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Dr. Alfred Adler's Psychology for Everyone

The LifeCourse Institute of Adlerian Psychology

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email:      Phone: 860-345-3204      Mail: LifeCourse, 3 Mario Drive, Higganum, CT 06441

LEAP: The LifeCourse Effective Action Program

LEAP is a structured program for adults (individuals, couples, groups, classes) who want to understand themselves better, gain more control over their lives, be more effective, improve their relationships, and set and achieve meaningful goals for their lives. It is useful for those in or entering psychotherapy, 12-step programs, support groups, marital therapy, marriage preparation, or marriage enrichment. LEAP is based on Dr. Alfred Adler’s Individual  Psychology, one of the most influential forces in modern psychotherapy. Each LEAP session requires preparation using materials supplied. Central to understanding your Patterns and preparing for each session is the 300-page LEAP NoteBook, which provides complete instructions and preparation material, including spaces to keep notes on all the topics in each Patterns session. Each session follows four steps using the LEAP acronym:Copy (2) of leap-cover-2009.JPG (51989 bytes)

LEARN — The session pattern is introduced with detailed explanation of how the Pattern applies to all people in general, why we all create such Patterns to manage certain parts of our lives, and how people apply the Pattern not only as children but also as adults. (I've summarized the ten LifeCourse Patterns briefly, below.)
EXPLOREYou complete the Pattern based on your own life and experience using the preparation material in the LEAP Notebook. This can take from one to two hours before each session.
APPLY You examine the Pattern to see its effects and limits on present living, how your Pattern developed, and what you get out of keeping to your old ways.
PERSONALIZEYou explore how you apply old patterns to adult circumstances as you go through the ten LifeCourse Patterns. In the last 15 minutes of each session, you look directly at three common life areas (a relationship, A decision or problem, and Work/career) and especially at your Practice Task to apply what you’ve learned in the session to a specific, current issue in your life. You also look at how you can apply LEAP learnings in other areas of your life. Part of personalizing each Pattern is using the E-B-R cycle to examine your Patterns and present-day applications. Here are the LifeCourse Patterns briefly summarized:

Background Patterns

How, at the start, you learned to fit in to your family's history, ways, values, traditions, etc.

At birth you entered a world and a family already in place. All you could do was try to understand it the best your could and make a place for yourself. The ways you did that still influence you in many ways, through the patterns you created as a child to manage your childhood world.

You entered a family with its own unique traditions and history, its values and definition of "who we are," its private secrets and public boasts, and its attitudes about religion, politics, work and education. It carried unique genetic codes, including inheritable diseases. While these patterns are "in the background," they are basic to who you are. You cannot avoid their influence. You had no choice over who your parents would be, what your ancestors were like, or what genetic difficulties would be passed along to you. So you tried to fit in the best you could with your parents, any siblings already there, grandparents and other relatives…all with family influences of their own, and all of which formed a rich and complicated mixture!Notebook-inside.jpg (18635 bytes)

Beginning Patterns

How you observed your parents as models of ways you'd be as an adult

In the beginning, as children, we saw in our parents the models of what we would one day be as parents, partners, males and females, providers, etc. In play, we pretended and imitated their moods, actions, posture, walk, words, and more. In this session we look at six roles our parents played which we then rehearsed and now play in our families, at work, with friends, etc. Our parents provided several major roles for us to take on in later life with others:

  • As Parents, they were what a Mother and Father are like in raising children. We learned about rewards and punishment, being treated fairly or unfairly, about love, compassion, concern, worry, and much more. As children, we told ourselves, "This is what I’ll be like (or not be like!) with my own children."

  • As Partners they were what a Husband and Wife are like with each other. We learned about romance, sharing, cooperation, or about distance, silence, even violence. Again, we made decisions then about what kind of husband or wife we’d be, whom we’d marry (and whether we’d marry), and more.

  • As Male and Female, our parents showed us what it’s like to be a man or woman. We figured out that this was connected to sex, and that there were some things each sex was expected to do or not do, be or not be. Males do some things and not others; females likewise. Occasionally we may have wondered why, especially if we wanted to do things only the other sex "should" do. Again, we decided things about ourselves as future men or women based on the examples of our parents as male and female.

  • As Providers our parents provided (or failed to provide) resources we needed to survive and thrive. Food, shelter, money, support, encouragement, help, and much more we saw them doing. And again, we began to describe our future selves in terms of how and what we’d provide when we had a family.

  • As Grown-ups our parents showed what we’d be like as adults. They could control things we now could not; they were free to come and go, and we were not. We hoped one day to be like that, and never mind now that we know adulthood wasn’t a bed a roses. So we decided, "When I grow up, I’ll be like that!"

And they were examples of what it meant to be Human Beings, members of the community of other human beings: going to work, visiting, perhaps being a community leader, worrying about world events, and all the rest. And again, we wanted to be like that when we grew up.

Basic Patterns

How we learned to behave with others based on our childhood position among our siblings

Adler believed a strong influence on personality is our sibling position. There is the numerical position (oldest, middle, youngest, only, etc.) and psycho-social position (based on sex, illness, talent, looks, intelligence, parental preferences, etc.). From your sibling setting, you created ways to think and behave which you still use with others today.

Adler’s best known ideas are the inferiority feelings, and compensation/over-compensation to achieve superiority. We did this with siblings by trying to overcome, dominate, or be superior in a different field. Such actions result in Basic Patterns which, as adults, we repeat with sibling-like others: friends, coworkers or supervisors, etc. The session includes ways to compare yourself to siblings. We look at sibling relationships and how they affect you today in relation to sibling-like adults as well as your actual siblings.

Boy/Girlhood Patterns

All the other things we experienced in childhood.

This Pattern involves all the other childhood experiences, events, attitudes and behaviors we had as children, and carried with us (as "lessons for life") into adulthood. LEAP can't cover all the zillions of possible childhood events, but here are some common topics:

Play, Playmates, and Games — This involves "child’s play as the child’s work," as through play and playmates we rehearsed how to think and act in various world situations.

Imagination and fantasy — Day-dreaming; mental replaying of events in which we act more effectively; how we scared ourselves in the dark, and the like. Stories, fairy tales, and characters — Stories that scared, pleased, thrilled us; in which we took imaginary parts; favorite characters (heroes, heroines, villains, ogres, witches, etc.); the feelings of having stories told or read to us; our "favorite" which may serve as a theme to our own lives ("Cinderella," "Peter Pan," "Sleeping Beauty," etc.). This includes favorite movies, radio or TV shows, etc.

Toys, Pets, Imaginary friend — How we found comfort/reassurance in things ("blanket," "stuffed dog," family pet); things we liked to play with when alone; and the "other self" we developed in imagination with whom to feel competent or powerful, or to try out various ideas before trying them with real people.

Dreams and Nightmares — Recurring dreams, nightmares, and "night terrors." Dream themes. The dream as problem-solving while asleep. Childhood dreams continuing into teen and/or adult years.

Family Events — Reunions, moves, eating out, fights, illnesses, shopping, and all the rest. Holidays, Trips, Vacations — Summertime, weekends, carnival/circus, going places, etc.

Key Specific Events (Early Recollections) — Adler believed that a half-dozen easily-recalled specific events in childhood tend to summarize much of one’s Life Style. We see them as Life’s Master Questions, our answers becoming our Core Beliefs about the way things are. Each summarizes a Basic Truth for us.

School days — Adlerians see the first day of school as significant. We include classmates, favorite teachers, and favorite subjects here too. Beginning school is the first significant step from family-as-world to the world-beyond-family: we see how family ways work with others, what family ways to change and what to keep; our effectiveness in dealing with strangers. Teen years/high school — Similar to our first school days, this combines the effects of puberty with pressures to change, conform, be effective, fit in, lead or follow, compete or cooperate, etc. Just like in our first six years of life! Adolescence is our "last chance" to revise our Patterns before Adulthood.

Belonging Patterns

Six ways you try to feel significant and attached to others based on ways you used as a child.

Adlerians identify four goals of childhood social behavior aimed at getting close to others and feeling important to them. Rudolph Dreikurs said parents can use them to understand a child's mis-behavior, by watching for a child who seeks Attention, Control, Revenge and who, discouraged at attaining the others, Displays Inadequacy.

In LEAP, we expand on them and re-focus the emphasis: not at mis-behavior, but as important ways we seek feel attached, first in our family, then in other relationships. It is when we don’t get enough of what we want (attention, for example) that we may mis-behave by exaggerating our efforts so they become unwelcome by others.

  • By Affection we learn to receive and, later, give love, warmth, caring, etc., to others. It is a significant way to belong within the various levels of the human community.

  • By Attention we seek to be noticed as individuals; no one wants to be seen as invisible!

  • By Approval we seek to be valued for our contributions to those who matter to us, and to feel as if our efforts matter to them. We like to believe we are valuable for what we do as well as who we are.

  • By Control we seek to have an effect on events around us, to "get our way" and accomplish our goals. This, too is important in our relationships.

  • By Fairness we seek a balance in life, and to know there is some justice in our world.

  • And by Help we seek assistance on things that are too hard for us and give help to others.

When we don’t get what we want or as much as we think we deserve, we may exaggerate our efforts to Belong (something Adler called "compensation" and, when neurotic,"over-compensation"). Failure to Belong leads to discouragement, down-heartedness, isolation, and hopelessness. Success leads to encouragement, a sense of belonging, and hope for the future. From this comes what Adler called courage in striving, the notion that one can persevere and overcome in the face of challenges or obstacles. Adler called exaggerated efforts over-compensation and an increased use of Private Logic to excuse or justify our socially-useless behavior. This may lead us to believe that "It’s me against them" and therefore "Whatever I do is OK, so long as I get what I want."

Behaving Patterns

EBR Cycle Diagram.jpg (103990 bytes)How to be more effective by using your Event-Belief-Response cycle.

Adlerians and others such as Albert Ellis (Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy) and Aaron Beck (Cognitive Therapy) have developed ways to understand the process by which humans deal with events and seek to make effective responses, similar to the Event-Belief-Response cycle.

Put simply, an Event happens,which we perceive at several levels (conscious/non-conscious, objective/subjective, etc.). We then tell ourselves what the event "means" (to us). This is our Belief or "personal truth" about the event. We then make a Response to what we believe about the vent (and not the event itself...this is important!)   by a thought, feeling, or action. This is how you are effective (more or less) or ineffective in your life from moment to moment.

Remember This: We do not respond to Events, but to what we believe about Events. Therefore, if we wish change a feeling about something, or a mood in general, for example, we need to change what we tell ourselves is "the truth" (our belief) about an Event. LEAP offers several specific, practical, and very effective ways to do this.

One result of a Response is a self-rating of effectiveness That is, how effective were we in our response? (This involves several things, including how we define effectiveness or success, such as what has to have happened as a result of what we did.) This leads us to a level of  confidence on which further responses can be based. (That is, based on our past response-effectiveness, how much to we believe in ourselves to be effective in the future.) A low level may lead to discouragement and a feeling of future inability or incompetence; a high level may lead to encouragement and a feeling of future capability and competence. Mastery of one’s E-B-R Cycle is a major goal of LEAP.

Believing Patterns

Your Core Beliefs about Self, Others, and the World

Adler said each person has "Life Tasks" to accomplish. Not to do so successfully results in incomplete, socially-useless living. They are Marriage Community, and Work. In LEAP we expand and rearrange them, and call them the six "core beliefs" which are the foundation of your existence. So when life causes you to doubt, fear, or question, it is to these fundamental Beliefs that you turn for certainty and reassurance, and to maintain continuity throughout your life.

What you believe specifically in these six areas often result from specific events in childhood. Adlerians call them "Early Recollections." they serve as memorable "turning points" or "Ah hah!" experiences in which you said to yourself, in effect, "So THIS is the way the world is!" At our deepest Self, we maintain our core beliefs as they were when we developed them as children. We are reluctant to change them based on new experience or information, because we fear that, if we did, we might become someone entirely different!

  • Self — Early in life we decided certain things about ourselves and how to see ourselves in terms of power, competency, "self image," how far we would go, how successful we would be, and much more.

  • Love — From early experiences with others we decided what They are like, how much to trust them, who to love and how much, the quality of our love (selfish, self-giving, etc.) This special bond would apply only to a few: partner, parents, children, our closest friends.

  • Others/Community — From relationships with siblings and playmates, we created beliefs about what Others are like, how much to trust them, whether to be a leader or a follower, to compete or cooperate, etc. Such Others include extended family, neighbors, acquaintances, coworkers, community/nation, and "humanity."

  • Work — Here, Work is seen as our way to contribute to, improve, and give back to the human community which accepted us at birth, nurtured us, and of which we are a part. This includes what Adler called "Social Interest," our active concern for others, seen in such ideas as "brotherly love" and "The Golden Rule."

  • World — This set of beliefs is our mental description of what the world is like, based on childhood experiences with it: safe or dangerous? friendly or threatening? stable or chaotic? Our view determines how much control we believe we have over our lives, whether we are bold or timid, etc.

  • Mystery/Limits — Here are beliefs arising from uncertainty, fear, and our ability to manage our lives successfully, based on childhood experiences. They include ideas about life and death, moral behavior, personal values, religious or spiritual beliefs, our physical and mental capacities and limits, failure, fear of being lost or abandoned, fear of death, and much more.

Bewildering Patterns

How you lead yourself astray from what you say are your goals

We think we know where we’re headed in life, where we want to go, what we want to achieve. Yet in some ways we’re our own worst enemy, because we may say we want one thing, but do the things that lead us someplace else. In this session we look at three common ways we lead ourselves astray.

  • Self-defeating Ways — Ways we prevent our own success or effectiveness. Some may seem harmless, such as self-delaying ("I’ll do it later"); others may be serious, such as self-depression ("It’s hopeless; I give up!"); and still others may be self-destructive, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, etc., each a kind of slow suicide. While we may not see what we’re doing, others often do, and tell us, "You’re your own worst enemy!" or "You may fool yourself, but not me!" In LEAP we look at Self-D’s with roots in childhood, and work to replace them with ways to be more effective in meeting life’s problems.

  • Private Logic — Inner reasoning by which we put ourselves ahead of others and the needs of the community. By it, we justify, excuse, and rationalize self-oriented behavior, which he called "socially useless." He contrasted this with "common sense," the practical wisdom humanity has developed over the years to guide social relationships; contained in laws, rules, etiquette, proverbs and sayings, religious & ethical teachings, moral behavior, and the like. Such community-enhancing behavior is "social useful." In this session we look at ways to reveal Private Logic, reduce its effects on your life, and increase "Social Interest" as you enriching your life by enriching the lives of others.

  • Mistaken Mission — Related to Adler’s concept of "Fictional Final Goal." Every child confronts at least one problem which cannot be solved. The child says, in effect, "I must spend the rest of my life to solve it." This is a mistaken mission because a child cannot know life’s great problem, and it’s a mistaken mission because the child decides to spend life to solve the problem. Thus the Childhood Problem provides a direction for the rest of one’s life. For example, Adler wrote of himself:

When I was five I became ill with pneumonia and was given up by the physician. A second physician advised a treatment just the same, and in a few days I was well again. From that time on I recall always thinking of myself in the future as a physician. This means that I had set a goal from which I could expect to end my childhood distress, my fear of death.

Being Patterns

How you describe your Ideal self, Ideal others, and Ideal world to yourself

As children, based on various experiences, we developed Ideal mental images of the way we’d like things to be if they were perfect. We may have gotten such images from favorite books, movies, TV or radio programs, friends, siblings, parents. We may have had specific experiences that contributed to these mages. The point is that they are "perfect" and we maintain them throughout our lives as templates against which to measure our actual, real-world experiences. You might think of these images as portraits hung on the wall of your mind. Looking at them in your mental (art gallery" you say to yourself, "This is the way it would be if things were perfect."

Here are several examples of the kinds of mental images we have:

  • The Perfect Self — Adler called this our "Ego Ideal," or "the best me I could possibly be" in a world in which such things are possible. I measure my actual behavior and day-to-day experiences against this ideal. By it, I can tell what progress I am making, where I am falling short, etc., and feel successful/unsuccessful, encouraged/discouraged, disappointed, angry, satisfied, etc. (Keep in mind that "feelings" are the result of assessments made on the basis of what we tell ourselves is true about event, and not about events themselves. And to change feelings, we need to change "the truth" we tell ourselves. See "Behaving" Patterns for a refresher on this approach.)

  • The Perfect Partner — This is my mental picture a "perfect" wife or husband. Such an image might include what I don’t want in my partner (perhaps based on negative experiences as a child with a partner-like person, such as a playmate of the opposite sex, or my own parents. I use this mental image as a way to compare real-life partners, both potential (as when I’m dating) and actual (as when I’m married). During pre-married/commitment periods I may move from person to person, each being a "place-holder" until someone better (i.e., closer to my mental ideal image) comes along. Obviously, comparing my present partner to my ideal partner can have ramifications in my marriage or love relationship. To voice such comparisons (saying, in effect if not in words, "You’ve not as perfect as my Ideal Partner") could be disastrous, and the last step before (a) divorce court or (b) marriage counseling.

  • The Perfect Child — Here we can think of my mental image of myself as my parents’ child (the perfect me, vs. the real me as their child) or my mental image of my own child(ren) in their most perfect way. Again, we use such images to compare with real life. When we do this with our children, the real-life person usually comes off second-best because, after all, real-life isn't perfect, and Ideals are..

  • The Ideal Job — As children we’re often asked what we want to be when we grow up. Early on we form an image of ourselves "working" and may practice it during play time with friends or siblings. The best job will be one that furthers our personal interests and moves us closer toward our life goal (that is, the solution to the main unsolvable problem we had as a child). Unhappiness at real-life work can often be traced to the perfect job we have " in mind," or to secondary gains from work: praise, reward, good salary, prizes, etc.

Other such Images include ideal friend, ideal spare-time activity/hobby, in fact practically anything that we think is important, interesting, or worthwhile in our lives! We can even include ideal book, movie, and anything else abut which we have expectations.

Becoming Patterns

How you move through life as an adult, using  ways you created to manage your childhood

Despite the effects of Patterns created early in life, we are in a constant process of growth, change, and movement beyond who we are to what we may yet be. You probably manage your life pretty well; you’ve had many years to practice. In LEAP we look at how you manage growth and change. All involve an important thing that may make us human beings unique, and that is our ability to mentally visualize the way things could be, and then do things necessary to make them happen.

  • Information gathering involves the many ways you learn things necessary to manage your life, make changes, grow, create new beliefs, etc. The LifeCourse Effective Action Program is one way to do this.

  • Imagining involves creating mental pictures of the way things could be, alternative to the ways things are. (This is why, earlier, we ask about fantasy and day-dreaming). These mental pictures are like the blueprints used to build a house, or design sketches. Important to this is goal-planning (below).

  • Decision-making involves choosing between two or more possibilities. We’ll. look at the idea of a "decision tree," where choices "branch," and where each choice not only leads to other choices, but also involves a "not-chosen." When Robert Frost chose the "road less traveled by" which made all the difference, he did not choose the other road. So with us: choices made involve choices not made.

  • Problem-solving involves doing what’s needed to overcome obstacles to progress. We imagine what we want in the future (our "goal") and deal with the things that keeps us from having it.

  • Goal-setting involves deciding what we want in the future, how much we want it, and what we will do to get it. Goal-planning involves envisioning the future, creating a mental picture of it, and preparing for the steps and gathering the resources necessary to attain it.

  • Goal-attainment involves (1) doing what’s necessary to get there, (2) arriving, and (3) thinking about what we’ve learned in the process so we can achieve our other goals better, and what our next goals will be.

MAP: Your Master Action Pattern

The "Pattern-of-Your-Patterns" that guides your entire LifeCourse

Together, the LifeCourse Patterns form the larger, unified pattern by which you operate your life each day. We call it your Master Action Pattern (MAP). It is your plan-of-action for the rest of your life, based on what your life has been so far. The image is used to suggest how you plan to "get from here to there" on the road of life. LEAP says that, if you want to end up someplace else, you’ll need to change course. Following childhood’s ways can be like trying to find a new place on an old map. which shows old paths and narrow roads where now there are super-highways and short-cuts!

Adler created the term Life Style, the largest and most complete concept in all of psychology, to indicate the entire, unified "whole" of an individual’s life. Today the term is used in a more superficial way, so we speak of LifeCourse to mean much the same thing. Adler also created the first holistic psychology and theory of personality. He saw a person as complete and integrated, not separate traits or "psychic parts" (such as Freud’s "Ego" and "Id"). He chose the Latin word individuum ("that which cannot be separated") when he named his approach, Individual Psychology.

In the last session, we look at your MAP, suggest revisions to work on, finish anything left from other sessions, and complete work on your Target Task.

Once done with the ten-session workshop, some people continue sessions to apply LifeCourse learnings to other life areas. Blocks of three one-hour sessions are offered at a fee of $100 per block. These sessions more closely resemble traditional psychotherapy, while still based on the LifeCourse Patterns approach.

To take LEAP at home at your own pace and time . . .
Check out LEAP On-Line at

email:      Phone: 860-345-3204      Mail: LifeCourse, 3 Mario Drive, Higganum, CT 06441

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