Dr. George B. Neeson M.D.
Medical Psychotherapist
Classical Adlerian
Psychotherapy
 

George Neeson MD
Medical Psychotherapist
Adlerian

Office sign reads
"Medical Psychotherapist (Adlerian)"
4502 South Ave., Unit 5,
Elizabethtown, Ontario, Canada
K6T 1A8
Telephone 613 498 1602
Five minutes north of Brockville on County Road 29.


Last Update March 15, 2010

.


<(((<<


Alfred Adler changing a dressing on a child

Page Index



Some Initial Links:


 Dr Henry Stein's Classical Adlerian Psychology Page
 Behavior on Line Classical Adlerian Forum
 General Practice Psychotherapy Association

My Son's Business Page

VNInstruments non-destructive ultrasonic testing equipment

Strong Recommendation:
If you seriously wish to understand the psychology of Alfred Adler, you must have a good teacher like Dr. Henry Stein and you also must read what Adler has written and that which has been recorded from his lectures. There is no substitute for reading one of his articles every day or two. We must be grateful to Dr. Stein for his effort on the "Translation Project". It has consumed so very much of his time. We now have a truly readable and good translation of almost everything Adler has written or that has been recorded by him.
See this link and start purchasing these wonderful volumes from Dr. Henry Stein on his web page under video DVDs and books down the page.



Some Links of Personal Interest:
 Aid to Christian Church in third world (Empower Ministries)


Practicing what has been called "Classical Adlerian Depth Psychology*" as defined by
Dr. Henry Stein in the tradition of the ideas developed by Dr. Alfred Adler.
See link below to Dr. Stein's web page. After years of studying this psychology, it is my opinion that this page is the best and most accurate representation and coverage of Adlerian psychology on the web.


Dr. Henry Stein is my training analyst and encourager. He has shared this psychology with me in its richness for approaching 9 years now. I have taken many courses with this most inspiring and helpful gentleman.

* Please note carefully that not all net URL's espousing to teach Adler's psychology indeed do. Many are referring to the teachings of Dreikurs which in many regards do not seem consistent with Adler's real teaching and intent!

My Interests:
My special interest is working with individuals to help them see why and how they keep falling into the same difficulties. At times I also work with both members in a relationship and this can be most helpful to both.
    I do not have a particular interest in traditional marriage counseling but rather prefer to work with both people separately after an initial interview together. Once the "life style" of each person is dissolved or reduced, relationship conflict usually serves no discernible purpose and ceases.
Children:
I prefer to work with people over the age of sixteen. I do, however, work with some children over about age ten if the parent(s) will agree to participate with the child. I will interview the child and parent, and if I feel my approach is appropriate to this child, I will then offer further appointments. As is the case with all potential clients, I must make a decision regarding those with whom I feel I am able to effectively work.
Some Hints About Being in Therapy:
An effective therapy takes time. Be prepared for weekly visits for six months or longer depending on your need and your appetite for change. Remember that the situation you find yourself in at the moment has resulted from your conclusions in childhood. These are well practiced and will not dissolve in only one or two visits with any therapist except in the most minor of problems. Also recall that medications do not alter the beliefs that support the distress. I reject the notion that medication can cure emotional suffering. It needs to be unraveled and gently understood. When this is achieved, the mind is quite able to dispatch the symptoms!
    For my style of work, I do not do brief therapy and for me it is not effective, but rather suppresses some symptoms for a less than satisfactory time period without the greater benefit of a more complete and precise Adlerian encouragement and dissolution of the neurotic construction.
    This psychology is not as much about diseases of the mind as it is about life and living. Indeed the theory fully developed provides a fully functional model for humans living in community. In fact the fully healed human is truly part of and functions fully in the community.

At the conclusion of his trial Socrates says this:

    So this therapist client relationship is a wonderful opportunity to examine one's own life in an atmosphere of encouragement and gentle challenge through a process of Socratic questioning and open sharing. From this perspective every human can benefit from such an experience! For the mind to burn with desire to achieve the fullness of the person to best benefit mankind is an exciting vision. The mind that does not burn with such a passion is wasted in the gloom of the night of the discouragement of the soul!

About self help a note of caution:
There is nothing in the theoretical part of this page that is of any use for self help. It is a brief and very simplified view of some aspects of Adler's theory only! If you feel you need therapeutic assistance you need to see a properly trained therapist. My clear bias is toward Adlerian psychology, but almost any well trained therapist can assist you should you cooperate with them fully!

Adlerian Psychology Greatly Oversimplified!
Please see the note linked here
 


The Gender Problem on this page

  To facilitate formulating this page, I have given up trying to adapt to the He/She difficulty, The use of "he" or "him" denotes a person with no consideration of gender on this page. It is unfortunate that English usage is not more gender neutral, but Adlerian psychology is deeply rooted in the notion of gender equality. Language has failed me, not my intent!



Index to teaching material below:
 The nature of Personality Theories
 The beginning
 Life tasks
 Inferiority Feeling
 Fictional Goal of Superiority
 The Life Style
 Consistency of the Life Style
 Private Logic
 Movement
 Early Recollections
 Scheme of Apperception
 Tendentious Apperception
 Birth Order
 Uniqueness of the individual
 Masculine Protest
 Social Interest
 On Dreams
 Causa Finalis
 Use of Emotions
 Symptoms
 Degree of Activity
 The Unconscious
 Diagnosis
 The Therapist Life Style
The DSM Criteria



 
 



.In the Beginning

    As you start to read this page you will soon see the grand sweep of this psychology. Do not be overwhelmed by the small amount of information that is here. I find that I have to read Adler's writing almost daily to maintain and gain competence. My son suggested to me, as a man trained in science, that "this psychology is only learned by starting in the middle and working both ways". That has been my experience but if you persist it will grow on you. An organized study program with a full training analyst like Dr. Henry Stein is the only way to really begin to appreciate its richness. I have done a reasonable amount of training with him and enjoy it. I hope to yet do more.
   A good place to start the long journey of attempting to understand Adler's theory is with the notion that we all have created our own unique way of responding to the perceived and real challenges of life based primarily on conclusions we drew starting in the earliest phases of childhood. This response to life's experiences is the unique creation of each individual. This specific and very personal set of ways of responding to life's challenges is called "The Life Style", and we started to create it when we were first born or perhaps even in the last trimester of our life in utero. This life style is a result therefore, of childlike conclusions commencing from our earliest childhood experiences but with very limited understanding of logic and reality, if any! The child lacks any means for philosophical evaluation, and has no standard with which to compare experiences to that which more generally is perceived as "true". In fact the child does not have life experience that would even let him discern that which is true in the generally accepted sense of the word! The child's conclusions of truth are relative to his home and life situation. The child does have experiences that produce feelings of pleasure and feelings of discomfort. Since the child is thinking and drawing conclusions based on this small set of data reference points, he will seek to eliminate or decrease the unpleasant experiences and increase the number of pleasant experiences. The conclusions about what is desirable and undesirable, are wholly based on the incomplete understanding of the child's growing mind and is completely subjective. It is generated by the incomplete and as yet not fully developed and continuously developing mind of this tiny human. From this data set, the child starts to develop reference points and standards which become the basis of a subsequent set of conclusions. This set of conclusions is referred to as "private logic". This private logic from the perspective of the child's situation and limited understanding, is its own creation. It is not some form of deluded thinking. It is just the type of conclusions that any thinking being could draw from such limited experience, based on their own creativity from the context of childhood. It could be a conclusion that we ourselves might also have drawn with the same situation and the same limited ability. It is not a mistake for a child to carry such a conclusion. The mistake occurs when such a conclusion is carried forward unchecked into adult life. It may not coincide (indeed it often does not) with adult logic and more generally accepted common sense, but seen in the context of the child's life story, it would not be unreasonable for a child to draw such conclusions. And since this same child has little or no opportunity to control the external influences, a sense of powerlessness most often ensues leading to the feeling of not being very capable. This information and these conclusions are used by the child to create his own"inferiority feeling", and all of this is done with really no tools to assess the real validity of his conclusions. (It is interesting in conversing with children how very many of them long to grow tall. It seems that early in life the desire to be physically above their peers anticipates the later desire to be psychologically above which infers quite clearly, the discomfort of feeling below.) Subsequently when this private logic runs unchecked and unexamined in adult life, it can be the "parent" of all sorts of seemingly irrational behaviors and beliefs. Seen from the perspective of the child's deductions or private logic, these same ideas are not unreasonable at all. From the perspective of this child and this situation with its very limited life experience, the conclusions could reasonably be reached by any given individual. Seen from the perspective of adult logic the conclusions may seem quite perplexing and irrational. Such is private logic and this is the logic that runs unchecked in every human mind until it is examined and corrected. Much of this private logic is not particularly harmful, but when it leads an individual too far from common sense and the good of mankind, then it really does need examination and correction.
   A new born child is indeed quite helpless and utterly dependent on the care of others (usually mother) for its survival. It probably does not yet have a sense of self because it still has to learn how to create even this! Now if the mother proves unreliable or unpredictable, the child is almost always very damaged because it is truly not yet capable of the the tasks of its young life. But even in such a desperate circumstance, a child may develop personal resilience and adaptability that can be quite wonderful. Such a lack of normal maternal nurturing may leave scars so deep that this person may withdraw even to the extent of psychosis as in "paranoid schizophrenia". The child seems to have concluded in such a case, that the world is a hostile place from which it must escape. (In the case of paranoia, the feeling of insufficiency gets elevated to a goal of personal superiority by a trick. For example they may have concluded that "Everyone is out to get them". Thus they have their goal of supremacy because it is not just some who are out to get them, it is everyone. It seems from this perspective of deep discouragement, better to be the most hunted than to feel utterly ignored.) This neglected child is, and probably will feel, they are poorly prepared for the tasks of life, and they usually are. A greater percentage of children experience pampering which is often far more harmful. We shall explore the effects of pampering subsequently.
    A child is born into the world with a little mind or brain that is almost devoid of information except for the experience of the discomfort of its need for food and warmth and care. It is a sentient being who processes this information to gradually evolving conclusions. From these conclusions, without the benefit of a developed logical system, its style of life is developed and this style of life becomes unique to its self, based on the notion that the child's coherent conduct indicates that it has found a specific fixed point outside its own person that it is striving after with all the energy of its psychic development. It is this fixed external point that produces the largely non genetic part of human uniqueness. These early conclusions produce the child's guiding line that will then start to pull and propel him. This creation is then specific and unique to each person although it is not unreasonable to indicate that there are genetic pre dispositions at play. The genetic material does not play a major role in determining the nature of the conclusions drawn. The major role is played by the child's evolving intellectual processes and his unique creativity. There remains however, a great degree of personal freedom in the development of this psychic life! This unique style of life is still drawn by the growing "goal" that is the fixed point the child has and will continue to be pulled toward. This "goal" is the compensating feeling of being above ... the fictional goal of personal superiority. This fixed goal is the antipode of the feeling of insufficiency and compensates for it. The movement to superiority is innate. It is as much a part of life as is physical growth. It is a function of the mind as it starts to fill itself and rise above its very real limitations, the limitations of the baby. This movement, as Adler is careful to point out, is not a movement that involves vanity in the child, it is a movement toward greater completeness in the same manner that the child's growing body seeks completeness. It has nothing whatsoever to do with enhancing the vanity of the child. This growth that is in parallel with organic growth, is not, in any way, to be confused with a drive of the type Freud and others described. It is just part of the process of the normal maturation of the human organism except that this movement involves the mind and the spirit. It goes astray when it is not done "sub specie aeternitatis" with the intent of compensating for a perception of being more inferior than others with a goal of having some sort of personal supremacy over others. When this occurs, the deficiency of social interest becomes damagingly evident to greater or lesser degrees. This situation may develop quite early when a child's situation is particularly discouraging, perhaps as early as age one or two years.
    To understand a client's unique style of life, this fixed point, the sought after point of fictional superiority, is constantly sought by the Adlerian therapist. Then the therapist works backwards to the unique discouragement and inferiority feeling of each individual. Having discerned the unique discouragement, then specific encouragement for this person can be provided. Thus this psychology truly is an individual psychology in the root meaning of the word individual in German. It seeks to discern and interpret the unique individual conclusions of every person in the therapeutic relationship, to engage them in an encouraging encounter through gentle encouragement and clarification of the movements the person is making.
    However any new born child is, so to speak, in an inferior position, from the perspective of its self as a baby in reference to these large and powerful people its is surrounded by. In this reference frame the child is inferior because it is clearly incomplete. Adlerian psychology suggests that various degrees of this "feeling of deficiency" persist into adult life and this is called the "Inferiority Feeling" which demonstrates its self as an undue feeling of deficiency that seeks a compensation of some type or other.  Since feeling inferior is disquieting, the child also develops a strategy to compensate for it with a "fictional goal of superiority". It is a fiction because it is not indeed accurate. The child may actually use this feeling of insufficiency to his perceived advantage. He may actually accentuate his difficulty to thereby put the family or a parent in his service. This would be a first step in the development of a subsequent neurosis. If he uses his evident smallness to achieve a perception of more dominance and influence in the family, he is already showing a rather severe degree of presumed insufficiency for the tasks of his still young life. His piqued ambition uses all the tools he can find to gain an upper hand in such a case. Adler felt that this fictional goal was set in the first four to five years of life. This goal determines the direction of the life as it seems to promise power through rising above others around. This goal draws the mind of the person who feels inferior in some way(s) to an intoxicating notion of potentially being in the one up position. This goal unifies the psychic striving by drawing this person always toward this sense of superiority. This is the unifying force in the psychic life! No single event or genetic tendency can focus human striving in such a manner. No neglect or abuse can do this. Only the unifying goal can so inexorably draw a human personality crafted by personal creativity. This goal will appear in all activity. It will dictate ones attitude toward society, work and sex. However each individual has their own "unique to them" goal, and it is not easily seen unless one is well trained in this psychology. Never the less, the life of the soul (Sielenleben in German), is utterly drawn by this magnetic unique self created force. Unfortunately this fictional goal of personal superiority is utterly incompatible with the best welfare of mankind. True social interest and this goal can not coexist. As the therapist understands this unifying principle in the person, it is not done with a condescending attitude but rather with the clear notion that any person who grew up in the same circumstance, including the therapist, may well have drawn the same conclusions and formulated a similar goal of superiority.
    The notion of a "Fiction" may be new to you. An example of a useful fiction is the picture we carry about of the atom as a mini solar system with little planets (electrons) spinning around the nucleus (the sun). This is a convenient fiction, but the scientists tell us it is not at all accurate! These fictions even though they are not accurate, are often helpful ways of organizing information as long as they are linked with the generally accepted common sense of the community in which we live. The notion of these fictions was discovered by Adler in the writings of Henry Vaihinger ... "The Philosophy of As If", I think is an adequate translation of the German title. When I refer to fictions in this writing, it is to this concept I refer.
An Inferiority Feeling depending on how an individual perceives it, is not a bad thing in and of itself. The truth of our situation as a human is that we remain incomplete, but that does not translate to being globally inferior. We just have some areas of incompleteness which are potential areas for growth. A scientist who sees that in his chosen area he has much to learn, may find this knowledge of his present insufficiency to be a very strong motivator to dig more deeply and that is a plus for him and eventually for mankind. Albert Einstein's struggle to develop his theory of special relativity is a case in point of a person  who saw his difficulty understanding how space and time work from the perspective of the observer, to be a strong calling card to discover an as yet unknown understanding of the physical universe. Indeed no single human being is sufficient in themselves. But the reverse situation is what happens when a person discouraged by the inferiority feeling, seeks to compensate and uses strategies to attempt to deceive himself with the intoxicating notion that he can move above others, driven by his feeling of insufficiency and the lust for power. This is vanity and injures both this individual and those around him. But this goal of seeking to be above others is also a fiction. We are all just fellow humans and no above is available, save in the self delusion of the neurotic scheme of domination, but that is just a cooperation of several neurotic people when one person allows another to dominate them. However this movement to above is damaging to the person who dominates, to the person who is dominated and ultimately to mankind in general, because the full benefit of this individual is lost and he draws down the sum total of human potential. It holds both the person and mankind back from achieving the best for all. (A proper knowledge of some of what one does not know is not disquieting and may be most beneficial in an encouraged individual.)
    The depth of a person's inferiority feeling is never tested until this person is faced with a task where cooperation is required. A person with a deep inferiority feeling may feel so unable to engage in this pursuit of being a part of mankind, that they may actually choose to break with reality. What in fact they are doing is not truly a "break with reality". It is a steadfast pursuit of their fictional life goal directly in line with their life style and built on the conclusion that occurred in childhood, a conclusion of personal incapacity leading them to opt out of common sense and therefore opt out of the community of mankind. They mistakenly deem the challenge too great because in their vanity they must be the top or nothing. The "break with reality" is a masquerade for the goal. The goal remains one of personal perceived superiority such that the usual demands of social life no longer appear to apply to this individual. This is not caused by some breakdown in the function of the brain's neurotransmitters. It is a change in brain function created by the person to achieve their goal! For such a change in brain function originating in their "will to power", of course neurotransmitter levels are altered. That is the nature of the electro-chemical function of mental processes! The mischief is that this individual has a goal of being excused from some aspect of community living and one or more of the three life tasks (See life tasks below).
  The activity of attempting to overcome the Inferiority Feeling by the development of a personal fictional goal, is called "Compensatory Striving".  A compensation is an attempt to fill up that which is deemed to be deficient from an egocentric perspective, but in this Adlerian sense, it is thus only self serving. This "compensatory striving" to overcome the feeling of being in a minus position (German Minderwertigkeit) most commonly is in a direction which neither benefits the individual nor mankind, most notably the community in which the person lives. Since this psychology is existential and therefore values based, this psychological movement is considered to "not be useful", because it is in a wrong direction that does not benefit the human race. (Good is that which brings a benefit to mankind. Bad is what detracts from mankind.) This movement away from bringing benefit happens because the child at this young age has no notion of community and has become rather used to feeling it must have its needs met at its command. (This may be different if the child is being neglected which may lead to a different set of conclusions, but nevertheless, the child will still probably conclude that it does want its own way, and will have no or very little sense of the needs of others.) This feeling of inability leads to a hesitating or sometimes to a dominating compensation strategy. The perceived need to seem good overwhelms the need to be good. The neurotic adapts "the will to seem". This feeling of powerlessness leads to a sense of personal deficiency. This is the root of the inferiority feeling ... the feeling of being in the minus position. With proper and very accurate encouragement, this minus feeling can be overcome and we are able to learn psychological movements that benefit mankind and are therefore deemed to be in a right or useful direction. The task of the Adlerian therapist is to discern this movement away from "social interest" and correct it with precise encouragement of the perception that this person is more inferior than others. We can never be above others when we have social interest or indeed when we do not, but rather we deal with the wonderful truth that although we are unique, we are also quite content to be the one among the others, each playing our fair and proper role. The goal of being "above, is a fool's paradise. Compensatory striving is always damaging when it is used to attempt to achieve the fictional goal of superiority. The goal that social interest will always set, is to contribute as fully as we are able to the community that we at one time sought to rise above.
    The nature and intensity of the compensatory striving is directly related to the depth of the discouragement. The deeper the inferiority feeling, the higher the goal will be. Furthermore, the more deeply the feeling of insufficiency descends downwards, the more feverishly the goal will be clung to and the more strongly it will be defended. A very high goal of fictional superiority indicates the deepest sense of despondency and worthlessness. If the Inferiority feeling is very deep it may even produce an "attacking" attitude or behaviour toward mankind ... the very antithesis of social interest! Another movement that may be seen when the inferiority feeling is very deep and the goal is proportionately "out of sight", may be a stopping, standing still approach to life's problems. Such a person may then demand that others wait on them. I believe that is one of the reasons that early in an admission to a psychiatric facility, before medication is given or could have reached therapeutic levels, significant improvement is often seen. The patient has his goal. Even his meals are brought to him!

    The compensatory striving will also use elaborate safeguards from the demands and perceived difficulties in life that appear in this discouraged perception, to be too high. These safeguards are elaborate constructions that protect the vanity of this neurotic person. Such a person is well defended from one or more of the ever present life tasks, the social task, the work task and the love task. These tasks are avoided by the construction of the neurosis which falls out of this notion of personal ineptitude or incapability. Once more, the deeper the discouragement, the more life tasks are partially or fully avoided while attempting to preserve the ever present vanity through the construction of this elaborate neurotic device. The device is a trick to distract the self and others from the truth of the lofty goal!
     So it becomes apparent at this time, that the human life is conducted in community. Herein Adlerian psychology is radically different from almost all other psychology's. Freud argued, as does modern psychiatry, that the defect in function of the person is intrinsic. He felt it was some deficiency of function of the brain or mind based on inherited drives. To conceptualize a human in isolation is just simply an invalid idea. It would be similar to a suggestion that an electron can exist without a proton or a nucleus, or perhaps even without space and time! The speciation of our whole planet is a study in interconnectedness and inter relatedness, and this applies utterly to the construction of a neurosis or psychosis. It is conducted in a context of mankind and the world as a movement away from the iron clad logic of communal living, as Adler expressed it.
    The good news that Adler saw was that mankind has great potential for cooperation and therefore for mutual benefit. The less happy side of his understanding is the clear indication that if we as a community fail to co-operate with one another, the outcome of increased egocentricity would produce an intolerable and dark world. Adler himself was optimistic. One may only hope that such optimism is not misrepresented by those of us who try to follow his teaching. Should society evolve toward greater cooperation the world will be a better place. Cooperation de facto rules out egocentricity. There is just no place for it in community. So building up the community of mankind is a task that is handed to every human, each one to do this from his uniqueness. As a values based psychology, it is also clear by logical deduction that if we fail at this task for mankind, the future may well be bleak and that would be a devastating mistake! To not embrace the task of adding our fair and proper share to humanity is clearly a wrong movement.
  As for social interest, it is innate because we are social creatures and can not survive alone. The degree to which it is developed and emerges is related to a child's conclusions about social situations around him and the degree to which it is encouraged in him. It is also related to the degree of discouragement that is present. Social interest evolves in the social setting around the child and is very much influenced by parental and societal attitudes. Where selflessness is demonstrated it, grows more easily. Where the social setting encourages an "every man for himself" view of life, it will be diminished.
It astounds me that other psychologies study man in isolation. They are concerned with the intrapsychic life. They look in the test tube for neurotransmitter malfunctions. But if we were to study the behaviour of wolves, they would be studied in a pack. Cattle would be studied in a herd. But humans are studied in isolation! This is nonsensical and we owe a great debt of gratitude to Adler for pointing out the clear and obvious truth that humans are social beings and that all of their behaviours and attitudes play to this social setting!
 Return to Top

The Life Tasks

  It is important to note that this psychology never sees the human person in isolation but rather in the context of community and in relationship to the broader context of existence in the universe. (Actually Adler goes even further and sees humanity in its cosmic context, from the perspective of the eternal. This is a grand view and far removed from purely physical and mechanistic understandings.) We are social beings and alone it is hard to conceive of us even surviving. Freud seemed to be more concerned with the intra-psychic movements almost like a machine gone wrong because of faulty inherent programming. It seems this is not an adequate approach because all of our experiences and the effects of our difficulties and even neurosis are lived out in community. Thus, with this in mind Adler discerned that there are tasks in life that we all must address. They are all tasks with others in community. It is the human approach to these tasks that sets us apart from any other species on earth. The failure at these tasks may make us the most damaging species on the planet as well. Confronting these tasks can not be avoided. An active decision about how to deal with them is made by any individual who is not impaired with reference to his cognitive faculties. In fact a person can only be truly comprehended and understood when he is seen in relationship to others by discerning how he responds to the various challenges of social relationships. Will he embrace them as a fellow man or will he avoid them by the use of various tricks?
    There are three and only three life tasks that we all must address. They consist of:

  1. 1) The Social Task
  2. 2) The Work Task
  3. 3) The Love Task
  Please note that Adler interchanges various words at various times and does so even in the same paper or lecture, but I think the above words adequately capture the flavour of what he is speaking about.


    The social task consists of all of our interactions with mankind and the necessity that we be contributing members to this community  to a greater or lesser degree. The social task also encompasses the spiritual aspects of the human endeavour.
    The work task is that of our occupation. It is the way we earn a living, or the way we add to the world by the use of our skills. It is also the way in which we occupy our time as is the case with a mother with young children who is striving to teach and encourage these children so that they may successfully contribute to mankind as they mature. It is that part that we seek to contribute to mankind. It may even appear very passive as for instance, in the contemplative people who seek to add to the understanding of life and living. They clearly play a very important role. However such people must not be seeking to avoid the social task, because that would then be deemed to be a neurosis.
    The love task encompasses a rather broad area but does include our relationship with our children and spouses. It also, rather incidentally, covers the reproductive necessity to maintain the species. (This in quite sharp contrast to the psychology of Freud with its heavy emphasis in the libido and sexual drives.)
None of these tasks has supremacy over the others. Fully addressing each of these tasks is a sign of encouraged and full living. The failure to consider and act on these tasks indicates a degree of discouragement and of compensation. That does not mean that a priest who feels his life of contemplation and love for his God has failed to address the sexual task. Perhaps some priests are seeking to avoid this task, but far more commonly they are men who feel that the sacrifice of the sexual task befits their calling. They are not neglecting it. It is over ridden by deeper considerations.
    The neglect of any of these tasks because of an inferiority feeling, that is a feeling that one can not compete fully on this playing field, would be a sign of neurosis and evidence of the presence of a "life style". Indeed the more a task is avoided the deeper the problem. Not addressing two or more of these tasks, is a sign of a quite deep disturbance. A neurotic individual has a wrong attitude toward one or more of these tasks. He feels threatened by some sort of failure based on his impossible goal and supported by his vain wish to look better than he perceives himself to be. On the other side, the healthy person seeks to be more fully connected to the community through the achievement of these tasks. If a person feels the challenge of one or more of these tasks is "too much for him", he may retreat to full blown psychosis which is a trick that simply says "You can't expect anything from me now, can you?" Indeed some of these very discouraged people have so removed themselves that they have created their very own and very personal nearby battle field wherein they engage with all their might. However it is just a side show and a demonstration of deficient courage. With such a severe mock engagement how could one not be discouraged. Now furiously fighting on this self made battle ground, they have their moment in the light and their sense of fictional superiority enhances their vanity.
    Now we must not be confused. The person in holy orders has not failed to address the love task. They are called to an aspect of the love task that is not easily seen but their contemplative life, more freely available through the absence of marriage, is adding to mankind. They are not avoiding a community responsibility but are seeking through this discipline to add to the world.
    Similarly the person who does not have a paying job but is feeding the hungry in an impoverished area, is not avoiding the work task. They may even work harder than most.
    The person who limits the number of social contacts they are able to have because the nature of their work is that intense, is also not avoiding the social task. In their own way they add to mankind. When we speak of avoiding a life task, this psychology is addressing the issue of avoiding the task to support the life style! Avoiding a life task is done to camouflage the inferiority feeling because this discouraged person does not feel they can compete on this playing field up to the vain level of their fictional goal of superiority so they abstain and do nothing and probably will generate a lot of symptomatic vibration to mask what they are really doing.
  So in reference to these three life tasks, as Adler says, "It matters not what you bring to life; it matters what we make of it." (CCWAA Vol. 5, Chapter XXVI, On Neurosis and Talent, Page 99)
 Return to Top

The Inferiority Feeling

  The inferiority feeling is not a bad thing in and of itself. We started our journey as humans as two cells, incomplete and incapable of life in themselves, either by chance or by intent, by good intent or intent for ill. There is a world of difference between our deep sense of incompleteness as creatures who have arrived so very recently on planet earth and the inferiority feeling we create and attempt to compensate for!. We are very incomplete and we know it. In the vastness of the universe wherein there are more galaxies than there are grains of sand on the earth and each galaxy contains multiple billions of stars, we are very small and insignificant. Looking at ourselves and the cosmos, we long to move toward completeness and Adler suggests that "the purest expression of God succeeds as a concrete grasp of the goal of completeness."Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler Vol. 7, page 97
Perhaps one of the clear and obvious signs of our incompleteness is that we are also profoundly insufficient in our understanding of Mind of this magnitude. Thus it is that we can promote our vanity by our religious practices and beliefs when in fact, the very notion of Divine Mind, by its very nature, should yield deep humility. In some, who also have a high level of social interest, this happens. Would that it would happen more commonly! Then way might indeed live "sub speciea aeternitatis" such that with increased completeness we could leave behind the self centred, self promoting vain attempts to enhance our vanity and live in a harmonious community. Forsaking the goal of personal completeness to pursue a path thought to avoid the possibility of a defeat as we move away from our perceived imperfection,  and thus seeking to enhance one's vanity, is a useless and therefore wrong goal for a human. Few psychologies see this picture and therefore, they miss the advancement of the species by failing to address this core concern.
    Never the less, we were in life's early phases as helpless infants, in an utterly vulnerable and dependent condition. We emerged from the womb as very incomplete beings. If we were loved and encouraged such helplessness brought us love, but if we were not welcome in this world, the feeling of being deficient may have become very deep. All humans carry this feeling of insufficiency to varying degrees. It may prove a blessing or a curse. If it is used as a blessing it drives our beings to seek to overcome the difficulties of this life. Under such conditions it drives us to achieve more and more of that which we may bring to this world. The whole human organism fights this downward potential pull just as the little legs and arms fight the downward force of gravity. We are all inferior as we start our journey. The difficulty starts to occur when we seek to rise above mankind about us. It is when we become self centred and egocentric, that the feeling of inferiority turns from a blessing to a problem. It is when we feel that we must overcome this minus feeling by rising above the others in our field of view, that the goal of superiority as a fiction is starting to be created.
    There is an unspoken piece in this argument. It is that every child has made an evaluation of himself. And this is so. Had no evaluation been made, there would be no movement in the child. As he watches his parents and perhaps siblings walking about above him, he has seen that first, he is below and that second, he would like to be above. This self evaluation based on entirely subjective information and produced by the unfinished and very young mind, becomes the bricks and mortar for the inferiority feeling and its compensating fictional goal of superiority. This evaluation, because it is done before any form of adult logic begins to develop, is the foundation and ground of the subsequent private logic. It is all self created based on childhood conclusions. It has very limited validity and it is not tested. In the case of minds that have any sort of efficiency of thought, it leads to the minus feeling. The child and indeed the adult feeling the pressures of the world around them feel caught between the need enhance the appearance of the self in the world and the tension of fearing the experience of a defeat. The notion of personal ability is not innate. It is measured against the interplay of the perception one has of the characters on the stage of life around him. The appearance that the big people are more capable would seem to be an evident conclusion for a child to draw. This leads to the over arching sense of deficiency that becomes the not thought through inferiority feeling. Now as one grows older, since this notion has become entrenched at a preverbal age, the view of cosmic forces will serve most often to deepen the feeling of ineptitude. A strong unspoken negative view of the self is formed and it is a sense of being below. Now let me be clear. This individual is no more inferior than any other person. He wants to be on top and feels he can not. His vanity is threatened because he can not achieve his lofty and impossible goal. Thus it is he puts on a side show of symptoms to appear as if he can not do thus and so when the truth is, he conceals that doing what is reasonable for a human should do does not satisfy his vain view of life. Symptoms are the defensive smoke screen he develops to conceal his hidden plan that he feels has failed as it should. He can not be number one!
  This minus feeling takes root very early in life. It starts as the child perceives a relative inability in himself compared to the world around him. The German word is "Minderwertigkeit" or a thought or feeling of being in a minus position. Now compared to adults every child is in a relatively minus position. The feeling we are discussing is of a feeling of being in an abnormally minus position. This child has no real basis on which to conclude such a thing however overburdening problems like health issues or social circumstances, may indeed accentuate the feeling of inferiority. These situations do not create it never the less. It is the creation of the individual based on his own assessment of the situation and his evaluation of where he "should be". What starts to grow so early is this egocentric desire to be the first and as capable or more capable than those who go before him. This child is not satisfied to be a little learner. He must move immediately to the top of the class. So the real origin of this feeling is as always in this psychology, a lack of community feeling. Unlike Freud who spoke of the infant (I believe) wish to desire the breast, this child wants to own it. It starts to become his right in life to have all of his wishes fulfilled. Failing that, he sees himself as a failure. There is only first. There is no sense of others and being a part of the community. Now the way life is may contribute to this feeling. After all if he cries he is fed. If he dirties his pants he is changed. Indeed the most damaged child is the pampered child. All of his wishes and desires are done for him and to him. His wish is the world's command. He, from his lofty throne, has the earth as his kingdom. He has never had to put his own skills to the test. He will most often conclude that he has little ability and therefor we must serve him. Having no opportunity to explore the area of personal courage, he may not know he has any. Neglect is not to be recommended but a child may see from his neglect that he can overcome the problems of life. Abuse creates terrible difficulties for a child, but if he can rise above it and move on with life he can already see he has ability and resilience. Pampering leaves a legacy of feeling weak, powerless and inept in many instances.
  The role of Individual psychology now becomes very clear. It is a role of providing deep, extensive and precise encouragement for these childhood misapprehensions. The child has had a mistaken start due to the inadequacy of his perceptions and these are to be precisely addressed and encouraged for the first time. The most hopeful intervention would have to be in the earliest years of a child's conscious life. Thus Adler appealed to teachers more than to physicians later in his career. This sense of self defeat seems to set in even as early as the first year of life. This is the period when the child starts to conceive of himself as deficient with reference to those around him. This means that many of these perceptions may not even be supported fully with words. They may be very primal, so to speak. It is at this very earliest phase of life that he starts to conclude that his inability will not permit him to meet his perception of the demands of life. Out of this sense of incompleteness he hones his skill at looking, in his own eyes, like he has become big and important. He tries, in an expression my son uses that I find quite amusing, "To become a legend in his own mind". The higher his fantasy legend is raised, the more he removes himself from reality and mankind and the deeper the sense of insufficiency will grow. Thus he becomes distant and negative and often quite pessimistic. He increasingly avoids putting his real skill to the test and isolation more and more rides over his common sense. It may also occur that he seeks to dominate more and more also to compensate for his perceived imperfection. More and more he avoids the new. More and more he withdraws from the arena of human useful endeavour.
    In a truly and fully encouraged child, such a feeling will not grow to fruition. This psychology suggests that the incidence of troubled people would be greatly diminished if parents and teachers better knew how to encourage children and to teach them to care for others as much as they care for themselves. If they did this one thing, this child would have social interest and could not easily become egocentric or self serving. So in the prevention of neurosis and psychosis, a heavy burden falls to teachers and parents. However it also recognizes that they also must be encouraged. In the latter part of his life, Adler gave much effort to assisting teachers to encourage children since he deemed quite rightly that prevention is better than a cure!
    The discouraged child will feel that he is not capable of being fully part of the community. He will have a sense of unworthiness. He will be deficient in his ability for cooperative and he will lack self confidence. He will address the tasks of life in a manner that only considers his feeling of being deficient. He will lack the courage to rise above this because he became discouraged only because he chooses to give up and not attempt a new or different approach to the problems at hand. His prophecy will be self fulfilling and he will succeed in failing in the community. He will feel he falls short in one or two or even all of the three tasks of life. A major contributing factor in such a discouragement, is often pampering. This person as a child, had far too much done for them so they never discovered the extent of their own resources. In adult life they may want this back. In the presence of deficient social interest, they may well develop symptoms to support a neurotic style of life. But a central truth in human existence is that it does not matter nearly so much what one brings to life, but rather what one does with his potential and no one can be excused from this task from the understanding of this psychology. Unfortunately having tangled ourselves in this spider web of the feelings of weakness and inferiority, we seem to surrender any attempt at taking charge of the direction and proper goal for our existence. We utterly lose the bigger notion of the potential for cumulative benefit if we apply ourselves to the task of assisting others with passion and fervor. The loss of this bigger picture is directly linked to our degree of vanity and self-centredness. Adler invites us to lift up our eyes to the cause of humanity and stretch ourselves both as persons and for others. What a world it could be if we all should do this! Such a task can only be achieved when we set aside our vain pursuit of personal grandeur and perceived power. It is a stark truth that if humanity does not surrender its self centeredness, it faces extinction!
    The compensation is the creation of the despondent self who feels so inept. It is the the fictional goal of perceived superiority. Even the child will know that this is a fraud but will not understand how to stop this compensatory activity. At least then he can attempt to deceive others into feeling that he is bigger than he feels he really is. This is carried forward on automatic into adult life like a compass for the psychic life. The deeper the inferiority feeling, the loftier will be this goal so much so that the first clue an Adlerian therapist has about the goal, sometimes, is by its grandiose nature. The nature of the compensatory striving is also determined by the nature and depth of the sense of defeat. And all of this is the creation of the person who is a little one, under the age of five, based on his childhood sense of deficiency. Thus it is that the sense of defeat can only be overcome when this goal is brought down because it is self destructive and utterly self defeating. As long as the lofty goal rides high, this person can never feel secure in his community. He can never give himself because it is just the proper thing to do. He will almost always give to get back .. to make a big impression. He will always seek not to benefit mankind, but rather to inflate his vanity.
  Soalthough the feeling and realization that we are incomplete is a benefit, the notion that we are more incomplete than others and therefor must rise above them on our own vain wings, is the source of serious social and psychological problems. The creative power of the human mind when used for community good is a blessing. When it is used to promote the self in its vanity, it is a serious curse! The use of the personal creative power of an individual may work in a useful direction or sadly, may be used to develop a fictional egocentric goal of being above or its opposite, a goal of being the best at being the worst.

The Fictional Goal of Superiority

  The new born child is flooded with sensory input that must be quite overwhelming, but none of us can truly recall this stage. The human mind, in its method of making sense out of chaos imposes its own sort of order on the inputs it receives. From the seeming random nature of the stimuli, it seeks an order which can only be put in place by the creation of a fixed, specific point outside of its own being. It develops a compass heading such as I used to use as an aircraft pilot. The child will strive with all of its young energy toward this fixed point it has created from the randomness about him. The nature of this fixed point is molded also by the circumstances about the child. A different creation will occur if the child is being treated with warmth and gentleness than might occur in a harsh rejecting home. Never the less, this is the creation of the child and as it grows, from this time forward, it will draw the movement of the child's psychic life. Even in the child's play one can see the movement to above. He plays with toys that replicate the "real adult world" in his childish understanding. He is always trying to rise above even as he gains in physical stature. This becomes the child's "meaning in life" that it presses on toward. From this meaning will derive his attitudes, his sense of security and his feeling of belonging in the world. The loftier this point is set, the more deeply the child will learn to create his own suffering.  From this fixed point he will set his goal of loftiness, greatness and power as a work of his own creation. It will not be possible to predict what formulation he will create because of the multitude of stimuli he receives from his growing experience of his own subjective world and therefore the manifold conclusions he may draw. He will seek a greater sense of personal security as he is creating all of this because in his earliest stages he was so much at the whim of others. He had been utterly dependent for survival on the good will of those around him so his world was not always experienced as an hospitable place, some more, some less. He moves toward this fictional creation from the feeling of incompleteness and inability. These are seeming valid conclusions for a child because very early in life he has yet so much to learn. Unhappily these conclusions are not retained at these readily accessible level of consciousness. They become submerged in the clutter of impressions and run as a fictional goal for his life. This goal is a potential problem to the child when it runs unexamined and the feeling of deficiency is deep. The fiction of the very availability of personal superiority will drive the child away from the pristine logic of community living. The child will start to feel like some type of misfit and will seek to be above.
    So this fictional goal is the child's compass to free him from the feeling of insufficiency. He creates this to free him from the perceived harsh bondage of the inferiority feeling. His compass is being more and more set in an egocentric direction away from social interest. He has found a fictional method by which he can grasp his standing among mankind. From this point on, his creation becomes more and more his master as he is drawn, as if by a siren song, to the shoals of his personal defeat. And all of this is based on his creation as a child. From this point on he will seek to elevate his self worth but will start the downhill slide of missing his place as the one among the many. The perceived beauty of the long haired sirens and their strange call will fascinate him. He must be taught to close his ears to their call. This fiction he has produced becomes his constant safeguarding method. His vanity is already piqued and the inferiority feeling will grow anon. The greater the difficulties the child faces in his home the higher will be the goal. (The fictional goal of superiority is often shortened to the term "the goal".) The neglected child will produce a goal of one height. The abused child yet another height, but probably the highest goal will be set by the pampered child who wishes to continue to be served in the manner to which he has grown accustomed. We should all serve him! The child with deficiencies in his organism may use these to demand that he be served. He may even accentuate these constitutional problems to receive a perceived advantage. A girl child may mount a protest because she is not a boy. The fictional goal acts like a sentry post always looking forward to those things that may disrupt the persons vanity. There is always the anticipation of a defeat in life. There is little courage to join with others to better the world. No, this fictional construction comes pretty close to "If I am not the first, then I am nothing" in all too many discouraged humans. This same compass and sentry may urge the person to depreciate the world around him. He will exalt himself in his own eyes. This goal produces many tricks and some quite nasty behaviour. This compass goal will eventually be his undoing if it is set very high at all. This person will founder on the rocks of his own creation when a fully developed neurosis is developed. His vain ambition has like the waves of the sea, driven him against the lonely rocks that he has set his compass for. He becomes the author of his own destruction when this goal is fully set in a very high manner. He founders because in his goal other humans are not fellow beings but rather are targets to be surpassed or defeated. The movement is increasingly egocentric as the goal becomes higher and higher. He is more and more deluded by his own plan of life. He loses any sense of direction save the call of his goal which draws him like a super conducting magnet. I suppose the ultimate expression of this is in the philosophy of Nietzsche, "the will to power". In truth, to be utterly accurate, Adler described a fictional goal of personal perfection. It is this self ideal of perfection compensating for the inferiority feeling, that draws the soul life of the individual like a great internal vector oriented magnet.
    The formulation of this fictional goal is a covert, clandestine operation. It is not only concealed from others but even from the self. In fact the goal and its utter impossibility must be concealed from the self, or it could never be maintained. This high flown goal must be contained away from consciousness, because if the person became aware of its nature, the very weight of its folly would cause it to collapse like a house of cards. It must be maintained against the force of logic because logic clearly dictates that no human can be globally above another. All that is available and all that needs to be available, is a variation in skills in accord with one's uniqueness. It is the burden of the presumed inferiority that presses this creation to exist. The downward thrust of the inferiority feeling forces it up like the magma from a vent in a volcano. It has to be formulated in secrecy because it carries such an aggressive attitude to the world around. This hostile attitude toward mankind that seeks to elevate the self above all others, must be carried out in a secretive manner, or the person will be bereft of those he can rule. They will all forsake him and flee! It is usually covered with what Adler called a counter fiction. The counter fiction will be carefully structured to make the self acceptable to those who do not see the goal. It is a means to look good while maintaining strict egocentricity. An example might be a wealthy person who gives millions to charity, but only so that the world will admire him. Such a person will always ensure that his left hand knows what his right hand is doing and his left foot and the local radio, TV and news outlets! He does this purely for self aggrandizement. It is not for his fellow man. So he maintains a counter fiction of being a giving person while taking all the self elevation he can find.
  Unfortunately this attitude of enlarging the self seems to be present in every human because we have all developed a feeling of inferiority. If you will, it is the Adlerian version of "original sin" wherein sin means in Greek and I believe in Hebrew, to fall short of the mark or standard. Perhaps someone with training in these ancient languages could correct me if I am wrong. We all seem to strive for power above others, some more and some less. Only when this fictional goal causes obvious social difficulties, does it usually bring the person to the care of a psychologist. That usually occurs because of the compensatory striving although in people who use depression, for example, it may appear as a total surrender. Of course this "upward movement" is always the result of the perception of insufficiency. It has destroyed individuals and it has also destroyed great nations when it is acted upon by a national group with a national inferiority feeling and a frightening overcompensation that does not regard the welfare of the human race! In an individual, when this goal of superiority is highly tuned they may flee to self exalting religiosity, artistic aestheticism, neurosis, psychosis or even to criminal behaviour. Such a person will loudly proclaim his greatness, all because he feels so broken. The greater the sought after elevation of the self above his fellows, the deeper we know is the pain of the depths of the despair of the perceived defeat.
    This goal also renders its carrier unable to deal with reality. He, in Adler's words, "is nailed to the cross of his own construction". He is self deceived and immobilized by a set of beliefs he created in childhood. He suffers but the cause of the suffering is not that which he acknowledges. Anything that seems to stand between himself and his hidden goal will create intense emotional vibration or on the other hand it may create paralysis. His exaggerated personality ideal is a hard and heavy burden pressing down on him like the weight of a mountain. His life is hard and burdened but the back pack he carries says "made by me". He does not read the label.
  Even the criminal has a goal, the goal of being admired or even feared by other criminals, or perhaps the goal of increasing his personal possessions without his own effort. If the goal is to be feared, then the younger criminal must "earn his stripes" so we see the escalation of the severity of his behaviour. The older criminal has a different problem. As his physical organism ages and his ability to frighten others therefore diminishes, he may lose his coveted and selfish feeling of false power. Under these conditions he may burn out and give up his criminal endeavours. He may do the opposite however, and enlist a following, usually of younger men with a lust for power, to do his bidding. All criminals are almost totally lacking in social interest.
  The more neurotic the individual and therefore the higher the goal, the more this individual will seek unceasingly to prove his elevation, his superiority. This fiction draws the life to misery and ship wreck all to counter a situation that does not exist by a measure that is not available! Indeed once the therapist truly understands this fictional goal, he starts to be able to anticipate what this person will do next. When this has happened the therapist's hypothesis will stand confirmed by a reasonable scientific test, but only in the case of this one individual. The longer the Adlerian therapist trains and the more fully he understands this theory, the more quickly and constantly this will occur. The art surrounds knowing how and when to expose the life plan to this person who is creating their own suffering, but to do it in a gentle manner so it may be received and corrected.
  There is a world of difference between the sense of being incomplete that we all share and the desire to be superior. Striving for superiority is to strive for power over others. The striving for completeness from the situation of recognizing that there is much more we both can and should do with or lives, is laudable. When we seek superiority to fill in a perception of being less when we want to be above those around us, we go astray. As I have mentioned above, the striving to rise above our limitations is part of our being from birth. The attempt to rise above others comes from a sense of being less but being at the same time deficient in our care for others and thus trying to subjugate them to us and rise above them in myriad ways. Adler does point out that the "purest expression of God succeeds in this goal of completeness". (CCWAA Vol. 7, Page 97) A goal of seeking superiority while leaving his life tasks unaddressed, is actually moving in an opposite direction as he seeks to avoid what he conceives of as potential defeats. The more one moves in this egocentric direction, the more one guarantees his personal defeat. When a society looses its way in this manner, it is headed for extinction. Many great societies in human history have foundered on this shoal and disappeared! When one is driven by this sense of true incompleteness to add what he can to the course of human history, each in his own small way, the future of that social structure has a renewed hope. Gemeinschaftsgefühl solves the human dilemma both individually and societally.
  In contrast to this fictional goal, the real goal of a human life must be in Adler's words, "To add to the stream of human evolution sub specie aeternitatis". Anything less than this will diminish what this person might add to life and living and will leave their own lives less fulfilled. It is getting tangled up in the web of the childhood feeling of deficiency and compensating with the untrue fictional goal, that holds humanity back from fruition. Then too there is the tyranny of the perceived urgent immediate problems of life ... the day to day perceived crises that divert the gaze from the distant call of the needs of humanity. Lost in the noise of the moment and captive to the feeling of inadequacy, the soul is lost in the noise of the present and ignores the distant rising sun of the future which can only be secured if we each add to the whole our fair part. Thus our individual vanity and egocentricity must be set aside.

.The Style of Life

The actual evident appearance of the style of life of any given individual usually comes and goes. The emergence of the strategies this person uses depends on the perceived threat to their fictional goal. If the waters are smooth, although the life style persists in a muted tone, it will not be as evident as it is when the threat appears.  This style of life will however, be consistent in any given person. It is as unique as is their DNA, save that we are born with our DNA but we create our style of life. That fact that this life mechanism varies will confuse the non-Adlerian observer, but on close and well trained evaluation as when one is more fully trained in the psychology, it can always be found hovering in the background. When a threat to the vanity occurs, it is very much more in the foreground. In fact the style of life may not be evident when the person is not under any perceived form of threat or stress.
Consistency of the Life Style

    The life style consists of the way a person virtually always approaches the life tasks. It is unique to each individual because each individual has a unique mind and a unique (to them) set of life experiences. From these life experiences they have drawn their very own and unique to them set of conclusions. The life style when it is not encouraged has a goal of self aggrandizement which is quite often not conscious to the person. This goal of self elevation comes from the perceived discouragements of childhood whether most people would find this particular situation discouraging or not. They quite commonly really do not know why they do what they do or create the emotions they create. Nevertheless this pattern is as unique as is their DNA! Because the life style is unique to this person it will also be consistent from childhood and all of a person's movements reveal it, although it does take a lot of training and the keen eye of Alderian psychology to see it. These movements will include things like what a person remembers from childhood which with many other aspects of their unique line of activity  will provide valuable clues about the life style. Early recollections are one of the many tools used by the trained Adlerian therapist. Because the life style is drawn by the fictional goal and propelled by the inferiority feeling, its appearance is consistent across all of a person's activity. This uniformity and consistency of the life style can only be seen by a properly trained Adlerian observer. The life style will be shown in the way the person walks, speaks, appears, dresses  and even by what they notice and remember. Because of this consistency of the style of life, early childhood recollections form an important "projective technique". A person remembers events in childhood that support their unique world view. In fact the life style is such a strong element, that the hologram forms an interesting analogy.  If you cut a hologram into many pieces, each piece will have the entire image retained in it, but in less detail. The smaller the piece, the less sharp the detail. So looking at only small aspects of psychological movement or small parts of the person's life and actions will produce a rather weak image of the life style. The more data reference points the therapist can gather, the clearer the lifestyle will appear.
   A skilled therapist as a good observer is always refining his understanding as he sees these bits and pieces of the movement (see movement in index above) and memories of this person.  Adler therefore suggested that we constantly revise and test our guesses about the life style as we observe various movements by the client. The initial hypotheses are often off target and must be revised, but the therapist continues to formulate an image of what this person is moving toward ... the goal of "fictional superiority. Each guess that is made to understand the person when the response is given, leads to the next in the series of guesses. Adler suggested that these guesses be written in chalk with our right hand on a blackboard, with an eraser ever present in our left hand to erase guesses that prove to be incorrect. In mathematics this is known as "successive approximation". However a highly skilled Adlerian therapist can discern the unique style of movement from very small pieces of information. This is because of the wonderful understanding and insight that Adler achieved when he spoke of the "consistency of the lifestyle". In fact the term "Individual Psychology" in German refers to the central notion Adler held dear, that of the "unity of the person". This is in very real contrast to the tripartite construction of Freud with the "id", "ego", and "super ego". Adler saw the person as one whole being, and the unifying principal is the movement toward the goal of each individual.
   It becomes apparent that the ground underlying all of the perceived difficulties is the previously mentioned feeling of deficiency, the Inferiority Feeling (German = "Minderwertigkeit"). It takes root as the child makes note of its surroundings and starts drawing conclusions with such limited information. We do not know how early this process starts, but it may even start before birth. The conclusions of the child however, are drawn in a social context. They are not drawn in a vacuum. They are connected to the perceived abilities of those about the child in relationship to his perception of his own ability. Because a child has real physical and intellectual difficulties that are just age related it is easy to see that he will develop usually, a feeling of being in a minus position soon after birth with a little developing brain that wishes all too soon to have all of the abilities of the "big people". Adler proposes that from the very beginning , the inferiority feeling is already growing, the sense of ineptitude ... the sense that the child is less and does not measure up. Although the feeling of inferiority is universal, the degree varies greatly from person to person, from those who are greatly encouraged to those who forsake the fray. All of this is done with almost no valid information other than the flood of sensory inputs to the mind with nothing stored in association areas in the brain, save that which it can hear, and feel, and see. The conclusion of a discouraged child may lead to this feeling of deficiency long before the child can communicate this with others and from that point forward it runs unexamined creating all sorts of mischief. From birth, the child has not yet developed social interest but rather receives on its command, the answer to nearly all of its needs from others. Often these "needs" are provided first by mother, then from father, then the family and eventually a discouraged child may conclude that he is entitled to the same service from the community of mankind. This may effectively reinforce the deficiency feeling but in some people it produces a wonderful degree of wishing to contribute. A person from a slum development may become a great benefactor of mankind.
    This life style is unique to any given person. No other person will have the same style. It is every bit as unique as a finger print. Adler also called it "the person's unique law of movement". This unique law of movement will exclude any activity that stands between this person and their fictional goal of superiority. Anything seen to block this personal goal of fictional perfection will automatically be excluded. The life style rides rough shod over the logic of community living.  It continues, without an effective therapy, to exist throughout a person's life. It certainly may modify in certain regards as a result of various life influences, but it really does not change dramatically. I have been trying to think of an appropriate demonstration of this and what came to mind is the music of the great composers. I have only very minimal training in music to do with classical pipe organ, but I suspect any person with a reasonable ear for music will understand this comparison. Most of us would agree that the music of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Scriabin is distinct and different to each composer. Even if we have not heard a certain work we will probably say, "That sounds like Mahler" or "that piece reminds me of Bruchner." From an Adlerian perspective this is because the music of the composer is connected directly with his "Style of Life". So we will hear a rather sombre tone in Mahler (if I am correct) and perhaps a triumphant joyous sound in Handel's work. This is so evident to me that a few years ago I found out that the Mozart Requiem was not fully written by Mozart. He died and was buried in a pauper's grave before the work was completed. Indeed I had heard parts that did not sound like Mozart to me and I have very minimal training in music as I have noted. I listened to this Requiem a number of times and tried to note what parts I felt Mozart indeed had written. I then read a scholarly report of how the work had been completed and was quite surprised that I had identified the "non Mozart" parts with some (not total) accuracy. I believe that this has happened because as hard as the scholars tried to be faithful to Mozart's unique style, even with some of his unfinished scores in hand, and with consultation with his wife, the experts own life styles still showed in what they attempted to compose in a Mozart style! In the same manner, a trained Adlerian therapist can see the (musical) theme of a given person's style of life and no other person will ever produce the identical "music". This theme will run through every individuals life and throughout their lives barring a significant intervention or some unusual or traumatic event that changes the inferiority feeling and the compensatory goal.
    If this illustration does not assist you, just carry on but do read some of Adler's writing now fully available in an excellent English translation through Dr. Henry Stein's web page through this link. CCWAA
    This notion of the unity of the person is very much at odds with Freud's notion of the self as a veritable battleground between the Id, the Ego and the Super ego. The human person is not a battle of conflicting forces but a unified movement from the Inferiority Feeling to the Fictional Goal of Superiority. The person is the author and creator of this conflict and not some strange "instinctual force". This is clearly more hopeful because the creator of the difficulty may also "uncreate it" when given the insight and courage to do so.
    It should logically flow from these concepts that an individual is not a victim of his circumstances or his genetics. He is an active creator of his world view and thus of the largest portion of his intrapsychic life. The style of life is the creation of each individual and is as unique or even more so than his physical appearance. Our appearance we have very little control over. Our life style is the clay of life's events interpreted by our own creative minds and fashioned on our own potter's wheel. So, once more, this life style is not the result of intrinsic drives and the accidents of life, but rather is the unique creation of each individual. This creation is even more unique to this person than is the music of Handel to Handel, or J.S. Bach to Bach!
    Indeed "All the world is a stage" as the life style is played out. And it is done without any (or at least very limited) understanding of the plot. The client acts as if they are an alien behind enemy lines, as if they want to be king, as if they are the "worst sinner on earth". But the story line is always the same to the skilful eye of the Adlerian observer. They always move from the perception of being minus to the fiction of being an exhaled plus. And it is all a fiction, just like most stage plays. The sad part of this type of existence is that this deeply discouraged person has played this role so long and so automatically, that they really may come to believe they are the part! And the role they have learned to play is every bit as unique to them as the music of Beethoven is to Beethoven!
    (Just as an aside I at one time thought I had worked with several people suffering from "multiple personality disorder" or what ever it is called now. Dr. Henry Stein challenged me in a telephone conversation to discern the life style of each "part". To my chagrin I found the parts all had the same movements, the same inferiority feeling, and the same goal. They were like a Greek tragedy with the actors wearing only a mask. The notion of the consistency of the life style prevailed and I surrendered the notion of "MPD", which was really quite a relief when I knew of a psychiatrist who started working with a lady with six "alters" which grew to ninety until the therapist client relationship was dissolved when the lady trashed her office! I could guess that the patient's compensation for her inferiority feelings was to "enlarge her person and extend her authority!")
  The goal is the unifying principle of human existence. As you have seen above, the goal is a creation of an individual based on their own sense of inferiority, whereby the goal becomes the compensation for this uncomfortable conclusion. The goal becomes the unifying force of the life style. It is the fixed point of every person. This goal is secretly creating a sense of order in the chaos of life, yet when this goal is properly examined, it really does not exist. It is just a fiction about which the psychic life is organized. However this goal driven activity is not a fiction in this psychology. It is the driving force of each psychic life. It is the fixed reference point of this goal that makes the style of life consistent in any individual because it is specific to them and the conclusions they have created. So the modus operendi is fixed by it, and the style of life becomes a self consistent creation of this person. Underlying this is the tormented feeling of inferiority. It seems to eat at the soul. But it is also a creation of this person so it too, is a fiction. Thus propelled by one fiction and drawn by another, the life style becomes utterly consistent in any given person! The compensation is the unique creation of each and every discouraged child. Thus it is unique to that child who carries it forward into adult life. No two humans will ever compensate for their inferiority feelings in the same manner. Therefor, the encouragement that corrects the compensation must be for this specific person who created it, and this person alone. No encouragement the therapist has been able to provide for another person will correct the difficulties of this person. Each individual must be understood in their uniqueness. This notion is very much in keeping with my concerns expressed subsequently about the use of the DSM process. It can not be applied in an Adlerian therapy!
  So in summary, the utter consistency of the style of life of any individual is firmly based on two factors or poles. The first is the precise nature of their inferiority feeling and its depth. The second factor is the degree of their feeling of community. These two areas and these alone, push and draw the style of life in any person. Thus it is consistent in that person and with out an intervention that takes these two poles into consideration, it will also be persistent. The inferiority feeling is the creation of an individual as is the degree to which they commit themselves to their human surroundings. It is quite easy, when these factors are clearly understood to see that the style of life is consistent within any individual and that it is their own creation. It also becomes clear that the emotional suffering that falls out of this situation is also a creation of the individual. In fact a very high degree of the emotional suffering of the human race, falls directly out of these two factors spread across all of humanity. The current dysfunction in this world will not change until and if mankind is relieved of these self created burdens! It would seem self evident that if the degree and expression of care for others in the form of social interest, the outlook for humanity is bleak. Indeed like species before us, we may become extinct!
   It also should be evident that the philosophic basis for the potential healing of the human condition is carried in the philosophy of life that Adler has offered to us. The life style may be consistent and quite discouraged in many people, but with understanding, commitment and devotion to the ideas in this psychology, much could change and improve. Indeed the teachings of Adler can have a ripple effect. When I am working with clients I, as one intervention toward increased social interest, invite them to share what they are learning and have learned with their friends. This will lead to more healing in themselves.
 Return to Top

Private Logic

    The child does not have the logiocal apparatus to draw the conclusions that create his style of life and indeed, logic is not yet available to the developing brain. The mind is struggling to make sense of all the environmental noise. It must be overwhelming to have no ability to interpret the mass of data flooding the mind of the infant as it starts to draw conclusions about itself and the world around it. The child may conclude it is helpless although not in those words. In another example the infant may conclude that the world is a place to be put in its service by constant crying and fussing. There are myriad conclusions that may be drawn which creates a tension in the child. In response to this dilemma, the child starts to develop a "private logic". These tentative efforts to interpret this flood of data, becomes the child's very own "reality". This private logic based on his own interpretation of his reality, is put in place in the earliest days and weeks and years. It is not tested by "common sense" and it often grows into a deep feeling of insufficiency which is quietly and invisibly present to the person. Very early in life, it may become a most troubling problem just below the surface of available conscious processes and there it begins to work its mischief. It is the "Inferiority Feeling" which produces great distress from the tension of "feeling below". The inferiority feeling is not produced by the external situations around the child. It is the creation of the child or "Ichfindung" in German. It comes from and is created by the child out of the materials in his hands. He creates the feeling of deficiency. It is a self delusion. From this feeling of being below the child is hounded by feelings of uncertainty about himself, his abilities and how he fits in the fabric of society. The child and then the adult, seeks relief from this discomfort by the use of various compensations that are often not very effective and may even move against mankind. These compensations move the psychological life toward a perceived plus situation ... the "Fictional Goal of Superiority". This will commonly express its self as self centeredness, isolation, pessimism, and fear of new situations. These are expressions of the self promoting fictional goal. Ultimately this is an artful creative endeavour of a child who perceives himself to be in a "minus position" but the outcome will only be useful if the child is not shown and taught social interest. If a feeling of being specially entitled to be served should grow, this child is in a particularly serious difficulty. He will then usually put himself as first to be served, but it is all based on the self deception of feeling unable to meet life's challenges because of the persisting sense of deficiency. Such a feeling is not globally accurate. In certain aspects of all our lives we do things less well. This does not excuse us from assisting where we have skill nor does it mean that we are globally deficient. We are all not only able to contribute from our uniqueness, but we must do so! We must bring to bear those aspects of our person that benefit mankind.
    So it now seems I am making value judgements and Adlerian psychology does make value judgements. Surely it would be wrong to not notice those things that impede the stream of human evolution. That which does not benefit mankind is not useful. That which benefits mankind is good and to be encouraged in ourselves and in others.Adlerians generally feel that the failure of other psychologies to make such evaluations is a real weakness in some theories. How can humanity improve its functioning without some real standards that are lived and taught?
    The feeling of deficiency is so uncomfortable, that all humans withdraw from it as they will from any other "noxious stimulus". This withdrawal is one form of movement, although in healed people, it will be a stimulus to learn and be more rather than an impediment. The "movement" I am describing, is that of the person with a persistent Life Style based on a feeling of deficiency and a compensatory notion of being above. This above notion is the creation of a child and is not apparent to the individual even though it pulls (the fictional goal of superiority) and pushes (the inferiority feeling) their lives continuously! This pushing and pulling is in fact the motive force that creates the Life Style.
    The inferiority feeling stands like a mountain range between the person and the sense of community and of social interest. This sense of deficiency is one of the deepest wounds of the human soul and only as it is healed can the person become a functioning part of the fabric of the community in his best sense. Concentrating on personal power and influence must interfere with feeling as a fellow man. To feel as other than a fellow human is a cruel self deception and with this deception in place, the usual movement can not be toward others, but rather seeks to go above. "Above" is a lonely place. Here the value of this person will founder on the rocks of his own vanity. Only when a person is involved and cooperative as a person, can a true sense of satisfaction and perhaps even of happiness emerge. This inferiority feeling is created by the person in the first three to five years of his life. It will not be easily discerned. When it is compassionately understood and corrected the movement to above will serve no further purpose and thus will usually cease. To untangle this, the private logic of the childhood years with its basis in childhood private logic must be clearly seen and unfolded to the client. When this is done fully a new logic arises from the ashes, the logic of community living.
 Return to

Movement

    Animals move. Rocks don't move. OK, tectonic plate movement is occurring geologically, but you and I won't see it. So it should not surprise us that metaphorically the psyche moves. However this movement requires a trained observer if it is to be seen clearly. The movement of the psyche is from the perceived "below" to the imagined "above" in discouraged folks, in Adler's psychology. There are, of course, other movements in encouraged people, like movement toward mankind to assist with the problem of hunger or to aid the poor. But all human life is movement. Even doing nothing is a movement. It is a "standing still" movement!
The notion that all life and perception is to be understood in a dynamic and not
static reference frame is aptly descibed by the theoretical physicict David Bohm in
his book "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" (Published by Ark Paperbacks in 1983
Pages 48-50) This work is a very good read if you have an appetite for the hard sciences!
"The notion that reality is to be understood as process is an ancient
one, going back at least to Heraclitus, who said that everything
flows. In more modern times, Whitehead' was the first to give this
notion a systematic and extensive development. In this chapter 1
shall discuss the question of the relationship between reality and
knowledge from such a point of view. However, while my explicit
starting point is generally similar to that of Whitehead, some
implications will emerge that may be significantly different from
those of his work.
I regard the essence of the notion of process as given by the
statement: Not only is everything changing, but all is flux. That
is to say, what is is the process of becoming itself, while all objects,
events, entities, conditions, structures, etc., are forms that can be
abstracted from this process.
The best image of process is perhaps that of the flowing stream,
whose substance is never the same. On this stream, one may see
an ever-changing pattern of vortices, ripples, waves, splashes,
etc., which evidently have no independent existence as such.
Rather, they are abstracted from the flowing movement, arising
and vanishing in the total process of the flow. Such transitory
subsistence as may be possessed by these abstracted forms implies
only a relative independence or autonomy of behaviour, rather
than absolutely independent existence as ultimate substances. (See
Reality and knowledge considered as process 49
chapter 1 for a further discussion of this notion.)
Of course, modern physics states that actual streams (e.g., of
water) are composed of atoms, which are in turn composed of
'elementary particles', such as electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.
For a long time it was thought that these latter are the 'ultimate
substance' of the whole of reality, and that all flowing movements,
such as those of streams, must reduce to forms abstracted from
the motions through space of collections of interacting particles
However, it has been found that even the 'elementary particles'
can be created, annihilated and transformed, and this indicates
that not even these can be ultimate substances but, rather, that
they too are relatively constant forms, abstracted from some
deeper level of movement.
One may suppose that this deeper level of movement may be
analysable into yet finer particles which will perhaps turn out to
be the ultimate substance of the whole of reality. However, the
notion that all is flux, into which we are inquiring here, denies
such a supposition. Rather, it implies that any describable event,
object, entity, etc., is an abstraction from an unknown and unde-
finable totality of flowing movement. This means that no matter
how far our knowledge of the laws of physics may go, the content
of these laws will still deal with such abstractions, having only a
relative independence of existence and independence of behav-
iour. So one will not be led to suppose that all properties of
collections of objects, events, etc., will have to be explainable in
terms of some knowable set of ultimate substances. At any stage,
further properties of such collections may arise, whose ultimate
ground is to be regarded as the unknown totality of the universal
flux.
Having discussed what the notion of process implies concerning
the nature of reality, let us now consider how this notion should
bear on the nature of knowledge. Clearly, to be consistent, one
has to say that knowledge, too, is a process, an abstraction from
the one total flux, which latter is therefore the ground both of
reality and yf knowledge of this reality. Of course, one may fairly
readily verbalize such a notion, but in actual fact it is very difficult
not to fall into the almost universal tendency to treat our know-
ledge as a set of basically fixed truths, and thus not of the nature
of process (e.g., one may admit that knowledge is always changing
but say that it is accumulative, thus implying that its basic elements
are permanent truths which we have to discover). Indeed, even
to assert any absolutely invariant element of knowledge (such as
'all is flux') is to establish in the field of knowledge something that
is permanent; but if all is flux, then every part of knowledge must
have its being as an abstracted form in the process of becoming
so that there can be no absolutely invariant elements ot
knowledge.
Is it possible to be free of this contradiction, in the sense that
one could understand not only reality, but also all knowledge, as
grounded in the flowing movement? Or must one necessarily
regard some elements of knowledge (e.g., those concerning the
nature of process) as absolute truths, beyond the flux of process/
It is to this question that we shall address ourselves in this chapter.
2 THOUGHT AND INTELLIGENCE
To inquire into the question of how knowledge is to be understood
as process, we first note that all knowledge is produced, displayed,
communicated, transformed, and applied in thought. Thought,
considered in its movement of becoming (and not merely in its
content of relatively well-defined images and ideas) is indeed the
process in which knowledge has its actual and concrete existence.
(This has been discussed in the Introduction.)
What is the process of thought? Thought is, in essence, the
active response of memory in every phase of life. We include in
thought the intellectual, emotional, sensuous, muscular and phys-
ical responses of memory. These are all aspects of one indissoluble
process To treat them separately makes for fragmentation and
confusion. All these are one process of response of memory to
each actual situation, which response in turn leads to a further
contribution to memory, thus conditioning the next thought."
    To clarify our thinking, movement is a "metaphoric construction of reality". I am given to understand that metaphor is derived from two Greek words "meta" - over, and "phorien" - to drag or carry. (Just as an interesting aside, Freud's word that is translated transference [I think a weak translation] is "ubertragen" from uber - above or over, and "tragen" to drag or carry, so transference perhaps has a somewhat similar meaning.) However in this metaphoric world we cannot do a perfect job of transferring shades of meaning. We attempt to drag the feeling or meaning from one known idea and then apply it to a somewhat similar "unknown" idea. All the movement metaphor can do is point out to us a type of activity a person consistently undertakes to deal with life's perceived problems.  Simply put, "movement" is an imprecise metaphor to be used in the context of the larger theory.
    Movement always is in reference to something else. Einstein makes that abundantly clear in his theory of special relativity. In the same way there is a "theory of relativity" to psychological movement. In Adlerian psychology the reference frame in all regards, is always social or communal. That is because the human only can exist in community. A single white north American dropped off in the Amazon rain forest without community support, would survive for hours at the most. A single human being on planet earth could not survive at all. Adler departs from Freud when he notices what some psychologies have failed to recognize. Humans exist in community, not in an intrapsychic vacuum. The human is not the victim of inherited and capricious libidinal drives, but rather is a being who chooses how and how much he will be involved as a participant in the community of mankind. The decision to participate more fully shows courage. The withdrawal from the social task and its degree, show both a discouragement and its depth.
    From the perspective of a lifestyle, movement may be either an activity or an inactivity. A person who does nothing and just sits there like a bump on a log has a movement. The movement is a sitting still movement. So movement may be an activity or a lack of activity. Frantic running around driven by anxiety is a movement, but they go nowhere. In this case the movement is to stay where they are! So to and fro (rocking) is also a movement that goes nowhere. The person who stays in the house, pulls the shades, turns out the lights and goes to bed has a movement. It is away from mankind or a withdrawing movement. The person who gives all their earthly possessions to the poor and has it announced on a major television network, has a movement but it may be a "bad" one. They want us to think how wonderful they are. It is a movement to elevate themselves over all the "selfish egocentric people out there" so it is a movement above.  It is a sneak attack of egocentricity aimed at elevating themselves head and shoulders above others. These are just a very limited example set of movements. There are almost as many psychological movements as there are people because the human mind is so creative.
    Movement in the context of Adler's theory is from the inferiority feeling to the goal of fictional perceived superiority. So it should be self evident that there is "good movement" and "bad movement". Perhaps a more palatable way of expressing this, is to say there is movement in both useful and useless (to self and others) movement. An extreme example of useless movement would be "enlarging the self" for the purpose of being admired by all in one's self proclaimed fictitious kingdom. All psychological movement originates in childhood at the time the discouragement was building the inferiority feeling, the sense of deficiency. The therapist usually is first able to see the fictional goal of superiority by watching the movement, and then discerns by deduction the precise nature of the inferiority feeling. During all of this endeavour, the therapist is confirming his deductions using all the information the client has given. This is not a cookbook type understanding, but must be precise for this client in each and every case. All human movements have a goal. There is nothing that we do from conscious activity that does not have a goal. Human activity is not random and chaotic. We do not bounce around like grains of sand blown by the wind. We get up each morning with goals in mind. Movement is never chaotic like Brownian movement. It is always from below to above from the reference frame of the individual. That is the nature of thinking beings as opposed to lifeless particles. If the goal is egocentric and not of benefit to mankind, then the movement needs to be brought to the light of proper examination. This goal renders the movement in any individual utterly in all of history, UNIQUE TO THAT PERSON! The movement to above probably starts even before the person begins to walk. So the goal of superiority begins at the earliest stages of human consciousness. The child in its crib may already be developing a very simple plan to "get up". The height of the goal is set creatively by the perceived depth of the child's perceived situation. The deeper the perceived deficit, the higher the pinnacle becomes. This pinnacle may not seem like a high place until the logic is understood. How can staying in a psychiatric facility be a pinnacle? Well it would be if one should wish to have all their meals and lodging provide with twenty four hour a day seven day a week attendants to wait on them. It would not appeal to many folks, but if sufficiently discouraged and if one so lacked a proper view of what a human should do, that could be a goal. Or suppose a person feels that they are at the social bottom. A compensation of an extreme type could be to seek to become a despotic ruler like Hitler. Another example which was more common when I was younger, is that of a woman who concludes that only men will be on top and rule. Her movement could be to try to manipulate males or another form could be for her to attempt "to be one of the boys" which would fit with the notion of the "masculine protest".
    Movement is a "vector quality" In that it has a degree and a direction. It moves along a line. Adler shares with us a very important notion. Movement often may proceed in a direction that we might anticipate, or it may go in the very opposite direction! In German he says "Alles can auch anders sein." (Everything may be the very opposite.) If the therapist expecting a client's apparent movement, does not consider the real possibility of the opposite movement, serious mistakes can be made. People, as they are being understood from the perspective of "their life style" become somewhat predictable as long as one takes this antithetical movement possibility into consideration.
Movement is also observed in bits and pieces by the therapist. We only observe this person for a few moments at a time. What we are seeing is rather like the 30 frames per second of the NTSC television signal of North America. However, a trained and skilled therapist can from these frames discern the general trend line of the style of life of the person in therapy. These observations are to varying degrees affected by our own personal biases from our own life style. However given that many data sets are acquired in the interviews and visits, a reasonably clear and consistent picture does emerge such that we are able to discern the goal this person has set as well as the type and origin of their unique discouragement. A pattern emerges that is akin to handwriting. With sufficient training and understanding of this complex theory, a pattern will be demonstrated that is unique to the person being studied. It is very difficult to freeze the various moments that are seen. What emerges is a line of movement and a direction. From this line the unity of this person's life line can be seen quite adequately to provide the assistance they require. This is because there are two recognizable and fixed points on the line of movement. The first is the feeling of deficiency. The second is the compensating goal of fictional superiority. Once these are clearly understood the rest of the "snapshots of the movement", become a unified whole.
    The driving force behind the movement is a childhood discouragement. This discouragement has no true factual basis, however all perceived inferiorities, senses of deficiency, and desires flow from this discouragement. There is no rational basis for the discouragement from an adult perspective. Rather the problem originates when the sense of self as one with mankind, does not suit the person's vanity. The vanity then sets a goal of a sort of "super-self" which is the fictional goal of superiority. Thus it is evident that the neurotic psychic life is drawn by the imagined "super self" goal and pushed by the perceived deficiency. The life is drawn as if by a magnet, toward this finale. Thus every action of this person past, present and even future falls under the compass needle of this goal. This goal is the one created by this person in response to his perception of his childhood situation or perceived childhood difficulty. It is a lifetime "compensation plan" for the perceived inferiority. The plan is based on the creativity of each and every person. So all of this movement is a compensation for a perception of inferiority. This striving for personal advantage runs directly against the best benefit for mankind if this individual does not have a proper understanding of social interest. When this understanding is low or absent then the life line will  run diametrically opposed to social interest.
    By now it should be evident that the movement the Adlerian therapist is watching, is, in fact, compensatory striving.
Diagram it this way ...

Inferiority feeling ----> Compensatory Striving ----> Goal of Fictional Superiority

                                                          |
                                                          |
                                                          V
                                                    (The Movement)
So when an Adlerian talks about watching movement he is trying to observe the clients private logic moving them from the perceived position of inferiority to the goal of fictional superiority that was developed by this individual in childhood from the level of discouragement that they felt they experienced. This movement is as unique to any given person as is their finger print, so there are only guidelines to discern it! To see the movement is an art, not a science.
    If you consider the diagram above carefully,  it will not be surprising to you that the construction of a neurosis is also antithetical as in "above-below", "good-bad", "helpful-hurtful" because the psychological movement is along a single line with only two dimensions. An antithetical perception tends to see things in only two dimensions. From photography I know that although I used to enjoy black and white photography, there really is no black and white. Even in the darkest places in the universe, there are some photons around. So the antithetical construction used to support a neurosis has no basis in truth. There is also no place (I know of) that is totally saturated in light and no situation utterly devoid of any possible benefit if it is used creatively for mankind. The antithetical construction has its entire basis in private logic. In the full blown use of a neurosis much of the person's life will be interpreted as up-down or black-white, there will be very little common sense in the middle ground. This same neurotic construction is always self serving even though the egocentricity may wear a disguise and appear as an unlikely logical conclusion. It is a carefully crafted trick to relieve this discouraged person from one or more life tasks. This antithetical construction will also appear in the early recollections and even in the approach to the therapist!
For a moment think about "doubt" as a movement. It seems innocuous but the person has set a trick trap. There are two options. What shall I do? They hesitate. Then they DO NOTHING. Once more, thinking teleologically, what does doubt buy a person? It gives an excuse to make no movement. The movement of doubt is to stand still while appearing to have the excuse of weighing these heavy options ... another trick!
    Movement in the context of the Adlerian theory is a very difficult notion to learn to see in a client. Once the therapist begins to see the movement it gives the clearest possible picture of the life style. Precise observation of the movement will give a clear indication of the nature of the encouragement that must be provided because it also sees the depths of the despair from which it comes. Adlerian therapists when properly trained, always watch the movement, not to be brilliant, but to encourage the client with the precision that the client really needs! What an Adlerian therapist longs to create in each and every human is a much deepened sense of being part of and contributing to the community. Against this movement, there can be no argument.
    Some of the types of movement that are commonly seen in the therapy room are these. The patient may regress or move backward. By this they distance themselves from surrendering the use of the symptom. They may simply attend visits with great enthusiasm complete with pages of notes, but they make no changes. They may even speak at such great length like a theatric monologue so the therapist can not make an intervention. They wish to cling to their affliction. They may move backwards and forwards either in one visit or from week to week. They wish to produce the illusion of cooperation, but give no real substance. If they should feel they have to make a movement, they would have to surrender their symptoms. They may create all sorts of obstacles to remain at the usual distance from cooperation. The characteristic movement in the neurotic is the retreat often framed with a "yes-but". By this device they agree with the logic presented to them in the therapy room but return with a device to excuse them from the necessary endeavour. We may for example, discern that working would benefit humanity and themselves and they agree. They say "Yes I should be working but if I do, I shall lose my disability pension". That is a very common "yes-but" with the ever present ease of our rather socialistic country of Canada.
Meanwhile as all of this is sustained, the therapist must be watching this movement so that the matter can be addressed in a manner appropriate to this person. The observation of these movements is clearly telling the skilled Adlerian observer what is really going on. He will not be tricked!
 Return to Top

Early Recollections

    Early recollections should not be confused with memories. A memory would be a factual report of some event or circumstance. An early recollection demonstrates the prototypes and the early beginning of the person's life plan. The act of remembering is not a one to one transfer of data from the external world to the internal one. It is not at all like writing information to a hard drive or burning where one hopes to achieve an accurate correspondence of the data submitted to the data stored. All sensory inputs are processed before they are stored. The brain (mind) takes the information and relates it to many of its previous experiences. The association areas of the brain are very active in this process. Thus what is already stored in the mind, affects the interpretation of the experience that is being processed. This process, because what is stored in each mind is unique to that mind and that mind alone, produces an inevitable observer bias. Concealed in this bias is a condensed version of the life style. This is an important piece of the puzzle because it shows what the person notices and concludes. It is the clear understanding of the implicit conclusions that points to the lifestyle. Therefore, out of the myriad events that happen each day in the life of a child, a small number of events are carefully stored to support the person's world view. The world view reflects the lifestyle. It is clear therefore, that the events described may not have happened at all, or at least the events are probably not historically accurate. They rather very accurately demonstrate the persons Style of Life, private logic and biased apperception, in such a manner that the patient will not understand he is giving the therapist this key information. Thus a trained Adlerian can discern form this seemingly innocuous information, a rather complete initial understanding of the person's unique life plan.
    Here in we see that the patient, and in particular the neurotic patient, in the context of his world view, does not have memories, he uses memories. They are sober reminders of what to avoid, of what will harm his prestige, of how he can enhance his prestige etc., all from the view point of a discouraged child. They are the window to the "private logic" that we seek to discern. There are subtle nuances and details that only can be seen after a great deal of training in this deep psychology. These E/R's can act even as predictors of how the relationship with the patient may unfold. Remember that memory is not a passive function. It is selective through the apparatus of the client's biased apperception, so of course his movements are spelled out to the trained Adlerian therapist's eye. These recollections have to be gone over with a fine tooth comb like Sherlock Holmes. This is an intense but enjoyable exercise of the therapists perceptive abilities based on this very powerful theory.
    When interpreting early recollections, context is critical. We have many clues to look at, from the way the patient speaks, the way the patient dresses, the way they sit in the waiting room, and indeed everything they do! The early recollections are just another clue. These early recollections since they are being used all show us as a little theatric production of the life style. Each one is a "morality play", that is exactly in the direction of the life movement (don't forget the opposite movement). The real skill of the Adlerian therapist is not to get caught up in the smoke of the recollection, but rather to find the flame. To borrow from a saying Henry Stein uses "The therapist does not blow away the smoke, he puts out the fire". The therapist goes right to the heart of the matter in a gentile and encouraging manner. The style of life is a coherent whole, and the early recolections are yet another window into the soul life of the person.
    In an Adlerian approach, there is no formula for the interpretation of any early recollection. The therapist must be curious about the person providing this memory. It may be helpful to ask ones self, why would a person recall and relate this event? What would a person have to believe about self/world/others to retain such a memory? What belief system in private logic would be consistent with the retention of this memory? What are the movements in the memory? Are they active or passive? Do things happen to this person, or are they acting on things/people? From all of this information the therapist starts to discern the unique line of movement of this individual and it is unique in each person. Let me say that again; no two people have the same movement or lifestyle! As the image of the movement unfolds into the unique perceptions of this person in the therapist's mind, it is gently reflected back to the patient and the patient's response is carefully observed. If the patient does not show a recognition response, the therapist's conclusion must be rejected or modified. If the client connects with the understanding in a co-operative and collaborative environment, a bit of encouragement is given. This encouragement must be specific to the needs of this person. In dealing with early recollections, whether or not the historic details are accurate is of no importance but historic facts may be noted. This is an iterative process to be repeated as required. The above questions (and many others) used to start exploring early recollections are just a few samples,  and they may be of value to the therapist as he attempts to refine his understanding of this person's uniqueness. Pay more attention to the how and why of the the recollections rather than the reported facts! The real facts are seldom given and the "memory" may have never happened. This is not to infer that the client is being misleading, but rather that in the blur of the childhood years, the memory may have been created. Whether the recollection is historically accurate or not, it contains valid information about the life style of this person.  Indeed the lifestyle is fully represented in the "choice of the memories" this person presents. Remember, these memories are only fleeting instances out of a few days in a period of 10 or more years. The mystery to the non Adlerian, is why there are so few. There are so few because the person only recalls that which supports his life line or its antithesis.
    Reflected in each of the client's early recollections, will be his movement. In fact these recollections encapsulate the movement and are used to fine tune this understanding. They show the way the person blocks or traps themselves. They demonstrate the "caution signs" they throw up in life. They show in what direction the patient wishes to advance or retreat. They remain as solemn reminders of the things in life this person is willing to tackle or will seek to avoid. E/R's are to be looked at like little life plays and they contain in a microcosmic format, the person's perception of self and others and their willingness to cooperate and/or be part of mankind.
    Early recollections also show this persons feelings and attitudes. They will not be aware of them because the style of life is self perpetuating. If it ran at the level of self awareness, it usually would not be sustained. The tools of Adlerian psychology are like a microscope allowing the therapist to peer into the soul through these seemingly innocuous stories. It only takes a very few and sometimes only one of these stories, to achieve a rather good understanding of the individuals attitude toward others and his level of egocentricity and vanity.
    The early recollections that are provided to the therapist show quite clearly the client's degree  of social feeling, his activity level and also his level of courage. They also show how this person trained themselves for the tasks of life. When these early recollections are understood and interpreted in the light of the patient's style of life, they give the most valuable insight into the direction of a person's striving. They also underline the person's perception of the things in life that are to be avoided. They demonstrate this person's "caution signs". They tell us how this person views the world in which they live and how they approach this world. This all becomes clear to the trained therapist because of the selective function of the biased apperception that includes only those details that fit this person's way of dealing with life and living. The E/R's are constant reminders to the person of what their perceived difficulties and goals in life are seen to be. They also demonstrate perhaps more fully than any other tool at our disposal, the origin of this person's style of life.
    Perceiving the life style is an early and continuing activity in the therapeutic process. Dissolving the lifestyle and beginning to perceive the lifestyle are very different matters. The dissolution of the life style requires much more cooperation from the client than does perceiving it!
 Return to Top

Scheme of Apperception

    At birth the mind truly exists almost exclusively in potential. We arrive in the world with our genetic code with various organ strengths and weaknesses, but our mind is yet to be filled. In a paragraph above I speak about this but we need to fill in a bit more detail. Each child/baby/person draws his or her own conclusions about the meaning of these new life experiences. We all believe that our set of conclusions are quite universal, but indeed they are not. What we have created is what Adler called, our own "scheme of apperception". Apperception is a conclusion or set of conclusions that the mind draws in response to some event or circumstance. Since the brain is so incredibly networked, all of our experiences are filtered through this neuronal network and all such events are therefor associated with any similar or even dissimilar event. Since life events are unique in their totality in each human, then each individual produces a unique (to them) set of associations and conclusions that is called "apperception". This individual interpretation although it may not even deviate widely from "common sense" is the basis of what we subsequently may deem to be fair evaluations in some regard, but the evaluations are clearly skewed by the minds associations with other events, memories, or even feelings. We will spend almost all of our lives seeing life experiences through these unique filters we have created. These personal evaluations are like tinted glasses, except that every human has their own unique colour of filter. These filters are created by the mental processes of this person based on their interpretation of the events that have unfolded in their life story. The myriad experiences that lead to this private logic and "biased apperception", will not be duplicated completely in any other human. It thus is quite accurate to say "All perception is biased apperception". ( As an interesting aside, the notion of "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth", may not be a valid notion from this perspective.) That does not infer that one is not truthful, but rather indicates the over riding effect of private logic. It must now be emphasized that the conclusions on which this private logic is based, are those of the mind of a child. They are entrenched in all the processes of thought and feeling , yet they have not seen the light of the challenge of the knowledge and conclusions that are more general in the community in which they developed. Sometimes as I see the private logic unfold, although it is not illogical when based on the premises from which it is formed, one may be quite surprised. It would not be unreasonable for any human to conclude such a thing at such a young aged based on their life experience and circumstances but it may still come as a surprise to the therapist. What is unreasonable, is when these conclusions persist unchallenged into adulthood. There they become the driving force behind the unique style of life of each person. The conclusions become more and more troubling as they drive a wedge between this individual and the interest of mankind about them. That is, when they interfere with the practice of "social interest". Unfortunately this term does not carry the full force of the German word "Gemeinschaftsgefühl". One of the early challenges for the Adlerian therapist, is to discern this private logic and nudge it back toward the better interests of the broader community which has the happy side effect of relieving much of the distress the client is producing. This better interest for the community will also start to resolve the patient's difficulty. Again Adler rightly insists that social interest will resolve all intrapsychic difficulties. The art of the Adlerian therapist is to correct these unexamined hypotheses that stand in the way of social interest "like an old grandmother" ... in a very gentle and friendly way. Increased social interest in every human could resolve many of the world's most vexing problems.
  Neurotic apperception will always exclude any part of life the client does not feel they have the courage to face. Strangely these are examples. If the discouraged person rules by being unhappy, then happiness can not fit with their goal. Indeed as bizarre as it may seem, they can only be happy when they are unhappy because only unhappiness draws others under their hidden goal! Adler points out that "agoraphobia will disappear when the person is at home and has someone to rule". (CCWAA Vol. 6, Page 50) The goal of the agoraphobia is to exclude social contact because of the fear of loss of prestige. When this person has someone to rule the created symptom of agoraphobia no longer serves a purpose. The life style goal is for the moment, achieved. Once the lofty goal of fictional superiority is in place, the possibility of social interest is greatly diminished. The fictitious goal of superiority takes over like a spell even though it is utterly outside the realm of normal common sense. A skilled Adlerian therapist will see the cold logic of the plan and the strategy for such an attack.
    One task the Adlerian therapist attempts to undertake is to see into the client's apperceptive devices and gently comprehend them. As the therapist sees to what degree the client's apperception deviates from common sense to a larger degree, then a discouragement has been uncovered to be filled in and the client is invited to examine the situation and move back to consensual logic. So the therapist's task is to invite this person to rejoin the tasks of mankind by filling in the discouragement, such that the lofty goal no longer has any use or meaning and it will then be dropped.
 Return to Top

Tendentious Apperception

    Having drawn the conclusions that are drawn from the perception of the child it is interesting to note what then happens. A person only notices that which supports this world view. The effect of this apperception is so powerful that unbiased perception becomes largely unavailable. This is the phenomenology that Adler refers to as "Tendentious Apperception". Perception is not only biased by previous experiences ... it is even more skewed by life conclusions. So these tendentious apperceptions flow from the life style also. The client is not aware this is happening, but all interpretation of life events can only be done in reference to the prior interpretation of other preceding events. From this it becomes quite evident that these inaccuracies in the life style are self perpetuating and all this time, the person believes they are being clear minded and seeing what they feel they see. The greater the deviation from common sense this tendentious apperception produces, the greater the depth of the neurosis and sometimes when this apperception deviates very widely from societal norms, this person may become fully psychotic having lost touch with more general common sense in their quest to compensate for the perceived inferiority of their being.
 Return to Top

Birth Order

    This subject is very "overblown" in the "lay press" about this psychology. The order in which the child arrived in the family is just another factor that the child has to make "sense" of. It will be another aspect in the private logic of any person. Thus it is another factor that an Adlerian therapist has to evaluate as a possible influence.
    For example I notice that the only child has no child with whom he can compare himself so for me they may see themselves as particularly incompetent compared to the all adult home. The "big people" can do anything they want the first time they try and this child may be easily discouraged. He may also feel that he has to run like crazy to achieve the things he sees these big people do, and thus he may tend to become an over achiever or on the other hand may become overwhelmed and give up the struggle entirely. The first born child may also have the complete attention of two parents and thus become pampered and dependent. Since he is all by himself and the centre of attention, he may not learn to share so he could become self centred.
    The only child may easily become discouraged because so much may be done for him. He is often pampered which robs him of his own sense of capability. He may then wish to continue having the complete service of others as a compensation, because he is haunted by doubt about his own capabilities. Feeling overwhelmed by life's perceived demands, he may also retreat into his own isolated little work, peeking out at mankind from behind his stockade wall. Pampering is very damaging. It may be more damaging than abuse because at least the abused child can look back on those aspects of his difficulty he overcame. The pampered child can only look back on his inability and thus feel he must be served because he has never had an apparent opportunity to explore his ability. I notice that an only child may prefer adult relationships as children and therefor often has trouble socializing with the peer group so only children may become "loners".
    Now the baby in the family may have another problem. He may have many parents to look after his every wish and thus conclude that it is his right to be pampered. He may want to continue to be the baby with everyone looking after him. It is not uncommon for the baby to have big ideas but do little to achieve them. He gets the big ideas from his fore runners, but has no notion of the work needed to achieve these grand scale ideas.
    The only child may have different problems he perceives. He spends much of his childhood alone and he may then wish to avoid contact with others. He may in fact, be a pampered child and may wish to continue having everything done for him.
    Imagine the dilemma of the third born girl in a farm home when dad wants a boy to help with the farm work. But then again this child may strive to be "one of the boys" in a kind of example of the "masculine protest" Adler spoke of. I have not addressed this notion yet but given enough time I will get there.
  Imagine being the second born with a child eighteen months ahead of you. The older child may have a target on their back and it is not at all unusual to see the second born "roar" past the first born. You see the second born often has a heavy hitter ahead of them and will run very fast to catch up. They often not only catch up ... they frequently run past. It is commonly said that the second born "runs faster". But what if the older child has a 3 1/2 year head start, in which case the child may become discouraged. Then the second born has never experienced being alone with the adults. He may therefor conclude that he receives insufficient attention which also may motivate him to try to get the spot light from the oldest child. The gender of these two children will also have a bearing as will how they perceive the desire their parents had for their gender. The younger child may decide that the task is insurmountable and give up or at least move in a totally different direction if the first born is perceived to have too big a head start.
    Can you imagine what it would be like to be child number 13 in a family that has a child every year or less and is financially not well off. I have dealt with one of these folks. It seemed clear to them that they were an accident and should not even be here. Darn, not another one! This person just kept very quiet and moved very little. They were literally afraid to be noticed! Always remember it is not a circumstance that creates the psychological problem. It is the creative power of the child that draws the conclusion. Sorry folks, there is no cook book and no formula. You must look at each individual in order to ascertain what conclusions they have drawn and this will lead you to the private logic just as a compass points north and south (Inferiority Feeling to Compensatory Goal of Fictional Superiority). Still the skill of the therapist comes into play and many hours of study and experience are required before this task appears to be done easily and quickly.
  Picture being a middle child, squeezed on both sides from above and below. I often see these folks feeling "invisible". They may have great difficulty feeling they belong. However the perceived injustice of their situation can press them to "fight for the under dog" and become a champion of justice. You see it all depends on their conclusions they draw ... there IS NO FORMULA!
    We must also take note of the fact that in a large family with a number of years separating the children, the 5th born can become the oldest child in a subset family with two siblings younger than he, if the age difference is not too great. You see we are looking at the unique creativity of the individual. Once more there is no recipe. It is a mistake on the part of the therapist to look for prescribed patterns which is one reason that I was hesitant to even do this section on birth order.
    Henry Stein makes mention of being behind a ghost child. In this case an older child has died. If this death occurred when the deceased child was very young the parents may perceive the lost child as a little angel. After all a six month old child really has not had a chance to be active enough to distress the parents. Now the "replacement" arrives. First off, this child can not replace a dead child and second, if the new child does grow to an age where a bit of independence emerges, they may be resented and even abused. After all, "our dear dead Jimmy never caused us any problems and look at you!"
Now above all never forget that there are no simple formulas in the complexity of a human life. Birth order may provide you with some hints about this persons style of life, but then again as Adler has reminded us, everything may be the diametric opposite of what you may anticipate!!!

 Return to Top

Uniqueness of the Individual

    It should by now be apparent that each human being has a unique style of life based on their conclusions drawn from the life experiences that only they have had. Identical twins will each have their own life style because the life style has nothing to do with genetics at all. It is a creation of an individual. I have worked with identical twins and I recall one mischievous set of ladies trying to trick me when one twin took the others appointment to see if I could tell the difference. It was evidently quite easy. Each had their own life experiences and their own unique style of life. Even though they had colluded to fabricate the others story, the unique style of life stood out so clearly that in less than five minutes I was able to say "You are so and so aren't you?" It was a fun and enlightening experience and showed the clarity of Adler's understanding would withstand a fun test! The basis of this uniqueness is the created response of each person to the influences of the outside world. No two people could even be imagined to do this in the same manner. It would not even be possible. The myriad variations of life experiences and the multitudinous conclusions that can be drawn, render the deterministic seeming conclusions of some psychologies with their strong emphasis on genetics and heredity, highly improbable. What clearly matters most is not what we inherit but rather what we do with it. What we do with it is an individual creation. If the person should be encouraged, much can be done with only modest endowment. A person who is a genius, but does not use that intelligence to benefit mankind has wasted his life. Even more to be deplored is the very bright person who uses his genetic material to harm or even destroy parts of humanity. History records too many who have used their inherited abilities in very wrong directions.
    The construction of a neurosis is also unique to the person. The task of the therapist is to identify to this person the way in which his thoughts, actions and feelings suit and fit his goal. He needs to have identified to him the conclusions from childhood on which he is constructing his life and his world view. This neurotic person needs to understand fully that the picture he has produced of the world is a fiction and is his creation. It is not a fact. This person needs to be encouraged to join the real world of humanity feeling as an equal. He needs to see that his feeling of insufficiency is based on wrong understandings so that when these are corrected, he will then wish to join the task of being a human and will be content to be his own unique self in the world of the many. With just a modest growth in his sense of being part of the community, his ability to cooperate will start to grow and he is then starting on the road to healing and integration. He will then begin to have the courage to address more fully, the three central tasks of living. He will no longer feel like an alien behind enemy lines in a world that constantly places his vanity at risk!
  The uniqueness of the individual is a consequence of the constant movement starting as a tiny child to rise above the limitations of its lowly state. Each child has its own creative and novel way of dealing with the obvious deficiencies of its tiny, untrained state. The unity of the individual arises because each human creates their own life from the materials that seem to be at hand. Yes there is a genetic limitation, but its influence is very much overshadowed by this creative striving. Because of the innumerable means to adapt that are available to each new born child and because of their inherent creativity as well as the unique nature of the "Sielenleben" (soul life German), each person is an artist sculpting their own work of art from their own creative endeavour. Thus the result is unique and peculiar to each human artist. The style of life they create is one of a kind! It is this self selected goal that is the real basis of the utter difference between people. It is the draw of this upward movement that is propelled by the perception of deficiency, that is the clarion call to rise and stand and to do it "my way" that is the foundation of human personality. When this movement is exaggerated, then it stands in the way of the "stream of human evolution" and it then becomes problematic. When the creation of an individual adds to the total of mankind, this personal uniqueness flowers in all its glory. Sadly, such a bloom is rare. The most probable experience a child will have from the nearby adults, is the struggle for power that he will see at every turn. Since this struggle seems normative, he will most commonly join it and feel quite justified in doing so. He is unlikely to be shown the error of this attitude because of the ubiquitous nature of the inferiority feeling the almost universal compensation for it. He will think that this is how one must act. He will be shown that all kinds of aggression is encouraged and allowed in the "rules of the game of life". So life becomes a battle and the feeling of insufficiency will grow. The "will to power" starts its malicious work!

 Return to Top

Masculine Protest

    Quite early in the development of his theory, Adler derived the notion of "The Masculine Protest". He noticed that one particular area of inferiority feeling, involved the gender roles put in place and usually accepted by society. He felt that women noticed the inappropriately dominant position assumed by men and resented it. He suggested that this came through the mechanism of the inferiority feeling in women, and that the compensation often undertaken by them was by means of various ways of rejecting traditional feminine rolls and even dress. An example, not appropriate to this time, is that of women wishing to have "bobbed hair" arguing that such a style makes life simpler for her, but concealing an aggressive attitude of wishing to be like the men. There is nothing wrong with men and women being equal and indeed that they are not viewed in such a manner, is a sore point with Adler. When this movement is done with the attitude of wishing to be above men, then it becomes problematic and even neurotic.
    Masculine protest also applies to men who may feel that the societal demands placed on them are just too high and they are not able to meet them. Such men may feel "unmanly" and may develop quite a sophisticated counterfiction to cover this up.
    The ideal is that men and women although somewhat different constitutionally, should be fully equal in the community. If that should happen, neither men or women would be so disposed to use this problem as an excuse from the three life tasks of life through the use of a neurosis.

(Be patient, I have more I need to develop here.)

 Return to Top

Social Interest

    The piece that is missing from childhood above all, is the feeling of being the one in the world of the many, in the troubled individual. The degree to which this feeling is deficient is in direct proportion to the degree of "psychological pathology. This social interest is usually first and strongly demonstrated to the child by the mother who, in caring for this new born infant, puts her own needs in the background as she attends to the infant's needs. If this expression of social interest by the mother is either deficient or misunderstood by the child, the child will in the earliest months of life, start to experience a "minus feeling". Note also that if the mother does everything for the child and responds to his every whim in a pampering manner, this may be profoundly discouraging and the child may conclude he can do nothing. He must have help with everything.
    In the usual order of things, the mother next introduces the child to the father, and if this experience is good it assists the child, but should it be deficient, the child may also become discouraged. The next initial experience of community for the child is the siblings if they are present. From each of these situations, the child is drawing his own conclusions about what his world is like and remember, these conclusions are totally based on the data base of a very young child. They are never tested to see if they fit into the larger scheme of more generally accepted common sense. They exist as the private logic ... purely the creation of a child (with some reality testing having been applied from the family usually). The birth order of the child may also contribute to this problem, but I hope to introduce that idea later. Perhaps the real brilliance of Adler is that he identified us as social beings, and noted that all psycho pathology, indeed all of a person's personality, is developed in a social context compared to some other psychologies that see the disorder as intrapsychic. A person who has not experienced encouragement appropriate to their needs, may well lack this interest in others. They also will lack the feeling of being "at one in the world of others". This also however will apply to the person who has been pampered. In fact there is rather strong evidence that the pampered individual may be the most damaged!
    Can you begin to imagine the conclusions an infant may draw when he is raised by a mother who is distant or neglectful. This child does not have the first expected social experience available to him. He may be deeply wounded and feel very insufficient. He may also conclude that the world is a hostile place and he is behind enemy lines. Thus his social interest will usually be quite low. He has an overburdening difficulty. An unloving or aggressive and demanding mother may result in a similar conclusion about life and this world he lives in. The development of a social feeling seems to be strongly tied to the social feeling the child experiences first with the mother. A person so discouraged, may well withdraw from life and really not understand why they feel so unloved. They have never had love demonstrated to them in those early formative years and it is more difficult to learn it later in life. His lack of social interest will compound the problem because he distances himself from what he perceives to be a hostile world. He needs to be invited back and perchance he may experience some of this missing love and acceptance in the therapist's office.
    Adler points out that all maladaptive psychological movement occurs because of a deficiency in social interest. So the real underpinning of neurotic striving is to be found in this deficient social interest no matter what degree of detrimental or advantageous genetic material the person experiences. In fact a neurosis demonstrates a failed attempt to free ones self from the inferiority feeling by vainly trying to induce a self deception of superiority. Adler does not deny that any particular individual has a propensity to deviate from psychological health in a given direction. In fact he is the developer of the notion of "organ inferiority" which I hope to discuss further subsequently. What he strongly indicates is that any person, no matter how deficient their physical organism may be, when sufficiently encouraged and having proper social interest, will and can still be a fully contributing member of the community of mankind within their abundance or their limitations. It is the duty of every human to contribute "to the stream of human evolution sub specie aeternitatis". (If you feel this psychology has spiritual overtones, you are quite correct although it does not favour a particular set of religious dogmas.) There are no "personal exemptions" from this task! Having made such a very strong statement, it becomes self evident that this psychology is existential. The neurosis which is developed by the discouraged human, becomes a trick or an excuse to relieve ones self from the perceived impossibility of just being a contributing fellow human. It is not a silly or stupid thing for a child to do or for an adult to feel afflicted with, because, after all, it has not been examined by common sense (that which we would all generally agree to be true and accurate). However the wisdom of such ideas and behaviours persisting into adult life may appear rather nonsensical when they are so identified. These notions are never treated as being nonsensical, but anyone in hindsight might view them in such a manner. They are the mistaken notions of a child who has convinced himself that he is more deficient than others or more entitled than others, sometimes rather globally and this conclusion draws this person away from the best benefit for mankind and social interest. All that is needed is to identify the perceived impossible this individual created as a child and provide gentle but precise encouragement. The dissolution of the neurosis produces a person who now can begin to learn to co-operate.
    Social interest when it is properly and fully developed allows a person to feel truly part of mankind. It celebrates the uniqueness of each and every person, but only as they fit properly into the larger fabric of communal living. Social interest allows one to feel fully connected with the community around. It could never allow any human to feel above the others (save for those put in positions of authority over us by the community. Such folks usually find this burden heavy). When it is genuinely present the person becomes truly meek and noticeably humble seeing what role he must play and gladly receiving from those around the gifts of uniqueness the others bring as they play their proper role in the community. High social interest could never allow envy or greed to occur in a person. Such people are content to be and give to the world. It is a sense of feeling one with mankind and yet remaining unique but the uniqueness carries the burden of needing that full self to be developed for mankind. It would be deficient social interest to not achieve all that one can to improve ones self for the community we touch. This active seeking for self growth asks no gold medal. It is just what a person must do to be fully human.
    Deficient social interest allows the person to continue to live in the self deceived hinterland of emotional over sensitivity where the world is filled with multitudinous perceived threats to his vanity. The person finds every imaginable excuse to avoid joining the dangers in the world he created in his own mind. He is burdened with such unbearable struggle in his mock battle with life. He preoccupies himself with the theatre before him behind the closed doors of his created perception. He isolates himself from humanity by a trick producing suffering in himself and real loss to mankind.
    An Adlerian therapy will counter this in a real life experience of social interest through the gentle compassion and empathy of the therapist. Once more it is evident that Adlerian psychology must be a way of living and not just a skill or a task.
 Return to Top

On Dreams

    Dreams create a mood for the dreamer. This mood is usually created for the day that follows. They are an attempt not to solve the problems at hand "realistically and logically" (CCWAA Vol. 6, Page 21 More on Individual Psychological Dream Theory), but rather in accord with the dreamers goal of superiority. The symbols of the dream seem to be deliberately constructed to conceal this from the person. The symbols and content of the dream are carefully crafted to create a mood that supports the perceived difficulties in the neurosis and also to buttress up the lofty goal. The dream will be consistent with the construction of the neurosis and indeed the style of life of this person. Safe guarding tools will appear in the dream construction as will images and symbols of the perceived dangers to the person's vanity. Take as an example, dreams about falling. They are reminders to this neurotic person to not surrender their lofty goal of superiority. The dream reminds and trains the dreamer to safeguard themselves from "coming down to be fellow men". Dreams of flying are often either reminders of the longing to rise above or warnings to not take risks because the dreamer will then have his "come down" and his vanity will be injured. Whatever the dreamer excludes from real life will also be excluded in the dream. If the person seeks to remove themselves from relationship, it will be common for the dream to show them isolated or behind a wall. The dream supports the feeling state that is necessary to support the style of life. The dream simplifies real problems and selectively draws on memories to support the position of the person who dreams. The dream will contain nothing new. It is just the same style of life concealed in symbols. The dream also covers up with a masquerade, the dreamers lack of social interest. Unlike Freudians, Adlerians do not view the dream as the road to the unconscious, but rather as the road to the unacknowledged final act in life ... the fictional final goal. The dream sets the emotional tone or mood appropriate to the support of this goal for that day. It moves the person further from social interest "with a good conscience"! Understanding the patient's dreams will show what they avoid and the lofty goal they seek. Such understanding when done efficiently, may also show what they wish to conceal both from themselves and from the therapist. In fact the life style is the foundational "trick play" that is the basis of our life line "play book", just as a football or any other sports team has a play book. In North American football, the dream is a form of "fake hand off" to distract us from the goal our life style is directing us to. This trick play allows us to sustain the emotional intensity necessary to carry out the game plan which like our dream, is concealed from our conscious mind! It allows us to look like we are headed in one direction while we proceed in one that is very different. We support this activity by the use of the emotions from the dream.
    Dreams will also demonstrate in an abstract manner the person's general attitude toward life and the world around him as well as his typical response to life's problems. It will show if he approaches problems with courage or with trepidation or with out right fearfulness and hesitation. The expression of his method of apperception will also be present, but once again symbolically. The dream will show as a one act play, his guiding line. The dreams will also be a clear demonstration of the feeling state the dreamer wishes to produce and use in response to a perceived life problem. It will show if he has courage, wishes to hide or seeks a hasty retreat from the problem.
   A brilliant insight that Adler achieved regarding dreams is described this way. He says, "It occurred to me one day that perhaps the real significance of a dream is that it is not to be understood; perhaps a dynamic of the mind works to baffle us." (CCWAA Vol. 7, Page 159On the Interpretation of Dreams ... click on link) He goes on to suggest that we fool ourselves through the dreams by the emotions that they arouse. The purpose of the dream is to raise this emotion to support the otherwise not so rational style of life. Thus, unlike freud who spoke of dreams as the "royal road to the unconscious", Adler views dreams as just expressions of the style of life. The dream is used to stir up the emotional vibration that will drive on toward the fictional final goal. They are used as a "life style accelerator" so to speak. They are also attempts to solve the life problems the person is facing but the problem and the life style solution is cloaked in symbols. The mood created by the dream is the real purpose that it serves. I have just recently received and started reading Volume 12 of the CCWAA. Adler draws a very helpful insight into dreams in Chapter IX when he says, " It is as if we were driving a car and we step on the accelerator. We have the same direction and goal, but we have more power now. This is what happens in a dream, which acts like an accelerator to fuel the emotions required by a person's style of life. He would probably do the same without dreaming. But he does it in a more powerful way influenced by the feelings aroused in his dream by using impressions, poetic expressions and metaphors."
    The dream serves as a symbolic attempt to resolve a difficulty. Unlike other psychologies may suggest, there are not predictable symbols involved other than those that have a cultural context. The dream can only be understood in the context of the person who has it. There are no archetypes! In fact it is often helpful to have the patient explain the dream themselves. They are its author so a cooperation between the therapist and the client may be very helpful.
    Adler's article just referenced above is very helpful in working with dreams. I recommend getting this volume because the usual psychological approach to dreams differs significantly from the Adlerian understanding.
 Return to Top

The Causa Finalis

    So the perceived minus feelings or inferiority feelings coupled with the "fictional goal of personal superiority" created in childhood becomes the real "cause" of the clients movements. In this sense, they are teleological. They are the causa finalis of the psychic movement from the perceived minus to the perceived plus. The human psychic life is not driven by life's circumstances or some biological machination but rather is drawn by this final cause which remains a fiction and not a fact. It feels like a fact because it is unexamined and persists from such a young age. Adler suggests that the personality is in place by about age five in terms of the inexorable draw of this final act in the play of life ... the fictional final goal of perceived superiority. So once more, the soul life is teleological ... drawn by this final stanza in the unexamined drama which is written and directed by all thinking humans in their own unique style. Thus this style of life comes entirely from the creative power of each individual person. This creative striving for power started when this person was still a child. When this goal is identified all of the many movements this person seems to make will become cohesive and will make sense. This will also demonstrate their uniqueness. As this goal moves further and further from the common good of mankind, the person becomes more and more evidently disturbed. Driven by vain ambition and drawn by the notion of rising above his fellows, this person will founder on the racks of his own style of life. This is his creation, his triumph and finally his defeat. Such a program requires the creation of a disturbance and a diversionary tactic created to suit the goal. Again the psychology is teleological. The life style is drawn by this "final act" constructed by this person from childhood. The actions we witness are this individual's compensation. The goal is clearly the director of this play. Neither the environment nor this person's genetic constitution have produced this goal. It is their own private fiction. When the feeling of community runs thin in this fiction, then this person will continue to create greater and greater distance between himself and mankind. Striving for personal power and grandeur is utterly at odds with the best good for mankind! Indeed this person may create such distance that he will start to perceive others as wishing him harm. He may even see those around him as out right adversaries. All of this is occurring as the degree of feeling part of mankind diminishes.
    So the real measure of "mental health" becomes the degree of social interest the person exercises. Adler goes so far as to suggest that "social interest" when it is exercised by an individual, can solve all their human psychological difficulties. (There is an interesting parallel from Judaeo-Christian scriptures when God commands us to "Love thy neighbour as thyself" [Lev. 19:18]. This tradition from at least 2,500 years ago seems to teach the same idea as I see it, but theology is not my expertise.) This is not to suggest that social interest will produce what may be deemed to be "happiness", but rather that the person so inclined, will live life to its fullest measure from the perspective of their person and uniqueness. I think that such a person would experience joy and delight in engaging themselves fully in aliveness. So the fundamental line of action for an Adlerian therapist, is to move the client from the perceived deficiency position and away from the misdirection of the notion of personal superiority, to a greater degree of contribution to mankind, that is, to increase the client's "social interest". It should thus be relatively evident that the term "self esteem" has little place in this psychology because it all too often has an element of egocentricity hidden in it when the notion of self esteem is more carefully explored. Egocentricity is at odds with social interest, so, although a level of appropriate self regard is in order, I tend to be cautious with the words "self esteem". Maslow's notion of self-other esteem is much closer to the intent of Adler. When one is encouraged to bring their best to humanity by achieving as much of one's "best self" as one can, the need for safe guarding and preoccupation with one's vanity simply disappears. This best self is not in the service of the self, but rather is a requirement of full human functioning. This best self is developed to bring the best benefit to mankind and is not used to enhance personal vanity. Anything that builds vanity is not social interest but is a trick to cover the minus feeling within this individual. Social interest when it is truly built, is an elegant solution to a set of symptoms a person uses as an excuse or smoke screen to avoid the perceived impossibility of merely being fully themselves.
    Since the client sees them self to be in an inferior position, any attempt to reduce the symptoms they use, will only result in a shift of symptoms. They will switch to another battle field as quickly as the therapist attempts to "blow away the smoke" because the "fire is still burning". The real fire is the perception of wanting to be seen as "wonderful" in a chosen area of endeavour for self serving purposes, which is only the cover up for a perception of personal insufficiency. Remember this construction is not usually a malignant device. It is a "hang over" in private logic from childhood conclusions. Just to be quite clear, Adlerians do believe that people use symptoms rather than have them and that these symptoms are used to deliver them from their perceived impossible problem of being one with mankind. (The symptoms I am describing are those of neurosis and not those of organic disease.)
    So what about the "chemical imbalance" notion that is mentioned so often? Well in this psychology it is argued that the brain is in charge of itself. What it thinks about based on its childhood conclusions, modifies neurotransmitter levels and functions to support its own conclusions and thus support its own style of life. Yes, when a person chooses to be depressed, serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels do decrease because that is what the mind has to do chemically to achieve the physiological conditions necessary to reach the goal of depression. It is a clear logical fallacy to argue that these depressed neurotransmitter levels are causal. There is no scientific evidence that I have seen that addresses the whole matter of causality. This is one of those "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" circuitous thinking logical fallacies. Adlerian psychology argues that natural selection, or if you prefer the design of the brain having appeared over a sequence of events covering hundreds of thousands of years, is quite fine for the survival of homo sapiens as a species. I am not aware of science that can solve the problem of what the real cause of the neurotransmitter upset is. I do however, believe that the argument advanced in Adler's understanding makes more sense and it sure is more hopeful than innate biochemical forces over which the mind has no control. My own experience over 15 plus years has seen too many of these disturbances correct themselves via increasingly precise Adlerian encouragement to believe in an innate and genetically determined system although I can accept that a percentage of folks may have genetic weaknesses in this regard, in keeping with Adler's notion of "organ inferiority".
 Return to Top

The Use of Emotions

    I have advanced the idea that emotions do not happen to the client but are a part and product of the fictional goal of the lifestyle. They are an elegant scheme to move from the feeling of deficiency to appear to achieve a feeling of being above or control. The emotions are an attempt to hide sometimes from self, but always from others, the real goal that is at play. This is a concealed aggressive attempt to achieve the goal of being above while wearing a "troubled mask" to evoke a muted response from the audience and conceal the real goal of a behaviour. It matters not at all that the movement appears as a weakness or disturbance in the person. It is an attempt to compensate for the feeling of below by seizing control of the situation by the tools that the person has had success with. It is a movement from a perceived below to a perceived above. No one can elevate themselves above others without at the same time attempting to push others down. This notion is central to Newtonian mechanics as stated in the law, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction...". Thus if one seeks to elevate the self, they, de facto, must push others or an other, down. Thus the aggressiveness of the compensatory striving may be very real but at the same time be presented as some personal weakness! This is movement in a wrong direction. Since no one likes to get "caught with their pants down", this movement is hidden behind a counter fiction. This counter fiction consists of things like "Well I would love to help my neighbour and I agree everybody should do that, but you see I can't because every time I go to my neighbour's house I remember the abuse that occurred behind the door of my house and I just get too nervous". In fact the client does not get nervous, he ramps up the nervous vibration to excuse himself from helping the neighbour. It seems to sound so convincing but it is a "trick" to draw our attention away from what the person is not doing while looking so "good".  Then he expects that we must pity him and help him whenever he demands through the use of his nervous vibration! Please understand that this is just one possible "use of emotion" example. The emotional tool or on the converse blunted emotional tool, will be used differently by each and every patient based on their biased apperception and in concert with their style of life. An example of the development of the use of emotions can be seen in the child who very early in life discovers that when mother is not present and it becomes "anxious" , mother magically returns. So it may include in its life style a use of anxiety to get attention. Suppose a child feels it is being ignored by the parents. It may discover that getting into mischief will bring them running. This could be the beginning of a life of getting in trouble to seek the spot light!
    Another thing Adler points out is that the neurotic (the person with a deep feeling of insufficiency with a compensating fictional goal of personal superiority), may actually "cling to a shock" as he described it. What they have done is find a key event in their private interpretation of life events,  that might be seen to be a sufficient cause to stop moving forward and seek to put others in their service to "fill their very private feeling of inability. Having stopped then they must hold the memory of this event like a valuable gold coin to excuse them from some life task or tasks for the rest of their lives. I have folks tell me stories of unhappy occurrences in their lives like they happened last week. I find on further enquiry that the event happened 20 years ago. This is a trick. A painful event may cause a hesitation in any human life as the grief or pain is properly processed. The encouraged person then sees their responsibility as a human and rejoins the tasks of life. The neurotic continues to hide behind his smoke screen. There he is totally miserable and suffers but feels that he is excused from joining in the common causes of humanity. This person holding his chosen burden close to his bosom, wishes us to pity him, when all he needs to do is lay down his heavy fictional load and get on with life. He is too discouraged to do this because of the oppressive overburden of his impossible goal and his deep feeling of personal ineptness! He is not willing to test his ability in the common market place of life.
    Another trick used by the neurotic is the fear of death. If you observe their movement, it is not death they fear, it is life. This elegant construction is used to excuse them from the normal tasks of life because "the grim reaper is just around the corner". With such an elegant excuse based on their perceived terror, society tries to calm them with solicitude and caring. This is what they seek. They wish to be cared for and because of deficient social interest and a well developed inferiority feeling, they get excused from the normal three life tasks to varying degrees. When the therapist has developed together with the afflicted sufferer sufficient cooperation to develop sufficient courage to participate in the more normal demands of life, this subterfuge falls away, and the patient now will rather commonly participate more fully in life and the three tasks we are all called upon to address.
    These are but a few examples of how emotions may be used to camouflage the desire to opt out of life as a fellow man. Again there is no formula here. Each human is to be understood in their uniqueness so when a person seems blocked by their symptoms, we must as Dr. Henry Stein says, "Not blow away the smoke, but rather put out the fire." I find if I keep that saying very clearly in my mind as I see a lot of emotional vibration in a given person, I am more apt to find the depth of this person's unique discouragement and thus will perchance be able to provide a very precise encouragement! However, the encouragement can not be a generic type of statement. The style of life of this person must be understood as deeply and as completely as the therapist can. One must go back to the childhood prototypes and having discerned very carefully how this person moves from their inferiority feeling to their fictional goal, provide the necessary insight that can assist this human being to have the courage to play their full and proper role as a part of humanity.
 Return to Top

The Use of Symptoms

    It is utterly central to this psychology that people do not have symptoms, they USE symptoms. The symptoms are used to avoid one of the life tasks ...
1)  the work task,
2) the social task or
3) the love task.
Symptoms are not passive creations of some malfunctioning chemical or neurological scheme. They are tools used powerfully to avoid one or more of the life tasks. They are not a cause. They are an excuse or a protest. The person is often not aware or only minimally aware they are doing this. Never the less The symptoms are produced like an artist uses a brush to paint a canvas. But they are a smoke screen for an opting out of being part of mankind because of a deficiency in social interest. The emotions that are used are not the the fire they are the smoke! The smoke is put in the service of the neurosis to conceal the less than socially acceptable goal of the patient. They are quite dramatic, but they are a trick and they are not the problem. The sad thing is that so few psychologies recognize this fact. The whole notion of "chemical imbalances" in the brain that permeates modern psychiatry, totally ignores the creative power of the individual and the subterfuge they practice. The chemical imbalance theory is wanting in scientific proof. What the keen eyed Adlerian sees is that this person uses the brain by unbalancing its normal function in the direction appropriate to the fictional goal, to achieve a withdrawal from the tasks of being human. The true aetiology of the symptom(s) is the goal of this person and they put the brain's chemical and electrical  activity in the service of this goal. The argument that the brain does this on its own, is fatuous. The brain is functioning quite as it should when the person is thinking in a wrong direction away from benefiting mankind where social interest must be our duty. The neurotransmitters in the brain follow the conductor's (patient's) commands in keeping with the style of life he has created. The emotional disturbance is created on the command of the person who feels they are not up  to some perceived impossible demand, and then they are sanctioned as having some deficiency in neurochemical brain function. The trick is so successful, they even fool the psychiatrists!
    Symptoms are used to avoid correcting a problem particularly the problem of deficient social interest. Symptoms become the play the person wants you to watch, not the real play of their discouragement and perceived inability to be a fellow man. The symptoms become the "gegenschauplatz" in German, the nearby theatre. They also draw the observers mind away from the goal of fictional superiority which the neurotic would not wish to have discovered any more than they wish the goal of fictional superiority to be seen. The neurotic wants to look sick and afflicted, and not be seen as a person who feels inadequate to the tasks of life and seeks his compensation by ruling in his private kingdom. Symptoms are the smoke that many psychologies attempt to blow away. The life plan with all its discouraging fictions, is the fire that needs to be extinguished. This is the plan of exalting ones self above ones perceived deficiencies, while not getting caught doing so!
  Symptoms are also used to avoid an imminent defeat of the life style goal. They transfer the battle to a different battle ground, so the symptoms become the side show to avoid a perceived greater defeat. They are a way to preserve the goal of superiority when the vanity is threatened. The symptoms used will be those that seem to justify evading the apparent defeat from the perspective of the person's world view and inferiority feeling. They conceal the person's retreat from social interest in a storm of emotional vibration to conceal the desire to be excused from the human task at hand. They constrain the movement of this person to a predictable radius of vibration. Vibration is a brilliant way to avoid any real progress or even regression. It just makes a lot of movement in one place ensuring that this person goes nowhere while seeming to be excused because of the "emotional disability". Such an exquisitely sensitive emotionally tuned apparatus becomes a wonderful tool to avoid social responsibility. The feeling that one needs to use symptoms in this manner speaks very clearly to their feeling of personal inadequacy and thus to the level of personal discouragement.
    There are in fact three basic uses of symptoms.
1) To place oneself in a "better light" because what is done is done with so much emotional distress that it then is wished to be seen as a "double triumph" since it was achieved against such difficult odds.
2) To provide a seemingly believable excuse to avoid something that truly should be done by this person.
3) To put any decision making that would have to result in some action, into the distant future to safeguard the test of actually doing the task and not being able to do it at the super human level demanded by the goal of fictional superiority.
    So the foundational goal of the neurotic who uses symptoms is to appear better than they really are in these ways. Here again, is the "will to seem". Thus the use of these symptoms take on an aggressive attitude toward mankind by seeming "sick" to avoid a task a "well" person would be reasonably expected to achieve. By the use of this trick, the neurotic maintains his fictional superiority and covers up his presumed inferiority! This pattern becomes quite fixed and predictable in any individual and becomes his modus operendi.  The movement psychology is always from the perceived below to the fictional above. All of this is based on the feeling of inferiority created by this person as a child which is then "tendentiously adhered to and reinforced" (CCWAA  Vol 3, page 118 ). The neurotic does not ask how he can live in harmony with mankind, but rather seeks a set of devices that "will gratify (his) tendency toward superiority and transform (his) unalterable feeling of inferiority into a feeling of godliness". (CCWAA  Vol. 3, page 122) So you can see that this person kind of grows into his symptoms since early childhood as a compensation for the pain of his assumed inferiority feelings. The constant rumbling of his inferiority feelings which were created very early in life, runs through almost all that he does. The compensating superiority fiction he has created is unreachable, so he creates and continues to use symptoms to avoid the impossibility of the exalted position he imagines. He also utilizes these symptoms to create a smoke screen around his failures. He even conceals these failures from himself in many instances by the intensification of his self imposed suffering. His prestige is more important to him than his life task and he will fight to the last step to protect his vanity. Symptoms become his stock in trade in the melodrama of his presumed personal insufficiency. His carefully created symptomatology would serve no purpose what so ever if he would be willing to risk being a fellow man. This plan has never been submitted to critical examination. If it is so examined, it would serve no further purpose. Once more "the unexamined life is not worth living", and it is sad and lonely when it is fraught with all of this created emotional vibration that puts this person's energy in life in motion away from the benefit of mankind. A cooperative and encouraging evaluation of his use of symptoms, will when fully achieved, put the person to rest because they would have no further purpose in continuing the emotional excesses. The presumed inferiority he has carried like a cross is gone as has the fictional goal of superiority, so self created neurotic symptoms have NO FURTHER VALUE!
  Thus, in evaluating what is really going on in any given client, the symptoms must be completely set aside save for perhaps noticing what cluster of symptoms this person selects. One must concentrate completely on this individuals personality because in doing so the style of life will become self evident. It is a trap and a mistake to be drawn in by the symptoms and you will never see what is going on if you rest the case at the level of symptom removal. Believe me, this person is very creative and as fast as you extinguish one symptom they will create another. Now realistically one must take note of suicidal thought and actions and render the situation safe. However Adler, as far as I can determine, never lost a person to suicide. But then he got to the life style so quickly and provided such precise encouragement, that he may not have been at risk to see a person terminate their lives in their final disinterest in the community! The therapist must exert his full effort in understanding this persons nature, goals and his level of social interest. His desire either to involve himself in or run away from social responsibilities and tasks will give a quite clear picture of what this person is really up to. Of course the ability to see this movement improves with skill, experience and proper training. It would be unusual to not be able to discern a degree of activity in any person. The direction it takes, defines the style of life as seen in movement terms. The degree of distance a person produces between himself and the three life tasks will be the therapist's first concern. Indeed it can be very enlightening to ask the person in a gentle and friendly manner, "What would you be doing today if you did not have this anxiety, fear, etc.?" When the answer to this question is properly understood by the therapist, the purpose of the symptom becomes quite transparent and then the goal is evident and can, after trust is established, be corrected.
    Now it can be helpful to notice what particular symptom this person has chosen because that may extrapolate back to the goal. The choice of symptoms has to appear to insulate this individual from the perceived impossible. The emotional vibration used insulates them, in their perception, from that area of human life. The symptom is "the horse they ride to beat the retreat" so to speak. The horse is ridden like a revolt against societal responsibility and a trick to make them look good. Remember the neurotic individual wishes to be relieved of the burden of his human responsibility, so the symptom chosen will indicate usually rather well, what area of human endeavour they seek to avoid. So symptoms are not passive afflictions that people have but rather are powerful tools they use to excuse themselves from a life task(s). They are weapons against the stream of human evolution wielded by craftsmen who have declared various degrees of personal bankruptcy!
  The depths of the neurosis can be determined from the apparent power of the symptom selection. A deeply discouraged individual will have symptoms developed like a person in a full out battle. But it is a battle with the wind and a revolt against the development of social interest. They insulate themselves from the demands of the society about them as they continue this mock battle with an enemy they have created. They use this as an excuse to move backwards, to retreat at full run, from the tasks of life. They have limited social interest and their own self created suffering is more important than the success of mankind or often even of their own spouse and family. The answer for the neurotically discouraged person, is to expose the perceived impossible. They have set the goal to high and by this trick they are excused from the task of life they seek to avoid. To counter such discouragement, the ambitious vain goal must be reduced. Nothing can be achieved until this goal is identified and set in a proper perspective ... the perspective of the perceived impossible!
    As for the psychotic individual, it has been suggested that their social interest is virtually absent so they beat a retreat to the hinterland of the fantasy, alien and hostile world they have created. They wish no part in ours!
    It needs to be made very clear at this point, that when we speak of the use of symptoms, it is not a negation of the person who does this. Indeed Adler insists that when the situation of this person is fully understood, the psychologist can honestly say, "Were I in the same position as this child, had I the same misinterpretation of the meaning of life, then I too, would have suffered from the same symptoms." (CCWAA Vol. 7, Page 179 How the Child selects His Symptoms) The symptoms speak to the creativity of this person. They are like a painting or a work of art. But this work of art has some misunderstandings and misconceptions that need to be addressed. This person, faced with his perceived difficulties has chosen a modus operendi and a way to move about in life, based on his childhood interpretation of events, which he holds before his face like a radar screen as he flies his aircraft through the storms of life. The misconceptions in this work of art have created the conclusion that "I am not up to some of the tasks of life, but I wish to have an excuse for my perceived ineptness, so I create symptoms. Now faulty upbringing may be a major contributor to the symptoms selected. This person must constantly check what sort of impression they are making. And that impression must seem sufficient to excuse them from a life task. For example the person who constantly depresses themselves is acting as if some disaster had already occurred. With this "heavy overburden, how then can we reasonably ask them to contribute to mankind, never mind their local community. No the caution sign of the disaster prevents that!
    In order to provide the need to use symptoms, there must be a deficiency in social interest and also a very real feeling of being in a minus position. This must also be driven by the vanity of wishing to achieve some self created position of being above. This all fits quite well with the discouragement of childhood being carried forward into adult life minus a necessary and appropriate encouragement, and driven by the vain notion that one should be the first, the foremost. Antithetically, the foremost may also be the lowest and the worst as in the vilest criminal who is most feared by his fellow prisoners!
    One of the more powerful symptoms that these people use is compulsions. They exhaust huge effort in pursuing them. While "compelled" to wash there hands or to pray fervently for forgiveness for their many sins they distance themselves from doing more useful things. They may also use compulsions to reap a double reward. Look what they achieved with this burden. Imagine how amazing and wonderful they could be without it. They spend their time in the backwaters of their lives while they torment themselves with unremitting fears, thoughts and worries. They fight such a heroic battle against a foe that does not exist! The normal human task that lies before them can not be addressed until they battle the dragon that they have created. All of this because of a grandiose goal and the clear discernment that it can not be met. They have to possesses a degree of intelligence and creativity to succeed at this life plan. But the energy is not well directed because their social interest is deficient. It seems easier to engage in the mock battle than to engage in the tasks that evidently call to be done at a level that is out of human reach.
  A very substantial clue to the goal the person neurotically seeks is that when they achieve the desired neurotic result, the symptom ceases for the time. I have mentioned what I saw in a psychiatric hospital, that early after an admission, the patient's symptoms would greatly improve and that would be before any medications that were used could really have an effect. Under those conditions I would often conclude that this person was seeking to be pampered ... to have all their perceived needs provided for them without any personal struggle. Of course this "cure" is not enduring because it is often much easier to get into such an institutional setting than it is to get out. And in the institution there is the treatment program that must be adhered to or one must face certain consequences that restrict once more the goal of superiority. Thus it is that in a few days the symptoms intensify or the person may switch to an alternate strategy. It surprised me that the medical staff and nurses seemed unaware of what was going on. Then the "diagnosis" would be changed, "PRN's" would be given or seclusion rooms would be employed. Seclusion rooms might actually suit the goal of a person low in social interest very well, so I found certain patients were in that room most mornings and nobody seemed to expose the game plan.
    These patients will fully justify their battle with the symptoms and the therapist must see beyond this trick. If the therapist engages in attempting to remove the compulsion, the patient is then treating the therapist so to speak. The symptom is not the issue. The issue is the inferiority feeling that underlies it with its attendant goal of fictional superiority. The therapist must set aside the smoke of the symptom and find out why it is being produced. Only when this is clearly in sight can the discouragement be addressed such that the compulsion serves no further purpose. The treatment must consist of making the facts at issue crystal clear to this person. Then the mistaken childhood conclusions need to be addressed. Finally the vain ambition and grandiose goal must be exposed in a gentle and co-operative relationship. Adler suggested that the therapist must achieve these actions while working "like an old grandmother". The brilliance of the therapist is of no value unless he wishes to enhance his own vanity. Should this be the case, it is unlikely he can assist such a person.
 Return to Top

Degree of Activity

The patient's degree and radius of activity must also be considered to assess properly the level of pathology or of health. A person who paces frantically about the consulting room totally consumed by his problems, but never connecting with the therapist is very active, but is going nowhere. He is choosing to stand still even as the smoke rises from his shoes. The person who sulks or is obstinate also stands still and both are moving away from mankind. Indeed both while appearing to be so active, are beating a hasty retreat! Doubt and self depreciation are also very powerful movements away from solving life's problems. This is an example of a low radius of activity but a high social radius. Being severely critical of the self but affecting no change is a wonderful way to appear so righteous while achieving nothing that benefits mankind. In fact such a person wants to be seen as so "holy", but the movement tells us they are consumed by their vanity. This is an example of a high degree of activity and usually has a relatively high radius of influence.
    Hostility and open and concealed aggression are two ends of the spectrum of activity against being part of the social structure. The degree to which they are practised, bespeaks the degree of discouragement as well as the height of the goal. An example of hostile activity is the client who promises to do a requested task or to be on time for an appointment but the task is not achieved and they are always late for appointments, has a degree of activity that is quite high. They seek to annoy the therapist and subvert the work by a trick.
    It may be helpful in considering this notion to think of a vibrating elastic sphere. The radius of activity would be the amplitude of the spheres vibration. The activity might be considered as the rate at which it vibrates. So a person who paces frantically above, has a high degree of activity, but a low radius. The person who obstructs humanity may have a low degree of activity, but a high radius.
    The degree and radius of activity will fit the client's life style and life plan like a glove. In its own discouraged manner it will move toward the fictional goal. That is why it is also crucial to make this observation and integrate it with the manifold other movements that the therapist witnesses. All of these moves point from the client's discouragement to their goal.

The Unconscious and the Subconscious

   In the psychology of Adler the only thing that is unconscious or subconscious, is the fictional final goal. If the client was aware of it, it is not highly likely that they would be able to pull off this subterfuge. This sets Adler firmly apart from Freud and others. Adler does not repress sexual drives and impulses into the unconscious as does Freud. The personal ideal, the goal of the striving could not be maintained if it were conscious. It is rendered unconscious by the patient to allow them to continue pressing on to the goal they imagine is so delicious in their deluded egocentric intoxication! This trick is used to trick the self and of course others. The goal has to be maintained as unconscious to allow the person to continue to enhance their vain self esteem and comfortably continue their lack of of concern about others. If they became fully aware of the act in the play they portray, they would not likely be able to continue this movement. They must maintain the fiction of power that the drama of the final act produces ... the perceived position of pre-eminence. To maintain the internal emotional tension that the goal produces it must be maintained as unconscious because if it became aware, even a very discouraged person is not likely able to maintain this trick.  The goal is maintained at the level of the "as if" of Vaihinger. It is a fiction that draws the person through all these machinations and self induced suffering to render them more heroic in their isolated struggle against the best benefit of all of mankind as they maintain their self induced egocentric narcosis. Underlying this heroic struggle is the deep chasm of the inferiority feeling which in itself, is a self deception. Adlerian therapy is partly the task of rendering this unconscious struggle fully conscious and demonstrating by example and in therapy that a better way exists. The better way is attainable unlike the fictional goal. The better way brings the uniqueness of each person into the service of the common good of mankind. The better interest is social interest. Once the unconscious life plan is unveiled, it is not usually a huge endeavour to see the person encouraged and the unconscious plan is usually surrendered once it is gently and kindly shown to this person ... a person who by the use of the unconscious plan creates in themselves and others, so much misery. Once this highly over rated unconscious goal is exposed, it really serves no further purpose. Now a proper and full antidote for the discouragement must still be provided. If this is not achieved in the therapy, the neurotic will just adopt another plan and maintain their fiction. They will seek to maintain their over blown self importance and fantasized greatness.

The Diagnosis

The diagnosis in this psychology is a "life style diagnosis". That is it is a very complete and detailed comprehension and description of how this person moves about in life based on their biased apperception. The therapist looks for specific incidents and turning points in the early years of this person's life experience. One attempts to determine at what point a discouragement was felt and what its nature was. This perception is derived from the manifold movements that the therapist observes and integrates into the story of this beings life. This must be done uniquely for each and every individual because no two persons share the same life experience and story. It is done by a sequence of guesses based on the observation of the client's movements, what he remembers and relates and on his degree of social interest. This leads the Adlerian therapist to the "Fictional Goal of Personal Superiority" that this individual has built. The goal of fictional superiority must be described very precisely because it points back to the inferiority feeling. This deep understanding is derived from the expressive movements of the person and from those things they recall. What a person recalls is important because we recall in a manner consistent with how we see life, self and others. We recall those experiences real or imagined, that support our world view. The early recollections play a helpful role in this regard because they contain this person's style of life in miniature. The life style diagnosis when done properly points directly to the specific areas of encouragement that need to be applied. This process is so very different from that of current psychiatry that certain agencies like insurance companies really do not like it. Never the less, the Adlerian therapist is there for the patient and not the commercial interests of any third party, so we must stay faithful to the principles that Adler has shared with us. If this process is done quite completely and precisely, the patient will feel they have been fully understood in a non-judgemental environment that leads to an increased experience of community and cooperation. This experience should allow this person to have an increased sense of being part of the community of mankind. From both the insight provided and the experience of this cooperation, most people are able to significantly increase their own social interest. As their social interest rises, so also their use of symptoms declines until free of neurosis, they are fully part of mankind as an equal being. At this stage, the Life Style is said to have been dissolved and the person will be able to enjoy the freedom of giving of themselves as equal humans. Thus the understanding of this life style diagnosis is one of the most powerful tools I have seen and experienced to produce inner healing and an experience of being at peace with mankind.
A major intervention that goes hand in hand with the exposure of this diagnosis is to clearly demonstrate that the degree of discouragement this person carries is not justifiable. It is disproportionate to the real facts of their lives and they are using it to support their movement away from social interest. Once more this must be done in a very friendly and kind manner. Two things are achieved by doing this. The therapist is able to confirm his understanding of the diagnosis and the client receives an antidote to his problem.
 Return to Top

The Therapist's Life Style

The therapist also has conclusions that he carries from his childhood. These, if unexamined, will limit the degree to which he can assist the person he seeks to help. Look at Henry Stein's index page and there you will see a strongly worded note of caution in this regard. Henry believes, and I concur, that the therapist can really not take the client down a path that he has not travelled. Acquiring a degree, no matter how prestigious the institution, or taking a large number of Adlerian courses, can not achieve the dissolution of the therapist's life style. Indeed the one of the most efficient ways to learn the psychology is by personal experience in your own study analysis.  The best person to do your own study analysis with is your own teacher who really needs to be functioning at the level of a fully qualified "training analyst". If you do less than this, you may encourage and help people, but you will be forever limited by your own lifestyle! You can not properly or fully lead the client into waters you have not travelled! Further more your own inferiority feelings will lead you to despair over defeat for example, or to seek the "gold medal" of success. In truth the success is not that of the therapist. We just point in an encouraged direction. The client makes the first and every step of the journey. All the therapist can take from the experience is the joy of witnessing a human become more fully alive or sadly, the agony of being unable to establish cooperation with this human and the sorrow of seeing them not being encouraged. Sometimes we have a bonus clause of societal appreciation in that we get paid to do the work we already love which does add some tangible benefits to the type of work a therapist does.
    To bring the greatest benefit to the client, the practising Adlerian therapist needs to understand himself and this knowledge can not be achieved by self analysis. That is the area of personal biased apperception. This  area if not addressed and made aware, can and will create personal blind spots as the therapist struggles to achieve a deep understanding of the client. Again it becomes of the utmost importance that the therapist have a proper study analysis and that in its most desirable format, should be on going.
    Adlerian psychology is far more than a theory of psychology. It is values based so the theory becomes a way of living. It is not just a set of beliefs the therapist holds. It must be an attitude he demonstrates toward mankind. Thus a full study analysis is even more essential. The therapist must demonstrate to each client an attitude toward humanity that is respectful, kind and gentle while being willing to confront the mistaken paths the client may have followed in an egalitarian and warm manner. The insights presented must be timely and accurate, but only given after the proper groundwork is laid to ensure this person is fully prepared, through many small steps, for this next step in understanding and change.
  An area that I have struggled with is to realize the utter necessity of my own study analysis as a part of a full learning experience. My medical background and my own lifestyle make me wish to get to the meat of the knowledge. But this psychology is not a set of facts to be learned. It is a life changing experience to be shared. Once more if you are looking at this material to "learn Adlerian psychology", you will never achieve that by reading and the understanding of a set of principals or methods!

Return to Top

(To Be Continued)

Case Analysis

The only way you can start to become proficient in understanding what is really going on in any case, is to learn the theory in great depth, then work with a training analyst like Henry Stein on many cases. There are simply no short cuts. You will need determination and dedication to achieve this ability but it can be done if you wish. Many case analyises are required starting from the simpler ones to the more complex. Henry has carefully designed such a training program and I highly recomend that if you have a desire to do this work, you must undertake the discipline and commitment of such an intensive study routine. Personal study analysis is also an necessity.
My feelings about the DSM

Because Adler's psychology holds the unbendable view of the "uniqueness of every person", the DSM (in whatever version it now exists) can not be applied to an Adlerian case analysis. This is of some inconvenience to those who like "cookie cutter psychology". If you hear of an Adlerian applying a DSM diagnosis, it will only be to satisfy the demands of an agency like an insurance company. Any use of such a topological system is incompatible with Alfred Adler's psychology! Any one alleging to be Adlerian who uses such a system clinically, in my opinion, does not fully understand the notion of the uniqueness of the personality. As a physician I am sometimes pressured to provide a DSM diagnosis. I try as much as I am able to resist this unless the patient would suffer undue hardship in this decision. If the issue is forced on me, I pull out that confusing DSM volume that gathers dust on my bookshelf and attempt to adapt the Adlerian notions to this rather meaningless mumbo jumbo. I can usually do an acceptable job of this but a DSM diagnosis has none of the precision of the Adlerian lifestyle analysis, so I do this with great reluctance.
  For the purpose of third party payment this vague and overly generalized material is required. Thus it is that I make as full an Adlerian understanding as I am able, then I get out the DSM-IV manual and put in the nearest muti-axial equivalent I can find. It is of no value to me as an Adlerian therapist but it is required. Then as I understand more, I take the liberty of revising this mutiaxial thing in keeping with my understanding. I will then keep this diagnostic catalogue stapled to the back of the file folder to keep the system happy and I never use it in treatment planning because it conflicts so severely with a full Adlerian understanding of what is really going on! I have placed a red disclaimer stamp across this document to indicate that it is only present as a legal requirement in the file and that it does not and can not represent a true and proper Adlerian understanding of this person and their difficulty.

 Return to Top
 
 

(Please note this is a web page under development. The supplied information is also being increased as time permits. It is not to be considered to be a full rendering of Adlerian psychology. A much better resource in this regard is Dr. Henry Stein's link listed above and in any area where this page seems to not agree with Dr. Stein's page, Dr. Steins page is to be considered correct!. I am, however, trying to put together a bit of a Canadian page for this psychology.)

.Always under construction

Your questions or comments are invited and are appreciated. They will assist me in the development of this material .
    I would be delighted to receive questions from people studying this complex psychology. I shall try to respond to them in a timely manner. Please click on the link below.

Last Revision March 15, 2010

   Click here to: 

Email Me: