Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington



Copyright 1997, Henry T. Stein, Ph.D.
Reproduction Prohibited Without Permission
Re-designed by Annie Lalonde, May, 2003
Revised 10-18-04
  • THE STYLE OF LIFE TREE is a highly simplified graphic illustration of Alfred Adler's model of personality development. It is based on a chart that was originally conceived by Anthony Bruck and later modified by Henry Stein. The three main areas of the tree are:
    • The FIVE ROOTS represent the formative period of early childhood influences in which the prototype of the style of life was adopted. Some negative influences have high probabilities for provoking discouragement, but none can actually cause a child to choose a negative direction in life. He freely uses his creative power, adapting influences and circumstances, to his own idea about the best way to live.
      • Health and Appearance include the influences of organ inferiority, disease, deformity, as well as unusual beauty or handsomeness. Each factor may act as an incentive for active compensation or as a burden leading to passive discouragement.
      • Social and Economic Position of the Family would take into consideration the impact of poverty, wealth, and any other cultural or religious factors that might promote feelings of inferiority or superiority.
      • Parental Attitudes covers the effects of a wide spectrum of parent-child relationships including: democratic, dominating, submissive, pampering, overprotective coersive, perfectionistic, neglectful, rejecting, seductive, and punitive.
      • Family Constellation explores the influence of birth order position, including: only, oldest, second, middle, youngest, only boy among girls, only girl among boys, adopted, and a child whose sibling has died. The number of years between siblings, as well as the sequence of males and females are often significant factors. Each birth order position has unique advantages as well as disadvantages.
      • Gender Role may be a positive or negative influence, depending on the value suggested by the family and the culture. The feelings of equality, inferiority, or superiority may be evident in the role models that children are exposed to daily.
    • The STYLE OF LIFE is the core repetitive pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting that characterize the individual's unique attitude toward the tasks of life. To gain a practical understanding of each client, five subordinate attitudes may be identified.
      • The Attitude Toward Self may be characterized by self-development, self-indulgence, or self-destructiveness.
      • The Attitude Toward Difficulties could range from a self-pampering preference for avoiding all unpleasant difficulties, to a vigorous appettite for embracing and struggling with difficulties.
      • The Attitude Toward Others may involve cooperation, rejection, exploitation, domination, or destruction.
      • The Attitude Toward the Other Sex could be expressed with respect, acceptance, and affection, or contempt, rejection, and abuse.
      • The Attitude Toward Life might range from optimistic and generous contribution, to pesssimistic self-enrichment or self-protection.
    • The THREE TASKS OF LIFE are the usual challenges each adult is faced with in our culture. In Adlerian diagnosis, the individual's answer to each challenge is an important index of their mental health. Although Adler emphasized the three main life tasks, other Adlerians have suggested the tasks of: self-development, family, religion, art, nature, and death.
      • Other People may be seen as potentially friendly and approached with warmth and enthusiasm; foolish and easy to exploit; or they may be viewed as hostile or indifferent, and avoided as much as posiible.
      • An Occupation might be envisioned as an opportunity for enriching the lives of others--or only oneself. Work can be experienced as a creative fulfilment or a dreaded burden. Business may be conducted with ruthless competition, or a benevolent consideration for the well being of employees and customers.
      • Love and Sex offers partners an opportunity for intimate mutual enrichment or selfish expoitation. Immature infatuation, without commitment or mature, responsible love.
    • For more comprehensive information about the style of life, read Classical Adlerian Theory and Practice.



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