Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washngton

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Unity of the Individual
We can understand thinking, feeling, emotion, and behavior only as subordinated to our consistent pattern of dealing with people and tasks, our "style of life." We are not internally divided or the battleground of conflicting forces; each aspect of the personality points in the same direction.

Goal Orientation
One central personality dynamic originates from the growth and forward movement of life. It is a future-oriented striving toward significance or success. In mental health, it is a realistic goal of socially useful significance or overcoming difficulties. In mental disorder, it is an unrealistic goal of superiority over others or impossibly high position. The early childhood, natural feeling of inferiority, for which we aim to compensate, leads to the creation of a fictional final goal, which subjectively seems to promise future security and success. The depth of the inferiority feeling usually determines the height of the "goal", which then becomes the "final cause" of behavior patterns.

Self-Determination and Uniqueness
The goal may be influenced by hereditary and cultural factors, but it ultimately springs from the creative power of the individual, and is consequently unique. Usually, individuals are not fully aware of their goal. Through the analysis of birth order, repeated coping patterns, and earliest memories, the psychotherapist infers the goal as a working hypothesis.

The Feeling of Community
Each human being has the capacity for learning to live in harmony with society. This innate potential for social connectedness has to be consciously developed. Social interest and feeling imply "social improvement," quite different from conformity, leaving room for social innovation even through cultural resistance or rebellion. The feeling of genuine security is rooted in a deep sense of belonging and embeddedness within the stream of social evolution.

Social Context
As an indivisible whole, a system, the human being is also a part of larger wholes or systems--the family, the community, all of humanity, our planet, the cosmos. In these contexts, we meet the three important life tasks: occupation, love and sex, and friendship--all social challenges. Our way of responding to our first social system, the family constellation, may become the prototype of our world view and attitude toward life.

Mental Health
A feeling of human connectedness and a willingness to develop ourselves fully through contribution to the welfare of others are the main criteria of mental health. When these qualities are underdeveloped, feelings of inferiority may haunt us, often compensated by an attitude of superiority which antagonizes others. Consequently, the unconscious, fictional final goal will be self-centered and emotionally or materially exploitative. When the feeling of connectedness and the willingness to contribute are stronger, a sense of equality emerges and the goal will be self-transcending and beneficial to others.

More on Principles & Practice

How Are We Different From Mainstream Adlerians?

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