The Individual Psychology founded by Alfred Adler is a social psychology
with a humanistic and systemic orientation. Human beings are seen in a
holistic way as a unity of mind and body. They are part of the social
community from which they cannot be divided. Special attention is paid
to the social conditions and relations which influence the forming of
Thus the anthropological mind-set of the Individual Psychology is
founded on holistic, systemic and social dynamic relations. Every human
being wants to be part of a community and contribute to it. This
fundamental interest, called “Gemeinschaftsgefühl” by Alfred Adler and
translated as community feeling, social feeling or social interest, has
actually two elements. One is the feeling of belonging to a community
and the other is accepting a responsibility for the community out of
interest or empathy for not just oneself.
The social interest is not to be understood as a normative but as an
analytic category. Human behaviour should be understood, explained and
described hermeneutically “as it is” without moral valuation from
outside (non judgemental). This analytical approach makes it possible to
distinguish between the “doer and the deeds”, to understand a
discouraged person and to appreciate her/his uniqueness and personal
values as well as an encouraged person with strong social relations.
Human acting is not just understood on the basis of “why” somebody is
doing something but rather on the basis of “what for”; instead of taking
a (mono-) causalistic approach which looks for reasons, the focus is
laid on the motives or the purpose/goal of somebody’s acting or
non-acting (finalistic or teleologic approach).
This comprises so called short term goals of human behaviour as well as
the fictional goal (guiding fiction) in the sense of individual guiding
lines. According to Alfred Adler, every person strives to be socially
connected while remaining unique. This is achieved by compensating (or
over-compensating) a feeling (or complex) of inferiority which has been
developed in early childhood.
These psychological dynamics have to be understood finalisticaly (teleologicaly),
resulting from the evolutionary goal of the individual to develop and
grow. The human being is striving from “minus to plus”, from deficit to
completeness, from “insecurity (inferiority) to a feeling of boosted
Mental diseases, personality development, social conflicts as well as
human abilities, strengths and cultural achievements have to be seen on
the basis of this fundamental dynamic. The aspects of social feeling and
the goal oriented behaviour (finality) are expressed in everybody’s
acting, thinking and feeling, although the person is not aware of it, as
these aspects lie in the unconscious, or un-understood.
Compensating and over-compensating striving which are innate to human
beings, can be developed in two opposing directions, towards the
socially useful side, seeing fellow men as partners or - as a
consequence of discouraging social experiences- to the socially harmful
side away from community, away from other people into a subjective dead
end street, seeing fellow men as adversaries and enemies.
Every person creates his/her own life and social contacts in the sense
of this polarity. Thus, these analytical aspects offer an excellent
possibility for a holistic understanding and for an encouragement
regarding human relations in private and professional life.
The outstanding difference between the Individual Psychology and other
psychological schools of thought lies in it’s emphasis on a goal
oriented/finalistic interpretation of human acting, which always leads
to a broader perception.