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 self-ideal (G., Persönlichkeitsideal) is an expression of the fictional goal of the personality, which is an image of success, and the organizing principle of the style of living. Adler introduced the term in The Neurotic Character (1912/1928), his first major statement of his system after his separation from the Freudian circle and subsequent to his encounter with Vaihinger's Philosophy of the 'As If': A System of the Theoretical, Practical, and Religious Fictions of Mankind (1911/1968). The latter provided him with a schema whereby he could interpret ideas and images of the future as operative in the present field as guidelines and points of orientation, as well as compensations for childhood feelings of weakness and incompleteness. Adler likens the fictional goal of the self-ideal to the fictional meridians and parallels on charts used for orientation. Freud misunderstood and misrepresented Adler's use of self-ideal, apparently being unwilling to allow for a dynamic forward movement in psychic life, retaining a backward orientation in his concept of infantile fantasy, and casting "ego ideal" (in contrast to Adler's self-ideal) to describe a kind of burden thrust upon a child by parental demands. [See "As If" (Fictions); Fictional Goal/Guiding Fiction/Fictional Finalism.]
In every case, the point of the self-ideal (Persönlichkeitsideal) posited beyond reality remains effective (p. 94).
The only point we consider fixed is the personality ideal (p. 284).
The fictional, abstract ideal is the point of origin for the formation and differentiation of the given psychological resources into preparatory attitudes, readinesses, and character traits. The individual then wears the character traits demanded by his fictional goal, just as the character mask (persona) of the ancient actor had to fit the finale of the tragedy (p. 94).
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. 92).
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. (2002). The neurotic character. H. Stein (Series Ed.). The collected clinical works of Alfred Adler, Vol.1. (C. Koen, Trans.). San Francisco: Alfred Adler Institute of San Francisco. (Original work published 1912)
Vaihinger, H. (1968). The philosophy of "as if": A system of the theoretical, practical and religious fictions of mankind. (C. K. Ogden, Trans.). New York: Barnes and Noble. (Original work published 1912)