Introduction to Adlerian Theory

Although Alfred Adler has had a profound effect on such later theorists as Harry Stack Sullivan, Karen Horney, Julian Rotter, Abraham H. Maslow, Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis, Rollo May, and others (Mosak & Maniacci, 1999), his name is less well known than that of either Freud or Carl Jung. At least three reasons account for this. First, Adler did not establish a tightly run organization to perpetuate his theories. Second he was not a particularly gifted writer, and most of his books were compiled by a series of editors using Adler's scattered lectures. Third many of his views were incorporated into the works of such later theorists as Maslow, Rogers, and Ellis and thus are no longer associated with Adler's name.

Although his writings revealed great insight into the depth and complexities of human personality, Adler evolved a basically simple and parsimonious theory. To Adler, people are born with weak, inferior bodies—a condition that leads to feelings of inferiority and a consequent dependence on other people. Therefore, a feeling of unity with others (social interest) is inherent in people and the ultimate standard for psychological health. More specifically, the main tenets of Adlerian theory can be stated hi outline form. The following is adapted from a list that represents the final statement of individual psychology (Adler, 1964).

1. The one dynamic force behind people's behavior is the striving for success or superiority.

70 Part II Psychodynamic Theories

2. People s subjective perceptions shape their behavior and personality.

3. Personality is unified and self-consistent.

4. The value of all human activity must be seen from the viewpoint of social interest.

5. The self-consistent personality structure develops mto a persons style of life.

6. Style of life is molded by people s creative power.

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