Alfred Adler (1931)
Source: What Life Should mean to You (1933) publ. Unwin Books, 1932. Chapter 2 reproduced here.
MEN have always debated whether the mind governs the body or the body governs the mind. Philosophers have joined in the controversy and taken one position or the other; they have called themselves idealists or materialists; they have brought up arguments by the thousand; and the question still seems as vexed and unsettled as ever. Perhaps Individual Psychology may give some help towards a solution; for in Individual Psychology we are really confronted with the living interactions of mind and body. Someone's mind and body is here to be treated; and if our treatment is wrongly based we shall fail to help him. Our theory must definitely grow from experience; it must definitely stand the test of application. We are living amongst these interactions, and we have the strongest challenge to find the right point of view.
The findings of Individual Psychology remove much of the tension from this problem. It no longer remains a plain 'either ... or'. We see that both mind and body are expressions of life: they are parts of the whole of life. And we begin to understand their reciprocal relations in that whole. The life of man is the life of a moving being, and it would not be sufficient for him to develop body alone. A plant is rooted: it stays in one place and cannot move. It would be very surprising, therefore, to discover that a plant had a mind; or at least a mind in any sense which we could comprehend. If a plant could foresee or project consequences, the faculty would be useless to it. What advantage would it be for the plant to think: 'Here is someone coming. In a minute he will tread on me, and I shall be dead underfoot'? The plant would still be unable to move out of the way.
All moving beings, however, can foresee and reckon up the direction in which to move; and this fact makes it necessary to postulate that they have minds or souls.
Sense, sure, you have,
Else you could not have motion.
[Hamlet, Act III, Scene 4]
This foreseeing the direction of movement is the central principle of the mind. As soon as we have recognised it we are in a position to understand how the mind governs the body it sets the goal for movements. Merely to initiate a random movement from moment to moment would never be enough: there must be a goal for the strivings. Since it is the mind's function to decide a point towards which movement is to be made, it occupies the governing position in life. At the same time, the body influences the mind; it is the body which must be moved. The mind can move the body only in accordance with the possibilities which the body possesses and those which it can be trained to develop. If, for example, the mind proposes to move the body to the moon, it will fail unless it discovers a technique suited to the body's limitations.
Men are more engaged in movement than any other beings. They do not only move in more ways - as we can see in the complicated movements of their hands - but they are also more capable, by means of their movements, of moving the environment around them. We should expect, therefore, that the ability to foresee would be most highly developed in the human mind, and that men would give the clearest evidence of a purposive striving to improve their whole position with respect to their whole situation.
In every human being, moreover, we can discover behind all partial movements towards partial goals one single inclusive movement. All our strivings are directed towards a position in which a feeling of security has been achieved, a feeling that all the difficulties of life have been overcome and that we have emerged finally, in relation to the whole situation around us, safe and victorious. With this purpose in view, all movements and expressions must be coordinated and brought into a unity: the mind is compelled to develop as if to achieve a final ideal goal. It is no different with the body; the body also strives to be a unity. It, too, develops towards an ideal goal pre-existent in the germ. If, for example, the skin is broken all the body is busy in making itself whole again. The body, however, is not merely left alone to unfold its potentialities: the mind can help it in its development. The value of exercise and training, and of hygiene in general, have all been proved; and these are all aids for the body supplied by the mind in its striving towards the final goal.
From the first days of life, uninterruptedly till the end, this partnership of growth and development continues. Body and mind are co-operating as indivisible parts of one whole. The mind is like a motor, dragging with it all the potentialities which it can discover in the body, helping to bring the body into a position of safety and superiority to all difficulties. In every movement of the body, in every expression and symptom, we can see the impress of the mind's purpose. A man moves. There is meaning in his movement. He moves his eyes, his tongue, the muscles of his face. His face has an expression, a meaning. It is mind that puts meaning there. Now we can begin to see what psychology, or the science of mind, really deals with. The province of psychology is to explore the meaning involved in all the expressions of an individual, to find the key to his goal, and ta compare it with the goals of others.
In striving for the final goal of security, the mind is always faced with the necessity of making the goal concrete; of calculating 'security lies in this particular point; it is reached by going in this particular direction'. Here, of course, the chance of a mistake occurs; but without a quite definite goal and direction-setting there could be no movement at all. If I lift my hand, there must be a goal for the movement already in my mind. The direction which the mind chooses may be, in reality, disastrous; but it is chosen because the mind conceives it mistakenly as the most advantageous. All psychological mistakes are thus mistakes in choosing the direction of movement. The goal of security is common to all human beings; but some of them mistake the direction in which security lies and their concrete movements lead them astray.
If we see an expression or symptom and fail to recognise the meaning behind it, the best way to understand it is, first of all, to reduce it in outline to a bare movement. Let us take, for example, the expression of stealing. To steal is to remove property from another person to oneself. Let us now examine the goal of the movement: the goal is to enrich oneself, and to feel more secure by possessing more. The point at which the movement sets out is therefore a feeling of being poor and deprived. The next step is to find out in what circumstances the individual is placed and in what conditions he feels deprived. Finally we can see whether he is taking the right way to change these circumstances and overcome his feeling of being deprived; whether the movement is in the right direction, or whether he has mistaken the method of securing what he desires. We need not criticise his final goal; but we may be able to point out that he has chosen a mistaken way in making it concrete.
The changes which the human race has made in its environment we call our culture; and our culture is the result of all the movements which the minds of men have initiated for their bodies. Our work is inspired by our minds. The development of our bodies is directed and aided by our minds. In the end we shall not be able to find a single human expression which is not filled with the purposiveness of the mind. It is by no means desirable, however, that the mind should overstress its own part. If we are to overcome difficulties, bodily fitness is necessary. The mind is engaged, therefore, in governing the environment in such a way that the body can be defended - so that it can be protected from sickness, disease and death, from damage, accidents and failures of function. This is the purpose served by our ability to feel pleasure and pain, to create phantasies and to identify ourselves with good and bad situations. The feelings put the body in shape to meet a situation with a definite type of response. Phantasies and identifications are methods of foreseeing; but they are also more: they stir up the feelings in accordance with which the body will act. In this way the feelings of an individual bear the impress of the meaning he gives to life and of the goal he has set for his strivings. To a great extent, though they rule his body, they do not depend on his body: they will always depend primarily on his goal and his consequent style of life.
Clearly enough, it is not the style of life alone that governs an individual. His attitudes do not create his symptoms without further help. For action they must be reinforced by feelings. What is new in the outlook of Individual Psychology is our observation that the feelings are never in contradiction to the style of life. Where there is a goal, the feelings always adapt themselves to its attainment. We are no longer, therefore, in the realm of physiology or biology; the rise of feelings cannot be explained by chemical theory and cannot be predicted by chemical examination. In Individual Psychology we must presuppose the physiological processes, but we are more interested in the psychological goal. It is not so much our concern that anxiety influences the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves. We look, rather, for the purpose and end of anxiety.
With this approach anxiety cannot be taken as rising from the suppression of sexuality, or as being left behind as the result of disastrous birth-experiences. Such explanations are beside the mark. We know that a child who is accustomed to be accompanied, helped and supported by its mother may find anxiety whatever its source - a very efficient weapon for controlling its mother. We are not satisfied with a physical description of anger; our experience has shown us that anger is a device to dominate a person or a situation. We can take it for granted that every bodily and mental expression must be based on inherited material; but our attention is directed to the use which is made of this material in striving to achieve a definite goal. This, it seems, is the only real psychological approach.
In every individual we see that feelings have grown and developed in the direction and to the degree which were essential to the attainment of his goal. His anxiety or courage, cheerfulness or sadness, have always agreed with his style of life: their proportionate strength and dominance has been exactly what we could expect. A man who accomplishes his goal of superiority by sadness cannot be gay and satisfied with his accomplishments. He can only be happy when he is miserable. We can notice also that feelings appear and disappear at need. A patient suffering from agoraphobia loses the feeling of anxiety when he is at home or when he is dominating another person. All neurotic patients exclude every part of life in which they do not feel strong enough to be the conqueror.
The emotional tone is as fixed as the style of life. The coward, for example, is always a coward, even though he is arrogant with weaker people or seems courageous when he is shielded by others. He may fix three locks on his door, protect himself with police dogs and mantraps and insist that he is full of courage. Nobody will be able to prove his feeling of anxiety; but the cowardice of his character is shown sufficiently by the trouble he has taken to protect himself.
The realm of sexuality and love gives a similar testimony. The feelings belonging to sex always appear when an individual desires to approach his sexual goal. By concentration, he tends to exclude conflicting tasks and incompatible interests; and thus he evokes the appropriate feelings and functions. The lack of these feelings and functions - as in impotence, premature ejaculation, perversion and frigidity - is established by refusing to exclude inappropriate tasks and interests. Such abnormalities are always induced by a mistaken goal of superiority and a mistaken style of life. We always find in such cases a tendency to expect consideration rather than to give it, a lack of social feeling, and a failure in courage and optimistic activity.
A patient of mine, a second child, suffered very profoundly from inescapable feelings of guilt. Both his father and his elder brother laid great emphasis on honesty. When the boy was seven years old he told his teacher in school that he had done a piece of homework by himself, although, as a matter of fact, his brother had done it for him. The boy concealed his guilty feelings for three years. At last he went to see the teacher and confessed his awful lie. The teacher merely laughed at him. Next he went to his father in tears and confessed a second time. This time he was more successful. The father was proud of his boy's love of truth; he praised and consoled him. In spite of the fact that his father had absolved him, the boy continued to be depressed. We can hardly avoid the conclusion that this boy was occupied in proving his great integrity and scrupulousness by accusing himself so bitterly for such a trifle. The high moral atmosphere of his home gave him the impulse to excel in integrity. He felt inferior to his elder brother in school work and social attractiveness; and he tried to achieve superiority by a sideline of his own.
Later in life he suffered from other self-reproaches. He masturbated and was never completely free from cheating in his studies. His feelings of guilt always increased before he took an examination. As he went on he collected difficulties of this sort. By means of his sensitive conscience he was much more burdened than his brother; and thus he had an excuse prepared for all failures to equal him. When he left the university, he planned to do technical work; but his compulsory feelings of guilt grew so poignant that he prayed through the whole day that God would forgive him. He was thus left without time for working.
By now his condition was so bad that he was sent to an asylum, and there he was considered as incurable. After a time, however, he improved and left the asylum, but asked permission to be readmitted if he should suffer a relapse. He changed his occupation and studied the history of art. The time came around for his examinations. He went to church on a public holiday. He threw himself down before the great crowd and cried out, 'I am the greatest sinner of all men.' In this way again he succeeded in drawing attention to his sensitive conscience.
After another period in the asylum he returned home. One day he came down to lunch naked. He was a well-built man and on this point he could compete well with his brother and with other people.
His feelings of guilt were means to make him appear more honest than others and in this way he was struggling to achieve superiority. His struggles, however, were directed towards the useless side of life. His escape from examinations and occupational work gives a sign of cowardice and a heightened feeling of inadequacy; and his whole neurosis was a purposive exclusion of every activity in which he feared a defeat. The same striving for superiority by shabby means is evident in his prostration in church and his sensational entrance into the dining-room. His style of life demanded them and the feelings he induced were entirely appropriate.
It is, as we have already seen, in the first four or five years of life that the individual is establishing the unity of his mind and constructing the relations between mind and body. He is taking his hereditary material and the impressions he receives from the environment and is adapting them to his pursuit of superiority. By the end of the fifth year his personality has crystallised. The meaning he gives to life, the goal he pursues, his style of approach, and his emotional disposition are all fixed. They can be changed later; but they can be changed only if he becomes free from the mistake involved in his childhood crystallisation. just as all his previous expressions were coherent with his interpretation of life, so now, if he is able to correct the mistake, his new expressions will be coherent with his new interpretation.
It is by means of his organs that an individual comes into touch with his environment and receives impressions from it. We can see, therefore, from the way he is training his body, the kind of impression he is prepared to receive from his environment and the use he is trying to make of his experience. If we notice the way he looks and listens and what it is that attracts his attention, we have learned much about him. This is the reason why postures have such an importance; they show us the training of the organs and the use which is being made of them to select impressions. Postures are always conditioned by meanings.
Now we can add to our definition of psychology. Psychology is the understanding of an individual's attitude towards the impressions of his body. We can also begin to see how the great differences between human minds come to arise. A body which is ill-suited to the environment and has difficulty in fulfilling the demands of the environment will usually be felt by the mind as a burden. For this reason children who have suffered from imperfect organs meet with greater hindrances than usual for their mental development. It is harder for their minds to influence, move and govern their bodies towards a position of superiority. A greater effort of mind is needed, and mental concentration must be higher than with others if they are to secure the same object. So the mind becomes overburdened and they become self-centred and egoistic. When a child is always occupied with the imperfection of its organs and the difficulties of movement, it has no attention to spare for what is outside itself. It finds neither the time nor the freedom to interest itself in others, and in consequence grows up with a lesser degree of social feeling and ability to co-operate.
Imperfect organs offer many handicaps but these handicaps are by no means an inescapable fate. If the mind is active on its own part and trains hard to overcome the difficulties, the individual may very well succeed in being as successful as those who were originally less burdened. Indeed, children with imperfect organs very often accomplish, in spite of their obstacles, more than children who start with more normal instruments. The handicap was a stimulus to go further ahead. A boy, for example, may suffer unusual stress through the imperfection of his eyes. He is more occupied in trying to see; he gives more attention to the visible world; he is more interested in distinguishing colours and forms. In the end, he comes to have a much greater experience of the visible world than children who never needed to struggle or to pay attention to small distinctions. Thus an imperfect organ can turn out to be the source of great advantages; but only if the mind has found the right technique for overcoming difficulties. Among painters and poets a great proportion are known to have suffered from imperfections of sight. These imperfections have been governed by well-trained minds; and finally their possessors could use their eyes to more purpose than others who were more nearly normal. The same kind of compensation can be seen, perhaps more easily, among left-handed children who have not been recognised as left-handed. At home, or in the beginning of their school-days, they were trained to use their imperfect right hands. Thus they were really not so well equipped for writing, drawing or handicraft. We might expect, if the mind can be used to overcome such difficulties, that often this imperfect right hand would develop a high degree of artistry. This is precisely what happens. In many instances left-handed children learn to have better handwriting than others, more talent for drawing and painting, or more skin in craftsmanship. By finding the right technique, by interest, training and exercise, they have turned disadvantage into advantage.
Only a child who desires to contribute to the whole, whose interest is not centred in himself, can train successfully to compensate for defects. If children desire only to rid themselves of difficulties, they will continue backward. They can keep up their courage only ff they have a purpose in view for their efforts and ff the achievement of this purpose is more important to them than the obstacles which stand in the way. It is a question of where their interest and attention is directed. If they are striving towards an object external to themselves, they will quite naturally train and equip themselves to achieve it. Difficulties win represent no more than positions which are to be conquered on their way to success. If, on the other hand, their interest hes in stressing their own drawbacks or in fighting these drawbacks with no purpose except to be free from them, they will be able to make no real progress. A clumsy right hand cannot be trained into a skilful right hand by taking thought, by wishing that it were less clumsy, or even by avoiding clumsiness. It can become s@ only by exercise in practical achievements; and the incentive to the achievement must be more deeply felt than the discouragement at the hitherto existent clumsiness. If a child is to draw together his powers and overcome his difficulties, there must be a goal for his movements outside of himself; a goal based on interest in reality, interest in others, and interest in co-operation.
A good example of hereditary capital and the use to which it may be turned was given me by my investigations into families which suffered from inferiority of the kidney tract. Very often children in these families suffered from enuresis. The organ inferiority is real; it can be shown in the kidney or the bladder or in the existence of a spina bifida; and often a corresponding imperfection of the lumbar segment can be suspected from a naevus or birth-mole on the skin in that area. The organ inferiority, however, by no means accounts sufficiently for the enuresis. The child is not under the compulsion of his organs; and he uses them in his own way. Some children, for example, will wet the bed at night and never wet themselves during the day. Sometimes the habit will disappear suddenly, upon a change in the environment or in the attitude of the parents. Enuresis can be overcome, except among feeble-minded children, ff the child ceases to use the imperfection of his organs for a mistaken purpose.
Mainly, however, children who suffer from enuresis are being stimulated not to overcome it but to continue it. A skilful mother can give the right training; but if the mother is not skilful an unnecessary weakness persists. Often in families which suffer from kidney troubles or bladder troubles everything to do with urinating is over-stressed. Mothers will then mistakenly try very hard to stop the enuresis. If the child notices how much value is placed on this point, he will very probably resist. It will give him a very good opportunity to assert his opposition to this kind of education. If a child resists the treatment which his parents give him, he will always find his way to attack them at their point of greatest weakness. A very well-known sociologist in Germany has discovered that a surprising proportion of criminals spring from families which are occupied in the suppression of crime; from the families of judges, policemen, or prison warders. Often the children of teachers are obstinately backward. In my own experience I have often found this true; and I have found also a surprising number of neurotic children among the children of doctors and of delinquent children among the children of ministers of religion. In a similar way, the children whose parents over-stress urination have a very clear way open for them to show that they have wills of their own.
Enuresis can also provide us with a good example of how dreams are used to stir up emotions appropriate to the actions we intend. Often children who wet the bed dream that they have got out of bed and gone to the toilet. In this way they have excused themselves; now they are perfectly right to wet the bed. The purpose which enuresis serves is generally to attract notice, to subordinate others, to occupy their attention in the night-time as well as the day. Sometimes it is to antagonise them; the habit is a declaration of enmity. From every angle, we can see that enuresis is really a creative expression; the child is speaking with his bladder instead of his mouth. The organic imperfection does no more than offer him the means for the expression of his opinion.
Children who express themselves in this way are always suffering from a tension. Generally they belong to the class of spoiled children who have lost their position of being the unique centre of attention. Another child has been born, perhaps, and they find it more difficult to secure the undivided attention of their mothers. Enuresis thus represents a movement to come in closer contact with the mother, even by unpleasant means. It says, in effect, 'I am not so far advanced as you think: I must still be watched'. In different circumstances, or with a different organ imperfection, they would have chosen other means. They might have used sound, for example, to establish the connection, in which case they would have been restless and cried during the night. Some children walk in their sleep, have nightmares, fall out of bed, or become thirsty and call for water. The psychological background for these expressions is similar. The choice of symptom depends in part on the organic situation and in part on the attitude of the environment.
Such cases show very well the influence which the mind exerts over the body. In all probability the mind does not only affect the choice of a particular bodily symptom; it is governing and influencing the whole building-up of the body. We have no direct proof of this hypothesis; and it is difficult to see how a proof could ever be established. The evidence, however, seems clear enough. If a boy is timid, his timidity is reflected in his whole development. He will not care for physical achievements; or, rather, he will not think of them as possible for himself. In consequence, it will not occur to him to train his muscles in an efficient way, and he will exclude all the impressions from outside that would ordinarily be a stimulus to muscular development. Other children, who allow themselves to be influenced and interested in the training of their muscles, will go farther ahead in physical fitness; he, because his interest is blocked, will remain behind.
From such consideration we can fairly conclude that the whole form and development of the body is affected by the mind and reflects the errors or deficiencies of the mind. We can often observe bodily expressions which are plainly the end results of mental failings, where the right way to compensate for a difficulty has not been discovered. We may be sure, for example, that the endocrine glands themselves can be influenced in the first four or five years of life. Imperfect glands never have a compulsive influence on conduct; on the other hand, they are being continuously affected by the whole environment, by the direction in which the child seeks to receive impressions, and by the creative activity of its mind in this interesting situation.
Another piece of evidence would perhaps be more readily understood and accepted, since it is more familiar and leads towards a temporary expression, not towards a fixed disposition of the body. To a certain degree every emotion finds some bodily expression. The individual will show his emotion in some visible form; perhaps in his posture and attitude, perhaps in his face, perhaps in the trembling of his legs and knees. Similar changes could be found in the organs themselves. If he flushes or turns pale, for example, the circulation of the blood is affected. In anger, anxiety, sorrow or any other emotion, the body always speaks; and each individual's body speaks in a language of its own. When one man is in a situation in which he is afraid, he trembles; the hair of another will stand on end; a third will have palpitations of the heart. Still others will sweat or choke, speak in a hoarse voice, or shrink physically and cower away. Sometimes the tonus of the body is affected, the appetite lost, or vomiting induced. With some it is the bladder which is mainly irritated by such emotions, with others the sexual organs. Many children feel stimulated in the sexual organs when taking examinations; and it is well known that criminals will frequently go to a house of prostitution, or to their sweethearts, after they have committed a crime. In the realm of science we find psychologists who claim that sex and anxiety go together and psychologists who claim that they have not the remotest connection. Their point of view depends on their personal experience; with some there is a connection, with others not.
All of these responses belong to different types of individuals. They could probably be discovered to be to some extent hereditary, and physical expressions of this kind will often give us hints of the weaknesses and peculiarities of the family tree. Other members of the family may make a very similar bodily response. What is most interesting here, however, is to see how, by means of the emotions, the mind is able to activate the physical conditions. The emotions and their physical expressions tell us how the mind is acting and reacting in a situation which it interprets as favourable or unfavourable. In an outburst of temper, for example, the individual has wished to overcome his imperfections as quickly as possible. The best way has seemed to be to hit, accuse or attack another individual. The anger, in its turn, influences the organs: mobilises them for action or lays an additional stress on them. Some people when they are angry have stomach trouble at the same time, or grow red in the face. Their circulation is altered to such a degree that a headache ensues. We shall generally find unadmitted rage or humiliation behind attacks of migraine, or habitual headaches; and with some people anger results in trigeminal neuralgia or fits of an epileptic nature.
The means by which the body is influenced have never been completely explored, and we shall probably never have a full account of them. A mental tension affects both the voluntary system and the vegetative nerve system. Where there is tension, there is action in the voluntary system. The individual drums on the table, plucks at his lips or tears up pieces of paper. If he is tense, he has to move in some way. Chewing a pencil or a cigar gives him an outlet for his tension. These movements show us that he feels himself too much confronted by some situation. It is the same whether he blushes when he is among strangers, begins to tremble or exhibits a tic; they are all results of tension. By means of the vegetative system, the tension is communicated to the whole body; and so, with every emotion, the whole body is itself in a tension. The manifestations of this tension, however, are not as clear at every point; and we speak of symptoms only in those points where the results are discoverable., If we examine more closely we shall find that every part of the body is involved in an emotional expression; and that these physical expressions are the consequences of the action of the mind and the body. It is always necessary to look for these reciprocal actions of the mind on the body, and of the body on the mind, since both of them are parts of the whole with which we are concerned.
We may reasonably conclude from such evidence that a style of life and a corresponding emotional disposition exert a continuous influence on the development of the body. If it is true that a child crystallises its style of life very early, we should be able to discover., if we are experienced enough, the resulting physical expressions in later life. A courageous individual will show the effects of his attitude in his physique. His body will be differently built up; the tonus of his muscles will be stronger, the carriage of his body will be firmer. Posture probably influences very considerably the development of the body and perhaps accounts in part for the better tonus of the muscles. The expression of the face is different in the courageous individual, and, in the end, the whole cast of features. Even the conformation of the skull may be affected.
Today it would be difficult to deny that the mind can influence the brain. Pathology has shown cases where an individual has lost the ability to read or write through a lesion in the left hemisphere, but has been able to recover this ability by training other parts of the brain. It often happens that an individual has an apoplectic stroke and there is no possibility of repairing the damaged part of the brain; and yet other parts of the brain compensate, restore the functions of the organs and so complete once more the brain's faculties. This fact is especially important in helping us to show the possibilities of the educational application of Individual Psychology. If the mind can exercise such an influence over the brain; if the brain is no more than the tool of the mind - its most important tool, but still only its tool - then we can find ways to develop and improve this tool. No one born with a certain standard of brain need remain inescapably bound by it all his life: methods may be found to make the brain better fitted for life.
A mind which has fixed its goal in a mistaken direction - which ' for example, is not developing the ability to co-operate - will fail to exercise a helpful influence on the growth of the brain. For this reason we find that many children who lack the ability to co-operate show, in later life, that they have not developed their intelligence, their ability to understand. Since the whole bearing of an adult reveals the influence of the style of life which he built up in the first four or five years, since we can see visibly before us the results of his scheme of apperception and the meaning which he has given to life, we can discover the blocks in co-operation from which he is suffering, and help to correct his failures. Already in Individual Psychology we have the first steps towards this science.
Many authors have pointed out a constant relationship between the expressions of the mind and those of the body. None of them, it seems, has attempted to discover the bridge between the two. Kretschmer, for example, has described how, in the build of the body, we can discover a correspondence with a certain type of mind. He is thus able to distinguish types into which he fits a great proportion of mankind. There are, for instance, the pyknoids, round-faced individuals with short noses and a tendency to corpulence; the men of whom Julius Caesar speaks:
'Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights."
With such a physique Kretschmer correlates specific mental characteristics; but his work does not make clear the reasons for this correlation. In our own conditions, individuals of this physique do not appear as suffering from organ imperfection; their bodies are well suited to our culture. Physically they feel equal to others. They have confidence in their own strength. They are not tense and, if they wished to fight, they would feel capable of fighting. They have no need, however, to look on others as their enemies or to struggle with life as if it were hostile. One school of psychology would call them extroverts, but would offer no explanation. We should expect them to be extroverts, because they suffer no trouble from their bodies.
A contrasting type which Kretschmer distinguishes is the schizoid, either infantile or unusually tall, long-nosed, with an egg-shaped head. These he believes to be reserved and introspective; and if they suffer from mental disturbances, they become schizophrenic. They are of the other type of which Caesar speaks:
"'Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous."
Perhaps these individuals suffered from imperfect organs and grew up more self-interested, more pessimistic and more 'introverted'. Perhaps they made more claims for help, and when they found that they were not sufficiently considered, became bitter and suspicious. We can find, however, as Kretschmer admits, many mixed types, and even pyknoid types who have developed with the mental characteristics attributed to schizoids. We could understand this if their circumstances had burdened them in another way, and they had become timid and discouraged. We could probably, by systematic discouragement, make any child into a person who behaved like a schizoid.
If we had much experience behind us, we could recognise from all the partial expressions of an individual the degree of his ability to co-operate. Without knowing it, people have always been looking for such signs. The necessity for co-operation is always pressing us; and hints have already been discovered, not scientifically but intuitively, to show us how to orient ourselves better in this chaotic life. In the same way we can see that before all the great adjustments of history the mind of the people had already recognised the necessity for adjustment and was striving to achieve it. So long as the striving is only instinctive, mistakes can easily be made. People have always disliked individuals who had very noticeable physical peculiarities, disfigured persons or hunchbacks. Without knowing it, they were judging them as less fitted for co-operation. This was a great mistake, but their judgment was probably founded on experience. The way had not yet been found to increase the degree of co-operation in individuals who suffered from these peculiarities; their drawbacks were therefore over-emphasised, and they became the victims of popular superstition.
Let us now summarise our position. In the first four or five years of life the child unifies its mental strivings and establishes the root relationships between its mind and its body. A fixed style of life is adopted, with a corresponding emotional and physical habitus. Its development includes a larger or smaller degree of co-operation; and it is from this degree of co-operation that we learn to judge and understand the individual. In all failures the highest common measure is a small degree of ability to cooperate. We can now give a still further definition of psychology: it is the understanding of deficiencies in co-operation. Since the mind is a unity and the same style of life runs through all its expressions, all of an individual's emotions and thoughts must be consonant with his style of life. If we see emotions that apparently cause difficulties and run counter to the individual's own welfare, it is completely useless to begin by trying to change these emotions. They are the right expression of the individual's style of life, and they can be uprooted only if he changes his style of life.
Here Individual Psychology gives us a special hint for our educational and therapeutic outlook. We must never treat a symptom or a single expression: we must discover the mistake made in the whole style of life, in the way the mind has interpreted its experiences, in the meaning it has given to life, and in the actions with which it has answered the impressions received from the body and from the environment. This is the real task of psychology. It is not properly to be called psychology if we stick pins into a child and see how far it jumps, or tickle it and see how loud it laughs. These enterprises, so common among modern psychologists, may in fact tell us something of an individual's psychology; but only in so far as they give evidence of a fixed and particular style of life. Styles of life are the proper subject-matter of psychology and the material for investigation; and schools which take any other subject-matter are occupied, in the main part, with physiology or biology. This holds true of those who investigate stimuli and reactions; those who attempt to trace the effect of a trauma or shocking experience; and those who examine inherited abilities and look to see how they unfold themselves. In Individual Psychology, however, we are considering the psyche itself, the unified mind; we are examining the meaning which individuals give to the world and to themselves, their goals, the direction of their strivings, and the approaches they make to the problems of life. The best key which we so far possess for understanding psychological differences is given by examining the degree of ability to co-operate.