Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington

Common Sense & Private Logic

Developed by Henry T. Stein, Ph.D.

The following Classical Adlerian quotations are from the Adlerian Translation Project Archives at the Alfred Adler Institute of San Francisco (AAISF/ATP). Selected works of Alfred Adler, Kurt Adler, Lydia Sicher, Alexander Mueller, Sophia de Vries, Anthony Bruck, Erwin Wexberg, Alexander Neuer, Sophie Lazarsfeld, Ida Loewy, Ferdinand Birnbaum, and other Classical Adlerians have been collected, translated, edited, and converted into electronic text. All of this material is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without the expressed consent of Dr. Stein at

Alfred Adler:

"Up to now, common sense has been under-valued out of misunderstanding, especially by those who are not well endowed with it. It is not a mood of the moment or an idea we discover somewhere, it is an ideal of over-all understanding that is a result of the experiences of all mankind. Common sense is also subject to change, because it is connected with all necessities of our lives, but for the greatest part common sense will be able to give an answer to most of our problems. We are convinced that we will not find much common sense in general opinions. We know that these are subject to change. We remember that in former times a general belief in witchcraft existed. We could not very well call this common sense. In the same way, we may consider many contemporary 'generally accepted' viewpoints in contrast with common sense." (From a new translation of "The Meaning of Life," a lecture given in Berlin, June 7, 1930. Originally published as "Der Sinn des Lebens" in the Internationale Zeitschrift für Individualpsychologie, IX Jahrgang, 1931, pp. 161-171. An unpublished manuscript in the AAISF/AFP Archives.)

"Just to touch briefly on the contribution of Individual Psychology to the understanding of dreams, we can summarize it as follows: In creating feelings, the dream has the task of weakening or annulling the influence of common sense. For that reason, it has to be 'incomprehensible.' In a tendentious manner, it has to assert the style of life of the dreamer for an impending task which can be carried out only by 'deceiving feelings' and not by rational deliberations." (From a new translation of "Individual Psychology and the Theory of Neurosis," [1929]original title: "Die Individualpsychologie in der Neurosenlehre," in the Internationale Zeitschrift für Individualpsychologie, Vol. VII, p.81-88. An unpublished manuscript in the AAISF/AFP Archives.)

Kurt Adler:

"Common sense originally meant a sense of what we have in common, in contrast to a private understanding, a private logic. The way Adler used common sense could be described as a way somebody takes reality into consideration, and doesn't grossly deviate from an approach to reality--not 'grossly' deviate, because everybody deviates to some degree from reality."

"Freud's concepts lack the element of 'common sense' in many ways because they take literally what should be metaphors, and that is against common sense. And when Adler separated from Freud and was asked for the reasons, he said one of the reasons was he didn't want to be co-responsible for some of the absurdity that the Freudians pronounced."

(From "A Conversation with William Moore, date unknown. An unpublished manuscript in the AAISF/AFP Archives.)

Sophia de Vries:

"There is quite a bit of difference, between intelligence, that is used for personal goals, and common sense, which is meaning that is of benefit to mankind." (From an edited transcription of a tape recorded seminar presented by Sophia de Vries in San Rafael, California on 2-20-76. An unpublished manuscript in the AAISF/ATP Archives.)

(Quoting Adler) "In schizophrenia, the height of the (fictional final) goal now confronts the individual with such difficulties, that common sense has become useless to him, incapable of solving them. This goal of personal superiority blocks the approach to reality." (From an edited transcription of a tape recorded seminar presented by Sophia de Vries in San Rafael, California on 9-17-76. An unpublished manuscript in the AAISF/ATP Archives.)

Sofie Lazarsfeld:

"In every human being there is a striving to grow up, to improve, a striving for perfection. This 'is not limited to the characterization of certain individuals, nor is it brought to them from the outside, rather, it is given to every person and must be understood as innate' (Adler). It is a healthy and necessary attribute as it manifests itself within the range of common sense and with social interest."

"Unfortunately, due to physical or other handicaps, people often lose confidence in their capacities to reach the goal they have set for this striving. When this happens, people build up their own 'private' goal of self-esteem, and substitute fictional for real achievement, in order to keep up the illusion of fulfillment. One of these escapes is into perfectionism."

(From "The Courage of Imperfection," in the "Journal of Individual Psychology," Vol. 22, 163-165, Nov. 1966.)

Lydia Sicher:

"People learn to think in terms of their own private logic and will say, 'I'm different from others.' Everyone is different because no two people in the world are alike. But the difference that they mean is a difference that begs justification. 'I am different from the others and, therefore, you cannot expect me to do insignificant jobs.' Or, 'I cannot finish what I have started because if I finish you might discover that what I did was not marvelous.' Thus, people create their own formulas with their private intelligence or logic according to which they live. They expect themselves to be far beyond their present point of development. They expect others to see them as having already arrived at the endpoint of their own capabilities. They then go through life begging for excuses because they have not reached this endpoint of evolution, of perfection." (From "The Collected Works of lydia Sicher: An Adlerian Perspective," edited by Adele Davidson.)

Henry Stein:

A fictional final goal, and its' related style of life, may seduce the individual away from common sense. An extremly high goal of personal power and prestige may generate persistent alternations between exaggerated self-criticism and self-inflation. In fanatasy, one may anticipate total relief from internal distress, and an abundance of glorious benefits. Yet, the pursuit and achievement of some goals may actually bring greater internal distress, and a host of unexpected disappointments. The style of life may foster the misconception that you can go from a to z with one great leap, by-passing the normal steps of a,b,c. Common sense may carry the unpleasant message of hard work, patience, and modest return for effort. This could be felt as a painfully humbling insult by someone who demands that life be easy, with immediate, self-glorifying results." (From an edited transcription of a tape recorded lecture given on 10-27-90, in San Francisco, in the AAISF/ATP Archives. Available in distance training course DT102A - Intermediate Theory: Part I. )

For permission to copy or reproduce any of this material, please contact:
Henry T. Stein, Ph.D., Director
Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washington
2565 Mayflower Lane
Bellingham, WA 98226
Phone: (360) 647-5670
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