The Final Goal

According to Adler (1956), people strive toward a final goal of either personal superiority or the goal of success for all humankind. In either case, the final goal is fictional and has no objective existence. Nevertheless, the final goal lias great significance because it unifies personality and renders all behavior comprehensible.

Each person has the power to create a personalized fictional goal, one constructed out of the raw materials provided by heredity and environment. However, the goal is neither genetically nor environmentally determined. Rather, it is the product of the creative power, that is, people s ability to freely shape then behavior and create then own personality. By the thne children reach 4 or 5 years of age, then creative power has developed to the pohit that they can set their final goal. Even infants have an innate drive toward growth, completion, or success. Because infants are small, incomplete, and weak, they feel inferior and powerless. To compensate for this deficiency, they set a fictional goal to be big, complete, and strong. Thus, a persons

Chapter 3 Adler: Individual Psychology 71

filial goal reduces the pain of inferiority feelings and points that person in the direction of either superiority or success.

If children feel neglected or pampered their goal remains largely unconscious. Adler (1964) hypothesized that children will compensate for feelings of inferiority in devious ways that have no apparent relationship to their fictional goal. The goal of superiority for a pampered girl, for example, may be to make permanent her parasitic relationship with her mother. As an adult, she may appear dependent and self-deprecating, and such behavior may seem inconsistent with a goal of superiority. However, it is quite consistent with her unconscious and misunderstood goal of being a parasite that she set at age 4 or 5, a time when her mother appeared large and powerful, and attachment to her became a natural means of attaining superiority.

Conversely, if children experience love and security, they set a goal that is largely conscious and clearly understood. Psychologically secure children strive toward superiority defined in terms of success and social interest. Although then goal never becomes completely conscious, these healthy individuals understand and pursue it with a high level of awareness.

In striving for their final goal, people create and pursue many preliminary goals. These subgoals are often conscious, but the connection between them and the final goal usually remains unknown. Furthermore, the relationship among preliminary goals is seldom realized. From the point of view of the final goal, however, they fit together in a self-consistent pattern. Adler (1956) used the analogy of the playwright who builds the characteristics and the subplots of the play according to the final goal of the drama. When the final scene is known, all dialogue and every subplot acquire new meaning. When an individuals final goal is known, all actions make sense and each subgoal takes on new significance.

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