Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was a leading Austrian psychiatrist who graduated from medicine in 1895. He was attracted to Sigmund Freud‘s work when he read the Interpretation of Dreams.

Soon after, Adler was asked to join Freud’s inner circle within the emerging school of psychoanalysis (The Vienna Psychoanalytic Society).

His Studie über Minderwertigkeit von Organen (Study of Organ Inferiority and its Psychical Compensation, 1907), however, was too controversial for the old master. And so came one of the great schisms in the history of psychoanalysis. Adler was the very first to depart from Freud’s inner circle, followed by C. G. Jung.

Adler’s lasting contribution to psychology centers on his belief that humans have an innate “drive for aggression.” For instance, if a developing child has (or imagines) a defect in their bodies they may develop an inferiority complex, an unconscious sense of inadequacy. To compensate for this negative self-attitude, the individual manifests the opposite: an unrealistic superiority complex.

Image via psychcomedy at Tumblr

Adler believes we all do this to some degree. The situation becomes neurotic when one disregards the rights of others and causes injury. It becomes psychotic when one loses their authentic relationship with the world and others.

Some argue that the definition of an “authentic relationship” is difficult to define and standardize, especially with the ever growing popularity of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube Flickr, Pinterest and SoundCloud.

Another critique is of Adler’s thought has to do with the spiritual aspect of mankind. Adler advances a biological drive for aggression and recognizes social factors contributing to the personality, but he doesn’t talk much about human spirituality, arguably the most important and enduring aspect of the self.


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