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  • Writer's pictureDale V Wayman, PhD

Collection of Adlerian quotes

I will be hopefully adding to this list, so I will try and update this quote cache every once in a while. If you use the search function, you can find specific words/topics. The field of counseling & psychotherapy is recently catching up to Adler regarding the importance of community, context, culture, relationship, etc.; however, few are aware of or acknowledge these pioneering & prophetic ideas by Adler. Adler emphasized “oppression” over “repression” in the mistreatment of women and minorities (and the destructive force on society) but many scholars are ignorant or refuse to acknowledge this & incorrectly lump Adler in the “colonialization” of counseling and psychotherapy. - Dr Richard Watts - 2-9-2020, Twitter


"A 50-year-old male patient who had been seeing another psychiatrist for years came to my father for psychotherapy. The patient began by saying that he had an Oedipus Complex. My father said to him, 'But really, what do you want of that old woman?'"

Kurt Adler in Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, p55.


It is a fact in our personal lives, as in the lives of other people, apparent defects should not be considered the source of evil in themselves. Only the context can determine whether they are assets or liabilities. - Adler, Understanding Human Nature


“In our children we enjoy our youth! The unforgettable, joyful days of our childhood rise up in our mind as we look at our youngsters, and our pains are lessened when our toil serves to chase the shadow from their young lives. Our most gratifying incentive is to work so that our children will avoid the worries and afflictions that might have embittered those golden years for us. Many defects from which we suffered while growing up should be spared them, and what we have lost in hope and desire should be recovered for them for a new life. Grow fair, your likeness of our youth and delight in your joy, be better prepared for struggle and for victory than are we!”

* Alfred Adler (1870-1937), The Collected Clinical Works, 1907/2002, p. 56. Edited by Henry T. Stein. Alfred Adler with his daughter Valentine Adler, Villa, Salmannsdorf, Döbling, 19th District, Vienna, Austria. Excerpts by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., January 26, 2020.


Adler's idea of "acting as if" has some origins in Vaihinger:

"Since, however, we do not know objective reality absolutely but only infer it (and this is also an ordinary scientific view) we must revise our statement and say that thought has fulfilled its purpose when it has elaborated the given sensation-complexes into valid concepts, general judgments, and cogent conclusions, and has produced such a world that objective happenings can be calculated and our behavior successfully carried out in relation to phenomena."

Vaihinger, Hans. The Philosophy of As If: A System of the Theoretical, Practical and Religious Fictions of Mankind (p. 2). Random Shack. Kindle Edition.

Rollo May, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow all acknowledged their intellectual debt to Adler." - Hoffman, The Drive for Self, p 328


Once children learn that they can tyrannize their environment through fury or tears or fearfulness they will test this method of obtaining domination again and again. Adler - Understanding Human Nature 


Bootlicking is not pleasant to anyone; it soon becomes uncomfortable, and we are on our guard against  people who flatter in this way. Adler - Understanding Human Behavior


If a person is a show-off, it is only because he feels inferior, because he does not feel strong enough to participate with others on the useful side of life. Adler, The Science of Living, 30


There are no limits to vanity & ambition. It is very interesting to see how in fairy tales, as well as in the overheated imaginings of vain individuals, the striving for power becomes a desire to play God. Adler - The Psychology of Personality


In our civilization there is one thing that does seem to have magical powers, and that is money. Many people believe that you can do anything you like with money. Adler - Understanding Human Nature 


Jealousy occurs almost universally among children with the arrival of younger brothers or sisters who demand more attention from their parents, and make older children feel like dethroned monarchs.  Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Do not worry; you have courage, and you’ll make your way - Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, p 34


Adler said to someone who was especially unfriendly to him, "Why are you so angry with me; I have not done that much for you." Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, p33


When I told Dr Adler about a quarrel I had with my brother, he said, "And what did you conclude?" I said, "Conclude? Nothing!" To which he replied, "Then all you wanted to do was fight.” Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, p35


A propos of nothing in particular, one day Dr Adler -- his eyes twinkling -- said, "Do you know why I don't like to fly? It is because one is too much in the hand of God!" Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, p 40


Adler was very upset when, at a consultation, a doctor described a case involving a girl with schizophrenia and then told the parents that hers was a hopeless case. Even at that time, Adler told the doctors, "Now listen, how can we say such a thing? How can we actually know what is going to happen?" Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 57


Many things will take care of themselves if left alone. Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 61


Giving others a set of rules for their conduct is one favourite trick of a jealous person. A characteristic sign of this is when the individuals attempt to bind their partner with chains of love, when they build a wall around a loved one, or prescribe what the loved one should see, do and think. Adler - Understanding Human Nature 


"Children may develop in an antisocial direction in order to achieve their goal, or they may become perfectly behaved and admirable with the same goal in view. In any group of children there is usually one whose attention-seeking takes the form of unruly behavior, while another, being more shrewd, attains the same goal through conspicuous virtue." Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Jealousy can be used to degrade and reproach others. These are only means to an end: to rob others of their free will, to cage them, to chain them down. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


The belief in predestination is in many ways a cowardly escape from the task of striving and building up activity along the useful line. For that reason, it will prove a false support. Adler, The Science of Living, 65


"It will prove nearly impossible to find one man in this world who is not infected with this selfish urge for power." - Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 67


In bad cases, manliness often turns into the well-known phenomena of rudeness and brutality. Adler, Cooperation Between the Sexes, 11


Adler was cautious and modest about his psychological conclusions. "Yes, it may be thus -- certainly it's my opinion." But "es kann auch alles ganz anders sein." (It may be also quite different). Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 67


"The first evidence of inborn social feelings unfolds in an early search for affection, which leads children to seek the proximity of adults. Children's love is always directed towards others and not, as Freud would say, toward their own bodies." - Adler, Understanding Human Nature


Martha Brandt-Erichsen said of Adler, "I noticed that in his dealings with small children, he was enormously direct, and that the child understood what he said." Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, p 71


Sleep is not a contradiction of being awake, but is rather a degree of being awake. We are not separated from life in sleep. On the contrary, we are thinking and hearing in sleep. The same tendencies are generally expressed in sleep as in waking life. Adler, The Science of Life, 78


There is a natural law of the equality of human beings. This law cannot be broken without immediately producing opposition and discord. It is one of the fundamental laws of human society. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


"We try to live in a way that, if there is a God, he must be satisfied with us." - Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 73


Alfred Adler (1870-1937): "If you want to understand yourself or another person, close your ears to anything that is said or what you think and watch only movement. What a person does is his/her real understanding and intention.” H/T: Wes Wingett


To steal is to take advantage of the insecurity or absence of another; to lie is not to have the courage to tell the truth. These manifestations in children have an inferiority complex as their core. Adler, The Science of Living, 106.


"Because all human beings must adjust to their environment, their psyche is capable of taking in a multitude of impressions from the outer world." Adler, Understanding Human Nature


Hatred may also be seen in the way someone rejects all opportunities for making contact with others. Or sometimes, an individual's capacity to hate is suddenly disclosed, as if by a flash of lightning. Adler - Understanding Human Nature

Note Adler's concept of microaggression in the second sentence.


Despite any apparent justification for acts of criminal negligence, it will be found on closer inspection that they are the expressions of an essential dislike of people. For instance, motorists who exceed the speed limit and knock someone down will excuse themselves by pleading an important appointment. We recognize in them someone who values their petty personal affairs above the lives of others, so they discount the dangers to which they expose them. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Those who withdraw and isolate attempt to raise themselves above others by accentuating the differences between themselves and the rest of society; but the most they can gain is an imaginary glory. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Adler did not mind if someone offered an interpretation different from his own and if he felt that it threw new light on the case, he would modify his first opinion accordingly. Such open-minded modesty is rare indeed, particularly in the ranks of those so illustrious in their profession. Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 79.


Once someone assumes the point of view that life's difficulties must be avoided, they are inviting anxiety in, and once in, it will reinforce that point of view. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


"We experience reality always through the meaning we give it; not in itself, but as something interpreted." - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, p 3.


All achievements of the human mind are conceivable only in the context of human community. Adler, Co-operation Between the Sexes, 108.


"From the very beginning, the consultant must try to make clear that the responsibility for cure is the patient's business." Adler, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, Griffith & Powers, p 1.


Agoraphobia sufferers can never shake off the feeling that they are victims of some malign persecution. They believe there is something distinguishing them from other people. Fear of falling (which simply indicates to us that they have an exalted opinion of themselves) is a symptom of this attitude. In the pathological forms of fear, the same goals of power & superiority can be seen. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


The only way to conquer fear of other people is through strengthening the bonds that bind individuals to humanity. Only when we are conscious of belonging to the one human family can we go through life without anxiety. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


"Life means to contribute to the whole...the meaning of life is interest in others and cooperation." - Adler, The Meaning of Life, p 9.


"Adler believed that humans are born with three innate abilities. These three innate abilities include creativity, intelligence, and social interest or community feeling that needed to be nurtured in the family, in schools, and in the larger community." - Wes Wingett


In looking at love, Adler says, "If we are interested in our partner, if we are working to ease and enrich our partner's life, of course we shall make the best of ourselves that we can." - Adler, The Meaning of Life, p 10


"The pampered child is trained to expect that his wishes will be treated as laws. He is granted prominence without working to deserve it and he will generally come to feel this prominence as a birthright." - Adler, The Meaning of Life, p 16.


A person who suffers from an inferiority complex is always looking for the easiest way out. Adler, The Science of Living, 126


Timidity is characteristic of those who feel that every task facing them is especially difficult; of people who have no confidence in their ability to achieve anything. Adler - Understanding Human Behavior


Timidity is also expressed in an excessive preoccupation with safety and preparation, activities aimed solely at evading all responsibility. Adler - Understanding Human Behavior


In speaking of grown-up pampered children when they take revenge and find hostility, "This proves to them that they are personally ill-treated. This is why punishments are always ineffective; they can do nothing but confirm the opinion, 'others are against me.'" - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, p 17


"Everybody has the capacity to be interested in others; but this capacity must be trained and exercised or its development will be frustrated." - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, p 18.


"The neglected child is one who never quite found a trustworthy other person." Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, p 18.


The misfortunes individuals suffer as a result of a flawed development clearly shows the consequences of pursuing personal power instead of the common weal. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


We all know individuals who socialize, conduct themselves well and do not disturb others, but who are unable to form real friendships because their striving for power prevents them. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


What appears as "resistance" constitutes a discrepancy between the goals of the therapist and those of the patient. - Dreikurs


"One time I took one of our children to Dr Adler. As I made the gesture to help my child off with his coat, Dr Adler rightly admonished me and reminded me little Frank was a big boy now and could do anything for himself. This reassurance melted Frank's shyness and taught me the lesson I needed perhaps more than Frank did." Mrs. Babbott in Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, p 81.


It seems we instinctively sense that a cheerful temperament, when not taken to extremes, is an indicator of a highly developed social feeling. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Laughter can make or break connections. We have all heard the aggressive laughter of those who find humor in other people's misfortunes. Adler - Understanding Human Nature"The greatest of all helps, however, in gaining a quick comprehension of the meaning an individual gives to one's self and to life comes through one's own memories. Every memory, however trivial one may think it, represents something memorable to that person." - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, p 19.


Pedants feel so insecure that they must squeeze all of life and living into a tiny cage of rules and formulae, lest it overwhelm them. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


It seems the opposite of selfishness to be constantly pursued by misfortune, but actually a stubborn vanity is at work when such individuals feel that all hostile powers are intent on wreaking vengeance on them. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Some people retreat into religion and shift their burdens onto the shoulders of a benevolent God. They think only about themselves. It is therefore natural for them to believe that God, this extraordinarily honored and worshiped being, is concerned entirely with serving them and is responsible for their every action. Adler - Understanding Human Behavior


Some approach their God just as they approach their fellow human beings, complaining, whining, yet never lift a finger to help themselves or better their circumstances. Co-operation, they feel, is an obligation only for others. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Ambition can break into religious matters and vanity makes individuals believe themselves a judge of virtue and vice, purity and corruption, good and evil. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


The individual who understands that life means contribution will be able to meet difficulties with courage and with a good chance of success. Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 23


It is indifferent whether the memory which an individual considers as first is really the first remembered event, or even if it was a real event. Memories are important only for what they are "taken as" for their interpretation and for their bearing on present and future life. Adler - What Life Should Mean To You, p 20.


In discussion of first memories, Adler said, "If once the meaning given to life is found and understood, we have the key to the whole personality." - Adler, What Life Should Mean To You, p 22.


Adler had three overruling principles regarding others reviewing his work: (a) Sweeping generalizations are to be understood as statements of probability only. (b) Dogmatic or blunt statements must be taken as maxims, working hypotheses, or therapeutic devices. (c) Apparent reifications must be read and revalued as statements of processes.

The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A Systematic Presentation in Selections from His Writing - Heinz L. Ansbacher


The purpose of feelings and emotions are to modify the situation of the individuals in whom they occur, to their benefit. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


We cannot have anger without an enemy; we cannot conceive of the emotion of anger without considering also that its purpose is a victory over an enemy. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Individuals who do not have sufficient confidence in their ability to achieve their goal tend not to give up their aim because of their feeling of insecurity, but rather to approach it with greater efforts and with the aid of additional feelings and emotions. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


The mind is like a motor, dragging with it all the potentialities which it can discover in the body, helping to bring the body into a position of safety and superiority to all difficulties. Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 27


Adler took patients off the psychoanalytic couch and invited them to a chair like his own. This set the stage for a discussion between two persons of equal worth trying to solve a problem together. Griffith & Powers, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, 4


"We must presuppose physiological processes but we are more interested in the psychological goal. It is not so much our concern that anxiety influences the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves. We look, rather, for the purpose and end of anxiety." Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 30


"All of our strivings are directed towards a position in which a feeling of security has been achieved." Adler, What Life Should Mean To You, p 27


The so-called conscious and unconscious are not contradictory, but form a single unity, and the methods used in interpreting the "conscious" life may be used in interpreting the "unconscious" or "semi-conscious" life, the life of our dreams. - Adler - Griffith & Powers, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, 15.


All problems in our lives are social problems; and these can be solved only if we are interested in others. Adler, in Griffith & Powers, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, 19


"All psychological mistakes are mistakes in choosing the direction of movement. The goal of security is common to all human beings; but some of them mistake the direction in which security lies and their concrete movements lead them astray." - Adler, What Life Should Mean To You, 28


“Courage is not an ability one either possesses or lacks. Courage is the willingness to engage in a risk-taking behavior regardless of whether the consequences are unknown or possibly adverse. We are capable of courageous behavior provided we are willing to engage in it.” - Adler


To be human does not mean to be right, does not mean to be perfect. To be human means to be useful, to make contributions -- not for oneself but for others -- to take what there is and to make the best of it. Dreikurs, in Griffith & Powers, Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, 19


Some announce their protest in a manner that is usually very painful for everyone else. They may, for instance, shatter a mirror or destroy an expensive vase. We cannot really accept their apologies if afterward they attempt to excuse themselves by saying they didn't know what they were doing. They rarely confine their rage to worthless objects. A plan of some kind must have been behind their action. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Habitually angry people find themselves in conflict with the whole world. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


We need not criticize someone's final goal but we may be able to point out that the person has chosen a mistaken way in making it concrete. - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 29


In paroxysms of rage, the whole pattern of inferiority and superiority appears with utter clarity. It is a cheap trick whereby one person's self-esteem is raised at another person's expense. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


A counselor should have "a jovial attitude...blessed with cheerfulness and a good humor." Adler - Understanding Human Nature, 201


Angry children are striving for recognition because every obstacle they meet appears exceptionally difficult, if not insurmountable. Adler - Understanding Human Behavior


Psychotherapy is an exercise in cooperation and a test of cooperation...we must work out attitudes and difficulties together...we must cooperate in finding mistakes, both for the patient's own benefit and for the welfare of others. Adler- Griffith & Powers, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, 18.


No other feeling can be artificially produced as easily as disgust. With a little practice, anyone can learn to feel nauseous to order. Thus, a harmless feeling becomes a powerful weapon against society, or a reliable excuse for withdrawing from it. Adler - Understanding Human Behavior


Feelings are never in contradiction to the style of life. Where there is a goal, the feelings always adapt themselves to its attainment. - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 30


Once children learn that they can tyrannize their environment through fury or tears or fearfulness they will test this method of obtaining domination again and again. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Joy is probably the best way to overcome difficulties - Adler


Joy is a movement towards unity, the reaching out of a hand, a radiation of warmth. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Laughter, with its liberating energy, its powers of release, goes hand in hand with joy and represents, so to speak, the keystone of the feeling. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Schadenfreude is an abuse of happiness. It is the expression of joy at the pain or misfortune of others. Joy that arises at the wrong time or in the wrong place, that denies social feeling and destroys it, is a disjunctive feeling, an instrument of conquest. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


"We must presuppose the physiological processes, but we are more interested in the psychological goal. It is not so much our concern that anxiety influences the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves. We look, rather, for the purpose and end of the anxiety." - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 30.


"The purpose which enuresis serves is generally to attract notice, to subordinate others, to occupy their attention in the nighttime as well as the day...the child is speaking with his bladder instead of his mouth." Adler - What Life Should Mean To You, 39


"To a certain degree, every emotion finds some bodily expression. The individual will show emotion in some visible form; perhaps in posture and attitude, perhaps in the face, perhaps in the trembling of his legs and knees." Adler - What Life Should Mean to You, 40-41


Sympathy is the purest expression of social feeling. Whenever we find sympathy in human beings we can generally be sure that they are mature individuals with a social conscience, because sympathy is a good yardstick of how far human beings are able to identify with others. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Sympathy can be misused. This consists of posing as an extremely public-spirited, exaggeratedly sympathetic individual. Thus there are people who crowd to the scene of a disaster to achieve a mention in the newspapers and get themselves noticed without actually doing anything to help the victims. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Human society would be impossible without a measure of humility and modesty to make us conscious of the need for co-operation. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


A patient has to be brought into such a state of feeling that he likes to listen, and wants to understand. Only then can he be influenced to live what he has understood.

Adler, Alfred. Problems of Neurosis: A book of case-histories (Timeless Wisdom Collection 200) (p. 117). Business and Leadership Publishing. Kindle Edition.


Every human is an architect, because each creates something from various factors and opportunities. - Adler


It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring. - Adler


Overcoming difficulties leads to courage, self-respect, and knowing yourself. - Adler


The dream strives to pave the way towards solving a problem by a metaphorical expression of it, and in itself it is a sign that the dreamer feels inadequate to solve it by common sense. A metaphorical conception of one’s situation is a way of escape from it, as it may be used to support almost any kind of practical action.

Adler, Alfred. Problems of Neurosis: A book of case-histories (Timeless Wisdom Collection 200) (pp. 120-121). Business and Leadership Publishing. Kindle Edition.


It is very obvious that we are not influenced by "facts" but by our interpretation of the facts. - Adler


We must never treat a symptom or a single expression; we must discover the mistake made in the whole style of life. Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 47


Courage is not an ability one either possess or lacks. Courage is the willingness to engage in a risk-taking behavior regardless of whether the consequences are unknown or possibly adverse. We are capable of courageous behavior provided we are willing to engage in it. Given that life offers few guarantees, all living requires risk-taking. Adler


A simple rule in dealing with those who are hard to get along with is to remember that this person is striving to assert his superiority; and you must deal with him from that point of view. Adler


“Insulting others is an attempt to transform one’s inferiority complex into a superiority complex.” -- Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Journal Articles, 1935/2005, p. 149. Excerpts by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., December 24, 2016.


Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement. - Adler


Behind every one who behaves as if he was superior to others, we can suspect a feeling of inferiority which calls for very special efforts of concealment. Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 50


We must have the courage to be imperfect. Life is about courageous striving, not about attaining perfection. Perfection would be a static condition with no future, whereas life is about movement – movement ‘from a minus to a plus’ as Adler used to say.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 168-170). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


“Do not let your vanity get in the way; do your best and let the chips fall where they may.” -- Adler


"Any time we 'order' a child to do something, or try to 'make' him do it we invite a power struggle. This does not mean that we cannot guide or influence our children into proper behavior. It only means that we must find a different and effective approach." Dreikurs


Autocrats are almost always show-offs and compensators. Why do they have to decorate themselves with medals and honours or build homes of outrageous ostentation, if not to reassure themselves about their personal worth?

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 211-213). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


To secure the planet, and to release and enrich its resources in the service of an enhanced quality of life, person has to co-operate with person, group with group, and nation with nation. The future depends on the expansion of that very ‘social feeling’ of which Adler was the prophet.

In his last book, Adler wrote: ‘The justified expectation persists that in a far-off age, if mankind is given enough time, the power of social feeling will triumph over all that opposes it.’

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 217-220). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


God who is eternally complete, who directs the stars, who is the master of fates, who elevates man from his lowliness to Himself, who speaks from the cosmos to every single human soul, is the most brilliant manifestation of the goal of perfection. - Adler


We learned therefore that these single manifestations could only be evaluated when we examined and understood their place in the general behaviour pattern of individuals, in their whole mental universe, their ‘life style’. When we did this, we were able to see that their secret childhood goals were exactly in accordance with their attitude in adult life.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 280-282). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


We made it a rule, therefore, to focus the greater part of our investigation on the childhood of our patients. In this way we were often able to infer the characteristics of a mature person whose childhood we were familiar with before we were told about them. The traits we observe in the adult are in fact the direct projection of childhood experiences.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 288-290). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


"It is therefore better for everyone if we adjust our lives so that we would rather give than save. If we all try to live by this rule, and keep the common weal in mind, we cannot go far wrong.” - Adler

Most human beings pride themselves on their mastery of the art of understanding human nature and would be offended if any one called their competence into question by demanding they put their knowledge to the test.


However, those who genuinely wish to understand human nature have usually experienced the worth and value of others through their own empathy, either by living through their own crises or by observing, and identifying with, the crises of others.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 308-311). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


The study of human nature may be thought of as an art with many tools at its disposal, an art closely related to all the other arts, and relevant to them all. In literature and poetry, particularly, this is especially significant. Its primary aim must be to broaden our knowledge of human beings, that is to say, it must enable us all to become better, fuller and finer people.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 311-314). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


We can do a great deal of harm by asserting even a correct judgment about character in an inappropriate way, or at an improper moment. Adler - Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality


We have to remember that each experience may have many interpretations and that no two people will draw the same conclusion from the same event. This accounts for the fact that we do not always learn from our experiences. Older is not always wiser! We learn to avoid some difficulties, it is true, and develop a philosophical attitude towards others, but our pattern of behaviour does not usually change as a result of this. We shall see in the course of our further considerations that individual human beings use all their experiences to the same end.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 330-334). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


“We, as well as the patient, can trace the start of the neuroses to a certain catastrophic event, which is considered to be ‘catastrophic’ either by all of mankind or sometimes by the patient only.” -- Alexandra Adler (1901-2001)


“The dream is like a column of smoke which shows that a fire is burning somewhere. The experienced woodsman can observe the smoke and tell what kind of wood is burning.” - Adler 


“A dream shows not only that the dreamer is occupied in the solution of one of his life’s problems, but also how he approaches these problems.” -- Adler


As inferiority feelings always produce tension, there will always be a compensatory movement towards a feeling of superiority; but it will no longer be directed towards solving the problems. The movement towards superiority will thus be towards the useless side of life. Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 52


The ability to know ourselves increases with our ability to determine the origins of our actions and the dynamics of our minds. Once someone has understood this, they have become a different person and can no longer escape the inevitable consequences of their knowledge.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 388-390). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Psychological activity is a complex of aggressive and defensive mechanisms whose final purpose is to guarantee the continued existence of the organism and to enable it to develop in safety. If we accept this premise, then further considerations grow out of it, which we deem necessary for a true conception of the psyche. We cannot imagine psychological activity in isolation. We can only imagine it in relation to its environment, receiving and responding to stimuli from outside.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 410-413). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


It is a fact that in our personal lives, as in the lives of other people, apparent defects should not be considered the source of evil in themselves. Only the context can determine whether they are assets or liabilities.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 418-420). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


The interpretation of dreams dates from prehistoric times. The research of various epochs in the developmental history of culture, especially as evidenced in myths and sagas, leads us to the conclusion that in times by-gone people were far more concerned with the interpretation of dreams than we are today. We also find a much better understanding of dreams on the part of the average man of those days than is the case today. . . . The Bible dreams are either cleverly interpreted, or they are related as though it were self-understood that everyone would then interpret them correctly and understand them. . . . we can conclude that dreams were used as evidence."

Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Understanding Human Nature, 1927/1954. Translated by Walter Béran Wolfe (1900-1935), M. D. New York: Fawsett Premier. Edited by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., April 29, 2016.


"For we experience only those things which set our brain into unrest, which demonstrate to us that there is more wisdom hidden between heaven and earth than we allow ourselves to dream of. We can understand the prophetic nature of dreams in so far as we know that both dream and reality contain the same attitude toward life which an individual shows."

Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Understanding Human Nature, 1927/1954. Translated by Walter Béran Wolfe (1900-1935), M. D. New York: Fawsett Premier. Edited by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., April 29, 2016.


"We can say that a dream shows not only that the dreamer is occupied in the solution of one of his life’s problems, but also how he approaches these problems. In particular, (p. 99) those two factors which influence the dreamer in his relationship with the world and reality, the social feeling and the striving for power, will make themselves evident in his dream” (p. 100).

Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Understanding Human Nature, 1927/1954. Translated by Walter Béran Wolfe (1900-1935), M. D. New York: Fawsett Premier. Edited by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., April 29, 2016.


Anyone who believes they have demonstrated the unchangeable and predetermining power of circumstances is playing with loaded dice. After all, if a painter sets out to paint a picture, the world attributes to him all the attitudes appropriate to an individual with that aim in mind. He will do all the usual things, with all the expected results, just as though there were a natural law at work. But is he under any necessity to paint the picture? Given his free will, we must deduce that it is his striving to attain his goal that keeps him putting the paint on the canvas.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 438-442). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.



It is possible to discover the goal of individuals from observing their present activities. This is particularly important because so few people know exactly what their goal is.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 450-451). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.



Our civilization plays an important role in the development of a person’s psychological goal. It sets up rules and boundaries against which children struggle until they discover how to fulfil their wishes in a way that promises both security and a successful adaptation to life.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 479-481). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


“Alfred Adler is quite rightly considered the first community psychologist. Decades ahead of its time and rooted in social welfare, social justice, equality and the importance of education; Adlerian psychology, also known as individual psychology, resonates as strongly today as it did when Adler began to articulate his ideas at the turn of the 20th Century.” -- David Webb H/T: Carroll R Thomas, PhD


“Do the unexpected.” -- Rudolf Dreikurs


We cannot apply to the juvenile psyche the same criteria we use to evaluate the adult psyche. In the case of children we must look further and guess at the final state to which their energies and activities will eventually lead them. If we could see into their mind, we could understand how all the expressions of their character are directed towards the ideal they have created for themselves as the crystallization of their desired final adaptation to life.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 493-496). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


“The dangers of favoritism can hardly be overdramatized. Almost every discouragement in childhood springs from the feeling that someone else is preferred. Sometimes the feeling is not at all justified; but on the other hand where there is real equality there should be no occasion for it to develop. It is not enough for parents to say that they have no preference. They must observe whether there is even a suspicion of such a preference in the mind of any of their children.”

Alfred Adler, M.D. (1870-1937), The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A Systematic Presentation in Selections from His Writings, 1956, p. 376. Edited by Heinz Ludwig Ansbacher (1904-2006) and Rowena Emma Ripin Ansbacher (1906-1996) Excerpts by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., July 20, 2022.


Adlerians do not believe that children are disturbed. We do believe that they can become very discouraged and act in disturbing ways. This distinction between the child and their deeds is very important. A child or any person can change the direction in which they are going a lot easier than they can change some dysfunction from within.

A GUIDE TO ADLERIAN FAMILY THERAPY, James Robert Bitter, Ed.D. & Oscar Christensen, Ed.D. H/T: Carroll Ray Thomas


“To accomplish anything worthwhile, one must be prepared to face whatever life throws at us. Individuals who rule out certain situations and certain people as impossible can only use private logic to justify themselves, and this is not enough. People need the fresh air of social contact and common sense to live a healthy life.”

Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Understanding Life (The Science of Living), 1927/1998, p. 36. Edited by Colin Brett. Excerpts by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., July 20, 2019.


The needs of the community govern all human relationships. Communal life predates the individual life of humanity. In the history of human civilization no way of life has emerged of which the foundations were not laid communally; human beings developed not singly but in communities.


This is very easily explained. The whole animal kingdom demonstrates the fundamental law that species whose members are individually incapable of facing the battle for self-preservation gain additional strength through herd life.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 528-532). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


“When you stand before a huge waterfall, or see a huge snow-capped mountain, or are in a thunderstorm -- most people are inclined to feel weak and small, confronted with this majesty and power of nature. And very few people draw the only conclusion which in my mind would be correct: the realization that all of this power of the waterfall, the majesty of the mountain, and this tremendous impressiveness of the thunderstorm is part of the same life which is in me. Very few people who stand in awe of this expression of nature stand in awe before themselves, admiring this tremendous organization of their body, their glands, their physiology, this tremendous power of their brain. . . . How many things would be different in everyone’s surroundings if we hadn’t lived? How a good word there encouraged some fellow and did something to him that he did it differently and better than he would otherwise. And through him somebody else was saved. How much we contribute to each other -- how powerful we each are -- and don’t know it.”

* Rudolf Dreikurs (1897-1972), “The Courage to be Imperfect,” Speech, University of Oregon, July 25, 1957. Excerpt by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., April 16, 2018.


“I am in a world full of difficulties; and my difficulties belong to me! Why should I quarrel with them?” -- Adler 


“In an optimal situation of development, adults will win children’s cooperation, helping them to develop a sense of significance through contributing to others, minimizing inferiority feelings, stimulating their courage, guiding them to be active, and helping them to feel a part of the whole. These experiences will help children identify and develop their capacities and become cooperative, productive, and satisfied adults.” -- Henry T. Stein & Martha E. Edwards, The Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler: Volume 12: The General System of Individual Psychology, 2006, p. 205. Excerpt by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D, February 19, 2017. Thank you, Alice Iliescu


“My enemies have always blessed me. When they don’t fight my ideas they go away with them and claim they are theirs, but in this way they give them wider dissemination. Whether what I believe I have discovered is called Freudian or not, is of no concern to me. I believe it to be true and of permanent usefulness to humanity and that makes me happy.” -- Alfred Adler (1870-1937)  Excerpts by Carroll Ray Thomas, Ph.D., July 26, 2019.


“Whenever we hear this word ‘if,’ we may expect a set of impossible conditions.” -- Alfred Adler (1870-1937), The Pattern of Life,1930/1982, p. 230. H/T: Carroll Ray Thomas, PhD


"The size of the community spirit will show up in all expressions of life of a man, often in all sorts of outward actions, such as the way a person looks at another, pressed his hand, talking to him. His whole being will already give us an impression. On the basis of our feelings we often totally unconscious inferences that can go so far that we are dependent on draw our own behavior.


Alfred Adler 1870-1937), The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler, 1932, Edition. Translated from Dutch to English. Thank you, Adrie van der Horst. Excerpts by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., July 28, 2019.


“We cannot love and be limited.” -- Alfred Adler


Constant feelings of inadequacy stimulated humanity’s foresight and ability to avoid danger, and caused the mind to develop to its present condition as an organ of thinking, feeling and acting.

Society has played an essential role in the process of adaptation, and the mind must interact from the very beginning with the conditions of communal life. All its faculties are developed upon one fundamental principle: the logic of communal life.


Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 554-558). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Speech would be absolutely unnecessary for an individual living alone; it is of use only in a social setting. It is a product of communal life, a bond between the individuals of the community. The social origin of speech is attested in those individuals who have grown up under circumstances where contact with other human beings has been difficult or impossible. Some of these individuals have severed all connections with society deliberately; others are the victims of circumstance. It is as though this skill can be acquired and retained only when contact with humanity is well established.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 561-566). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


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. - Henry Stein in speaking of Alder's theory


“If the world -- our world -- is to be saved, obviously the one thing necessary is to raise man to a level where he shall not, like a child playing with a loaded pistol, constantly risk destroying himself by the misuse of his own power.” -- Alfred Adler (1870-1937) H/T: Carroll Ray Thomas


Knowing the goal enables us to know the person - Adler, Understanding Human Behavior. #adlerwisdom


In the course of our investigations it will become increasingly evident that no well-adjusted person can grow up without cultivating a deep sense of fellowship with humanity and practising the art of being a complete human being.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 583-584). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Struggling within the incalculable compass of his potentialities, the child by means of trial and error receives training and follows a path towards a goal that appears to offer him fulfillment. - Adler, The Drive for Self


“The individual is the picture and the artist. He is the artist of his own personality.” -- Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Social Interest: A Challenge to Mankind, 1933/1998, p. 15. H/T: Carroll Ray Thomas


One does not perceive everything that one sees. No two human beings react to the same picture in quite the same way. If you ask them what they have seen they will give very different answers.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 764-765). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.

Infants realize at an early age that there are other human beings who are able to satisfy their needs more completely, and are better equipped for life. Their psyche is born, one might say, in those childhood situations that demand integration in order to make normal life possible. The psyche accomplishes this by evaluating each situation and negotiating it with the maximum satisfaction of instincts and the least possible discomfort.


Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 596-600). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.

“The development of the character performs alongside the pursuit of power, a second force significant influence: the sense of community. This too speaks in the first stirrings of the child, especially in his need for affection, in his search for connection. The causes which determine the development of the sense of community." -- Alfred Adler (1870-1937)


"One of my earliest recollections is of sitting on a bench bandaged up on account of rickets, with my healthy brother sitting opposite me. He could run, jump and move about quite effortlessly, while for me movement of any sort was a strain...Everyone went to great pains to help me." - Adler, The Drive for Self


On Passover night, after the rest of the family had gone to bed, Alfred crept downstairs & substituted leavened bread for the matzos in the cupboard. He sat up for hours with the door ajar, seeking to discover the effect upon the heavenly visitor. "I was not altogether surprised," he humorously recalled, " when the angel did not turn up." - The Drive for Self


Anything may become a means to an end, once the psychological pattern is fixed. Some children may develop in an antisocial direction in order to achieve their goal, or they may become perfectly behaved and admirable, with the same goal in view. In any group of children there is usually one whose attention-seeking takes the form of unruly behaviour, while another, being more shrewd, attains the same goal through conspicuous virtue.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 675-679). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


The arch evil of our culture [is] the excessive pre-eminence of manliness - Adler, Cooperation Between the Sexes, p 55.


"In medical school, Adler found that his professors emphasized experimentation & diagnostic exactitude rather than patient care (p.19)" This provided a contrast for Adler's ideas. Drive for Self - Hoffman


"Adler was particularly admired by both patients and colleagues for his intuitive, often uncanny ability to diagnose symptoms accurately." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 32.


"Adler found it intriguing that many of the amusement park's entertainers had suffered from a congenital weakness early in life and then strove successfully to overcome it through athletic prowess." Drive For Self, Hoffman, p 33.


When children stand up unaided for the first time, they enter an entirely new world, and in that second they somehow sense a hostile atmosphere. In their first attempts at movement, and particularly in getting to their feet and learning to walk, they experience various degrees of difficulty that may either strengthen their hope for the future or destroy it.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 725-727). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


The individuality and uniqueness of human beings consists in what they perceive and how they perceive. Perception is more than a simple physical phenomenon; it is a psychological function from which we may draw the most far-reaching conclusions concerning the inner life.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 769-772). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


There is no such thing as a random or meaningless recollection. Memory is selective. We can evaluate a recollection only when we are certain about the goal and purpose that it serves. It is not necessary to wonder why we remember certain things and forget others. We remember those events whose recollection is important for a specific psychological reason, because those recollections further an important underlying movement. Likewise we forget all those events that detract from the fulfilment of a plan.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 778-781). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


A teacher with a high degree of social feeling will treat his [their] pupils as his [their] equals. Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, p 59


“Every therapeutic cure, and still more, any awkward attempt to show the patient the truth, tears him [or her] from the cradle of his freedom from responsibility and must therefore reckon with the most vehement resistance.” -- Adler 


"To know a danger is the first step toward its prevention!" Adler, Health Book for the Tailor Trade (1898), The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 54.


"Indeed, it would be characteristic of Adler throughout his medical career to charge relatively modest fees and to criticize colleagues who sought to become wealthy through clinical work." Drive for Self - Hoffman, p58


"[In his early, pre-psychiatry work], Health Book for the Tailor Trade, [Adler] explicitly linked his writing to the need for definite action." p36, Drive for Self - Hoffman (Adler is credited by many to be the first to promote client advocacy in the mental health profession)


"Life cannot be reduced to physical & chemical forces." - Virchow, an early influencer of Adler's theory, Drive for Self - Hoffman, p 40.


"Adler was a key figure in educational reform, particularly in training teachers and clinicians to better understand children's emotional needs." - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 41.


To a certain degree every emotion finds some bodily expression - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, p 40


"Freud regarded Adler as the most creative & articulate thinker of those joining his fledgling Wednesday Psychological Society. However, the two men never became friends or even close socially." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 46.


In the sleep dream, as in the day-dream, we are dealing with an attempt to map, plan and direct the future life towards a goal of security.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 919-920). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


"...by adopting an unthinking subservience to Austria's elite, capitalist class, his [Adler's] country's physicians were dooming themselves to political, and ultimately professional impotence." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 49.


"The child's self-confidence is its greatest fortune. Courageous children will meet their fate, not as coming from the outside, but as coming from their own strength." The Drive for Self - Hoffman, p 50


If we must pre-judge and predict how we should act if a certain situation were to occur, we must learn to gain a sound judgment of a situation by correlating our thinking, feeling and perceiving. It is essential to find a viewpoint that enables us either to tackle the new situation with more strenuous efforts, or to avoid it with greater caution.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 929-931). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Empathy occurs in the moment when one human being speaks with another. It is impossible to understand another individual if one cannot at the same time identify oneself with them.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 931-933). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


"In Adler's view, effective education must be able to gratify youngsters' inborn needs for affection." Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 63.


"Adler abandoned his idea of an innate aggression drive and shifted his emphasis to the subjective, emotional state of inferiority." - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 68.


Examples of empathy in everyday life are those cases in which we have a strange feeling of uneasiness when we notice another person in danger. This empathy may be so strong that we make involuntary movements in self-defence, even though there is no actual danger to us.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 934-936). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


If we look for the origin of this ability to act and feel as if we were someone else, we can find it in each human being’s inborn empathy with others. This is a universal feeling and a reflection of the oneness of the whole cosmos of which we are each a part; it is an inescapable characteristic of being human. It gives us the ability to identify ourselves with things outside our own direct experience.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 941-944). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Instances of cruelty to animals by children are only possible with an almost total absence of social feeling and of the ability to empathize with other living creatures.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 948-949). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


It is impossible to have a lasting claim upon the respect of individuals to whom we are doing harm. We can influence other individuals best when they feel their own rights are safeguarded.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 958-959). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Alexandra (Adler's daughter) reminisced, "We children, who always joined the grown-ups at meals, were permitted to remain as long as we wished, and we were encouraged by our parents to use our own judgment about when to leave and go to bed. The only condition was that we should be able to be in school on time the next morning." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 81.


Adler was unequivocally opposed to physical punishment. Alexandra (Adler's daughter) reminisced, "He would never, never hit us." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 81


Adler was "never insistent upon dictating their (Adler's children) career choices; nor was he domineering in his intellectual expectations for them." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 81


"Our inner world is not quite so hidden from others as we might like to believe; virtually all that we do, say, and even dream can reveal important clues to the knowledgeable about our innermost feelings and desires." Adler - The Neurotic Constitution in The Drive for Self by Hoffman, p 83


"Much of our true personality is often unconscious to ourselves. It is possible to gain greater self-insight through the aid of a trained therapist." Adler - The Neurotic Constitution in The Drive for Self by Hoffman, p 83


Adler indicated that habitual lateness (thereby keeping people dependently waiting) can be seen as an unconscious ploy to dominate. The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 83


Adler embraced Vaihinger's viewpoint that fictions (nonrational ideas) rather than objective realities play a role in our lives. The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 84


In contrast to Freud's free association with an utterly passive, silent and even unseen therapist, Adler taught, "the uncovering of the life-plan proceeds apace in [face-to-face] friendly and free conversation..[with the patient while] always [pointing out] his disturbing 'arrangements' and constructions." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 87


"People almost always need to feel some sense of control over external events." - Adler's conclusion after rescuing his wife and children from Russia. The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 94


Adler found evidence that one's personality can be discerned through subtle gestures and movements. The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 99


"It is not, you know, ever a question of what you choose to do, but how you do what you have chosen, and the level that you have set yourself to reach." - Part of the fatherly advice in a telegram from Adler to his oldest child, Valentine upon her graduation from U of Vienna, while he was serving in the military during WW1.

The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 100.


With his experiences serving during WW1, Adler saw no answer in conventional religion, nor modernist philosophy. Rejecting Nietzsche's emphasis on the individual will, Adler saw that civilization needed, not more individualism, but more social feeling: compassion, altruism and selflessness. The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 101


Adler became convinced that so many people lack this vital cluster of traits [social feeling: compassion, altruism and selflessness] because they feel inferior and inadequate. The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 101


Adler stressed the importance of understanding the patient's total personality, and not simply focusing on the isolated symptom. The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 103


“Sometimes the mouth lies, or the mind does not understand; but the functions of the body always speak the truth.” -- Alfred Adler (1870-1937), What Life Could Mean to You, 1931/1992, p. 232. Excerpts by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., October 12, 2013. H/T: Wes Wingett


With the question, "What would you do if you were quite well?" Adler would almost certainly name the particular [societal] demand...that it might be assumed he was trying to evade [by his symptoms]. The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 103. #adlerwisdom #miraclequestion


Adler's theory was influenced by Dostoevski, espousing this literary precept in psychological terms, "Man must look for his [inner] formula and he will find it in a willingness to help others, in a capacity for sacrificing himself for his people." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 103


There are human beings who are afraid of taking a bus, because in a bus they are not masters of their own fate; this fear may go so far that they are finally unable to leave their homes at all. - Adler, Understanding Human Nature


In the development of the psyche, we can see a constant preparation for a future in which the wishes of the individual appear to have been fulfilled. - Adler, Understanding Human Nature


"Human nature generally answers external coercion with a counter-coercion." Adler - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 113


Games must not be considered as the haphazard creations of parents or educators. They should be seen as educational aids and as stimuli for the child’s psyche, imagination and life skills. Every game is a preparation for the future. The manner in which children approach a game, their choice of game and the importance they place upon it, show their attitude and relationship to their environment and how they relate to their fellow human beings. Whether they are hostile or whether they are friendly, and particularly whether they show leadership qualities, are evident in their play. In observing children at play we can see their whole attitude towards life; play is of the utmost importance to every child.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1318-1323). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


"No blessing comes from the use of power." Adler - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 113


The goal of superiority, also revealed in play, betrays itself in the child’s tendency to be the leader and organizer. We can discover this tendency by watching how children push themselves forward and to what degree they prefer those games that give them an opportunity to satisfy their desire to play the leading role. There are very few games that do not incorporate at least one of these factors: preparation for life, social feeling, or the striving for dominance.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1328-1331). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


"In [performing school consultations] Adler's optimistic view, teachers should never become resigned about a child or attribute a difficulty to heredity. ANYONE CAN LEARN ANYTHING became his famous educational motto." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 135


We can determine whether children think only of themselves, or whether they take into consideration the rights of others, by watching for signs of negligence in their games. Such phenomena are accurate indications of the community consciousness and social feeling of a human being.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1378-1380). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


"Individual psychology regards the craving for power as a reaction to deep feelings of inferiority." - Adler, The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 147


It was Adler's traits of geniality, optimism, and warmth coupled with an intensely ambitious drive that catapulted him to American prominence as a psychological expert. - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, 160


Adler was an ardent defender of feminism and condemned masculine dominance in Europe's social mores. - Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 170 #adlerwisdom


"Only courage is able to develop all the potential faculties & capabilities of the child: lack of courage spells slowed development." Adler - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 181 #adlerwisdom


It does not follow that an individual with strong feelings of inferiority will appear to be a submissive, quiet, restrained, inoffensive sort of person. Inferiority feelings can express themselves in a thousand ways. Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 50.


"Tears & complaints--the means which I have called "water power"--can be an extremely capable weapon for disturbing cooperation and reducing others to a condition of servitude." Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 52


Forgetful people are usually those who prefer not to revolt openly, but their forgetfulness reveals a certain lack of interest in their tasks.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1388-1389). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Human beings may be divided into two types: those who know more than average about their unconscious life and those who know less.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1402-1403). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Individuals are often unaware of their own life skills because they undervalue themselves, we will find also that many individuals are not sufficiently aware of their own shortcomings.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1409-1410). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


We are dealing again with two types of human beings. In the first group are those who live a more conscious life, who approach the problems of life objectively and unblinkered. Those in the second group tend to approach life with a prejudiced attitude, and thus see only a small part of it. The behaviour and speech of individuals of this type always express unconscious attitudes.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1414-1416). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


"Every child is naturally dependent & defenseless at birth, and from this insecure position may develop a feeling of helplessness and inferiority. Becoming adult, most children slough off this feeling, though some carry it over into later life and as an inferiority complex." - Adler, The Drive for Self, Hoffman, 182.


Adler was not naive about the economic situation of American women. "Although [they] are active in almost every profession, they are still paid badly; in a larger sense, then, they are only superficially accepted. The privileges of men, who try to distance themselves from the ever advancing rights of women, remain intact." - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, 185.


It is a universal human phenomenon that everyone seizes upon those thoughts that justify their attitudes and rejects every idea that might prevent them from carrying on. Human beings dare to do only those things that, in their interpretation of the world, are valuable to them. We acknowledge whatever is helpful to us; whatever does not suit us is consigned to our unconscious.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1476-1479). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


"It is not our objective experiences which bring us from the straight path of development, but our personal attitude and evaluation of events, and the manner in which we evaluate and weigh occurrences." - Adler, The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 199


All human judgment of value and success are founded, in the end, upon cooperation; this is the great shared commonplace of the human race - Adler (The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, p 18)


Adler emphasized the importance of the father--and not just the mother--in the development of children. - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 203If we study dreams as a means of approaching and learning something of the human psyche, we are hardly likely to view the problem from the standpoint of those investigators who seek fantastic and supernatural influences in dreams and in dream interpretation. We should rely upon the evidence of dreams only when we can be justified and supported in our assertions by other detailed observations.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1522-1525). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


Some people do not sleep at all and constantly go over their problem while awake; others sleep but busy themselves with their plans in their dreams.

Adler, Colin Brett Alfred. Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality (Kindle Locations 1533-1534). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.


In explaining the importance of what today we call the "therapeutic alliance," Adler says, "I speak always as if the parent were my companion. I try to avoid all dogmatic expressions. Otherwise, the parents might believe that they are accused and in judicial court." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 208.


"It is very worthwhile that you have a great collection of jokes and that each neurosis has a joke as a companion. You cannot find a neurosis that does not resemble a joke...Sometimes a joke [can help the patient] see how ridiculous his sickness is." - Adler, The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 209


"I never promise to cure. I say, 'I will try." If I am asked whether the patient has improved, I tell the family to judge for themselves." - Adler, The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 209

Those who attended Adler's "live" demonstrations were often particularly impressed with his ability to establish an immediate, friendly rapport with children and parents seen for the first time. - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 218


"Insulting others is an attempt to transform one’s inferiority complex into a superiority complex." -- Alfred Adler


There is one single and essential point of view that helps us overcome our difficulties; it is the viewpoint of the development of social feeling. - Adler, Understanding Human Nature


None of us is the only member of the human race. There are others around us, and we exist in association with them. The weaknesses and limitations of the individual human being make it impossible to achieve a personal aim in isolation. Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 133.


 Unhappy experiences in childhood may be given quite opposite meanings. One person with unhappy experiences will think, "We must make an effort to ensure that our children grow up under better conditions." Another person with similar experiences may feel, "Life is unfair. Other people always have the best of it. If the world treated me like that, why should I treat the world any better?" Adler, What Life Could Mean to You, 9-10.


Most clients readily accept that there is a "pattern" underlying their behavior: The word is reassuring, for it suggests that there is order and meaning to behavior and experience. Perry & Perry, The 15 Minute Case Conceptualization: Mastering the Pattern-Focused Approach, 2.


The treatment plan is tailored based on the degree to which it reflects and "fits" a client's predisposing factors and cultural explanation -- as well as the client's particular needs, goals, readiness and willingness to engage in the treatment process -- and leads to optimal treatment outcomes. Sperry & Sperry, The 15-Minute Case Conceptualization: Mastering the Pattern-Focused Approach, 6


Whoever desires the human community must renounce the striving for power over others (p 169). Adler, The Psychology of Power, JIP, 22(2)


Every tyrannical personality is a desperate expression of a failure to form and maintain a mutually useful connection with other humans. Adler envisioned such a personality as "the isolated hero for whom fellow men are objects." - Bluvshtein, JIP, 79(4), p 336.


A deep, persistent, never-satiated feeling of inferiority starts an individual on a path of tyranny. Adler called this process a "kind of intoxicating practice [in which a criminal] outbids himself, brooding constantly on his goal, where he sees himself supreme. The urge to conquest is overwhelming because he is weak." Bluvshtein, JIP, 79(4), p 338


"Adler used to say to paranoid patients who believed everyone was watching them and paying no attention to anyone else, 'Lucky you! When I go out in the street, not even a dog pays attention to me!'" Schaffer in Musak, Ha Ha & Aha, 57


Effective treatment outcomes require that clinicians anticipate, recognize and respond to therapeutic challenges and related therapy-interfering behaviors. It is essential that they be included in the case conceptualization. Because such factors have been anticipated, the clinician can plan an appropriate response, including resolution strategies that can be implemented before or after these factors emerge in the treatment process.  Jon Sperry & Sperry, The 15-Minute Case Conceptualization: Mastering the Pattern-Focused Approach, 7


The rules of child-rearing must take account of our recognition of children's inferiority feelings. These rules may be summed up as follows: do not make life too bitter for children, or let them see the dark side of existence too early. Give them the chance to experience the joy of living. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Kurt Adler says of his father, Alfred, "My father had a feeling of humor about things that did not run according to common sense. This was my father's attitude toward humor in general. He interpreted humor as always being something against common sense." Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 22


The therapist who shares in and appreciates a client's humor also validates for the client a sense of mastery and respite from pain. - Mosak, Ha Ha & Aha, 38


“The prejudice between nations and races are of course the basic causes of war -- that great scourge of mankind which must be abolished if progress and culture are to be saved.” - Alfred Adler (1870-1937), The Education of Children, 1930/1970, pp. 200-201. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company. Excerpts by Carroll R. Thomas, Ph.D., December 24, 2018.


When he was drawing with a child, and the child said, "I cannot write, I mess everything," Adler would say, "Here is a square piece of paper, could you just make a line?" Then the child would make a line. Then, "Could you make a second? Can you make a whole row?" and the child would do it. Step by step the child got the encouragement to do something and learn.

Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 25


Adlerians believe that fighting is an act of cooperation. Note this statement by Dr SM Roth of Chicago about Adler:

When I told Dr Adler about a quarrel I had with my brother, he said, "And what did you conclude?" I said, "Conclude? Nothing!" To which he replied, "Than all you wanted to do was fight."

Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 35


Dr SM Roth of Chicago asked this question of Adler:

I remember when I asked Adler when it was too late for a man to change. He said, "Oh, maybe 1 or 2 days before he dies."

Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 36


Dr SM Roth of Chicago recalls:

One day I was telling Dr Adler about a discussion I had with an associate, and when I concluded, I added, "...and I'm right." I recall vividly Dr Adler saying,, "Sydney, sometimes the worst thing you can do is be right!"

Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 36


"Adler's predilection for a Sherlock Holmes - style analysis of small clues to unmask one's basic personality had long been part of his professional repertoire." - The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 263


The Adler family was celebrating Passover at home. Skeptical when told that an angel would be inspecting every Jewish household to make sure that it contained only unleavened bread, young Alfred decided to hold a test. On Passover night, after the rest of his family had gone to bed, Alfred crept downstairs and substituted leavened bread for the matzos in the cupboard. He sat up for hours with his door ajar, seeking to discover the effect upon the heavenly visitor, "I was not altogether surprised," he humorously recalled, "when the angel did not show up." The Drive for Self, p 9.


“Someone has to start. Other people might not be cooperative, but that is not connected to you. My advice is this: You should start with no regard to whether others are cooperative or not.” - Adler


No evaluation of the character of individuals should be made out of context. If we wrench isolated phenomena from patients' lives and judge them singly, as one might if one considered only their physical status, or their environment or upbringing, we are bound to jump to the wrong conclusions. Adler, Understanding Human Nature


Sophia J. De Vries recalls Adler's inevitable question of her, "Now look, what have you done to improve the situation?" Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him, 44


Tears and complaints -- the means which I have called "water power" -- can be an extremely capable weapon for disturbing cooperation and reducing others to a condition of servitude. - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 53


We are living on the crust of this poor planet, earth, and nowhere else. We must develop under the restrictions and with possibilities which our place of habitation sets us...we belong to mankind and are beings who inhabit this earth. Adler - What Life Should Mean to You, p 5


"For Adler, religion was at its most useful and meaningful when it encouraged people to care about one another selflessly." Hoffman, The Drive for Self, p 281


Adler's advice to a patient that stuttered:  "If you have to stutter, then go ahead and stutter.  Just don't let it prevent you from doing anything that you had intended." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 295


"Grown-up pampered children are perhaps the most dangerous class in our community." - Adler, What Life Should Mean to You, 16


Adler unknowingly predicting the selfie generation in response to the famous Dionne quintuplets in his article "Separate the Quins":

"Children accustomed to being exhibited are never happy unless they elicit attention...There is danger ahead." The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 303


"Early in the fall of 1935, Adler began serving as a mentor to a young psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow, who also was the research asst for Edward L Thorndike." Hoffman, The Drive for Self, p 304


Anyone whose vanity is well marked has little sense of their own worth. There may be individuals who are conscious that their vanity stems from their feeling of inadequacy, but unless they make fruitful use of their knowledge their mere consciousness of it is of no value to them. Adler - Understanding Human Nature

Social hostility often expresses itself in the assumption of a sharp, critical manner. These enemies of society are forever blaming, criticizing, ridiculing, judging, and condemning the world. They are dissatisfied with everything. But it is not enough only to recognize the bad, and condemn it. We must ask ourselves, "What have I done to make things better?" Adler - Understanding Human Nature


"I've always tried to make my psychology simple. I would perhaps say that all neurosis is vanity, but that might be too simple to be understood." Adler in The Drive for Self, Hoffman, p 322


"People prized his [Adler's] qualities as a master therapist: his warmth, optimism, and ability to inspire them to accomplish their best admist life's challenges." - Hoffman, The Drive for Self, p 326


The art of understanding early recollections involves a high degree of empathy, an ability to identify with the child in his childhood situation. Adler, The Science of Living, 14


"Rollo May, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow all acknowledged their intellectual debt to Adler." - Hoffman, The Drive for Self, p 328


None of us is utterly free from vanity...even if we cannot uproot, in a short time, the tendencies that thousands of years of tradition have allowed to flourish. It is nevertheless a step in the right direction if we recognize our ensnaring and dangerous prejudices. Adler - Understanding Human Nature


Consciousness and unconsciousness move together in the same direction and are not contradictions, as is so often believed. Adler, The Science of Living, 15


All human judgments of value and success are founded, in the end, upon cooperation; this is the great shared commonplace of the human race. - Adler in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, 18.


All person's feel inadequate in certain situations...hence, one of the strongest tendencies in humanity has been to form groups in order to live as a member of a society and not as an isolated individual. Adler, The Science of Living, 17


There is a direct connection between social training and common sense. When we say that people solve their difficulties by common sense, we have in mind the pooled intelligence of the social group. Adler, The Science of Living, 19.


“Courage is important. It means to be cooperative.  In cooperation you will always feel as if you are a part of the whole.  You feel like you are at home on the planet earth.  You will have courage and will not look only for advantages in life, but you will find pleasure in solving life’s difficulties.  We must look to the future of the human race.  We must train our children to take up their burdens with courage.  They must not be discouraged.  They must compete and work in a cooperative manner.””

Adler, A. (2004). Adler speaks: The lectures of Alfred Adler (p. 75). (M.H. Stone & K.A. Drescher (Eds.). Lincoln,  NE: iUniverse, Inc.


The goal of each human being is probably formed in the first months of life. Adler, Understanding Human Nature


Sophie Lazarsfeld coined the phrase "the courage to be imperfect." She noted, "Adler viewed perfection as an ideal which can never really be reached, that there is a difference between "sound striving for perfection and the neurotic wanting to be perfect" and that in psychotherapy people "learn to face their own imperfections, they acquire the courage to be imperfect." Griffith & Powers, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, 19


More than good intentions are needed. We must teach children that it is what they actually accomplish, what they actually give, that matters in society. Adler, The Science of Living, 20.


Whenever we see persons constantly in motion, with strong tempers and passions, we can always conclude that they are persons with a great feeling of inferiority. Adler, The Science of Living, 24.


We must make people understand that they are capable of facing difficulties and solving the problems of life. This is the only way to build self-confidence, and this is the only way the feeling of inferiority should be treated. Adler, The Science of Living, 26.


At no time has vanity been more objectionable than it is today. The least we can do is search for better forms of vanity, so that if we must be vain, we can at least exercise our vanity in the direction of the common weal! - Adler, Understanding Human Nature


Every individual represents both a unity of personality and the individual fashioning of that unity. The individual is thus both the picture and the artist. Alder, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, Griffith & Powers, 21.


Depreciation of others may take the form of belittling them, of putting them on pedestals only to attack them when they reveal themselves to be capable of shortcomings or mistakes, or of worrying about them as if they were not competent to manage their own lives. Griffith & Powers, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology, 23.


The past represents the state of inferiority or inadequacy which we are trying to overcome. That is why in the inferiority complex, we are interested in the beginning, while in a superiority complex, we are more interested in the continuity, in the progression of the movement itself. Adler, The Science of Living, 27.


Three children were taken to the zoo for the first time. As they stood before the lion’s came, one of them shrank behind his mother’s skirts and siad, “I want to go home.” The second child stood where he was, very pale and trembling, and said, “I’m not a bit frightened.” The third glared at the lion fiercely and asked his mother, “Shall I spit at it?” All three children really felt inferior, but each expressed his feelings in his own way, consonant with his style of life.” Adler, What Life Should Mean to You.




















































































































































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