Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Alfred Adler

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My only connection with Alfred Adler was through a nice Young Fogey (the phrase had not then been coined) High Churchman at Corpus. (I rather avoided Young Fogeys and wanted wholly without success to be in the cool set at Cambridge). He told me that he went to a barber in Hove, who cut his hair for 50p. 

He said that when he told his barber that he had won a place at Cambridge the man replied 
You must be very intelligent, sir. My grandfather was very intelligent. He was a professor. You might have heard of him. His name was Adler.
My friend was left wondering why Adler's grandson was cutting hair in Hove for 50p a time and I was left wondering that and thinking, not for the first time, that my friend's pudding basin haircut was the worst I ever saw.

Here are some thoughts of Alan's barber's grandfather.


The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.

A clumsy right hand cannot be trained into a skillful right hand by taking thought, by wishing it were less clumsy, or even by avoiding clumsiness. It can become skillful only by exercise in practical achievements, and the incentive to the achievement must be more deeply felt than the discouragement at the hitherto existent clumsiness.


There is no such thing as talent. There is pressure.

More important than innate disposition, objective experience, and environment is the subjective evaluation of these. Furthermore, this evaluation stands in a certain, often strange, relation to reality.

Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.

Every therapeutic cure, and still more, any awkward attempt to show the patient the truth, tears him from the cradle of his freedom from responsibility and must therefore reckon with the most vehement resistance.

Every individual acts and suffers in accordance with his peculiar teleology, which has all the inevitability of fate, so long as he does not understand it.

Neurosis is the natural, logical development of an individual who is comparatively inactive, filled with a personal, egocentric striving for superiority, and is therefore retarded in the development of his social interest, as we find regularly among the more passive pampered styles of life.

The neurotic is nailed to the cross of his fiction.

We should not be astonished if in the cases where we see an inferiority complex we find a superiority complex more or less hidden.

Behind everyone who behaves as if he were superior to others, we can suspect a feeling of inferiority which calls for very special efforts of concealment. It is as if a man feared that he was too small and walked on his toes to make himself seem taller.

All neurotic symptoms have as their object the task of safeguarding the patient's self-esteem and thereby also the lifeline into which he has grown.

In the investigation of a neurotic style of life we must always suspect an opponent, and note who suffers most because of the patient's condition. Usually this is a member of the family. There is always this element of concealed accusation in neurosis, the patient feeling as though he were deprived of his right--that is, of the center of attention--and wanting to fix the responsibility and blame upon someone.

The self-bound individual always forgets that his self would be safeguarded better and automatically the more he prepares himself for the welfare of mankind, and that in this respect no limits are set for him.



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