PSYCH 2B03 Lecture Notes - Individual Psychology, Psychosexual Development, Teleology
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Lecture #9 (03/09/2009)
This material will be covered in Chapter 4.
Interpersonal Theories Largely Adler and Sullivan
•Focus shifts from “intrapsychic” (within same person /within one person’s mind) to
“interpsychic” (across persons between people relationship) [But Adler calls his
theory Individual psychology, and this may be confusing)
•Early social life experiences shape our later patterns of behavior (key premise of many of
Alfred Adler (1870-1937)
Early life characterized by ill health.
Adler and Freud were tight at one point.
Then Adler proposes, a take on psychoanalysis that disappoints Freud, because his theory starts
to de-emphasizes some key axioms of psychoanalytic theory.
•For example, the unconscious is not given a very strong role in Adler’s theory and in his
later writings it’s more or less ruled out.
•Also, de-emphasizes infantile sexuality, and the idea that the sexual motive is the primary
•And has a dif take on Oedipus complex he says it’s not universal, only certain specific
types of babies go thru it.
So when we look at Adler’s theory, we see first and foremost, a shift from psychodynamic
theory, in that the ego is not simply seen as the engine of satisfying the needs of the unconscious.
The ego isn’t just a servant running around trying to satisfy the wants of the various parts of
psyche, but rather our thoughts are not coming from somewhere hidden but they are entirely
based on conscious knowledge/motives/plans. So we are aware of our motivations, we know
why we do things. And we know what we intend to achieve.
So Freud would say there are no accidents, it’s the person unconscious revealing itself. Adler
would probably also say there are no accidents, people are doing what they intend to do. But,
people can be deceptive to others and to ourselves as to what we are doing and why.
And for Adler, a number of anxieties occur when we are trying to hide these motivations to
ourselves to explain them away. So Adler has this view that people are completely aware of why
they do what they do, they may not like it and realize that other people may not like it and so
they may strategically deceptive, even to the self.
Adler states that : Unfortunately although we can deceive others for quite large periods of time,
deceiving the self is hard to do, cuz the unconscious is not guiding these things, not like we can
push back these thoughts into some hidden closet and put them out of mind. So we have a
conscious ego : and this is key to the theory by Adler.
•Conscious ego, aware of our motivations and the intended purpose of our actions
–However, we may be deceptive (even to self)
Adler also argues that humans have an innate “social interest” want to associate with and
cultivate relationships with other people.
In classical psychoanalytic theory, other people are just means to an end, they’re used to
satisfy to needs of the ID.
To Adler, the individualistic solution to life very quickly becomes evident that it’s not a very
good way to live life. Baby human VS baby dog left in wildnerness, baby human will die faster,
the more social an individual is, the more nurturance it needs from its parents.
We have a helplessness as individuals we cant do things by ourselves, human society does not
function as a collection of individuals in isolation who occasionally interact. To Adler: the
society is organismic and individuals are just one component of society, so we are helpless and
we are dependent on others to provide things for us.
•Humans have an innate “social interest”
–Stems from our helplessness as individuals
•Family is primary social group Adler believed that most of the core psychological
development occurs very early in life, (birth to school age). And becuz the people we
most interact with are our family members, then we should look at family dynamic as
driver or shaper of personality processes.
Adler is very well known for his theory of inferiority complex
Inferiority and Compensation
Adler said we should be very sensitive to patterns of symptoms that emerge from physical
weaknesses. So we may be able to identify problems that people have with organs of their body
by observing physical symptoms they have. So if your skin is turning yellow, we can have a
pretty good idea that something is wrong with your liver.
At first he thought that physical and psychological problems were coming from organ
malfunctions. It’s possible, the brain is an organ, and weaknesses, inadequacies and lesions with
the brain can lead to expression of psychological expressions which are maladaptive. But, Adler
shifts away from this focus merely on real or imagined problems with the body and makes it
more inclusive to include real or imagined problems with one’s psychological lifestyle
(psychology) So not just our body, but also our mind.
Our body’s get whacker as we get older, (harder to repair etc). and given that humans are aware
of their mortality knowledge that “ we are going to die one day”. There is a hyperconcern
with malfunctions of the body cuz it is a clue that we are on our ways out - And the more
that we have these physical ailments the more that we might pay attention to that. And these can
be real or perceived.
•We have feelings of inadequacy both in bodily (“organ”) and psychological terms
–These can be real or perceived inadequacies
For Adler the primary focus (this is sort of the replacement for libidinal energy), primary motive
is the superiority striving. Superiority can be misinterpreted in this case, (does not mean being
better than everyone else). What he means by striving for superiority is it is an attempt to make
the individual complete. Adler sometimes used perfection as a synonym for superiority.
Adler didn’t say everyone wants to be an Aryan superman What he was saying was: people
are attempting to improve upon what they already have; they are trying to fix what they see.
For Adler the key result from striving for superiority is how individuals choose to attempt to
satisfy this motive, and there’s a couple of ways that this can be done that can be maladaptive
and this is what leads to the inferiority and superiority complex. People that feel highly
inadequate and attempt to withdraw rather than attempt to improve, can be seen as suffering from
an inferiority complex. Other individuals, when they are striving for perfection, they really over
do it, and that becomes central to everything they do, trying to establish their relative superiority
to others. (acquisition of wealth or power). People that have very high life goals are over-
compensating for their perception of weakness. Both complexex are poor lifestyles according to
Adler. Adler coined the term “style of life” distinctive way people solve problems in life or
Freud’s theory focuses on the here and now; Adler’s theory focuses on pursuing goals in the
future. So we pursue goals (“finalism”) or some outcomes. Fictional finalism when people
This material will be covered in chapter 4. Focus shifts from intrapsychic (within same person /within one person"s mind) to. Interpsychic (across persons between people relationship) [but adler calls his theory individual psychology, and this may be confusing: early social life experiences shape our later patterns of behavior (key premise of many of these theories) Adler and freud were tight at one point. So when we look at adler"s theory, we see first and foremost, a shift from psychodynamic theory, in that the ego is not simply seen as the engine of satisfying the needs of the unconscious. The ego isn"t just a servant running around trying to satisfy the wants of the various parts of psyche, but rather our thoughts are not coming from somewhere hidden but they are entirely based on conscious knowledge/motives/plans. So we are aware of our motivations, we know why we do things. And we know what we intend to achieve.