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's phrase, “Yes — but . . ." was his shorthand description of neurotic operations. The neurotic recognizes the requirements of living ("Yes, I see what is required of me . . ."); however, he or she seeks an exemption through excuses, alibis, hesitation, or other maneuvers ("but I can't do it because . . . ."). Here the person puts forth his or her reasons, and there are as many such "reasons" as there are avoiding and hesitating human beings. The “Yes — but . . ." is linked to the sense of discouragement which these individuals feel in the face of life's challenges, and is an expression of the hesitating attitude.
Every neurotic professes the best of intentions. He is quite convinced of the necessity for social interest and for meeting the problems of life. Only in his case there is an exception to this universal demand (p. 303).
Neurosis is always behavior which can be expressed in two words, the words
"yes — but" (p. 302).
In every case there is a "yes" that emphasizes the pressure of social interest, but this is invariably followed by a "but" that possesses greater strength and prevents the necessary increase of social interest (p. 157).
By "yes" I mean that the neurotic person recognizes common sense [an expression of social interest]. He sees that there is a particular problem before him and he says yes, but he does not follow it up. It is always followed by "but" (p. 302).
Every neurotic symptom is designed to provide a justification for a refusal to solve the problems of life, without lowering the sense of personal superiority (Adler, 1980, p. 186).
I must win [the patient] . . . and take her part as far as possible. Every neurotic is partly right (p. 334).
© 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. 72).
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. (1980). What life should mean to you. (A. Porter, Ed.). New York: Perigee/G. P. Putnam. (Original work published 1931)