Life-Style, Lifestyle, Style of Living, Style of Life
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 style of living or lifestyle is the unique and self-consistent unity in movement (thought, feeling, action) of the individual, created in early childhood1 in the context of genetic possibility and environmental opportunity (soft determinism), organized and given direction by the subjectively conceived goal, based upon guiding fictions and following guiding lines that are relied upon and reinforced through training, self-training, and the rehearsal of character.
In Individual Psychology lifestyle is congruent with the term personality in other psychological systems, but is contrasted to them not least because of its emphasis on the person's characteristic way of movement. Adler first used the too-easily reified and misunderstood term life plan. He abandoned this phrase at the suggestion of a student (who previously had studied with sociologist Max Weber) in favor of Weber's phrase life-style. The new phrase was better able to convey Adler's sense of the creative, artistic side of the development of the unique individual. (Unfortunately, also, it has never lost its association to Weber's meaning of a characteristic set of values and practices associated with a social class; this gives rise to confusion as to its meaning in Adler's use of it.) In Individual Psychology the style of living is meant, in brief, to refer to (a) the person's characteristic way of operating in the social field; (b) the basic convictions concerning self, others, and the world actively maintained in the person's schema of biased apperception; and (c) the person's self-created goal of perfection, or self ideal.
The style of life . . . is developed in earliest childhood (p. 186).
[The child's] opinion of life, which is at the bottom of his attitude to life and is neither shaped into words nor expressed in thought, is his own masterpiece. Thus the child arrives at his law of movement which aids him after a certain amount of training to obtain a style of life, in accordance with which we see the individual thinking, feeling, and acting throughout his whole life (pp. 187-188).
The style of life commands all forms of expression; the whole commands the parts. . . The foremost task of Individual Psychology is to prove this unity in each individual — in his thinking, feeling, acting, in his so-called conscious and unconscious, in every expression of his personality. This unity we call the style of life of the individual (p. 175).
The style of life of an individual is wholly accomplished in earliest childhood and is not changed so long as the individual does not understand the unavoidable discrepancies [of his style] regarding the inescapable demands of social problems (p. 192).
Anything that is not palatable to the style of life is rejected, forgotten, or saved as a warning example. The style of life decides (p. 213).
[For] Adler, the construction of the "life style" is completed by the individual at about the age of four or five. His interpretations of what life is, what he is, what others are and what his relationships to others mean, is pretty nearly fixed by that age, and forms his total attitudes to life in all situations. New experiences are, from that time on, interpreted only from the point of view of his life style. This results in a biased selection of perceptions, with the exclusion, or at least depreciation, of all those experiences that do not fit his style of life. All thinking, feeling and acting of an individual support his style of life. Thoughts, feelings and actions that would undermine or contradict his life style are largely rejected (K. A. Adler, p. iv, Introduction, Adler, 1963).
For a report and discussion of the Kern Lifestyle Scale (1997) and the expanded version, BASIS-A (Basic Adlerian Scales for Inter-personal Success ), by Kern, R. M., Wheeler, J., and Curette, W., see Dinkmeyer, D., Jr. & Sperry, L. (2000), pp. 303-306.
1Research conducted by Avshalom Caspi, M. D., of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, reporting in The Week magazine (September 19, 2003, p. 20), suggests that one's basic personality is fixed by age three. Caspi and others interviewed 1,000 children at age three, grouping them into five categories (confident, well-adjusted, reserved, inhibited, and restless), and found in a reassessment 23 years later that the now-adult subjects could be similarly characterized. Dr. Caspi states, "The message is that parents and teachers should not ignore what they see in a 3-year-old as a passing phase."
© 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. 63).
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. (1963). The problem child: The life style of the difficult child as analyzed in specific cases. (G. Daniels, Trans.). New York: Capricorn. (Original work published 1930)
Dinkmeyer, D. C., Jr., & Sperry, L. (2000). Counseling and psychotherapy: An integrated Individual Psychology approach (3rd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.