Useful vs. Useless Side 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.
Individuals who operate on the useful side of life cooperate with the community, at once advancing themselves and the community toward improved adaptation. Those on the useless side of life operate in ways that are obstructive of or antithetical to the interests and well-being of the developing human community for the sake of what they mistakenly believe to be personal advantage.
The really important differences of conduct are . . . those of . . . useful and useless. By useful I mean in the interests of mankind generally. The most sensible estimate of the value of any activity is its helpfulness to all mankind, present and future, a criterion that applies not only to that which subserves the immediate preservation of life, but also the higher activities such as religion, science, and art. It is true that we cannot always decide what is strictly worthwhile from this point of view. But [the more] . . . we are guided by the impulse to act usefully. . . . the nearer we approach to true perception (Adler, 1964, p. 78).
There is only one reason for an individual to side-step to the useless side: the fear of a defeat on the useful side (p. 157).
Only those are able to muster the courage to advance on the useful side who consider themselves a part of the whole, who are at home on this earth and in this mankind (p. 159).
They [the neurotic and criminal] have lost courage . . . to proceed on the useful side of life. . . . They have turned away from the real problems of life (p. 255).
[Striving] can take place in a satisfactory way and can lead to a proper feeling of worth only on the useful side, in the developed social interest where the individual senses himself as valuable. Valuable can mean nothing other than valuable for human society (pp. 254-255).
© 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. 104).
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. (1964). Problems of neurosis. (P. Mairet, Ed.). New York: Harper & Row. (Original work published 1929)