Getting Mocked by Alfred Adler

canstockphoto3436262Over five years of blogging, and at least 50% of it has been whinging on about writing – doing it, not doing it, determined to do it, failing to do it. I’ve pitched to agents at a conference and not followed through.  I’ve been given the time, opportunity, and space to do it. I’ve set and promptly passed deadlines. I’ve made note cards, scribbled on white boards, discussed it ad nauseam with friends. I have skeletal novels and unfinished stories and poetry done badly. I have made myself feel physically ill, have anxiety attacks, and on occasion had a good blubber about it. Writing doesn’t make me miserable. Failing to do it does.

So why would anyone NOT do what they love to do? What kind of messed-up psychological bullshit is that?

When faced with an intractable problem, I have a process. It involves contemplation and research. I am now surrounded by books on perfectionism, human nature, time management, and failure. I’ve been reading through them, one by one, taking notes, thinking about what applies to my situation and what doesn’t. Every once in a while, I run across something that startles me.

Faint-heartedness is a characteristic of those who feel that every task which faces them is especially difficult; of people who have no confidence in their powers to accomplish anything.

Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 1927

I first heard about Adlerian philosophy in parenting classes many years ago, but had never read through his explanations. The distance between my exposure to knowledge and my implementation of it is quite great. Like Grand Canyon great.

As a rule this trait is evinced in the form of slowed movements. Thus the distance canstockphoto41149785between the individual and his approaching test or task, not only does not quickly become smaller, but may even remain unchanged.

Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 1927

If my life timeline is any indicator, I move at a glacial pace. I learn everything the hard way. I don’t listen to others, choosing instead to learn by falling on my own face, tripping over my own feet, and living in my own convoluted knot of a brain. If I read something that resonates, it doesn’t sink in for another 2-5 years. If I fail at something, I have to fail 25 more times before a lesson emerges.

People who are always to be found elsewhere when they should be applying themselves to some particular problem of life, belong to this group. Such individuals suddenly discover that they are not at all fit for the profession which they have chosen, or they find all manner of objections which serve so to annihilate their sense of logic, that the assumption of this profession actually becomes impossible.

Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 1927

This dude really gets me and it’s embarrassing. He saves the absolute best/worst for last:

Besides slowed movements, the expression of faint-heartedness is to be found in a certain preoccupation with over-safety and over-preparation, activities which have for their sole purpose the evasion of all responsibility.

Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature, 1927

Okay, I get it Alfred – I’m a big fat coward. I’ll research that a bit and get back to you – in a few years, after many more anxiety attacks, a few more faint-hearted attempts to be a writer, and another stack of note cards. You too-right bastard.

28 Comments on “Getting Mocked by Alfred Adler

  1. Also people who are too hard on themselves? I don’t know for sure, but I surmise that we all have moments when we feel like glaciers (I like that comparison) I have not made the progress I should have on my own little project. I totally understand. Just keep writing!

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    • I think that I just like to go at problems in a very arduous and backwards sort of way. And spend more time wrestling with myself to do something I love, which is awfully weird. And I do keep writing, but some days, I wonder to what end.

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    • I think there’s a lot of people saddled with that triad of obstacles. I keep trying to see them as part of my process – giving them a bit of a positive spin, but thus far, that’s not leading to desired outcomes. Persistence is in high supply, though, and I keep trying. That’s all any of us can do, right?

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  2. I go down the same black hole as you. I bury myself in research, scare myself by the sheer amount of work there is to research, and this leads to paralysis and crippling self-doubt.
    I am trying my hardest to stay away from this time ’round. What are writers if not resilient enough to bring their asses back to the writing desk, right?

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    • Since I’m writing contemporary fiction, my research tends to be more about why I’m struggling to get myself to the desk. I can’t even imagine taking on work that would require extensive research – I’d never leave that stage! I’d like to believe that resilience and persistence will win out in the end, but I’m getting to the point where I need to open my mind about my approach to it all. I’m not getting to where I want to go. Best wishes to you on this time around!

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  3. If it’s any consolation, I have that same collection of traits. Never wanted to be anything but a writer, obsessed with it, planning endless novels and projects, research going off at all sorts of fascinating tangents, but writing so little.

    I’m past retirement age now and all I can manage is the occasional batty blog entry. ALL that I have ever written now ‘lives’ in my blog.

    Must read Adler to see if he suggests any practical solution or is content just to make the ‘faint hearted’ even more fed up. I HAVE wondered, in my case, whether this is the adult version of ADD, though. Maybe they didn’t have ADD in Alfred Adler’s day (?)

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    • Naturally I’ve not read the whole book yet, but if I hit on anything worth mentioning, I’m sure I’ll write about it.
      Turning 50 has felt like being clobbered over the head with evidence of my procrastination. I feel pretty determined to get on with things, but the brain is a wonderful/terrible thing in the many ways it works to derail good intentions. Just have to keep scrabbling along, I guess.

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  4. Damn him, and the pony he rode in on!

    I’m afraid Adler’s observations apply to all areas of endeavor, including relationships. Faintheartedness — perpetual discouragement and self-doubt — is soul-sickening. I think of the opening scenes of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in which Clarence the angel is getting his assignment and asks what’s wrong with George Bailey, here paraphrased: Is he sick? No, says God (or whoever Clarence’s immediate boss is). ” Worse. He’s discouraged.” And yet noodling our own inadequacies is a kind of narcissism. There is no light at the end of that tunnel.

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    • One can know intellectually the pitfalls of self-doubt and discouragement, but without examination, they just run your life. That is to say, examination towards an effort to change or else you are right, it’s pointless. I often will approach my inadequacies with curiosity and bemusement, because it creates a safe distance – a perspective that allows me to make changes. The Adler passages made me laugh for their pointed accuracy.

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  5. rosiebooks2009,
    I’ve been researching this. ADD is a subcategory of ADHD. It was first described in the DSM-II (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 1968. Alfred Adler lived from 1870 to 1937. Incidentally, the DSM-V added “Adult ADHD” in 2013.

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  6. This is so me: “If I read something that resonates, it doesn’t sink in for another 2-5 years. If I fail at something, I have to fail 25 more times before a lesson emerges.”

    Sometimes, seemingly out of the blue, a bulb will light in my head when I finally understand something someone said to me years ago. I think it’s because it takes me a while to assimilate, I repeat mistakes. The old adage, “Learn from your mistakes,” is not as easy as it sounds. People naturally fall into old patterns.

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    • I was talking this over with a friend yesterday. I tend to watch movies and read books many years after they’ve received accolades and positive reviews. It gives me such pleasure to “discover” them later on my own. I think this is like a lot of lessons. Someone can tell you, sometimes repeatedly, a key point of wisdom and it plants itself in fallow brain ground, but it takes a long while to grow and germinate and then it feels like one’s own organic discovery. There are parts of my brain that have been fallow for many years!
      Habits and patterns are real progress-killers – especially patterns of thinking. That’s a challenge I’ve been trying to take on.

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  7. This made me laugh. It sounds like you are describing my life! 🙂 I’m currently on my fifth blog and have two half-finished novels since I decided to take a “real” crack at writing creatively. Being mocked right there with you.

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    • He has some surprisingly accurate ideas about individual personalities. He came out of that whole group of psychoanalysts that included Freud, breaking away to develop more socially-centered theories. Since he didn’t find everything was rooted in sex, he got the less attention of the two. I loathe Freud and his prurient, cocaine-fueled nonsense. But Adlerian philosophy, with a few notable exceptions, is less creepy and rooted in common sense, even if it makes me wince.

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  8. I know this might sound callous but I do not mean it that way. I found this post delightful. I had been thinking I was the only one who was dragging her feet with her writing projects, and all because of some sort of fear, according to authors’ blogs, I have read. Yes, I am faint of heart, although not because I do not think I can do it, per se. It is because I am afraid of rejection by any press company and/or reader. My solution? Just do not get it done so I do not have to think about submitting it.

    Truth be known, I believe it is a lack of support. I am not talking about moral support though. I live in a small southern town where I am sure there is not another writer’s soul within one hundred miles of me. I have no one to sit down with for the conversation of writing. I feel I am on my own in this venture, which, I am quite sure, is bringing on “the fear”.

    Adlerian’s philosophy sounds right but it does not solve anything. I am relieved to know I am not the only one suffering from this dilemma of moving at a snail’s pace.

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    • Not callous at all. I found the whole section in his book pretty funny. Sometimes when words hit their target, you just have to laugh at yourself.

      I’m getting to the point where my fear of dying and having done nothing is greater than my fear of rejection or failure. It seems blunt and a little dramatic, but it feels like truth to me now. Perhaps, too, this is what is needed to get beyond my perfectionism and anxiety.

      I wish there was something to say that would be encouraging for you. I’m a tad exhausted fighting with myself. Maybe the question is “what difference would rejection make?” I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep writing no matter what anyone says. If that’s the case, then maybe I shouldn’t give outcomes so much weight.

      The internet has really helped me connect with other writers, as well as giving me a sense of community. I’m not one for groups or workshops, so I find it is enough connection to give me perspective and keep me on track. Hopefully, you have found that, too. No matter how slow we go!

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  9. Thanks Michelle, because I’ve been feeling like shit about my own lack of progress on lots of things, including writing. At least now I know what is ailing me–faint-heartedness. Which still feels shitty, maybe even shittier, but at least I have a diagnosis. Does Adler prescribe any particular treatment plan? What’s the prognosis? Terminal? Judging by previous comments, we might need to start a support group. YEESH.

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    • While this made me laugh, I’m not taking it too much to heart. The struggle is always the same for me: taking my writing seriously and not treating it like it’s less important to me than doing dishes. Writing feels like this indulgent activity that I get to do when my chores are done and I’ve realized that just has to stop. One approach is treating it like the job I want it to be. The other is simply giving myself permission to make it more important than my to-do list. That’s my goal this week, anyway. One agonizingly slow step at a time. I just want to get rid of some of this angst and feel the actual joy of writing.

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