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Alfred Adler. Personality Theory. Biography * Born to a well to do middle class Jewish family in Vienna * Middle child (second son) * Converted to Christianity * Unhealthy as a child.

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alfred adler

Alfred Adler

Personality Theory



* Born to a well to do middle class Jewish family in Vienna

* Middle child (second son)

* Converted to Christianity

* Unhealthy as a child


“I remember sitting on a bench bandaged up on account of rickets, with my healthy elder brother sitting opposite me. He could run, jump and move about quite effortlessly, while for me, movement of any sort was a strain and an effort. Everyone went to great pains to help me and my mother and father did all that was in their power to do.”


“In the joy over my recovery, there was talk for a long time about the mortal danger in which I was supposed to have been. From that time on I recall always thinking of myself in the future as a physician. This means that I had set a goal from which I could expect an end to my childlike distress, my fear of death. Clearly, I expected more from the occupation of my choice than it could accomplish: The overcoming of death and the fear of death is something I should not have expected from human but only from divine accomplishments. Reality, however, demands action, and so I was forced to modify my goal by changing the conscious form of the guiding fiction (life-goal) until it appeared to satisfy reality. So I came to choose the occupation of physician in order to overcome death and fear of death.”


“I remember that the path to the school led over a cemetery. I was frightened every time and was exceedingly put out at beholding the other children pass the cemetery without paying the lest attention to it, while every step I took was accompanied by a feeling of fear and horror. Apart from the extreme discomfort occasioned by this fear I was also annoyed at the idea of being less courageous that the others. One day I made up my mind to put an end to this fear of death. Again, I decided upon a treatment of hardening. I stayed at some distance behind the others, placed my schoolbag on the ground near the wall of the cemetery and ran across it a dozen times, until I felt I had mastered the fear.”


At the age of 35 in a conversation with a childhood school chum, Adler learned that there had never been a cemetery on the way to their school.


* Married a liberal Russian émigré

* Studied medicine and became a general practitioner

* Served as a physician in the Austrian army during WW I

* Was impressed by Freud\'s book on dreams


* Work with Freud

* Break from Freud and acrimonious relationship

* Adler\'s success (publications, psychoanalytic society, journal, formation of child guidance clinics)

* Move to USA in 1935


Adler\'s Individual psychology

* Uniqueness of each person

* Importance of an individual\'s goals, growth, and free will

* Innate tendency towards social interest

* Holistic approach to personality


Striving from inferiority to superiority: tendency towards betterment

Inferiority - natural human condition


Changing concept of inferiority

Organ inferiority (inherited weaknesses that intensify the young child\'s helplessness): elicits healthy compensation or unhealthy giving up.

Aggressive drive: fighting and/or dominance seeking


Masculine protest: assertion of masculine qualities by males and females because these are linked with competence, superiority, and control; the emphasis on manliness was considered the "arch evil of our culture".

Superiority striving: striving towards self-improvement and personal best;

Perfection striving: growth process within the individual


Inferiority complex

Exaggerated sense of inferiority and inability to cope


Superiority complex

Inferiority feelings are repressed and exaggerated feeling of superiority and arrogance develops (ethnocentrism is an

example on the national scale)


Fictional finalism

A person\'s image of ultimate fulfillment (e.g., money, admiration, health, etc.; in neurotics this goal is inflexible)


Style of life

Consistent way of striving, established by age of 4 or 5 (begins as a compensation or overcompensation for inferiority)

* First memories represent a person\'s life story (key way of identifying style of life even if memory is inaccurate)

* Dreams (indication of style of life)


Mistaken styles of life

Ruling type - seek to dominate: may be anti-social or high achievers

Getting type - dependent on others; may become depressed

Avoiding type - isolated and possibly cold


Healthy lifestyle

Developed social interest and acts in ways beneficial to others


The development of personality

Parental behavior - Adler assumed critical role of mother because of time spent with the children


Pampered child - come to expect that others will cater to their needs

Neglected child - come to believe that the world will not support them; may adopt the fictional goal of being cared for and expect constant recognition


Family constellation: birth order

First born - dethroned: long for the past

Second born - keeping up with first born as if in a race: might be envious and might become a rebel

Youngest - might be pampered: lacks incentive to become independent

Only - likely pampered


Psychological health

* Social interest vs. individualism

* Three life tasks

- Work

- Love

- Social interactions