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Adlerian Lifestyle Assessments

Learn about Adlerian lifestyle Assessments and why we behave and think the way we do. What are early recollections and what do they tell us?

Adlerian Lifestyle Assessments

Adler was an early psychologist who focused much of his work to understanding children and their social and behavioral development. He believed that much of our personalities and beliefs (or lifestyles as Adler termed them) were developed through the experiences we have early in life and more importantly, how we perceive and understand those experiences. Adlerian life style assessments are structured explorations into different aspects of your life. They are composed of an extensive series of questions aimed at identifying the way you understand the world and your underlying values.

Adler believed that most of the personality or lifestyle was developed by age five. By this age most of us have established some basic understanding of our world and how we fit in it. While we continue to grow beyond this point, we generally interpret our experiences based on our preconceived beliefs. This explains how many people and even family members can go through a similar experience and interpret it completely differently.

Lifestyle assessments explore your family of origin; your birth order; early memories; your beliefs about gender, achievement, significance, and belonging, and more; and help to identify what makes you YOU. But again these things only matter based on the way they affect you.

Consider the following:  Do you know someone who can’t take a compliment? Maybe they discount all the positive things people say to them and only believe the negative? Or maybe you know someone who is always worrying and expecting the worst? Or maybe you’ve met someone who despite very difficult life circumstances, always seems to be optimistic and believe they can turn things around. Each of these represent different types of beliefs that compose a person’s lifestyle.

With a trained Adlerian therapist you can discover aspects of and better understand your own lifestyle. Only through understanding and insight can you change aspects of your lifestyle that are hindering you.

Why do we behave the way we do?

Adler believed that all behavior was goal directed, we are just not always aware of our goals. This makes sense when you observe children. Why does a four year old scream to get a toy? Because this has worked for him in the past to get his way. Why does a teen dye their hair crazy colors? Because she wants to feel noticed and this has shock value for her parents.

But what about adults and our emotion- driven behavior? Why might someone feel anxious for example? It’s possible that behaving in an anxious way or communicating with others about anxiety in the past has led to others offering help and caretaking. In this way the goal of the anxious behavior might be to seek help and comfort. This of course is just one possibility, it all depends on the individual’s lifestyle. In the words of Adler, “everything can also be different.”

On a deeper level if you’ve ever asked yourself, “why did I do that?” or “why did I say that” there are probably underlying beliefs that could be discovered based on your natural desire to feel secure, significant, and belong. These are core goals that we all share, but we try to achieve them through different means based on our individual convictions.

What about my family of origin?

Beyond asking questions to better understand your early childhood experiences and perceptions, we also use a tool called the genealogy to look for patterns and relationships that shaped your beliefs. The genealogy is a visual way of mapping out your family that can span several generations. Through it we can see intergenerational patterns in relationships and even genetic lines related to mental conditions like depression, chemical dependency, and the like.

What are Early Recollections and why do they matter?

We all have those odd memories from our childhood that we remember and wonder, why do I remember that moment? Children are great perceivers, but not always great at understanding the world around them. Every individual understands what they experience differently. Consider the following example.

Four-year-old, Tommy, see’s his dad yell at his momafter receiving the credit card bill one month. Based on his personality and the way he has interpreted other life events he could develop or confirm a variety of different beliefs.

Maybe Tommy decides that ‘women are irresponsible and can’t be trusted with money’. Maybe he decides that ‘relationships always involve yelling’. Maybe ‘Men are bullies’ and he feels bad about himself when he displays any ‘male traits’ such as anger. Maybe he believes that ‘all couples have bad moments, but it is possible to work through them.’ Maybe he develops fear about money because, ‘money is the root of conflict in relationships.’

Obviously, some of Tommy’s possible beliefs have more potential to be damaging in his life and relationships than others, but until he identifies and addresses these beliefs he may feel stuck and unsure of why he feels or reacts the way he does when triggered by something.

 Adlerian therapists believe that we unconsciously hold onto certain memories based on the beliefs we developed that we want to remind ourselves of. Other theories like Cognitive Behavioral Approaches have discovered this phenomenon as well and they refer to it as confirmation bias. Confirmation bias (also referred to as confirmatory bias and cognitive bias) refers to the tendency we all have to interpret and recall information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs.

So the next time little Tommy sees his parents argue--even if it is an unrelated issue—he’s more likely to interpret the interaction as confirmation of his belief.

Early recollections are simply a technique in which we dissect early childhood memories to identify your core beliefs.