Alfred Adler differed with Fred Jung’s intra-psychic theory and adopted the inter-psychic theory to explain human behavior. In his conception of personality, he chose to use the term “individual psychology” to refer to his studies on the uniqueness of individual persons.
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In collaboration with Harry Stack Sullivan, their studies maintained that a particular individual was indivisible and studies on individuals must be done as a whole and not in isolation. He identified social interests as a person’s greatest motivation and concluded that a person’s primary problems are often social in nature.
Hence, the leading concept in his individual psychology theory is the effects of society and human culture in defining a person’s behavior. He identifies natural needs similar to those of animals, like the need to reproduce and impulses that maintain life, as societal needs that motivate individual behavior.
In his theory, social interest is identified as the need for individuals to adapt to their social environment as it is expressed subjectively in an individual’s consciousness, hence, the need to be part of society by having something in common with the rest of the society.
Sometimes, individuals reject their natural instincts so that they can fit into the set standards of the society or align themselves towards societal dictates. In his literature, he explained that the actions of all living things are motivated by goals because individuals cannot feel, act or think if they do not perceive the possibility of the fulfillment of a specific goal. Therefore, goals drive human beings to act in a specific manner.
Adler defined the term ‘Goal of Superiority’ as the ultimate fictional finalism that motivates all individuals, and he says that it is known to give rationality and unity to the individual’s personality. Adler further explains that psyche has as its most important intention, the purpose of superiority.
This involves the desire to be efficient and proficient in anything that a person strives to do. Adler frequently expressed superiority using the term ‘perfection’ which originally meant ‘to be whole’ or ‘to be completed’ in Latin. According to Adler, life motivated by the need for superiority in one’s society, where an individual’s desires to move from below others to above others in order to gain a sense of superiority over others.
Adler explained that feelings of inferiority are not out of the ordinary, but are the basis on which individuals improve their lives and are also the motivation for all types of human accomplishments. He identified the source of these feelings of inferiority as the experiences that individuals have in their interaction with the environment as infants.
When practicing general medicine, Adler came across many patients who complained of specific body organs’ inferiority and he later expanded the concept of organ inferiority to incorporate actual or imagined inferiority feelings. Adler realized that an individual’s inferiority was mainly due to his or her cultural assignments and not his or her biological nature as he had earlier identified in his earlier writings, where he had referred to the compensation of an individual’s inferiorities as being as a result of his or her masculine protest.
He specifically evidenced this in his research on the inferiority of women. He thus prove that people feels inferior due to the cultural interpretation they make of a specific organ as their culture may lay an overvalued importance of such an organ.
Constellation of the good/bad mother archetype in the treatment of early disturbances
Giera-Krapp’s, (1989), article puts forward a hypothesis that the transformation of the negative mother complex is usually affected in the treatment of conditions that are presumed to be as a result of pre-verbal disturbances. This is when the patient is accompanied into the sphere of death and also working through the collection of the good or bad mother as well as the counter transference or transference where he or she projects the same to the psychiatrist.
In relation to this journal article, Adler had expressed the fact that an individual’s inferiority was mainly due to his or her cultural assignments and in this case, is the good or bad experience he or she had with his or her mother during the process of upbringing.
According to Alder, these patients were still projecting the experiences they passed through at their mother’s hands to the society. The societal needs of these particular individuals are dictated by the experiences he or she had as an infant and the perception of society or in this case the individual’s immediate peers in his or her adolescent circles.
The individuals may be seen as rebellious to their parents and to the society in general though this is a projection of their need to change their circumstances to what they think is more appropriate for them and which will make them better suited to fit into the society.
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The author who is a psychiatrist gives a detailed report on 22 patients who were diagnosed with pre-verbal disturbances. Among these, five were male and the other seventeen were females. Ten of these patients were seen as out-patients while the other twelve were seen as in-patients.
They were diagnosed as being paranoid psychoses cases that had hallucinatory phenomenon for seven patients, narcissistic cases for seven other patients, borderline syndrome cases for another 6 patients, and lastly, acute psychoses for the remaining two patients. The paper is a report compiled over a period of eight years and each of the patients was treated for a period ranging from six months to three years. Each patient had sessions ranging from once a week to four times a week (Giera-Krapp, 1989).
The body and archetypal rebirth in adolescence
This journal article is a summary of a series of fascinating dreams of a specific boy who has just entered puberty and who has been deeply entangled by the Oedipus, Electra complex. The author, Denise Lyard, explains the specific importance of an individual’s body in her analysis of adolescence.
The dreams mentioned in this journal article had previously been presented as a long series in 1987 to the Children’s Section of Analytical Psychology and the ones selected for this article are meant for theoretical considerations. The author explains that puberty and specifically adolescence is comparable to the first year of a person’s life in the number of natural changes that take place in the individual’s body (Lyard, 1989).
Adler explained that inferiority feelings are not out of the ordinary, but are the basis on which individuals improve their lives and in relation to this journal article, these adolescents express the need to improve his status in society from that of a child to that of an adult. Adler also identified these feelings of inferiority as the motivation for all types of human accomplishment. He identified the source of these feelings of inferiority as the experiences that individuals have in their interaction with the environment as infants.
Lyard explains that at birth, an individual is in an amoral state of mind. The second time is when the individual gets to adolescence or puberty, and this is through a series of archetypal processes that are set in motion by the biological effects on sexuality and maturity thereof. As she explains, this gives an individual the opportunity to separate himself or herself from his or her mother’s body at least on a symbolic level.
Adolescent states of mind found in patients of different ages seen in analysis.
In this article, Astor, (1989), illustrates his thesis that, ‘adolescence is as much a state of mind as a description of a particular age group’. He does this by presenting analytical material gathered from four patients with ages ranging from fifteen years to forty years. Each of the clinical examples given is followed by an explanation where each of the main characteristics of adolescence are identified and emphasized.
In writing this article, Astor follows the analytical traditional way of thinking in reference to the term adolescence as a state of mind, as a reference point to not only a specific social structure like the adolescent world, but also to a social structure in the individual’s mind, and in that sense he explains that the term is both meta-psychological and technical (Astor, 1988). This is in line with Adler’s principle that an individual has to be studied as a whole since an individual is indivisible.
Adler explained that contrary to popular opinion, social interest doesn’t emerge automatically or find constructive expression, but rather, it must have to be natured and cultivated. According to Astor, the social forces of relation are so strong that at times, human beings suppress their instincts in order to conform to societal needs.
This is especially evidenced in the case of adolescents where individual actions are as a result of the in-group that is their peers and their immediate society. His idea in the journal article is the main characterization that leads us into identifying the adolescent states of mind, is mainly the prevailing sense of fluidity which often accompanies the young individual’s experimentation with his or her identity, which he says is mostly managed within the adolescents immediate social group.
He identifies the differing states of mind in a given individual and focuses on the projection and splitting processes, which prevents their contact with one another. He first identifies a case where in a session with a teenage boy, the boy expresses emotions of confusion, unreality and rage because he was excluded from his parents’ marriage and was raised in an environment where hypocrisy is not distinguishable from the truth, and he describes the session as a bitter attack on the analyst.
According to Alder, individuals often come up with their own interpretations of the events that take place in the world. Since the person is not able to completely conjure out these world events he or she often structures or constructs his or her own idea of reality. Adler describes this as fictional finalism and he says that it is neither good nor bad since its goals may vary in usefulness to a person’s life.
Astor, J. (1988). Adolescent states of mind found in patients of different ages seen in analysis. Journal of Child Psychotherapy. 14 (A). Pp. 67-80.
Giera-Krapp, M. (1989). Constellation of the good/bad mother archetype in the treatment of early disturbances. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 34. Pp291-292
Lyard, D. (1989). The body and archetypal rebirth in adolescence. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 34: Pp. 292-293.