Adler’s initialÂ ideasÂ onÂ psychopathologyÂ wereÂ outlined in A Study of Organ Inferiority. From his medical work, he noted that deficiencies inÂ theÂ developmentÂ orÂ functioningÂ ofÂ a bodily organ frequently initiated a compensatory process. Thus, a kidney enlarges when the other is removed, theÂ heartÂ respondsÂ toÂ a diseased valve with hypertrophy of cardiac muscle, while individuals with poor eyesight tend to exhibit keen acuity in the other sense modalities.
Moving to the psychological domain, Adler cited instances such as Demosthenes, whoÂ developedÂ fromÂ a child stutterer into one of the most brilliant orators of ancient Greece,Â and the many writers and composers (e.g., Milton and Beethoven) whose best work occurred during periods of sensory impairment. He even concluded that a feeling of inadequacy is the basis of every voluntary act.Â Inferiority, according to Adler, may serve as a springboardÂ towardsÂ theÂ next level of development and is a basic driving force in the personality.
Sense of inadequacy is an inevitable aspect of early experience, arising from the infant’s smallness and helplessness. This may be exacerbated by mental and physical handicaps and infirmities, and engender a severe sense of discouragement on the child’s part. In this respect,Â AdlerÂ referredÂ toÂ theÂ inferiorityÂ complex,Â a phenomenon which may also be influenced by factors within the family constellation.