The Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler, another of Freudís early followers, also disputed the importance of sexual motives. Adler described a coping strategy that he called compensation, which he felt was an important influence on behaviour. In his view people compensated for a behavioral deficiency by exaggerating some other behaviour: a process analogous to organic processes called hypertrophy, in which, for example, if one eye is injured, the other eye may compensate by becoming more acute. In Adlerís view, a person with a feeling of inferiority related to a physical or mental inadequacy would also develop compensating behaviours or symptoms. Shortness of stature, for example, could lead to the development of domineering, controlling behaviours. Adler assigned a prominent place to family dynamics in personality development. Childrenís position in their familyótheir birth orderówas seen as determining significant character traits.

Adler was Freudís earliest disciple but he soon broke away from his master and formulated his own theory of personality. In his theory Adler has given much importance to life-span the goal, end in view or purpose. Adler in this context observes, ďThe final goal alone can explain manís behaviour. Experiences, traumata, sexual development, mechanisms cannot yield an explanation but perspective in which these are regarded, the individual way of seeing them, which subordinates ail life to the final goal.Ē

Adlerís psychology is known as Individual psychology as he emphasises individual differences.

According to Adler, self-assertion rather than sex impulse is the major drive. Alfredís theory minimised the role of sex on which Freud so much concentrated. Adler thinks that an individualís motivation has social origins and are not merely the psychological interests. Every individual strives to develop a unique style of life in which sexual drive plays a minor role.

Adler considers consciousness as the centre of personality. An individual is self-conscious individual. He knows about his inferiorities and is conscious of the goals for which he strives.

Adler thinks that inadequacy of childhood is primarily responsible for the development of feeling of inferiority in the beginning. This feeling of inferiority arises from a sense of incompleteness or imperfection in life. It helps to strive for a higher level of development. We have the example of Demosthenes who sturrered as a child but became one of the greatest orators of the world. Similarly President Roosevelt of America was a weeking in his youth but by systematic exercise later on became a physically strong man.

Adler thought that will to power was necessary for superiority. By superiority, he meant superiority over self.

A personís behaviour to overcome his feeling of inferiority to achieve feeling of superiority is revealed through his style of life. There are different ways in which a person can strive to be superior. The style of life is the principle by which the personality of an individual functions. The style of life is shaped by two factors-inner self and the forces within the environment.

Experiences of early life have great influence on the style of life of an individual.

Adler believes that each individual creates a self-structure out of his heredity endowment and the impressions he receives from his environment.

Adler states that while style of life is mechanical, the creative self is inventive and makes something that never existed before. The creative self gives meaning to life. It is influenced by nurture.

Adler stresses the impact of social interaction. Working for the welfare of others compensates oneís weakness and inferiority complex. It helps him to express his superior feelings.

Adlerian theory and practice have proven especially productive as applied to the growth and development of children. Adlerians believe that "a misbehaving child is a discouraged child" and that helping children to feel valued, significant, and competent is often the most effective strategy in coping with difficult child behaviors.

Adlerian Psychology focuses on people's efforts to compensate for their self-perceived inferiority to others. These feelings of inferiority may derive from one's position in the family constellation, particularly if early experiences of humiliation occurred; a specific physical condition or defect existed; or a general lack of social feeling for others was present.

Adlerians are concerned with understanding the unique and private beliefs and strategies (one's life style) that each individual creates in childhood. This cognitive schema and life style serve as the individual's reference for attitudes, behaviors, and one's private view of self, others, and the world. It is when we have looked at our early life experiences, examined the patterns of behavior that repeat themselves in our lives, and the methods by which we go about trying to gain significance and belonging that healing, growth, and change occur.

As articulated by noted Adlerian psychotherapist Henry Stein, the theory and application of Adlerian Psychology have as their lynchpins seven critical ideas:

Unity of the Individual

Thinking, feeling, emotion, and behavior can only be understood as subordinated to the individual's style of life, or consistent pattern of dealing with life. The individual is not internally divided or the battleground of conflicting forces. Each aspect of the personality points in the same direction.

Goal Orientation

There is one central personality dynamic derived from the growth and forward movement of life itself. It is a future-oriented striving toward a goal of significance, superiority, or success. In mental health, it is a realistic goal of socially useful significance or superiority over general difficulties. In mental disorders, it is an unrealistic goal of exaggerated significance or superiority over others. The early childhood feeling of inferiority, for which one aims to compensate, leads to the creation of a fictional final goal which subjectively seems to promise future security and success. The depth of the inferiority feeling usually determines the height of the goal which then becomes the "final cause" of behavior patterns.

Self-Determination and Uniqueness

A person's fictional goal may be influenced by hereditary and cultural factors, but it ultimately springs from the creative power of the individual, and is consequently unique. Usually, individuals are not fully aware of their goal. Through the analysis of birth order, repeated coping patterns, and earliest memories, the psychotherapist infers the goal as a working hypothesis.

Social Context

As an indivisible whole, a system, the human being is also a part of larger wholes or systems -- the family, the community, all of humanity, our planet, and the cosmos. In these contexts, we meet the three important life tasks: occupation, love and sex, and our relationship with other people -- all social challenges. Our way of responding to our first social system, the family constellation, may become the prototype of our world view and attitude toward life.

The Feeling of Community

Each human being has the capacity for learning to live in harmony with society. This is an innate potential for social connectedness which has to be consciously developed. Social interest and feeling imply "social improvement," quite different from conformity, leaving room for social innovation even through cultural resistance or rebellion. The feeling of genuine security is rooted in a deep sense of belonging and embeddedness within the stream of social evolution.

Mental Health

A feeling of human connectedness and a willingness to develop oneself fully and contribute to the welfare of others are the main criteria of mental health. When these qualities are underdeveloped, feelings of inferiority may haunt an individual, or an attitude of superiority may antagonize others. Consequently, the unconscious fictional goal will be self-centered and emotionally or materially exploitive of other people. When the feeling of connectedness and the willingness to contribute are stronger, a feeling of equality emerges, and the individual's goal will be self-transcending and beneficial to others.


Adlerian individual psychotherapy, brief therapy, couple therapy, and family therapy follow parallel paths. Clients are encouraged to overcome their feelings of insecurity, develop deeper feelings of connectedness, and to redirect their striving for significance into more socially beneficial directions. Through a respectful Socratic dialogue, they are challenged to correct mistaken assumptions, attitudes, behaviors, and feelings about themselves and the world. Constant encouragement stimulates clients to attempt what was believed impossible. The growth of confidence, pride, and gratification leads to a greater desire and ability to cooperate. The objective of therapy is to replace exaggerated self-protection, self-enhancement, and self-indulgence with courageous social contribution.

Evaluation of Adlerís Theory:

Adler laid more emphasis on individual differences and differences in environment. This is a useful point for the teachers.

The concept of inferiority complex is a useful concept for the teachers who can make its best use in the development of the personality of the students.

Adler gives due emphasis to creativity and consciousness.

Adler attaches importance to social factors in the development of personality.

Adler is criticised for giving undue emphasis to organic factors. Personality distortion is not necessarily an inevitable accompaniment of physical handicaps.

Educational Implications of the Adlerís Theory of Personality:

According to the Adlerian theory, the primary objective of education is to lead the child to discover and follow his style of life to find out and reach his goal. The life style is formed during the first four or five years. Therefore, the upbringing and training at this stage is of utmost importance. The motherís influence during this period is relatively more important.

Secondly, Adler stresses that all those having to do something with the education of the child must understand the significance of self-education Ė a pre-requisite for correct education of others. In the first place, the educator must renounce his striving for power so that the child is not subject to the pressures of his own inferiority and the superiority of the teacher. A teacher, a parent, a doctor and a gardener cannot afford to be pessimistic.

The child is not a mere wax in the hands of the educators as many think but takes an active part in the development process. It is, therefore, very essential that the adult who is bringing up the child must observe carefully how the child comprehends this or that. In order to avoid failure the inferiority complex must be checked at its source.

How did Adler Disagree with Freud?

Sigmund Freud

Alfred Adler

Behavior is motivated by internal biological drives (sex and aggression)

Behavior is motivated by social influence and striving for superiority

People have not choice in shaping their personality

People are responsible for who they are

Present behavior is caused by the past (e.g. childhood)

Present behavior is shaped by the future (goals orientation)

Emphasis on unconscious process

People are aware of what they are doing and why

Freud split the personality into components (id, ego, superego)

Adler thought the individual should be studied as a whole (holism)

Relationship the same-sex parent is of primary importance

Wider family relationships including with siblings of primary importance