"As If" (Fictions)
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.
As used in Adlerian Psychology, the phrase "as if" refers to both a basic philosophical construct and a psychotherapeutic technique.
As a philosophical construct, according to H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher (Adler, 1964), it was Hans Vaihinger's The Philosophy of 'As If': A System of the Theoretical, Practical, and Religious Fictions of Mankind (1911/1968) that provided Adler with the "philosophic foundation for his developing subjective [fictional] finalism (p. 78). And, "Vaihinger proposed that the individual's activity [L., fictio] of imaginative creating results in fictions that are (a) subjective, (b) creative, and (c) unconscious" (p. 90). Vaihinger (1968) states, "For us, the essential element in a fiction is not the fact of its being a conscious deviation from reality, a mere piece of imagination — but we stress the useful nature of this deviation. . . . Conceptual forms and fictions are expedient psychical constructs" (p. 99). [See Self-Ideal (Persӧnlichkeitsideal).]
As a psychotherapeutic technique, therapists ask clients to behave "as if" a particular idea were true, that is, to pretend for an agreed-upon period or number of times, that a specific basic belief were different. For example, a single female client enters therapy complaining that she has no man in her life and suffers from loneliness. In a lifestyle assessment, it is uncovered that she has the notion that all men are untrustworthy. Holding this belief, she is afraid of them; consequently, she pushes them away by looking down on them and withholding friendship and affection. Using the "as if" technique, therapist and client agree that for one week (or one day, or one incident), the client will act "as if' it were true that men are trustworthy. The assumption of the "as if" technique is that when the client demonstrates respect for and places confidence in a man, she will begin to experience success, her negative bias will be undermined, new attitudes will begin to emerge, and her courage and community feeling fostered.
The human mind shows an urge to capture into fixed forms through unreal assumptions, that is, fictions, that which is chaotic, always in flux, and incomprehensible . . . . [My task is] to advance this knowledge which I have gained from the psychological consideration of the neurosis and psychosis and which is found, according to the evidence of Vaihinger, in all scientific views (p. 96).
See Carich, M. S., 1997, for additional "as if" techniques.
© 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. 8).
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). The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writing. (H. L. Ansbacher & R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). New York: Harper Torchbooks. (Original work published 1956)
Carich, M.S. (1997).Variations of the 'as if technique. In J. Carlson & S. Slavik (Eds.), Techniques in Adlerian Psychology (pp. 153-160). Washington, DC: Accelerated Development.
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 1911)