Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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Chapter 3 Adler: Individual Psychology 85

useful style of life represent the highest form of humanity in the evolutionary
process and are likely to populate the world of the future.

Creative Power

The final tenet of Adlerian theory is: Style of life is molded by people’s creative
Each person, Adler believed, is empowered with the freedom to create her or
his own style of life. Ultimately, all people are responsible for who they are and
how they behave. Their creative power places them in control of their own lives,
is responsible for their final goal, determines their method of striving for that goal,
and contributes to the development of social interest. In short, creative power makes
each person a free individual. Creative power is a dynamic concept implying move-
ment, and this movement is the most salient characteristic of life. All psychic life
involves movement toward a goal, movement with a direction (Adler, 1964).
Adler (1956) acknowledged the importance of heredity and environment in
forming personality. Except for identical twins, every child is born with a unique
genetic makeup and soon comes to have social experiences different from those
of any other human. People, however, are much more than a product of heredity
and environment. They are creative beings who not only react to their environment
but also act on it and cause it to react to them.
Each person uses heredity and environment as the bricks and mortar to build
personality, but the architectural design reflects that person’s own style. Of primary
importance is not what people have been given, but how they put those materials
to use. The building materials of personality are secondary. We are our own archi-
tect and can build either a useful or a useless style of life. We can choose to
construct a gaudy façade or to expose the essence of the structure. We are not
compelled to grow in the direction of social interest, inasmuch as we have no inner
nature that forces us to be good. Conversely, we have no inherently evil nature
from which we must escape. We are who we are because of the use we have made
of our bricks and mortar.
Adler (1929/1964) used an interesting analogy, which he called “the law of
the low doorway.” If you are trying to walk through a doorway four feet high, you
have two basic choices. First, you can use your creative power to bend down as
you approach the doorway, thereby successfully solving the problem. This is the
manner in which the psychologically healthy individual solves most of life’s prob-
lems. Conversely, if you bump your head and fall back, you must still solve the
problem correctly or continue bumping your head. Neurotics often choose to bump
their head on the realities of life. When approaching the low doorway, you are
neither compelled to stoop nor forced to bump your head. You have a creative
power that permits you to follow either course.

Abnormal Development

Adler believed that people are what they make of themselves. The creative power
endows humans, within certain limits, with the freedom to be either psychologi-
cally healthy or unhealthy and to follow either a useful or useless style of life.

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