November 15, 2010
Alfred Adler: An Inspirational Visionary
Alfred Adler is quoted as saying “meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations” (BrainyQuote.com, 2010). Adler recounted his childhood as miserable even though he was raised in comfort, which illustrates the former quotation perfectly (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2003). Growing up the younger, sickly, and accident prone sibling in his household, it is perhaps no surprise that his psychological theories would involve: birth order, inferiority and superiority, first memories, dreams, and the creative-self to name only a few (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2003; Hoffman, 1994, Lundin, 1989).
This biographical paper is narrowly focused in its content. Consequently, this paper does not intend to be an all-inclusive narrative of Adler’s life and times nor all of his theories. Instead, focus is limited to: pre-fame years, individual psychology and some of its components, and hypnosis as relative to Adler psychological philosophy and theory. All information contained in this paper was obtained from credible source materials. Although a prominent topic in most of the materials reviewed, this paper will not include any lengthy discussion of the Adler/Freud split or theoretical disagreements between them other than to report: Adler never thought of himself as a Freudian disciple (Hoffman, 1994; Lundin, 1989).
This paper will address the flowing questions. Where did Alfred Adler grow up? What are some of his major contributions to personality theory? What can we learn about ourselves by analyzing our dreams or studying our first recallable memories? Are feelings of superiority or inferiority ever good for the psyche? How does one discover his or her creative-self and what then is its relationship to individual personality? And finally, what appears deficient in Adlerian personality theory? Therefore, although he began developing his many philosophies over a century ago, Alfred Adler continues to influence personality development theory today because visionaries are inspirationally timeless.
Born into a financially stable middle-class household, Alfred Adler’s childhood apartment bordered “…the spacious grounds of Austria’s imperial palace of Schonbrunn (Hoffman, 1997, p. 6). A rather sickly and therefore pampered child, in his youth Adler contracted rickets, suffered from glottis, almost died of pneumonia, and was twice been hit by a carriage (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2003; Hoffman, 1994; Lundin, 1989). Thus Adler developed an early fear of death (Lundin, 1989). While neither of his parent’s could be classified as intellectuals, their love of music permeated the Adler home (Hoffman, 1994). Eventually, Adler learned to play the piano, compose, and developed a rich baritone voice (Hoffman, 1994).
Adler decided at an early age to become a better doctor than the ones that had treated him during his childhood illnesses and accidents, and younger brother’s demise (Lundin, 1989). At first a lackluster and physically clumsy student, Adler’s parents disregarded the urgings of his primary teacher to remove him from academics (Hoffman, 1994). In secondary school, Adler became interested in philosophy, psychology, political science, and sociology (Lundin, 1989). Adler entered the University of Vienna in 1888 and received his medical degree in 1895 (Hoffman, 1994). Developing an intense interest in Marxist theory during his medical school days, Adler was drawn to the needs of the common people and that the social context in which one grows up influences his or her personality development (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2003).
Three years after graduating he was married and publishing his first article (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2003). In it, he postulated the need for socialized medicine. Although Adler...