Adler’s Differences with Freudian Theory
In 1902, Adler was one of those invited to attend some small, casual seminars with Freud. Although his views were somewhat different from those of the Freudian psychoanalysts, he remained a member of the group for a number of years. But by 1911, the disagreements between Freud and Adler had become heated and emotionally intense; Adler resigned from his position as president of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (as the group had come to be called) and ended all contact with it. The debates with the domineering Freud and other members of the group had, however, helped Adler think through his own emerging theory of personality. He soon started his own society, called the Society for Free Psychoanalysis (later changed to the Society for Individual Psychology). One of the central ways in which Adler’s views differed from those of Freud was the emphasis each placed on the origin of motivation. For Freud, the prime motivators were pleasure (remember that the id operates on the so-called pleasure principle) and sexuality. For Adler, human motivations were much more complex. Adler’s Individual Psychology
Adler called his theory Individual Psychology because he firmly believed in the unique motivations of individuals and the importance of each person’s perceived niche in society. Like Jung, he firmly proclaimed the importance of the teleological aspects, or goal-directedness, of human nature. Another major, and related, difference in their philosophies was that Adler, much more concerned than Freud with social conditions, saw the need to take preventive measures to avoid disturbances in personality. Striving for Superiority
For Adler (1930), a central core of personality is the striving for superiority. When people have an overwhelming sense of helplessness or experience some event that leaves them powerless, they are likely to feel inferior. If these feelings become pervasive, an inferiority complex may develop. An inferiority complex takes normal feelings of incompetence and exaggerates them, making the individual feel as if it is impossible to achieve goals and therefore hopeless to try. Take the case of David, who has never done very well in school. He’s not a terrible student, but beside the honor-roll records and academic accomplishments of his two siblings, his record looks paltry. Over time, he has developed an inferiority complex—an uncomfortable sense of being dull, even inferior to his brother and sister. An individual struggling to overcome such a complex might fabricate a superiority complex as a way of maintaining a sense of self-worth, and in fact this is what David has done. If you were to meet him for the first time, you wouldn’t guess that there was an “inferior” bone in his body. He appears to have a very high opinion of himself—always bragging and quick to argue that his solution to a problem is the right one. If you look a bit deeper, though, you see that this exaggerated arrogance is really an overcompensation for what David believes he lacks; he has developed a superiority complex as a way of counteracting the inferiority he feels. He is trying to convince others and himself that he is valuable after all. Unfortunately for...