Tribute to Alfred Adler: Part 1
by Paul G. Durbin, PhD
In 1870, Alfred Adler was born in a suburb of Vienna. In his youth, Adler suffered from rickets and could not walk until he was four. Soon after he was able to walk, he developed pneumonia. These early experiences with illnesses probably accounts for his theory of organ inferiority and finally of the inferiority feelings.
Though Adler was never a Freudian Psychotherapist, Freud and Adler formed a close friendship until a split developed between the two. In 1911, Adler felt that he could no longer be associated with Freud. He with nine of the thirty-five members of Freud's group withdrew and formed the Society of Individual Psychology. Adler considered each patient as a separate individual in whom memories differs greatly. He wrote, "Individuals do not form unconscious memories all around the same central motive; sexuality for instance. Every person has a different need, an inferiority for which he seeks compensation. Adler considered that Freud's focus on sex was overplayed. Adler felt that the sex instinct was important but not as important as the individuals sense of inferiority.
Adler developed a theory of personality based upon
(1) inferiority feelings and compensation,
(2) striving for superiority,
(3) style of life,
(4) social interest,
(5) family constellation,
(6) fictional finalist,
(7) the creative self,
(8) masculine protest,
(9) the interpretation of dreams, and
(10) theory of psychotherapy.
Adler said, "We do not flatter ourselves, we have not explored the last and ultimate facts, nor have voiced the last truth. All we have attained cannot be more than part of the present knowledge and culture. And we are looking forward to those who are coming after us." If we, as hypnotherapists, would take that statement to heart, we would be much better off as a professional.
Though Adler would use terms like physical, psychic, and soul; he felt there was a unity of body, mind, and spirit. The psychic attitude affects the physical and the physical affects the psychic. The soul has an affect upon and is affected by the physical and psychic.
According to Alder, each individual has a weak area in his/her body (organ inferiority) which tends to be the area where illness occurs - such as the stomach, head, heart, back, lungs, etc. Adler states that to some degree every emotion finds some expression in the body. The emotion may be seen in the face or trembling of a person's leg, changes can also take place in the organs of the body and the circulation of the blood. Organ inferiority may lead one to excel in a certain area of life. Adler described the precess of compensation for physical disabilities or limitations. The behavior may be satisfactory or unsatisfactory depending on the attitude the person takes toward his defects. Adler wrote, "One may easily detect in every instance from observation of the child and from abnormalities of the adult that the possession of definitely inferior organs is reflected upon the psyche; and in such a way as to lower self-esteem and to raise the child's psychological uncertainty. It is just out of this lowered self-esteem that there arises the struggle for self-assertion which assumes forms much more intense than one would expect."
An illustration from my history. A very prominent man was stricken with a stroke. He was the son of a famous man and had followed his father in their business. Though he was successful, he could not accept that fact. In comparison to his father, he felt like a failure. Following the stroke, he now had an excuse for his inability to reach the heights that his father had attained. He could now say, "If I had not suffered his damn stroke, I would have been as famous as my father."
Adler wrote, "to be a human being means to feel oneself inferior." The child comes into the world as a helpless little creature surrounded by powerful adults. A child is motivated by his feeling of inferiority to strive for greater things. When he has reached one level of development, he begins to feel inferior once more and the striving for something better begins again which is the driving force of mankind.
Every person has these feelings of inferiority whether or not he will or can admit it. Adler wrote, "Since the feeling of inferiority is regarded as a sign of weakness and as something shameful, there is naturally a strong tendency to conceal it. Indeed, the effort of concealment may be so great that the person himself ceases to be aware of his inferiority as such, being wholly preoccupied with the consequences of the feeling and with all the objective details that subserves its concealment. So efficiently may an individual train his whole mentality for the task that the entire current of his psychic life flowing ceaselessly from below to above, that is, from feelings of inferiority to that of superiority, occurs automatically and escapes his notice. It is not surprising, therefore, that we often receive a negative reply when we ask a person whether he has a feeling of inferiority. It is better not to press the point, but to observe his psychological movements, in which the attitude and individual goal can always be discerned."
These feelings of inferiority activates a person to strive upward so that normal feelings of inferiority impels the human being to solve his problems successfully, whereas the inferiority complex impedes or prevents him from doing so. It should be noted that inferiority feelings are different from inferiority complex.
The healthy individual will strive to overcome her inferiority through involvement with society. She is concerned about the welfare of others as well as herself. She develops a good feeling of self-worth and self-assurance. On other hand, some are more concerned with selfishness than with social interest. She may express this selfishness in the need to dominate, to refuse to cooperate, wanting to take and not to give. From these unhealthy responses, the person develops an inferiority complex or a superiority complex. A superiority complex is a cover up for an inferiority complex. They are different sides of the same coin. The person with a superiority complex has hidden doubts about her abilities.
ADLER DESCRIBES FOUR BASIC LIFE STYLES:
(1) Well-adjusted: the individual does not strive for personal superiority, but seeks to solve his problems in ways that are useful to others as well as himself.
(2) The second type wants to prove his personal superiority by ruling others.
(3) The third type want to get everything through others without any effort or struggle on his own.
(4) The fourth type avoids every decision.
Adler believed that an almost radical change in character and behavior will take place when the individual adopts new goals. The way to help a person with any negative responsive life style is to help that person move from reacting wrongly to life by changing his way of viewing life.
Adler's Fictional Finalist is an interesting concept for hypnotherapist. Adler was greatly influenced by Hans Voikinger's Psychology Of The "As If". People act as much from the "as if" as from reality. One of my understandings of the subconscious mind is that whatever the subconscious mind accepts as true, it acts "as if" it were true whether it is or not.
For more information visit www.durbinhypnosis.com.
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