Individual Psychology Summary; Alfred Adler

Individual Psychology Summary; Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler’s contribution to the field of psychology can be summarized through his development of the concept of social interest and the formation of the society for individual psychology. A student of Freud, Adler posits that all human behaviors and experiences are driven by a motivating force commonly referred to as striving for perfection. This driving force is a characterized by a common desire to realize one’s ideals while fulfilling their potentials. Although most famous, striving for perfection was preceded by such terms as aggression drive and assertiveness drive in reference to similar characteristics. In addition, Adler used the terms compensation and striving to overcome to mean the same thing in earlier versions of his work. According to his theory, the problems and inferiorities faced in life affect human personalities through responses. Regardless of the term in use, Adler’s contribution to the field of individual psychology cannot be underestimated.

In analyzing individual psychology, Adler explored the influence of masculine protest where boys are treated in high esteem that girls (Ansbacher & Ansbacher, 1956). The nature of humans desperately wanting to be seen as aggressive and strong results in masculine protest. In addition, people are bound to strive for superiority in a bid to not only be better but better than other people. Ultimately, the concept of striving for superiority inclines towards neurotic and unhealthy striving that may negatively impact on the people affected. His theory of individual psychology insisted on the need to view people as wholes and not parts. In the process, he deviated from the traditional view on people’s personality to the way they handle problems or their life style. Further, the concept of human motivation is explored to the effect that humans are attracted towards ideals, goals and purposes. Social interest is considered a combination of both inborn traits and learning and is ultimately being useful to others.

According to Adler’s theory of psychology, every human being is faced with some form of psychological inferiority. The response to these psychological inferiorities is done through compensation which is achieved through different means. While others become better at what they do, others will become superior in something else and others do not develop any self esteem at all. Normally, people will either develop inferiority or superiority complex depending on their response mechanisms. The absence of social interest may also lead to the development of neurosis in three forms.  There is the ruling type which is characterized by aggressiveness and dominance over others including sadists and bullies. The getting types are relatively passive and rely on others to take care of them through charm and persuasion. The avoiding type survives through the avoidance of life by becoming psychotic and retreating to their personal worlds.

Childhood is also pointed as an influence on the lifestyle of human beings through experiences witnessed. The first influence is through feelings of inferiority where children grow up with a focus on themselves. While some will develop strong inferiorities, others compensate through the development of superiority complex. The second influence is through pampering where children are taught that they can take from others without giving. These pampered children do not learn to do things for themselves nor how to deal with others without giving commands. Eventually, these people attract hatred from the society leading to the fact that they are inferior. Lastly, neglect is another source of influence where neglected children attain inferiority by being shown they are of little value. In addition, they also attain selfishness and have little trust for others. Eventually, therefore, these people attain a faulty lifestyle where they do not have a capacity for love.



Ansbacher, H. L., & Ansbacher, R. R. (1956). The individual psychology of Alfred Adler.


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