Biography • Born in 1870 in Vienna • Second child of the family; older brother was Sigmund, younger brother, Rudolph, died in childhood • Was a frail child who had several brushes with death • Became a doctor to learn how to defeat death • Graduated from the University of Vienna in 1895 and set up his own practice • Married Raissa Epstein and had four children
Disagreements with Freud • 1902: invited to join Freud’s Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and eventually became president of it • 1911: left the group because of heated disagreements with Freud and the others over the idea that pleasure and sexuality were the prime motivators for humans • Set up his own society called the Society for free Psychoanalysis (later changed to the Society for Individual Psychology).
Individual Psychology • Adler named his theory “Individual Psychology” because he believed that human motivations were complex and unique to the individual. • He thought humans were motivated by their perceived niche in society. • Like Jung, he believed in the teleological (goal-directed) nature of humans. • Also much more concerned than Freud was with social conditions. • Believed that people had to take preventive measures to avoid personality disturbances.
Inferiority Complex • 1930: Adler wrote that a central core of personality was striving for superiority. • Inferiority complex arises when people feel overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness or powerlessness that leaves them feeling inferior. • Normal feelings of incompetence become exaggerated, and person feels hopeless that goals can be achieved.
Dealing with Inferiority • People deal with inferiority in two ways: • Compensation: trying to build up the weak areas and concentrate on other areas. Motivated to strive from a “felt minus” (feeling of inferiority) to a “felt plus” (feelings of superiority, perfection, and totality). • Motivating force behind all behavior is called Striving for Perfection or Superiority—the desire for competence and mastery over one’s environment.
More on overcoming inferioity • Masculine protest—the way in which a person strives for competence and independence rather than being merely an outgrowth of his or her parents • Perfection striving—people spend their lives trying to meet their fictional goals(sometimes called fictional finalism)—imagined future achievements.
Superiority Complex • An exaggerated arrogance in an attempt to maintain one’s self-worth and overcome an inferiority complex. • Perceived as obnoxious by others.
Two additions to Adler's theory • Adler’s theory started changing as his thoughts about human motivation changed. • Organ inferiority—the idea that everyone is born with some physical weakness where incapacity or disease is most likely to take root. The body tries to compensate for the weakness in another area—an important motivator of life choices. • Aggressive drive—a reaction to perceived helplessness/inferiority—lashing out against inability to master something.
Style of Life • Established by age 4 or 5 using the Creative Self, the dynamic force that allows us to use our experiences and heredity to construct our “style of life,” including goals, self-concept, feelings for others, and attitudes toward the world. • The interaction between heredity, environment, and one’s creative power. • Should not be rigid or inflexible. • Can be identified through early memories. • Doesn’t matter if memories are true or not. • Represents one’s first perceptions of self and world.
Social issues • Adler was very concerned about three fundamental social issues, which are all intertwined: • Occupational tasks—choosing/pursuing a career that makes one feel worthwhile. • Societal tasks—creating friendships/social networks • Love tasks—finding a suitable life partner.
Adler's Typology • Based on the Greek notion of temperamental humors
Ruling/Dominant • Aggressive & domineering • May bully others • May be passive-aggressive (suicide attempts, addictions) • Seeks to dominate others in some way
Getting-leaning • Takes from others • Somewhat passive • Dependent on others for everything • Most common type, according to Adler
Avoiding • Conquers problems by running away • Tries not to deal with problems at all • Phobias are an example
Socially useful • Meets problems realistically • Cooperative and caring • The only orientation thought to grow out of early experiences • Innate trait that makes all humans value societal contributions and helping others • Most productive way to compensate for feelings of inferiority • The more socially oriented, the healthier the person: Gemeinschaftsgefuhl
Maladjustment in Neurotics • Underdeveloped social interest • Live in their own private world • Set their goals too high • Have rigid and dogmatic style of life • Might develop in children with physical/intellectual disabilities—the mind sees the body as a burden, and they become self-centered (egoistic) as a result. • Road to physical & mental health is overcome self-centeredness.
Safeguarding Strategies • Neurosis creates a need for safeguarding strategies, similar to defense mechanisms. • Excuses or rationalizing strategies (“Yes, but…”; “If only…”) • Aggressive strategies (open or disguised hostility toward others) • Depreciation(devalue others through threats or inflating own value) • Accusation(blame others—no personal responsibility) • Self-accusation(blame self in such a way that it attracts attention, sympathy—sometimes induces guilt in others) • Distancing strategies—avoiding situations and problems; avoiding challenges
Parenting: Mom's perspective • Social interest arises from mother-child relationship during first months of infancy • Mom needs to foster a bond that encourages child’s social interest and fosters a sense of cooperation • Mom should be centered on her child’s well-being not her own needs and wants. • If she favors the child over the father, child may become spoiled or pampered. If she favors father over child, child may feel neglected and unloved.
Parenting: Father's perspective • Father must show caring attitude toward wife and others • Ideal father cooperates on equal footing with mother in caring for child & treating child as human being • Successful father avoids the errors of emotional detachment and paternal authoritarianism. • Emotionally detached fathers child has a sense of neglect and warped social interest; parasitic attachment to Mom • Paternal authoritarianism sees Dad as tyrant; strives for power and personal superiority
Importance of Parents • Adler believed parents were so important early in life that the relationship with mother and father smothers the effects of heredity. • By the time a child is 5, the effects of heredity become blurred by the powerful influences of the child’s social environment. • By this time, environmental forces have shaped or modified nearly every aspect of child’s personality.
Birth Order Effects • Adler believed that birth order was an important factor in determining personality. • First child: the worst position to be in. • Second-borns: the best position • Last-borns: second worst position • Birth order has generated a lot of research.
Research about Firstborns/Only children • More achievement-oriented and perfectionist. Also more visits to mental health clinics • More likely to support parental authority • Less open to new ideas • More responsible, ambitious, organized, academically successful, energetic, self-disciplined, and conscientious. • Negative side: more neurotic, anxious, temperamental • More assertive and dominant
Middle-borns • Lots of research on these children • Less likely to define self-identities by their families • Feel less close to families; more into friends than siblings • More rebellious, impulsive, less conscientious • Less likely to ask parents for help or visit parents • Report feeling less loved as children • More likely to live farther apart from parents
Later-borns • Charmer of the family • More agreeable • Warmer • More idealistic • Easygoing, trusting, accommodating, altruistic, adventurous • Prone to fantasy, attracted by novelty; untraditional • More sociable, affectionate, fun-loving, excitement-seeking, and more self-conscious.
Bottom line on birth order effects • Not shown consistently across studies • Birth order alone is not as big of a factor as birth order combined with other factors such as number of children, level of conflict between each child and parents, gender of the children, spacing between children, temperament, social class, and loss of parent. • Birth order studies usually do not separate biological birth order from rearing order. They need to do this.
Social Interest • For Adler, social interest was of supreme importance. Not synonymous with charity. • The sole yardstick for measuring psychological health • The “sole criterion for human values” • The only gauge for judging one’s worth and the value of a life. • To the degree that people possess true social interest, they are psychologically mature.