Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washngton

Consciousness and Unconsciousness

Developed by Henry T. Stein, Ph.D.

The following Classical Adlerian quotations are from the Adlerian Translation Project Archives at the Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washington (AAINW/ATP). Selected works of Alfred Adler, Kurt Adler, Lydia Sicher, Alexander Mueller, Sophia de Vries, Anthony Bruck, Erwin Wexberg, Alexander Neuer, Sophie Lazarsfeld, Ida Loewy, Ferdinand Birnbaum, and other Classical Adlerians have been collected, translated, edited, and converted into electronic text. All of this material is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without the expressed consent of Dr. Stein at

Alfred Adler:

"The unconscious is nothing other than that which we have been unable to formulate into clear concepts. These concepts are not hiding away in some unconscious or subconscious recesses of our minds, but are those parts of our consciousness, the significance of which we have not fully understood." (From "The Structure of Neurosis," by Alfred Adler, Published in the Internalional Journal for individual Psychology, Vol 1, No.1 , pages 3-12, 1935.)

"Upon deeper inspection there appears (to be) no contrast between the conscious and the unconscious, that both cooperate for a higher purpose, that our thoughts and feelings become conscious as soon as we are faced with a difficulty, and unconscious as soon as our personality requires it." (From "Individual Psychology," by in "Psychologies of 1930," chapter 21, pages 395-405, published by Clark University Press, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1930.)

"Every conscious manifestation of the psyche, accordingly, directs us, like the unconscious impulse, if it is correctly understood, toward the unconscious fictitious final goal." (From "On the Role of the Unconscious in Neurosis," in "The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology.")

"Undoubtedly very different forms of consciousness do exist, perhaps more than would satisfy the most insatiable of psychologists, but we regard them not as antithetical but only as variants. We do not find consciousness as opposed to unconscious to exist. We find ever the same movement-line; we find all the affects and actions, whether springing from the conscious or the unconscious, always seeking to attain one aim." (From an unpublished manuscript, "Childhood Remembrances and Lifestyle," a Lecture delivered by Professor Alfred Adler on January 6,1931 at Schonberger Townhall, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

Lydia Sicher:

"The more erroneous, anti-human and anti-realistic this final goal is, the less imaginable it will be and therefore it will also remain more unconscious, or at least uncomprehended within the context of single psychic phenomena."

"The course which the therapy should take is to track the erroneous final goal and clearly expose it as such. In pursuing this course, one may consider everything that is unconsciously unknown as the whole of unknown relations. The erroneous final goal will remain unconscious whenever it contradicts the patient’s own common sense."

(From a new translation of "Wish and Will," a lecture given at the Allmayer House, on October 21st, 1936 (translation of "Wünschen und Wollen"), notes taken by Dr. Robert Rosenthal, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

Alexander Mueller:

"Just as a person's attitude can be hidden from him, i.e. unconscious, so can his true goals. This can often lead to the impression that the human psyche is a field replete with inconsistent, even contrary strivings. Although the unity of the psyche has not been sufficiently explored, experience has demonstrated very clearly: when being dominated or possessed by whatever is perceived to be alien to the 'I', man is a partner - 'when man permits himself to be dominated by his passions ...' (Berdyayev). We are not dominated by anything, but we can allow ourselves to be captured by something and thus be made into an object. Feelings, forces, powers apparently can break into our conscious life autonomically and slow it down, paralyze it, or negate it (c'est plus fort que moi). They will seem to be overpowering, because man cannot admit to being possessed by them since they are contrary to his self-ideal or touch his feelings of self-worth; or his behavior and activities can be carried on only when the goals are left in the unconscious, hidden."

"Man's fundamental view of himself and of the world, which is mostly unconscious, can be recognized from his dealings and ways of behavior with regard to his fellow man: whether he is humane, indifferent, hostile, alert, dull, or numb."

(From a translation of an unpublished manuscript, "Principles of Individual Psychology," in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

Sophia de Vries:

"Adler, works so much with the totality, that he doesn't make a clear distinction between conscious, and unconscious. The unconscious has the quality of un-understood. And if you see it as such, then you know it can be either, one, or the other, and it doesn't make any difference. There are so many things that remain unconscious, because we do not need them to be consicous at the time, but that we can make into conscious phenonmena when necessary." (From an edited transcription of a tape recorded seminar presented by Sophia de Vries in San Francisco on 3-19-76, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

"Adler does not accept the Freudian term unconscious, he says it's the 'un-understood.' The amazing thing is that when you really get into the therapeutic relationship, you can see by the expression of the patient that he already senses what his direction is, and what is wrong. So then unconscious material comes up very quickly into consciousness, the minute that he begins to recognize that there is something he can do differently. When does he begin to feel that he can do things differently? The minute he is being encouraged, because the only thing that has kept him back is a lack of courage. He has not developed sufficient courage to deal with his life situation." (From an edited transcription of a tape recorded seminar presented by Sophia de Vries in San Francisco on 9-17-76, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

Anthony Bruck:

"The mind is not split into 'the conscious mind' and 'the unconscious', parts that work against each other. The mind is, as Adler saw it, 'individuus', i.e, 'indivisible'. Back in 1912, when Adler originated the term Individual Psychology, the latin term 'individuus' was still being translated as 'individual'. Webster's Third New International Dictionary even today, lists 'not divisible' as an obsolete meaning of the adjective 'individual.' Individual Psychology is the psychology of the indivisible mind." (From an unpublished manuscript, "The Thinking of Bruck," in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

Henry Stein:

"To the degree that the style of life deviates from the feeling of community and common sense, it must remain unconscious for the individual to constantly pursue this direction without having to consciously examine, challenge, or change a path that seems essential for his self-protection or signficance--even though it actually leads him into a blind alley. In psychotherapy, all of the components of the style of life, the feeling of inferiority, the fictional final goal, feelings, emotions, dreams, memories, private logic, and the antithetical scheme of apperception, have to be gradually unveiled and raised from unconscious semi-awareness, to conscious full-awareness. The style of life gains its insidious power from concealment, and begins to lose its' influence as it is gradually unveiled." (From an edited transcription of a tape recorded lecture given on 10-27-90, in San Francisco, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.

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