Alfred Adler and Karen Horney

I agree with Alfred Adler when he states that a sense of inferiority drives people to succeed. I can relate to this theory because I am very affected by others’ actions around me. If somebody that I idolize is prospering in a certain area, I may feel inferior and strive to meet his or her level. For example, when running with a partner who is faster than me, I always push myself and increase my pace significantly. Many people are driven by comparison—they continually measure their own abilities against others’, experiencing a decrease in self-esteem when they perceive themselves as inferior. This idea rings true for me and is present in my life. To bring Adler’s theory into a modern context, I notice my friends comparing their physique to supermodels’. Essentially, they are comparing themselves to the incomparable; most photos in magazines have been doctored and these models are astonishingly thin. Consequently, they internalize their perceived flaws and feel inherently inferior, developing an Inferiority Complex. Adler’s Inferiority Complex is ever present in modern day. This complex can be evoked in someone who lives by the media’s implicit expectations of humans, but also occurs for other reasons. Sometimes, I think I suffer from an Inferiority Complex.

Thinking about my upbringing from an Adlerian perspective, my complex may be present because of my position in my family system. I am the first child in my family and I have one sister. This could have been a factor in the development of the complex because when my sister was born, she commanded a lot of attention. My parents began to accommodate her needs and therefore, I assumed that I didn’t deserve the plethora of attention that I was receiving before her birth. Plausibly because of this shift, I began to feel deficient in many areas of my life. I relate to Adler’s theory of Teleology. Though humans may be affected and shaped by their upbringing, there is always room for change and growth. I believe that people are not condemned to be governed by mechanistic impulses that develop from situations in childhood. Though I possess an Inferiority Complex, by being aware of this and striving for change, I am able to change my thoughts and behavior.

With conscious effort and a holistic approach, these attitudes can be changed and overcome. Adler was the first person to combine holism and psychotherapy. As a student in Holistic Counseling Psychology, I find this to be a very pertinent merging. To simply work with the mind is not enough—it is most effective in therapy to take into consideration a client’s mind, body, spirit and lifestyle. As somewhat of a feminist, I resonate deeply with the theories of Karen Horney. My biggest qualm with early psychological theory is the notion that women are inferior to men. So, to learn about a female psychologist who refutes this idea is refreshing. Her quote regarding her theory of Womb Envy, “Is not the tremendous strength in men of the impulse to creative work, in every field, precisely due to their feeling of playing a relatively small part in the creation of living beings, which constantly impels them to an over compensation in achievement?” helps me to think critically about the origin of sexism. It is an interesting and critical point that relates back to Adler’s theory of inferiority.

She may be suggesting that men feel subconsciously inferior to women because they are not involved in the creation of human beings. She proposes that they may be compensating for their inability to procreate by acting exceedingly masculine and oppressive towards women. I cannot choose just one of these theories to sum up my personality. If I had to choose, I would pick Adler’s Inferiority Theory in conjunction with Horney’s theory of self-analysis. As I stated before, I am constantly striving to become the best version of myself, which is oftentimes in relation to feelings of inferiority. This self-growth would be less meaningful if it didn’t include the self-analysis and introspection piece that Horney brings in. So, together, these theories best describe the evolution of my personality.

What do you think?

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