Soul Metaphors: Contents

Chapter 24


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Afterword: Why Adler Never Published His Method

It seems rather a strange omission from his body of writings that Adler never published a full exposition of his method for lifestyle interpretation. While reading through Der Sinn des Lebens (The Meaning of Life—currently in print only in German), I happened upon a startling passage. Published in 1933, The Meaning of Life is Adler’s final major work. At the very end of the book, the good doctor provides five pages of questions that can be used to interpret the lifestyle of children and of adults. He offers no guidance for how to extract information from these questions and, instead, provides the following whimsical and frustrating admonishment in the very last paragraph of his book:

I would like to take this opportunity to give my readers an important clue. Whoever has reached this point in the book but does not grasp the meaning of these questions should start over from the beginning and consider whether he has paid enough attention while reading, or whether – God forbid! – he has read with hostile intentions. If I need to explain the meaning of these questions for constructing the lifestyle, then I also need to rewrite this entire book. That would be unreasonable. Thus, the questions for children and the questions for adults can serve as a test of whether the reader has developed enough social interest. This is the most important goal of this book; not merely to bring about a better understanding of others, but also to bring home the importance of social interest and to make social interest come alive.[1]

So there we have it. Adler never published a complete exposition of his lifestyle interpretation method because he did not wish to. He believed that those with sufficient social interest would be able to tease out a lifestyle interpretation through their own devices and those lacking in social interest would not.

Adler’s perception gave me momentary pause before writing Soul Metaphors: Was I going against the good doctor’s will? It did not take me long to conclude that demagogues and gurus demonstrate that people lacking in social interest are perfectly capable of understanding (and taking advantage of) human nature. On the other hand, perfectly kindhearted people may need a little boost to understand the complexities of the human psyche. It is without regret, therefore, that I have made public this method.


1. Adler, Alfred. Der Sinn des Lebens. November 2010. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag. Frankfurt am Main. (Translation by Ellen Alderton.)

(Copyright Ellen Alderton, www.WeLoveAdler.net)