Updated July 16, 2015
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Each individual has a particular space-time image of reality. Patterns of day-to-day behavior reinforce a unified way of seeing and living. The word, “lifestyle” was coined by Alfred Adler to refer to a person’s habitual way of interacting with the world. Contemporary of Freud and Jung he broke from the group in favor of a more individualized approach to psychoanalysis and was the ancester of what has become cognitive psychology. He saw how each person’s early adaptations to life created patterns that could interfere with them later on. These life patterns could be changed once recognized, reorganized into a style of living that would one’s capacities to grow. His psychiatry was practical. The “inferiority complex” starts with the universal experience of being dependent on others. After all, as a baby we can’t do anything but observe the caregiver and their attitude toward both us and our many requirements. The sense of inferiority is strengthened if much is made of our inadequacy, which pushes us to overcome it. It could be the motivation to great accomplishment since getting beyond an obstruction involves building skills, which become their own reward. His psychoanalysis involved how an individual participates in their world. Thinking about the whole context and treating everyone equally, his was a common sense , big picture perspective.
Early understanding of concepts begins with the feeling of our body in response to what the pattern leads us to expect. This is the visual analysis going on beneath conscious awareness and guiding decisions most of the time, and like any other unconscious process if we don’t know it’s there we can’t change it. Becoming aware of shifting feelings is the door into more choice of response. Sensitizing perception to the overview, to unifying patterns within the whole, leads to sensible action.
The difficulty is around the issue of trust. The promptings of perceptual thinking are often dismissed. One of the ideas that started with Freud and was then taken up with a vengence was that people are basically terrible and have to be controlled, that the unconscious forces below the surface were full of negative drives and appetites. How this allowed those in power and doing the controlling to believe that they were different is a question for history to expose.
The great American philosophers John Dewey, Samuel Pierce with Jane Addams saw the value of ideas as in their use and brought common sense back into philosophy, saw context over law.
It’s been a pleasure seeing Abraham Maslow coming up more often as the more-or-less father of the current trend in happiness research. Real pleasure isn’t something pursued for its own sake, it’s the by-product of using capabilities to the fullest, whatever they happen to be, to unfold the full extent of what we can do with our particular potentialities and interests and grow in participation with whatever we have to offer. The entertainment culture sidelines a wealth of personal gifts by fanning fears that inhibit action. It’s only through action that we reveal ourselves in the various roles as we function in relation to our world. Spinoza wrote that anxieties are caused by inadequate ideas which he defines as those we don’t act on. Empty imagining without effort just makes us dissatisfied and dissatisfaction should be the beginning of motivation. They are closely related in the brain.
For Adler the will to power is the driving force in being human. Not power over others but in most effective use of individual power, meant to overcome weakness by building knowledge and skill. Self-improvement demonstrates the meaning of life, developing personal capacities to show yourself who you are, creating behavior patterns that exhilarate rather than pacify.