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Adler on Social Feeling

by Alfred Adler

We cannot judge a human being except by using the concept of social feeling as a standard, and measuring their thought and action by this standard. We must maintain this point of view because every individual within the body of human society must subscribe to the oneness of that society. We have to realize our duty to our fellow human beings. We are in the very midst of a community and must live by the logic of communal existence. This logic determines the fact that we need certain known criteria for the evaluation of our fellows. The degree to which soical feeling has developed in any individual is the only universally valid criterion of human values. We cannot deny our psychological dependency upon social feeling. No human being is capable of ignoring her social feeling completely.

For we all know we have a duty to our fellow human beings. Our social feeling constantly reminds us of the fact. This does not mean that social feeling is constantly in our conscious thoughts; but it does require a certain amount of determination to deny it and set it aside. Furthermore, social feeling is so universal that no one is able to begin any activity without first being justified by it. The need for justifying each act and thought originates in our unconscious sense of social unity. At the very least it is the reason why we seek extenuating circumstances to excuse our actions. Interestingly enough, social feeling is so fundamental and important that, even if we have not developed this ability to consider others as fully as most people have done, we still make efforts to appear as if we had done so. This means that the pretence of social feeling is sometimes used to conceal the antisocial thoughts and deeds that are the true expressions of a personality. The difficulty lies in differentiating between the false and the genuine; it is this very difficulty that raises the understanding of human nature to the plane of a science.

Understanding Human Nature, pages 139, 140

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