What Life Should Mean To You

Alfred Adler


There are as many meanings of life as there are people
  • We don’t perceive circumstances directly. Our meaning determines how we perceive the world around us.
  • Our own personal meanings determine our postures, attitudes, movements, expressions, mannerisms, ambitions, habits and character traits.
Mistaken meanings lead to failure
  • All failures are the result of a lack in fellow-feeling and social interest. The meaning these people give to life is a private meaning: no one else is benefited by the achievement of their aims.
  • Every human being strives for significance; but people always make mistakes if they do not see that their whole significance must consist in their contribution to the lives of others.
  • The mark of all true "meanings of life" is that they are common meanings — they are meanings in which others can share, and meanings which others can accept as valid.
  • Everything we have around us comes from the contributions our ancestors have made to human life. This has all been left by men who contributed to human welfare. Those who never cooperated, who gave life a different meaning, who asked only, “What can I get out of life?” They have left no trace behind them.
The past does not determine our future
  • No experience is a cause of success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences — the so-called trauma — but we make out of them just what suits our purposes.
  • We are self-determined by the meaning we give to our experiences; and there is probably something of a mistake always involved when we take particular experiences as the basis for our future life. Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.

Pampering can lead to a mistaken meaning of life
  • Pampered children develop a sense of entitlement without working to deserve it.  They are trained to expect and not to give.
  • Children lacking social feeling want to be seen as a special person and expect to be granted everything they want. They believe that only once this happens will their circumstances improve.
  • These children child has never known what love and cooperation can be, and make up an interpretation of life which does not include these friendly forces. When they face the problems of life they will overestimate their difficulty and underestimate their own capacity to meet them with the aid and good will of others.
Neglect can lead to a mistaken meaning of life
  • Everybody has the capacity to be interested in others; but this capacity must be trained and exercised for proper development.
  • Neglected or unwanted children may be blind to the existence of cooperation; that he was isolated, unable to communicate with others and completely ignorant of everything that would help him to live in association with human beings.
  • The fact that a child survives through infancy is proof that he has been given some care and attention. So
  • Neglected children are those who never quite found a trustworthy other person.
The importance of early childhood memories
  • The memories of childhood reveal our long standing and unique approach to life.
  • It doesn’t matter how accurate the event is, or whether it’s a memory of a real event. The importance of memories lies in how they’re interpreted, and their impact on our present and future life.
  • E.g. “The coffee pot fell off the table and scalded me." The girl whose autobiography began in this way was pursued by a feeling of helplessness and overestimated the dangers and difficulties of life.

© 2023 Mike Fiorillo
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