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 departed from other theorists as concerns notions of "the unconscious," and "consciousness," arguing that "the unconscious is nothing other than that which we have been unable to formulate in clear concepts" (p. 232). He interpreted unknown motivation as material not yet understood ("un-understood") where understanding was not necessary to the individual's movement. Included in this material are basic convictions, biases, and guidelines formed in early childhood, useful as a framework for preferences and ready choices, together with the fundamental orientation toward a personal goal of success. Adler's ununderstood (adjective) is to be contrasted to Freud's hypothesis of the unconscious (a noun), thought of as if a repository of reprehensible, and so inexpressible thoughts, impulses, and intentions that the "ego" guards against acknowledging. For Adler, un-understood material is consistent with the individual style of living expressed in thought, feeling, and action.
The unconscious is nothing other than that which we have been unable to formulate in clear concepts. It is not a matter of concepts hiding away in some unconscious or subconscious recesses of our minds, but of parts of our consciousness, the significance of which we have not fully understood (pp. 232-233).
Where consciousness becomes necessary as a means of life, as a safeguard for the unity of the self and for the self-ideal, it will appear in the proper form and degree (p. 233).
The biological significance of consciousness as well as unconsciousness rests in the fact that these states enable action according to a self-consistently oriented life plan [life-style] (p. 233).
It is a general human phenomenon to lay aside thoughts which stand in our way, and take up those which advance our position. . . . That becomes conscious which advances us, and that remains unconscious which might disturb our argumentation (p. 233).
Part of the mental life . . . operates "unconsciously" as some authors are wont to put it, or as we would say "not understood" (p. 192).
The so-called conscious and unconscious are not contradictory, but form a single unity, and the methods used in interpreting the "conscious" life may be used in interpreting the "unconscious" or "semi-conscious" life, the life of our dreams (pp. 358-359).
© 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. 15).
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.