Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washngton

Classical Adlerian Quotes: Discouragement

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 Northwestern Washington (AAINW/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:

"We have found that all neurotics are discouraged ambitious people, and that discouragement in children and adults probably is shared by 90% of mankind."

"Individual Psychological treatment for people with neuroses, the discouraged ambitious, is to uncover their mistakes, reduce their striving for power and raise their social interest."

"Neuroses and psychoses are manifestations of individuals who are discouraged in life--discouraged relative to the real demands of the every day life around them. A rational therapy should not carry the individual into mystic fields of the mind, thus affording him at once an escape from these real demands, but should encourage him into contact with the activities of cooperative working, loving and playing which the logic of communal life and the division of labor implies. A rational therapy in the treatment of neurosis is justified by the fact that the causes of the discouragement are fictional."

(From a new translation of "Progress in Individual Psychology - Part I," IZIP, 1923, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

"In a certain way, all neurotics are victims of errors of our culture. The latter did not develop accidentally but stem from the deficient development of human society. If we draw the final consequences from the above observations, sine ira et studio, as is scientifically appropriate, then we must say: only he is safe from discouragement and its accompanying phenomena, that includes neurosis and psychosis, who recognizes the equality of all normal human beings." (From a new translation of "Progress in Individual Psychology - Part II," IZIP, 1924, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

Lydia Sicher:

"The use of memories to stablize a mood can be seen in everyday behavior. For example, if a person suffers defeat and is discouraged by it, he recalls previous defeats. If the person is melancholy, the memories will be melancholy. If an individual is cheerful and courageous, the memories will confirm this."

" While customs and habits change with eras and places, the essential values of life, the rules of living together, the lack or existence of social interest, and its influence on one's own life and surroundings, the courage or discouragement with which individuals meet their problems, are the same at any time."

"Criminals are completely discouraged people who for one reason or another do not believe that they could accomplish something that would involve work, the overcoming of difficulties. Therefore, they look for an easier way. As Adler said, 'Anyone who feels himself cheated by life will rob.' That is to say he gets back at the society which he thinks did not give him what he expected of it."

(From "The Collected Works of Lydia Sicher: An Adlerian Perspective," edited by Adele Davidson, published by QED Press.)

Alexander Mueller:

"In the literature of Individual Psychology the neurotic is described as a discouraged, ambitious person. Adler has constantly emphasized that neither lack of courage nor ambition alone characterize the neurotic; rather it is the intermingling and mutual intensification of these tendencies. 'The neurosis is an attempt to attain an extreme personality ideal at the same time that the belief in one's own significance has already been shaken by a deep-seated sense of inferiority.'"

"If girls are discouraged because they have been typed as 'just' girls, then boys can become fearful and anxious of their own masculinity toward which they are impatiently pushed. 'Show that you are a man.' Such and other expressions open the way for a striving for superiority, and cultivate an egotism that will soon become burdensome to boys. The more they are expected to be "masculine" the greater is their doubt that they can achieve it, particularly when the father is the superior, the all-too-masculine type who more likely repels rather than attracts."

"It has a discouraging effect when, instead of evaluating achievement, the person himself is disparaged." ..... "It is remarkable how well criticism is accepted when the self-esteem is not harmed. Every critic, in particular a teacher, must pay particular attention to overcoming feelings of superiority, and certainly any tendencies to be disparaging. Otherwise, he will lose every positive educational influence. If the student feels that the teacher does not care, in this case to further the education of the child, but seeks to belittle him, then the purpose of education is destroyed."

(From "Principles of Individual Psychology," an unpublished manuscript in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

Anthony Bruck:

"Physical handicaps can be strongly discouraging, and the child may completely give up striving as a consequence of them. A positive formative education can get the child to try to overcome his handicaps. On television, I saw a documentary that showed blind people and one-legged people skiing. The film stressed the fact that there is a difference between looking at one's infirmities as 'handicap'" or as 'inconvenience.'"

"In our work as consultants, we often see people with discouraged or negative attitudes toward themselves. I have invented a chart to illustrate the complaints of such people and I suggest the 'perhaps bridge' ( to get them to a more encouraged, positive attitude." (From an unpublished manuscript, "Illutrated Adlerian Psyvhology," in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

Sophia de Vries:

"What can cause discouragement? Not every child is born perfectly healthy, and go through life perfectly healthy. There could be childhood illnesses. There can be competition with brothers and sisters. There can be the wrong approach from either father or mother, or a combination of the two. There can be influences from other people, who are very negative. The child can be handicapped, for instance, by being very handsome, very pretty."

"Now there is the question of what happens if the central nervous system is not strong enough to provide compensation, or overcompensation. Then you get children who feel fearful all the time, who cannot make it, and are much more quickly discouraged than other children, no matter what you do. And you get some adults who have the same symptoms. They are more sensitive, and therefore, they are more quickly out of balance than the children who have a very strong central nervous system that can compensate, or overcompensate for the handicap that they are born with. And many people have these difficulties, and you get them in your office, and you cannot help these people progress further than they are able to go. They have to know what is going on, and they have to see, there are certain things they have to avoid in life, or otherwise, they get out of my balance too far. There are tensions that people, nowadays, cannot take. There are many people who cannot take our present tensions. And I do not think they have enough resources to compensate. So, they try to find a way out with all kinds of pills, and medications that give a little bit of a relief, but it is not solving the original problem. The only way the problem can be solved by the individual is, if he really can feel that he has what it takes to compensate, or overcompensate."

(From a transcribed, tape recorded seminar given by Sophia de Vries on 6-18-76, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

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