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.
Throughout the development and practice of Individual Psychology, Adler stressed the uniqueness of each person, thus introducing into psychology what was already known in other areas, and that since his time is more widely known, about individual variants, as (to give a prime example) in the uniqueness of each person's DNA profile. In order to gain a psychological understanding of another human being, he argued against thinking of persons in terms of types. Instead he considered how this one person, in his or her own experience of childhood, created his or her way of being in the world, perceived and made use of genetic possibility and environmental opportunity, and rehearsed and refined his or her idiosyncratic law of movement. An individual attitude toward self, others, and the world unmistakably identifies this one unique person.
In recent years those who want to stress the importance of biological inheritance over individual choice and creativity have focused on the life patterns of identical twins, including those separated in childhood and raised separately. Many striking similarities are noted, including indications of identical preferences in matters of taste and personal choice. Apart from the necessarily subjective character of such studies, there are certain hard statistical measurements that argue against the genetic determinism they purport to demonstrate. Dr. Atul Gawande (2007) of the Harvard Medical School, in a recent essay reported that "genetically identical twins vary widely in life span: the typical gap is more than fifteen years" (p. 52) 1.
Each individual always manifests himself as unique, be it in thinking,feeling, speaking, or acting (p. 194).
Everything can also be different (Alles kann auch anders sein). The uniqueness of the individual cannot be expressed in a short formula, and general rules — even those laid down by Individual Psychology, of my own creation — should be regarded as nothing more than an aid to a preliminary illumination of the field of view in which the single individual can be found — or missed (p. 194).
It has been imputed to us that we assume and strive for the sameness of men. This is a myth. Quite on the contrary, we attempt to examine the nuances, the uniqueness of the goal, the uniqueness of the opinion of a man of himself and the tasks of life. The task of individual psychology is to comprehend the individual variant (p. 180).
[Individual Psychology] attempts to gain, from the separate life manifestations and forms of expression the picture of the self-consistent personality as a variant, by presupposing the unity (G., Einheit) and self-consistency of the individuality (p. 179).
1We are grateful to Atul Gawande, M.D., and his research assistant, Katy Thompson, at the Harvard School of Public Health, for forwarding to us their email from Kaare Christensen of Southern Denmark University reporting the following: “The exact number for the mean difference in lifespan for monozygotic twins born in Denmark in 1870-1900 and surviving to at least age 6 is 15.2 years (compared to 18.2 for dizygotic twins)." [KChristensen@health.sdu.dk].
© 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. 58).
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.