved in order not to suffer sure defeats. These goals contradict  reason.


(Hans Vaihinger) Vaihinger defined “fictions” as ideas, incl.  unconscious notions, which have no counterpart in reality, yet enable us to deal  with it better than we could otherwise. Ex: “All men are created equal”. It  contradicts reality, yet as an idea has great practical value in everyday life.  Compare to a hypothesis: Whereas a hypophysis submits its reality test and  demands verification, the fiction is a sort of auxiliary construct. Dogma, by  contrast, refers to an idea which is considered defiantly established.FICTIONAL FINAL GOAL.

Based in subjective reality. Something we are all trying  to reach, that we strive for. we have within ourselves. Child develops this as a  safeguard to deal with the world around. Fictions are no reducible to causes.  They are mental states. A fictional final goal became for Adler the principle of  internal subjective causation of psychological events. A basic aspect of our  orientation in the world, and one aspect of compensation for felt inferiorities. THE “CREATIVE SELF” Known by its effects. We have freedom to act, determine our  fate, determine our personality and affect our style of life. Creative power of  the self means we consciously shape our personalities and destinies. The  creative power of the self is the essential principle of human life. Heredity  gives us “certain abilities,” environment gives us “certain impressions, These,  along with the way we interpret and experience them, make up the bricks we use  in our own creative way to construct our individual attitudes toward life and  our relations to the outside world. We consciously shape our personalities and  destinyLIFE PLAN: 

Our strategy to deal with the world around us. Life play and FFG are  similar, they’re related. In life plan the child develops a strategy, then tries  to get a handle on what’s going on around them. This becomes the fictional final  goal and ultimately the lifestyle. Adler viewed Freud as too concerned with the  past. He himself was oriented toward the future. We look to the future, to our  expectations, rather than to the past to explain our behavior.STYLE OF LIFE. 

Comparable to the psyche, personality. It is what we are, who we  are, what we want to be. The life style is usually set in motion by age 4 or 5.  It is involved in the uniqueness of each person, and that person’s unique way of  striving for superiority. Includes the goal, the person’s opinion of self and  world, and his or her unique way of striving for the goal in his or her  particular situation. Our basic personality, our uniqueness and how we live our  life, comes from the creative power of the self. Heredity, environment,  conscious, unconscious all contribute to this.Everything Adler says ties into the lifestyle. For Adler, meanings are not  determined by situation, but we are self‑determined by the meaning we attribute  to a situation. Style of life is equated with self or ego, a unity of  personality. Individuality is seen as th1individual form of creative activity.  There is a focus on the direction potentialities are taking. This is heavily  influenced by childhood experiences.

Success, in Adler’s terms, dealt with how we fit into the environment while  being true to ourselves. You’re individual, unique. If you’re successful only in  doing what others want you to, you’re not really successful if it doesn’t fit  you personally.


Gives us basically a positive outlook on life. An interest in  furthering the welfare of others. We can all work together toward this goal. If  we don’t have a faulty lifestyle, we will progress together to help society.IDEAL PERSONALITY: THE SOCIALLY USEFUL PERSON. 

Wise socialization is achieved  not through repression but through social interest,. This is a potential to  cooperate with others to achieve personal and social goals. This became Adler’s  criterion for normality and maturity. People can be trained in this direction  starting in infancy. Social interest gives us basically a positive outlook on  life. An interest in furthering the welfare of others. We can all work together  toward this goal. If we don’t have a faulty lifestyle, we will progress together  to help society.SOCIAL INTEREST AND INTELLIGENCE

. Adler saw social interest as an important part  of a person’s intelligent functioning in a given situation. The degree of a  person’s social interest determines whether his or her intellectual solution of  a problem will have general validity, that is, will be reasonable or not. Good  intellectual functioning produces solutions to problems which make sense not  only to the individual but also to the group.Genius, acc. to Adler, is primarily a person of supreme usefulness. The essence  of genius lies neither in inherited qualities nor environmental influences, but  in that third sphere of individual reaction which includes the possibility of  socially affirmative action. It is only when someone’s life is recognized by  others as having significance for them that we call him or her a genius.


This is striving on the “commonly useful side.” Poor adjustment  is striving on the “commonly useless side.” Mental disturbances are thus  understood as disturbances not only in the individual, but in the social  situation as well. Adler presumes an innate potential for social interest. Not  to want to help one’s neighbor is one of the characteristics of maladjustment.  The person whose social interest is developed finds the solution to problems,  feels at home in the world, and perceives more clearly.POOR ADJUSTMENT:

The person not interested in his or her fellows has the  greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. “It is  from among such individuals that all human failures spring. ” PERSONALITY PROBLEMS. Related to a faulty style of life, usually developed in  childhood.Community: People have always had to cooperate. A person must cooperate with and  contribute to society to realize both own and society’s goals. Activity. To a striving for superiority and social interest, Adler later added a  third primary motive of degree of activity.


Three things that can interfere with social interest are. 1. Organ inferiorities: People say, “poor kid,” etc. Kid starts to think, “I’m  missing something that the other kids have. If circumstance are right for it,  these feelings will roll and roll like a big snowball. If incorrectly handled by  parents around the child, they can lead to faulty lifestyle. 2. The pampered child. Spoiled brat. “Why should I love my neighbor when my  neighbor hasn’t done anything for me? I’m here for myself, nobody else. Can get  paranoid if others don’t give him or her what he or she wants. This often occurs  when the parents raised the child for themselves and their own gratification.  Didn’t bring him up to be a good member of, to contribute to society. 3. The Neglected child. Also feels cheated by life. Didn’t have enough love,  caring, etc. Society owes me that. I want to get it back. They cheated on me, so  I’m getting what’s mine. Like the pampered child. A self‑perpetuating situation.NEUROTIC BEHAVIOR

. The neurotic overcompensates for feeling insecure to protect  self‑esteem. Points to his symptom to justify lack of social interest.  Overindulged child may become self‑centered, neglected child may seek revenge  against society. The safeguarding aspect. To overcompensate for feelings of  insecurity and protect his self‑esteem, a neurotic can always point toward his  symptom as justification for lack of social interest.Neurotic approaches to life include:

1) A distancing attitude
2) Detours
3) A narrowed path
4) A hesitating attitude.

The person is a victim of a wrong attitude toward life that they learned during  childhood. People push their difficulties on others and evade realities. A TYPOLOGY. Emerges from combining degrees of activity with social interest.  Socially useful person. High social interest and high degree of activity. Ruling  person: Low social interest and high degree of activity. Out for own self  interest, not others. Might be tyrant or despot.

Getting person: Take all and give nothing.
Recluse: Low social interest and low activity.

(I have not seen high social interest and low activity mentioned. EARLIEST MEMORIES: In his therapeutic practice this is the first question Adler  would always ask, and use it as a basis for discovering the person’s lifestyle.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. What’s important is that you chose  those words, that incident, and vocalized it. If you’re lying about it, lying  and deceit probably characterize your life.

There are no chance memories, thought Adler. We consciously choose what we want  to remember, because it will help us in some endeavor.

2 functions: Problem solving. Forward moving.

Did not deal with nightmares, so far as I know.

Dreams serve as a bridge to what we want to attain. To a certain degree they are  prophetic. They keep us moving forward. Dream could be practice for an event  that is coming up. When you practice something you’re moving forward and helping  solve a problem.

BIRTH ORDER: Pioneered interest in this area. Adler posited birth order as one  of the major childhood social influences from which the individual creates a  style of life. There is potentially a favorable or unfavorable outcome from each  birth order place.

OLDER CHILD: Can feel dethroned. Inferior to younger child Favorable outcome ‑‑  feel responsibility, take care of others. Unfavorable outcome: Insecure, overly  reliant on rules.

MIDDLE CHILD: Has a model in the older child, must share attention from the  beginning. Doesn’t realize until later that the older child was alone before.  Favorable outcome: Be ambitious. Want to be at least as good as the older child.  Strong social interest.

Unfavorable outcome: Rebellious and envious. Permanent tendency to try to  surpass others. Difficulty in role of follower.

YOUNGEST: Lots of attention. Often pampered.

Favorable: Much stimulation. Many chances to compete.
Unfavorable: Feel inferior to everyone..

ONLY. Gets undivided attention, often pampered, may compete with father. PSYCHOTHERAPY: Includes

1. Understanding the specific style of life of the patient.

2. Explaining the patient to himself or herself.
3. Strengthening the social interest in the patient. In sum, Understand,  interpret, direct.

Beverly, a 22‑year‑old single female who worked as a dental assistant, came to  the hospital for a skin graft to cover a large scar on her left leg. Following  high school, Beverly joined the army and spent four years on active duty.  Shortly after her release from the army, she had an accident while riding a  bicycle that was the cause of the scar on her leg. She was very self‑conscious  about the scare and believed that people stared at her. She was hurt and  embarrassed by their staring at her leg. After that experience, she would not  leave her home without a bandage over the scar or she would ware slacks. I was  consulted to work with her for pain management and self‑esteem. To help her cope  with her situation, I used several techniques and appropriate scripts for pain  management and increasing self‑confidence and self‑esteem.
1. (PRE‑SCHOOL PERIOD): Beverly was an illegitimate child who was raised by her  grand parents until she was 13 years old. Though she knew who her mother was,  she called her grandmother, “mother.” She said that her relationship with her  grandfather was good but she felt closer to her grandmother. Her grandparents  were strict, setting limits and wanting to know where she was and what she was  doing. Looking back on their concern, she felt that their limits were an  indication of their love for her. “I had the hurts and accidents of childhood  but grandmother and grandfather were always there to show me love.” Beverly  remembers an incident when she was crying which made a lasting impression on  her. Her grandmother tried to get her to stop crying but she would not. Beverly’  s grandmother said, “I am leaving you in this room so you can cry as long and as  loud as you like, but no will hear you.” This experience really frightened  Beverly. After that experience, she was always “very good so that grandmother  would know that I love her.”

2. (ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PERIOD): Beverly looked forward to beginning school.  Throughout school, Beverly made above average grades. “I really enjoyed learning  under all my teachers except three who did not motivate me.” Until Kay’s death two years before Beverly’s hospitalization for the graft,  Beverly had a very close friend, Kay, who was two years older and “like a  sister.” It was Kay, rather than her grandparents, who told her about sex and to  whom she sent for sexual advice. “Grandmother never knew exactly how to talk  with me about sex so I would go to Kay with my questions.” Beverly had not been  given any instructions concerning menstruation, so she was very frightened when she first stated at age 11. Kay told her what was happening and then everything  was all right.

Beverly masturbated occasionally throughout her teenage years. It began out of  curiosity and experimentation. Referring to the first time she masturbated to orgasm, “I did not know what was happening. It was kind of like an explosion, but it felt good and I enjoyed it.” Beverly had little guilt when she masturbated for she considered it as a natural part of growing up. As she began to develop, Beverly felt good because she wanted to catch and keep up with Kay. “She was like a sister to me and I wanted to keep up with her. I felt really grown up. It was kind of exciting. When I started to develop, I said, “Great, now I am catching up with Kay, now everybody will be proud of me.”

3. (HIGH SCHOOL PERIOD): At the age of 13, Beverly went to live with her mother.  Due to financial reasons and the health of her grandparents, she was forced to  live with her mother and stepfather. Beverly often had conflicts with her mother  for “she was very temperamental. I was not used to her and she scared me. She  did not trust me with boys even though I gave her no cause to be untrustful of  me. I felt she was judging me by what she had done.”

Beverly had a very good relationship with her stepfather. He understood her and  she could take with him. He would take her to the movies and swimming. “Mother  would not go. She could have but would not.” Beverly’s stepfather helped her and  her mother adjust to one another. “I could not have asked for a better  stepfather. I felt accepted by him.”

4. (POST HIGH SCHOOL PERIOD): After high school, Beverly decided to join the  army with the promise that she would be trained as a dental assistant. After her  basic and technical training, she was stationed in Germany. She met a soldier,  Tom, and this friendship developed into intimacy. After courting for several  months, she had her first sexual experience with this soldier. “Though I enjoyed  sex, it was not until the third experience with Tom that I reached a climax.  When I think of that experience, it was like rockets going off inside me. It was  a wonderful experience.”

After departed Germany, Tom and Beverly corresponded for several weeks until he  quite writing.

In addition to Beverly’s normal feelings of inferiority, she had to live with  the fact that she was an illegitimate child and was deserted by her mother as an  infant. Due to the love and concern that she experienced from her grandparents,  she was able to develop without her feelings of inferiority becoming an  inferiority complex.

The scar on her leg had given her some feelings of inferiority. Though she  experiences some self‑consciousness about the scar, she has adjusted well to  life with it. Beverly compensates for her scar by being the “best dental  assistant that I can be” and by wearing slacks. Her need to wear a dress with  any boy that she likes is an effort to check out his reaction to the scar.  Beverly wants the boy to know early in their relationship so that she will not  be hurt if he should reject her because of it.

Beverly’s striving for superiority and her style of life is expressed in being a  good girl so that her grandparents and others will love her. She did not strive  for personal superiority but solved the problem in a way that was useful to  others as well as herself. In becoming a dental assistant, she chose a helping  professional which shows her interest in others.

Though Beverly was an only child in the home of her grandparents, they did not  spoil her. They were strict but caring and this was experienced by Beverly as an  expression of their love and concern. Beverly was able to develop a very close  relationship with a neighbor, Kay, who as like an older sister. Through their  relationship, Beverly developed a sense of cooperation with others. Characteristics of a second or younger child can be seen in Beverly’s  relationship with Kay. Beverly refers to Kay as “being like a sister.” In this  relationship, Beverly show an ambition to catch up with and perhaps go ahead of  Kay.

I believe that Beverly’s greatest fear is in being deserted by those with whom  she develops a close relationship. This fear is based on her mother deserting  her at birth, her grandmother deserting her at the age of 13, Kay’s deserting  her by death, and Tom deserting her after she got out of the army. In spite of  these reversals, Beverly makes friends with ease and has a great deal of social  interest. She said, “I know that I should not become so attached to people  because they can leave and hurt you, but I love people enough to take the risk.  I think that it worth the effort.”

In addition to helping her with pain management, I worked with her to improve  her self‑confidence, self‑esteem, and feelings of self‑worth. Basically Beverly  feels good about herself and has a style of life under girded with social  interest. As she has a concern for others as well as herself, I believe that she  will probably have a very satisfying life. Beverly is a well‑adjusted person who  can function well in society.


(Alfred Adler relaxing and talking with friends)

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