If Sigmund Freud contrasted his teaching of the rest of the psychology, then his worthy student Alfred Adler was the first to contrast Freud, creating his own teaching and becoming the first “heretic” of the psychoanalytic movement. For the whole century, however, he was in the shadow of his great teacher, and although Adler’s theory enters all the textbooks, by the end of the twentieth century the school of his followers could not be called especially influential.

But an amazing thing: the influence of Adler himself turned out to be much wider than his school. The great impression that Adler’s personality made on them, and the largest representatives of humanistic and existential psychology recalled his lectures on their scientific worldview: Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, Karl Rogers, not to mention the even closer to him Karen Horney and Erich Fromme.

Adler’s school was held by Viktor Frankl, and although he did not like it when he was called a student, it was he who compared Adler’s introduction to the psychology of the idea of the goal with the Copernician Revolution.

Adler’s views were always distinguished by realism and grounding

Unlike Freud, who worked mainly with a wealthy “idle estate”, Adler’s clientele was from the lower layers: he founded the first system of medical and pedagogical consultations for the poor


in Vienna.

In the 1930s, trying to get away from academism, he created a clear and optimistic work “The Science of Living”, in which the achievements of scientific psychology are combined with everyday wisdom and common sense and which is much more converted to ordinary people than to brothers-psychologists.

His dates

7 February 1870: Born in the suburbs of Vienna (Austria-Hungary).

1895: He graduated from Viennese University with a doctor’s diploma.

1897: marries an emigrant from Russia Raisa Epstein, who became the mother of their four children.

1907: The output of the first book “Research of Organic Infutivity”;invited by Freud to the psychoanalytic circle.

1910-1911: President of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

1911: breaks with Freud, bases his own school.

1926: Starting regular trips to the United States with lectures.

1934: finally emigrates in the USA.

May 28, 1937: died in Aberdine (Scotland) during a lecture tour.

Five keys to understanding:

1. A man is holistic and indivisible

The name of the teachings of Alfred Adler “Individual Psychology” comes from the Latin word individuum – “indivisible”. Unlike Sigmund Freud, who represented a man split into several conflicting instances, Adler argued that there are differences between consciousness and the unconscious, but there was no strict insurmountable border and, most importantly, there was no conflict. They work to achieve the same goals and help each other.

2. The desire for the goal

It is Adler that we owe to the introduction of a new principle into the psychology of a person that explains our behavior – the desire for the goal: “We must ask not“ why?», what for?»».

Through the concept of the goal, Adler describes even dreams and pathological symptoms

The first reflects the actual tasks of a person. The latter are not always able to bring a noticeable benefit immediately (from the point of view of goals that do not lie on the surface).

Developing these ideas, Adler built the first in psychology a detailed theory of the meaning of life, which he understood as an objective (although not always conscious) its orientation. And created an idea of life tasks.

3. Life as overcoming

Adler discovered that people with bodily defects strive to compensate for them due to the increased development of other parties (physical and intellectual), due to which they often achieve outstanding successes.

In the early version of his theory, he suggested that inferiority is the main driving force of a person: “Each of us feels inferiority, since everyone is in a situation that would like to improve”.

From this feeling, the desire to overcome, superiority, success is born

However, later he changed these two phenomena in places: the desire for success, he claimed – primary and universally, and only those who fail in him feel inferiority. The chronic experience of this state can develop into an inferiority complex (the authorship of this popular concept also belongs to Adler).

4. A person is his man

A person is driven by another motive – social interest, or a sense of community, understood as «the desire to cooperate with other people to achieve common goals». The desire to overcome and success with an undeveloped sense of community leads to the development of neurosis, crime, alcoholism and drug addiction. Adler was the first to introduce to psychoanalysis and deep psychology interpersonal dimension.

5. Family as a team

If Freud emphasized the role of relations with his parents in the development of the child, then Adler was the first to pay attention to the fact that the family also assumes the relationship between children.

It is these relationships that lead to the formation of certain psychological features depending on the order of the birth of children: there is something in common for all the first-born, the second sons (who all the time see the example of the older brother’s calls), for the only children, and so on.

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