Another common safeguarding tendency is aggression. Adler (1956) held that some people use aggression to safeguard their exaggerated superiority complex, that is, to protect their fragile self-esteem. Safeguarding through aggression may take the form of depreciation, accusation, or self-accusation.
Depreciation is the tendency to undervalue other people's achievements and to overvalue ones own. This safeguarding tendency is evident in such aggressive behaviors as criticism and gossip. "The only reason Kenneth got the job I applied for is because he is an African American." "If you look closely, you'll notice that Jill works hardest at avoiding work." The intention behind each act of depreciation is to belittle another so that the person, by comparison, will be placed in a favorable light.
Accusation, the second form of an aggressive safeguarding device, is the tendency to blame others for one's failures and to seek revenge, thereby safeguarding one's own tenuous self-esteem. "I wanted to be an artist, but my parents forced me to go to medical school. Now I have a job that makes me miserable." Adler (1956) believed that there is an element of aggressive accusation in all unhealthy lifestyles. Unhealthy people invariably act to cause the people around them to suffer more than they do.
The third form of neurotic aggression, self-accusation, is marked by self-torture and guilt. Some people use self-torture, including masochism, depression, and suicide as means of hurting people who are close to them. Guilt is often aggressive, self-accusatory behavior. "I feel distressed because I wasn't nicer to my grandmother while she was still living., Now, it's too late."
Self-accusation is the converse of depreciation, although both are aimed toward gaining personal superiority. With depreciation, people who feel inferior devalue others to make themselves look good. With self-accusation, people devalue themselves in order to inflict suffering on others while protecting their own magnified feelings of self-esteem (Adler, 1956).
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