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.
Hesitation is one of four "distancing" maneuvers Adler identified as safeguarding devices; the others are moving backward, standing still, and the construction of obstacles (pp. 273-276). Adler regarded hesitation as a sign of a person's diminished courage to do what the situation requires. It may show itself in a variety of ways: in laziness ("Laziness indicates the hesitating attitude. We can deduce from it that the child no longer believes that he can advance" (p. 391]); in misbehavior ("There is only one reason for an individual to side-step to the useless side: the fear of a defeat on the useful side" [p. 157]); in depression ("Individual Psychology sees in this type the pronouncedly hesitating individual who does not have the confidence to overcome difficulties and to advance, but who initiates his further steps with the greatest caution and who prefers to stand still or to turn back rather than to take any risk" [p. 170]). The idea of hesitation is not to be confused with or mistaken for the psychoanalytic concepts of ambivalence or intrapsychic conflict, here seen as rationalizations offered as excuses to account for the failure of COURAGE expressed in hesitation.
The essential tendency of the neurotic is the striving from the feeling of inferiority toward "above" . . . . The resultant combination . . . [is] a neurotic constant back-and-forth, a half- and half (p. 273).
This peculiar process is demonstrable in all neuroses and psychoses, and has been described by me in detail as the "hesitating attitude" (p. 273).
The patient never deviates from the road of evasion, which he paves with good intentions or feelings of guilt. "Conflict" only means a standstill (p. 307).
If an individual cannot decide whether he should do this or do that, one thing is certain, namely, that he does not move (Adler, 1979, 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. 52).
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.
Adler, A. (1979). Superiority and social interest: A collection of later writings (3rd Rev. ed.). (H. L. Ansbacher & R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). New York: Viking Compass. (Original work published 1964)