Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
The terms teleology, purpose, finalism are used by those who study behavior as moving toward ends or goals. The word teleology derives from the Greek telos, meaning “end.” Individual Psychology considers all behavior (thought, feeling, and action) as purposive, that is, as movement in line with the individual’s life-style goals (whether or not the purpose of the movement is consciously understood by the individual). [See Fictional Goal/ Guiding Fiction/ Fictional Finalism.]
Individual Psychology insists absolutely on the indispensability of finalism for the understanding of all psychological phenomena. Causes, powers, instincts, impulses, and the like cannot serve as explanatory principles. The final goal alone can (p. 92).
The science of Individual Psychology developed out of the effort to understand that mysterious creative power of life which expresses itself in the desire to develop, to strive, to achieve, and even to compensate for defeats in one direction by striving for success in another. This power is teleological, it expresses itself in the striving after a goal, and, in this striving, every bodily and psychological movement is made to cooperate (p. 92).
Every individual acts and suffers in accordance with his peculiar teleology, which has all the inevitability of fate, so long as he does not understand it (p. 93).
The fictional goal is blurred and pliable; it cannot be measured; it has been constructed with inadequate and definitely ungifted powers. It has no real existence and therefore cannot be completely comprehended casually. But it can well be understood as a teleological device of the soul which seeks orientation. This teleology is self-imposed. It arises in the psychological organ and must be understood as a device and as the individual’s own construction (p. 93).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 100).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Artwork by Cara Fisher Wellvang