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Inferiority Theory

Inferiority Theory

Adler’s initial  ideas  on  psychopathology  were  outlined in A Study of Organ Inferiority. From his medical work, he noted that deficiencies in  the  development  or  functioning  of  a bodily organ frequently initiated a compensatory process. Thus, a kidney enlarges when the other is removed, the  heart  responds  to  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, who  developed  from  a child stutterer into one of the most brilliant orators of ancient Greece,  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.  Inferiority, according to Adler, may serve as a springboard  towards  the  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,  Adler  referred  to  the  inferiority  complex,  a phenomenon which may also be influenced by factors within the family constellation.

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