The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler

The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler   – A  Systematic Presentation In  Selections From His Writings – Edited and annotated by HEINZ L. ANSBACHER, Ph.D. and ROWENA R. ANSBACHER, Ph.D. pdf

The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler   - A  Systematic Presentation In  Selections From His WritingsBasic Propositions of Individual Psychology

A summary of the theory of Individual Psychology might well be helpful to the reader as an initial orientation to the work of Alfred Adler. To serve this purpose we submit the following set of propositions which have suggested themselves to us.

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

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

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

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

5. All psychological processes form a self-consistent organization from the point of view of the goal, like a drama which is constructed from the beginning with the finale in view (1912a, p. 46). This self-consistent personality structure is what Adler calls the style of life. It becomes firmly established at an early age, from which time on behavior that is apparently contradictory is only the adaptation of different means to the same end.

alfred adler

Do not forget the most important fact that not heredity and not environment are determining factors.—Both are giving only the frame and the influences which are answered by the individual in regard to his styled creative power.
– Adler

6. All apparent psychological categories, such as different drives or the contrast between conscious and unconscious, are only aspects of a unified relational system (1926b, p. 402) and do not represent discrete entities and quantities.

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

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

9. The individual cannot be considered apart from his social situation. “Individual Psychology regards and examines the individual as socially embedded. We refuse to recognize and examine an isolated human being” (1926a, p. ix).

10. All important life problems, including certain drive satisfactions, become social problems. All values become social values.

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

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

The remainder of this introduction will present Individual Psychology in its larger context.



Introduction. Individual Psychology in Its Larger Setting By Heinz L. Ansbacher and Rowena R. Ansbacher

Basic Propositions of Individual Psychology
Individual Psychology as Subjective Depth Psychology
Individual Psychology and Other Subjective Psychologies
Neo-Freudian or Neo-Adlerian?
A Restatement of Adler’s Position


Chapter 1. Compensation and Confluence Organ Inferiority and Compensation (1907)

  • Confluence and Transformation of Drives (1908)
  • The Aggression Drive (1908)
  • The Need for Affection (1908)

Chapter 2. Masculine Protest and Critique of Freud Inferiority Feeling and Masculine Protest (1910)

  • Inferiority Feeling and Defiance and Obedience (1910)
  • Critique of Freud’s Concept of Sexuality (1911)
  • Critique of Other Freudian Concepts (1911)
  • Social Values Instead of Drives (1911)
  • Discussion of Adler’s Ideas by Freud and Others By Kenneth Mark Colby

Chapter 3. Fictionalism and Finalism

  • Fictionalism By Hans Vaihinger
  • The Fictional Final Goal

Chapter 4. Striving for Superiority The Striving for Perfection

  • Striving for Self-Enhancement
  • Inferiority Feeling
  • Drive Satisfaction

Chapter 5. Social Interest

  • Social Embeddedness
  • Social Interest
  • Antecedents of the Concept of Social Interest
  • The Innate Social Disposition By Carl Furtmiiller
  • Social Interest and Intelligence
  • Social Interest and Adjustment

Chapter 6. Degree of Activity

  • Degree of Activity
  • Types

Chapter 7. The Style of Life

  • Definition
  • Unity and Sovereignty of the Self
  • Uniqueness and Subjectivity
  • Development of the Style of Life
  • Prediction and Its Limitations
  • Psychological Theory and the Style of Life

Chapter 8. Psychology of Use

  • The Use of Heredity and of Environment
  • Cognitive Processes
  • Character Traits and Expressive Movements
  • Organ Dialect
  • Homogenization of Psychological Processes


Chapter 9. The Neurotic Disposition The Neurotic Disposition

  • The Exaggerated Goal of Self-Enhancement
  • The Underdeveloped Social Interest
  • Inferiority and Superiority Complexes

Chapter 10. Neurotic Safeguarding Behavior The Function of the Neurotic Symptoms

  • Safeguarding through Aggression
  • Safeguarding through Distance

Chapter 11. The Onset of the Neurosis The Subjective Factor

  • Supporting Factors
  • Objective Factors and Their Relativity

Chapter 12. The Dynamic Unity of Mental Disorders Unity and Diversity

  • Anxiety Neurosis Compulsion Neurosis
  • Psychosomatic Disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Melancholia and Related Disorders

Chapter 13. Understanding and Treating the Patient Understanding the Patient

  • Explaining the Patient to Himself
  • The Therapeutic Relationship
  • Special Aspects and Techniques of Treatment

Chapter 14. Early Recollections and Dreams

  • Early Recollections
  • Dreams

Chapter 15. The Origin of the Neurotic Disposition The Overburdening Childhood Situations

  • The Roles of the Family Members
  • Birth-Order Position

Chapter 16. Understanding and Treating the Problem Child

  • Understanding the Problem Child
  • Specific Behavior Disorders
  • Treating the Problem Child
  • Individual Psychology in the School
  • Individual Psychology Interview Guides

Chapter 17. Crime and Related Disorders The Criminal Personality

  • Development of the Criminal Personality
  • Treatment and Preventive Measures
  • Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Sexual Perversions

Chapter 18. General Life Problems

  • Occupation
  • Love and Marriage
  • Adolescence
  • Old Age

Chapter 19. Problems of Social Psychology The Dynamics of Group Psychology

  • Social Hostility
  • On the Psychology of Political Coercion and War
  • The Psychology of Religion

Language: English
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Pages: 496
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