istAlfred Adler: A Humanist and a Psychodynamic Theorist
The antecedent influences for Adler’s theory, as with much of modern day psychology, can be found with Freud. Whether it is in direct opposition or in agreement there can be no question of Freud’s influence on Adlers individual psychological theory. In fact, it has been suggested by some that Adler learned the fundamentals of psychotherapy from Freud (Huber, R., Edwards, C., and Heining-Boynton, D., 1999).
Adler’s earliest papers were written regarding organic inferiority, which Freud was in agreement with. Adler later began to become concerned with agression instinct and children’s inferiority, which Freud was not in agreement with (Boeree, 1998). This disagreement was mainly due to the suggestion that Freud’s sexual notions be taken more metaphorically than literally. Eventually what Adler began describing as an aggression drive or instinct became the basis for his entire theory of striving for superiority, a single drive or motivating force behind all of our behavior or experience. This could also be used in reference to unhealthy or neurotic striving.
This development reflects Adler’s arrival at a significantly different, more holistic view of personality than Freud’s. Where Freud tended to divide the personality into separate pieces – the id the ego and the superego, Adler began viewing humans in the context of their environments as unified wholes (Boeree, 1998). This approach would later be labeled as individual psychology.
Freud’s influence can also be witnessed in Adler’s views on childhood, which both viewed as fixed by an early age. In fact, in session with Adler one of the first things one might be asked would be one’s earliest childhood memory. Birth order, pampering, inferiority and avoidance might all be indications of an early prototype for present lifestyle (Boeree, 1998). There are also considerable differences in Adler’s approach to therapy, in particular, his strong preference that the therapist not appear too authoritarian. He believed that by developing a genuine human relationship with the client, the therapist provides the basic form of social interest, which the patient could then transfer to others.
The development of Adler’s theory was of great interest to humanist psychologists like Abraham Maslow, who met and or studied with him (Huber et al, 1999). Maslow, similarly to Adler, felt that the negative version of his own theory of needs, in particular the need for self-esteem, was low self esteem and inferiority complexes. Like Adler he proposed that these were the causes of most if not all of our
psychological problems (Boeree,1998). In addition, Maslow and other humanist’s built on the theory of humans as both socially and personally motivated. This in turn led to a
psychology with more focus on the individual (humanist) as these influences might differ from person to person
Boeree, Dr. C.G., (1998) Alfred Adler: 1870-1937. Available: http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/perscontents.html
Boeree, Dr. C.G., (1998) Abraham Maslow- 1908-1970. Available: http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/perscontents.html
Edwards, C., Heining-Boynton, D. ; Huber, R. (Eds.). (1999). Cornerstones of psychology: Readings in the history of psychology. Harcourt-Brace