Alfred Adler and the Crucial C's

November 2014. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Alfred Adler have all contributed to our understanding of human nature. The first two names come to mind for a wide variety of contributions.

But I think Adler's psychological principles are the most widely used in our day-to-day lives, and they are the least likely to be attributed to him. To help with this, psychologist Betty Lou Bettner has translated some of his principles into simple language in order to teach parents how to "raise kids who can."* In essence she provides a system for creating more functional, responsible, and capable families.

Here are her "Crucial C's," their Adlerian principle, and my take on how personality type can help people achieve those C's.

Connect: Everyone feels a need to belong and have a bond with others. When we feel secure, we can reach out and make friends. These connections help foster a concern for the welfare of the community.

Yet when you're the odd person out because your type is different from everyone else's, it can be difficult to feel this Adlerian principle of belonging and developing social interest (a.k.a. Gemeinschaftsgefuhl).

As an ST in counseling psychology grad school, I felt like a fish out of water; I had difficulty feeling like I belonged there. I did not know then that I was working against typical type in a field where NF and NT were far more prevalent. Hindsight has given me a different perspective, and I now understand how to get past those feelings.

Capable: We all need to acquire skills so we can accomplish our goals. It is important to feel confident and self-reliant and to have self-control when things are not going our way. The Adlerians talk about turning a felt negative into a perceived positive.

I have the privilege of working in a program that develops community leadership in small towns in Minnesota. A lot of my work consists of showing those who give so much to their communities that they are highly capable; they often don't see it in themselves.

Many who are Introverts are reluctant to claim their leadership skills because they have a view in their heads that leadership belongs to Extroverts. Not true!! Understanding that Introversion is how they gain energy is an eye opener for many. They see the value in their thoughtful, listening style and that knowledge helps them embrace their capabilities as they help create healthy communities.

Count: Everyone needs to be valued and feel like they can make a difference. Adler talks of finding significance. The principle of social equality also prevails; we are on a horizontal ladder, not a vertical one in terms of relationships. We are motivated to do our best. This is different than having to win and to best others.

Psychological type gives us each a way to both count and to contribute to the whole. And it reminds us that other types count and contribute as well. All types are equally good. We have a horizontal relationship, not a vertical one in which one type is better than another.

Courage: We all need to be hopeful, resilient, and be willing to try. We need to cope with difficult times and learn from them. We need "the courage to be imperfect," and we get at least some of that courage through encouragement.

Type gives us a roadmap showing what strengths might develop first and most effectively. It also reminds us where we might not do so well; we are not perfect! And that can free us up to try things that might not come naturally but are important for us to learn to do. We can be encouraged to have courage.

I've found these four C's to be quite helpful in reflecting on jobs that went well and those that didn't, and on relationships that went well and those that didn't. If one or more C's are missing, things do not always go so well. Try them out on your own life, and see how type can help you uncover the missing C's.

*B.L. Bettner and A. Lew (1989, 2005), Raising Kids Who Can, Newton Centre, MA: Connexions Press.