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Adler

Soul Metaphors: Contents

Chapter 10

Chapter 12

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Chapter 11: Motion and Activity Level in Memories: Sledding

            Compare the following two memories:

            Memory 1. “I had just gotten a new tricycle and I rode as fast as I could down the block to show it to the other boys in the neighborhood.”

            Memory 2. “I was standing next to my older brother at a street intersection. He wasn’t sure which way to go. I was certain I knew the right way, but I didn’t say anything.”

            In the first memory, the child, a boy, is moving as fast as he can. In the second memory, the child, a girl, remains stationary. This degree of speed, motion and activity in these memories can mark the contrast between an active person and a passive person. Note how in the second memory, the child actually believes she knows the correct answer to the problem at hand, but she is too passive to volunteer the information. Here, we see an example not only of lack of motion (the child is stationary), but also of low activity level – the child will not speak even when she believes she has relevant information.
            The degree of speed in a memory can often indicate a person’s level of ambition. The adult with early memories of speed is typically saying, “I am moving quickly through life; I am moving swiftly toward my goals.” As noted earlier, Adler observes that younger children often have dreams of running and he likens the ambitious younger child’s lifestyle to running a race. To illustrate this point further, let us look more closely at the memory of the tricycle.
            The adult who relayed this memory was particularly competitive. He had been an Eagle Scout, had attended an Ivy League school, went on to write several books, yet nevertheless felt that he was just catching up with other people. He believed he was barely accepted into his college, his books were decent but he had published much later than his colleagues had, and so on. In his earliest memory, as we have noted, this man recalled that he had just received a new tricycle and that he was riding as fast as he could down the block to show it to the other boys in the neighborhood. In his lifestyle interview, this person further reflected that, “It was important to me, because they all had tricycles already.” It is not difficult to deduce that this man’s competitiveness was fueled by the fact that he always perceived himself as somewhat behind his peers. The joy of receiving the new tricycle lies not only in having a new toy, but also in the fact that he has caught up with the other boys in the neighborhood who already have tricycles. To revisit what we have already discussed about birth order, it is also not a surprise that this person was a younger child.
            Below, are ten memories involving motion. Take some time to consider what direction the people are moving in these memories, on what kind of trajectories, and how quickly. How active are the people in each of these memories? Again, jot down some of your guesses about what each of these memories could suggest about an adult’s lifestyle. My comments, including further discussion on level of activity, follow at the end of the chapter.
           
Sledding: Memories

1) I remember walking up a snowy hill pulling my sled behind me.

2) I remember being very little and watching my older sisters go down the hill on their sleds.

3) I remember going down a hill as quickly as I could on my sled.

4) I remember racing other kids down a hill on my sled.

5) I remember racing my brother up the hill pulling our sleds.

6) I remember going down a hill on my sled and crashing into a tree.

7) I remember trying to go down the hill on my sled but I kept getting stuck in the snow.

8) I remember going down a hill on my sled and it was such a zigzag ride avoiding trees and bushes.

9) I remember going down a hill on a saucer and I spun around and went down the hill backwards.

10) I remember going down a hill with my friends on a toboggan and I was on the back facing backwards.

Sledding: Interpretations

1) I remember walking up a snowy hill pulling my sled behind me.
This person doesn’t remember the reward of going down the hill but, rather, the difficult climb to the top. Life, for her, is quite possibly an arduous upward journey.

2) I remember being very little and watching my older sisters go down the hill on their sleds.
This individual remembers other people being active, but he is not. His memory could tell us that he is passive and that he observes activity around him without participating.

3) I remember going down a hill as quickly as I could on my sled.
In adult life, this may be a person who moves quickly toward his goals.

4) I remember racing other kids down a hill on my sled.
The element of racing with other children adds an element of competition to the lifestyle. This may be a memory of a person who tries to best other people as she races toward her goals.

5) I remember racing my brother up the hill pulling our sleds.
As in Example 4, this person also seems quite competitive. He may see life as an ongoing process of competition, but also as an arduous process (an uphill climb), as opposed to the lark of a downhill ride.

6) I remember going down a hill on my sled and crashing into a tree.
In the memory, this person is thwarted in her attempts at success. As an adult, she may perceive that when she is moving quickly through life and feels she is making progress, she soon enough encounters a jarring obstacle.

7) I remember trying to go down the hill on my sled but I kept getting stuck in the snow.
Like the person in Example 6, this individual possibly also feels thwarted in life. His lack of progress, however, is less dramatic than in Example 6; he is stymied, but he does not crash.

8) I remember going down a hill on my sled and it was such a zigzag ride avoiding trees and bushes.
This person may not believe that life offers a direct route to her goals. Life, she possibly maintains, requires constant changes in course.

9) I remember going down a hill on a saucer and I spun around and went down the hill backwards.
Memories of seeing the world receding are unusual. They can mean that the person tends to focus on the past and to analyze the past. They can also mean that the person has an unusual perspective on events. With this memory, the adult probably knows generally where he is headed, but he cannot actually see where he is going.

10) I remember going down a hill with my friends on a toboggan and I was on the back facing backwards.
Again, this may be a person who tends to focus on the past or who sees the world differently from other people. Moreover, this person seems keenly aware of having a very different perspective from those around her; she recalls looking backwards while others are looking ahead.

Degree of Activity

            With the exception of the individual who focuses on watching other people sled, all the memories of motion explored above embody a high degree of activity. Adler finds an individual’s activity level to be an important component of the lifestyle. He comments, “Although it is probably not possible to express the degree of activity in qualitative terms, it is obvious that a child who runs away from his parents, or a boy who starts a fight in the street, must be credited with a higher degree of activity than a child who likes to sit at home and read books.” [1]

People with high degrees of activity may be able  to alter their lifestyles more easily.

            Even though a highly active person, as noted in the examples above, may exhibit less social feeling than a less active person, Adler generally regards a high degree of activity as potentially healthier than a passive approach to life. He writes, “the degree of activity acquired in childhood becomes a constant supply which endures throughout life.” [2] For people wishing to change their lifestyles, a high level of activity can mean the energy and resources to make substantive personal changes.


Notes
1. Individual Psychology, 164.
2. Individual Psychology, 164.

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(Copyright Ellen Alderton, www.WeLoveAdler.net)