Fictional Goal/Guiding Fiction/Fictional Finalism
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.
Adler adapted the concept of fictions from the "As If" philosophy of Hans Vaihinger (1911/1925). [See "As If"/Fictions.]
Fictional goal, guiding fiction, and fictional finalism are related terms referring to the same feature of psychological compensation, namely, the individual's unconscious, subjectively conceived, ever-present goal of success, the self-ideal. In the first few years of life, the child creates a fictional goal of success that contrasts to and assuages the child's intolerable feelings of inferiority, evident in the phrase, "Some day when I grow up. . . . " As the person develops, the goal continues to operate as a guiding fiction in any present situation. It gives direction to the person's movement, while shifting to new forms of concretization in the ambitions of adult life; "Only when I am _______ (good, rich, smart, important, in control, etc.), will I be _______ (admired, accepted, secure, significant, etc.)." H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher state that the fictional final goal was, for Adler, "the principle of internal, subjective causation of psychological events" [italics added] (p. 90). [See Goal(s); Self-ideal (Persönlichkeitsideal).]
[From the] standpoint of a low self-evaluation . . . the child's psyche spins threads of thought to the goals of his longing (pp. 98-99).
The guiding fiction is originally the means or device by which the child seeks to free himself from his inferiority feeling (p. 98).
In each mind there is a conception of a [fictional] goal or [self] ideal to get beyond the present state and to overcome the present deficiencies and difficulties. . . . By means of this concrete goal, the individual can think and feel himself superior to the difficulties of the present because he has in mind his success of the future (pp. 99-100).
[The fictional goal] can well be understood as a teleological device of the soul which seeks orientation (p. 93).
The stronger the feeling of insecurity, the more accentuated the fiction becomes through increasing abstraction from reality, and the more it approaches dogma (p. 247).
[The] goal enables us to understand the hidden meaning behind the various separate acts and to see them as parts of a whole (pp. 92-93).
The goal of the mental life of man becomes its governing principle, its causa finalis (p. 94).
© 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. 41).
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.