I. Alfred Adler A. The Life of Adler

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I.Alfred Adler

A.The Life of Adler

1.Adler called his approach to human nature, Individual Psychology, it focused on the uniqueness of each person and denied the universality of biological motives and goals. Adler had an early childhood where he suffered from illness, near death from pneumonia and isolation from other children because of his illnesses. Alfred felt inferior, because of his frailty; to his healthy brother and to other neighborhood children. However, Adler worked hard to overcome these problems and achieved a sense of self-esteem and social acceptance from others. Therefore, Adler felt childhood relationships with other children and siblings were much more important in personality development than did Freud.

2.Adler received a medical degree in Vienna and chose to specialize in neurology and psychiatry. Adler associated with Freud for nine years, but eventually became a critic of Freud and his psychoanalytic theory. Adler went on to found the Society for Individual Psychology in 1912. Adler was active in organizing government-sponsored child counseling clinics and introduced group training and guidance procedures. In 1929, Adler moved to the U.S. where he wrote books and lectured, while becoming America’s first popular psychologist.

B.Inferiority Feelings: The Source of Human Striving

1.Adler believed that inferiority feelings were common for human to feel and they were the source of all human striving. Compensation is the drive we need to overcome this sense of inferiority and to strive for increasingly higher levels of development. This process begins in infancy, when the infant is aware of his or her parents’ greater power and strength and the hopelessness of overcoming this power. This becomes an environment of helplessness and dependency on adults.

2.For a child, an inability to overcome inferiority feelings intensifies them, leading to the development of an inferiority complex. Adler perceived that many adults who came to him for treatment, had this complex. Adler used his theory to explain how neglected, unwanted, and rejected children can develop an inferiority complex.

3.The superiority complex involves an exaggerated opinion of one’s abilities and accomplishments. A person may feel such a need and work to become extremely successful. Or, the person may feel superior and self-satisfied and have no need to demonstrate his or her accomplishments.

C.Striving for Superiority, or Perfection

1.Adler described a drive for perfection as a striving for superiority. We strive for superiority in an effort to perfect ourselves, to make ourselves complete or whole.

2.Adler believed we live our lives around ideals such as the belief such as that people are basically good. These beliefs influence the ways we perceive and interact with people. Adler formalized this concept as fictional finalism, the notion that fictional ideas guide our behavior as we strive toward a complete or whole state of being.

D.The Style of Life

1. According to Adler, we develop a unique or distinct character, or style of life. In an attempt at compensation, children acquire a set of behaviors. These behaviors become part of the style of life, a pattern of behaviors designed to compensate for an inferiority. This style of life becomes the guiding framework for all later behaviors.

2.The concept of the creative power of self, is what Adler believed creates the style of life. We are not passively shaped by childhood experiences. Adler argued for the existence of free will. Adler proposed four basic styles of life for dealing with problems involving our behavior, problems of occupation, and problems of love: (a) the dominant type who displays a dominant ruling attitude with little social awareness; (b) the getting type which is the most common, where a person expects to receive satisfaction from other people and so becomes dependent on them; (C) the avoiding type is a person who avoids any possibility of failure; and (D) the socially useful type who cooperates with others and acts in accordance with their needs.

E.Social Interest

1.Social Interest, to Adler; is defined as the individual’s innate potential to cooperate with other people to achieve personal and societal goals. We depend on our early social experiences to realize our innate potential. The mother’s role becomes vital in developing the child’s social interest or can thwart the development of this potential. The mother must teach the child cooperation, companionship, and courage. Adler believed the evils we have in this world stem from a lack of community feeling in people.

F.Birth Order

1.Adler viewed a person’s birth order is a major influence in childhood. Even though siblings have the same parents and live in the same house, they do not have identical social environments.

2.The first-born child gets the full and undivided attention of the parents. As a result, first-borns have a secure, happy existence, until the second-born appears. First-borns may become stubborn, ill-behaved, and destructive as they try to regain their former position in the family. They may blame any discipline on the parents’ love for the other child, who the first-born perceives is the cause of the problem. The advantages of being the oldest child include playing the role of teacher, tutor, leader, and disciplinarian, when helping with the younger children.

3.With the second-born child, the parents are less concerned and anxious about their own behavior and may be more relaxed in their approach with the second child. Competition with the first-born may motivate the second-born. They become more optimistic about the future and may even excel in sports or scholarship. However, if the second-born feels they can not surpass the first-born, they may become an underachiever, performing below their ability.

4.The youngest child is driven to surpass all the older children and learn at a fast rate, even into adulthood. However, the youngest can be excessively pampered and come to believe they need not learn anything, therefore, they may become helpless and dependent as adults.

5.The only child remains the focus and the center of attention. The only child spends more of their time with adults and may mature faster than others. Only children experience difficulties when they find they are not the center of attention. They may not have learned to compete nor if their abilities do not bring them sufficient recognition or attention, they are likely to feel keenly disappointed.

G.Questions About Human Nature

1.Adler saw each person as striving to achieve perfection. Adler was devoted socialist and was involved in school guidance clinics and prison reform, expressing his beliefs in the creative power of the individual.

H.Assessment in Adler’s Theory

1.Adler assessed the personalities of his patients by observing everything about them, such as the way they walked or sat, the manner of shaking hands, even the choice of chair they sat in. A person’s body language indicates something of our style of life, according to Adler.

2.Our early recollections indicate the style of life that characterize us as adults. Each memory was to be interpreted within the context of the patient’s style of life, whether these early recollections were or fantasy, did not matter to Adler.

3.Although Adler agreed with Freud about the value of dreams in studying personality, Adler disagreed on the way the dreams should be interpreted. To Adler, dreams involve our feelings about a current problem and what we intend to do about the problem. The dream is unique to the individual but some dreams have common interpretations, such as flying is an attitude of striving upward, while falling indicates a person’s emotional view involves a demotion or loss, such as a fear of losing self-esteem or prestige.

4.Adler supported the use of tests of memory and intelligence, but kid not agree with the use of psychological tests to assess personality. Although psychologists have developed tests to measure Adler’s concept of social interest. The Social Interest Scale (SIS) consists of pairs of adjectives, which the participant chooses the best word from the pair of words to describe their degree of social interest.

5.Adler’s primary research method was the case study. Very few records of his cases have survived. As with Freud and Jung, Adler can be criticized, because his observations cannot be repeated or duplicated, nor were they conducted in a controlled and systematic fashion. Adler did not attempt to verify the accuracy of his patient’s reports or explain the procedures he used to analyze his data. Although most of Adler’s propositions have resisted attempts at scientific validation, several topics have been the subject of research. These include dreams, early recollections, neglect in childhood, social interest, and order of birth.

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