How to Make the Best of a Bad Situation: Tap into Your Feelings

Life happens. No matter how carefully we tread or how much we wish we could protect ourselves (and even if we put ourselves out there and live life to the fullest), we can’t anticipate every situation headed our way.

How to make the best of a bad situation



Sometimes bad things are going to happen, and we’ll be faced with the question of how to make the best of a bad situation.

We can either choose to view the uncertainty of life as nebulous and scary, or we can embrace the unknown as dynamic, spontaneous, and exciting. Life is an adventure, and even when things get tough, we can learn how to make the best of a bad situation and find the silver lining (or the lesson).

When Monster-Sized Problems Head Our Way

Big problems can be truly terrible. Our feelings of hurt, sorrow, anger, and fear are valid. We all experience life in different ways, and our feelings are part of the process.

We may be facing HUGE, monster-sized problems. These problems could be downright awful—illness, divorce, a job loss, betrayal, the death of a loved one. We may feel like our problems are barely insurmountable.

On the other hand, perhaps life’s moving along pretty smoothly, but we’ve run into a few bumps on the road. These problems and uncomfortable situations can crop up and start to build. One thing doesn’t go our way—we make a mistake at work, we have a falling out with a friend, we have an unexpected injury, we’ve gained a little extra weight. We may find ourselves suddenly feeling blah, frustrated, and annoyed.

With any situation—big or small—we have a choice. We can either take the opportunity to go deeper, engage, learn, and grow from the situation, or we can run away from our feelings and hope that they go away.

Guess what? Feelings don’t go away.

The good news is that it’s totally okay. Feelings aren’t bad or wrong. Feelings are important. They make us human. They’re the way our brains react and process experiences. There are no bad feelings—not even anger, fear, sadness, or hurt. Yes, those feelings may “feel” pretty unpleasant and even awful.

But our feelings and emotions are extremely powerful tools. We can think of our emotions as milestones on our paths to self-discovery. They teach us about who we are, and when we tap into them, we can learn more about ourselves, our motivations, and our deepest yearnings.

Whatever hand life has dealt us may be difficult. Sometimes it might be something that was in no way our fault. But we can recognize how we feel about it, allow ourselves to experience the emotions, and realize that we will walk away from the experience stronger, more aware, and more in-tune with ourselves. We can set our intention to get through the situation and then use our feelings to guide us on our journey.

When Discomfort Arises

In addition to being unfair, life can also be uncomfortable. We’ve all been in situations that felt cringe-worthy, awkward, and even mortifying. Maybe we’ve said something accidentally offensive. Perhaps we’ve flubbed up a speech, made a huge mistake on a work project, or unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings.

What do we do when these situations arise? Well, first, our face usually turns red. Second, we think to ourselves, “Ugh, I’m so stupid. I just want to crawl in a hole right now and hide!”

Or what about when we receive some bad news? We might feel numb, disoriented, or confused. We might avoid “going there” with our emotions, try to shut down or escape. We might wonder if our feelings are normal, try to tamp them down, or tell ourselves to keep a stiff upper lip.

But here’s the reality—we all feel emotions. When we feel uncomfortable, we can try to see what happens when we lean into the discomfort. The next time we face a situation that’s painful, scary, or uncomfortable, we can go all in. Identify what we’re feeling, label it, but keep allowing it in. Bring on the emotion!

If we feel like sobbing, yelling, or pounding our fists into the couch cushions, go for it! Let those emotions out (responsibly, of course) and allow ourselves to really feel our feelings.

It may sound very strange, especially to those of us who live our lives carefully curating and cultivating our personas. We all want others to see us in a certain way. We may want to be noticed by others, but we probably don’t want to stand out in a way that would cause judgment or negative thoughts towards us.

But the deal is that most of these judgments exist inside our own heads. Most people don’t notice what we’re doing because they’re too busy hiding their emotions themselves. We put a version of ourselves out there that we think we should project—what we believe those around us want. The reality is that most likely, others don’t notice or care.

We can think about the last time we saw a friend cry, express fear, or even tell us they were angry with their spouse. What goes through our heads? Most of us try to empathize with our friends. We may reassure them. We may tell them that it’s okay; everyone makes mistakes. We’re sorry for their loss. We understand how they feel.

Chances are we didn’t look at our crying friend and think, “What a loser! Why is this person crying over a sick cat?”

So if we treat our friends with such understanding and compassion, why don’t we treat ourselves the same way? We’d tell our friends that their feelings were normal, valid, and understandable. Then we tell ourselves, “Don’t cry, you idiot! You’re embarrassing yourself!”

When we hold back our emotions, avoiding painful or uncomfortable situations, we miss out. We miss the full spectrum of the human experience. We miss opportunities to learn about ourselves and our inner strength. We miss the chance to flex our sadness muscles, our anger muscles, or our fear muscles. We miss an essential part of self-exploration. Think of athletes who stop using their muscles. They lose tone and coordination. They become slower and weaker, dulled, and unable to keep up.

Instead, we can become emotional athletes. We can take each opportunity to feel and really go for the gold.

The great part of this is that when we’re happy, we’ll be really blissed out! We’ll feel elation and joy!

Explore Emotions and Discover

Since we were kids, most of us learned to hide some of our emotions. Women, if we were upset, what do we hear? “Don’t get all emotional about it,” or “Sheesh, you’re so sensitive!”

For guys, the approach is a little different, but the message is still the same, “toughen up! Boys don’t cry!”

Guess what? Your emotions are okay. They’re powerful. They enrich your experience. Feelings extract a stronger and more vibrant you. Feeling is what keeps us alive. From a neuroscientific perspective, our emotions keep us cognitively sharp and on our game.

We can actually learn a lot about processing emotions when we observe kids. When kids feel emotions, they really feel them. They may cry, yell, or giggle like crazy. They don’t try to push emotions down—they let it out.

Once the moment has passed, what do kids do? They go back to the business of playing. They move forward. They’ve really felt their emotions, and they’ve expressed them. They aren’t holding them in or letting themselves get bogged down with their feelings. They get it out!

Neuroscientist Candace Pert’s research shows that our unexpressed emotions are lodged throughout the body and aren’t fully expressed until they reach consciousness. Through the body, up the spinal cord, and into the brain, raw emotion works to be expressed, moving up the neural access through the spinal cord. The cortex, however, often resists this expression. Why? Because when we harbor mistaken beliefs (e.g., It’s not manly to express fear) and rationalizations (e.g., If I get angry, people won’t like me) about emotion, we push our feelings down to be repressed rather than expressed. When the cortex responds this way, it is trying to prevent itself from being overloaded. This creates a physiological struggle since our emotions are trying to be expressed and integrated, yet the cortex is not allowing them to reach consciousness. But suppressing emotions is costly—not only does it deprive us of the power and gift of our emotions, but it is a high-intensity task that chews up limited prefrontal cortex energy and resources. It degrades our ability to recall information and limits our cognitive performance.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

Making the best of a bad situation isn’t about not feeling our emotions or trying to hide our reactions. Instead, getting through a tough time requires us to identify our complex emotions, acknowledge them, honor them by truly feeling them fully.

As kids, we’re constantly exposed to new situations and new stimuli. Summers feel endless. School days feel like centuries. Minor upsets can feel really big, and more significant changes can feel less impactful because the whole world is moving around us. As we get older, we’re exposed to fewer and fewer new situations. Our brain doesn’t need to process the information to make sense of it. When our brain doesn’t need to work so hard, we perceive time as moving “faster.”

Neuroscientist David Eagleman did studies at Baylor University on time perception. Participants were shown flashcards for a few seconds each. Many of the cards showed the same image of a shoe. Then, every so often, a card would pop up with a flower. Participants reported that the card with the flower was shown for much longer (3-4 seconds) than the shoe (1-2 seconds).

Here’s the kicker—there was no variation in the length of time participants were shown the cards. The flower appeared longer because it was different. Their brains had to take more time to process the flower. It had a “novelty effect.”

When we face uncertainty and difficult situations that feel “new,” they may also feel like they last a long time. We may feel like time slows or stops. We may wonder if we’ll ever feel better. So how can we make the best of this? How can we find the bright side and turn it around?

As we go through a painful experience, like divorce, there’s a tendency to wish we could move forward quickly. We may want to gloss over our feelings because they’re painful. We may wish we could go back to the familiar place we knew before. We may fear the changes ahead and wonder how we can cope.

Instead of wishing the situation would go away, we can reframe it as an opportunity—a chance to transform ourselves. A life change, no matter how painful or unfortunate, presents an opportunity for growth. We can allow ourselves to fully experience the spectrum of our emotions and view our situation through a new prism. We can explore our role and reactions that have led up to the point and think forward about who we really are and our new vision for ourselves.

For more ideas on embracing emotions and getting more out of life, visit Wright Now and explore our selection of courses and webinars. We offer resources to help you discover more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. So start living a life of MORE today!


The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Netflix Night Again: How to Fix a Boring Relationship

Has your relationship gotten a bit stale? Do you feel like you come home on the weeknights, plop on the couch, and scroll through your phones while you watch TV? Are you wondering if the thrill is gone?

How to Fix a Boring Relationship



If you’re wondering how to fix a boring relationship, don’t despair! There’s hope! Our relationships can often fall into a rut or routine because we’re not engaging and communicating our true needs and feelings.

So if you’re ready to enjoy a deeper connection again, it’s time to turn off the TV and start to tune into each other instead!

Is it Bad to Binge Watch?

First of all, it’s not bad for couples to enjoy watching TV together. It’s no secret Bob and I are cinephiles. Anyone who’s heard us speak, attended one of our events, or read one of our books, learns that we’re constantly referring to films as cultural touchstones.

Movies give us all an escape from reality and a chance to take a break, it’s true. What’s more important, though, is that film helps us learn about the world around us and even engage on a deeper level. Since the dawn of time, humans have used storytelling and fiction to teach lessons. We can think of parables in the Bible, ancient cave paintings, and oral traditions passed down in Native cultures. Stories are interwoven into the fabric of our lives. They teach us about ourselves, how we think, and how others think. Books, lectures, and films help us explore our collective anthropology and the very origins of our humanity and emotions.

We’ve all walked away from a movie feeling strong feelings. Perhaps a film has made us cry, touched us in a way that resonates, or taught us something about a situation in our own lives. Think of the beautiful scene in Goodwill Hunting, where Ben Affleck’s character is an ally and true friend to Matt Damon by giving him some tough love. Or the great scene in the Matrix, where Keanu Reeve’s character, Neo, makes the CHOICE between the red pill (reality and truth) and the blue pill (a life of blissful ignorance).

Many different moments in film stick with us and make us think differently about people and our relationships—film and even television series can be excellent platforms for deeper engagement.

But like any escape, film can also be abused and overused. When does our binge-watching go from entertaining and stimulating new thoughts to simply finding a way to zone out and pass the time? As with most activities, there’s a line where it can turn into too much of a good thing.

On a similar note, what should we do if we want to go out and start engaging with the world, learning, growing, and having new experiences, and our partner would rather stay back on the couch? We’ve all been phubbed—phone snubbed—where someone would rather stare at their screen or check their social media rather than really socialize. In our relationships, this can become a real concern. How do we get our partners to cut back on screen time and tune back into the real world? How do we break out of a comfortable (but boring) rut?

How Much Screentime is Too Much?

When it comes to any activity—shopping online, eating dessert, even working out—there can almost always be too much of a good thing. So when we engage in an activity, we have to look at how we’re using it. Are we learning something? Are we using it as a method to engage with others?

In the example of film, we can ask ourselves if we’re really engaged in the movie. Are we using it as a platform for deeper exploration of ourselves and the world around us? Do we walk away from the experience, eager to discuss the nuances, lessons, and takeaways? Is that discussion our favorite part of our movie date night?

Whether it’s film, books, opera, theater, or any other entertainment, we can decide to turn it into a powerful tool. We can use these cultural endeavors to keep our conversation fresh, and keep our relationship from getting boring. We can discover new insights about ourselves and others.

On the other side, if we’re not sure how to fix a boring relationship, we may want to examine our activities with our partner. Are we taking on new experiences with enthusiasm, a sense of wonder, and curiosity? Are we ready to explore? Or do we use movies, books, and concerts to substitute for real connection—a way to zone out, escape, or disengage? When we find ourselves using these experiences to cope or avoid, that’s when we’re abusing them. That’s the line when they become soft addictions—time fillers, or worse, timewasters.

In the Soft Addiction Solution, I explore how we use soft addictions to tune out rather than tune in. We may have an addiction of choice—social media, watching the news ad nauseam, flipping mindlessly through fashion magazines, binge-watching, or another activity. It’s not so much the act as the intent behind our time-waste.

There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. We all love to be entertained, and it holds a positive place in most of our lives. However, there is something wrong with using entertainment, like screen time, to substitute for real interaction and intimacy. This can be especially challenging when we feel disconnected from our partner and use our soft addiction to soothe the loneliness or emptiness.

Make Date Night More Meaningful

After exploring the idea of soft addictions, we may wonder how we can reconnect with our partner—is it as simple as turning off the TV, or is there more to it? Do we need to book a vacation together? Should we plan an extended getaway?

Every date doesn’t need to include windsurfing in the Caribbean or even a trip out of town. Dates with our partner don’t need to be costly, elaborate, or time-consuming. We can find moments to meet over lunch, grab dinner at our favorite restaurant, attend a lecture, or go to see the latest blockbuster. As with time-wasting activities, it’s not about the activity as much as the intent.

We can ask ourselves how we plan to make the experience meaningful? How can we find the message and the lesson? How can we use that lesson to fix a boring relationship?

For many of us, that means breaking out of our comfort zone and doing something different. Even if we aren’t sure that our partner is totally on board with a higher level of engagement, we can start the ball rolling by beginning a more meaningful conversation.

We can try a new dish at our favorite restaurant, explore something new on a wine list, or ask how the chef prepared the food. If we go to a movie, we can make the experience meaningful by having a lively discussion after the film. What did each person take away from the movie? What did they think of the plot twist? Rather than a simple like-or-dislike conversation, take the critique further. Explore the why behind the assessment and share opinions.

The key to breaking out of a relationship rut or fixing a boring relationship is to try new things. For example, we may know that our partner loves movie night, but why not go to a play or concert instead? Maybe we love taking walks around the block, but what if we invite our partner and talk about what we see as we stroll? Try a new spot for dinner, taste a different type of cuisine, or do something a little unexpected.

When we experience something together with our partner, it creates a bond. These new experiences might be small risks, but they add up to greater strength. Like building muscle—we have to break down some of the fiber to grow back stronger. We have to push our minds beyond our comfort zone, so our brains grow and develop in new ways. Made up of BILLIONS of neurons, our brains are amazingly pliable. These neurons form different pathways with new experiences. Just as driving over the same route repeatedly would lead to a deep groove or rut, doing the same activities and habits over and over leaves our brains dulled as well.

Keep in mind that growth isn’t always comfortable. We may run into conflicts along the way, but that’s part of fixing a boring relationship.

Conflict isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can strengthen our relationships and lead to greater intimacy. Relationships can be messy and challenging, but they’re also fun and fulfilling. When we focus on ways to break out of the routine, we’ll discover more about ourselves and our partners.

So if your relationship needs to bust the routine, try something different. It doesn’t have to be huge. It can be a small, deliberate activity like a walk, a meditation class, or simply enjoying a new food or a new experience. Push both of you out of your comfort zone and away from your soft addictions. Your relationship will grow stronger because of it!

For more ways to build your relationship and connect with your partner, don’t miss our courses on Wright Now. We have webinars and resources to help you grow in your relationships, career, and personal life. So get the life you want today—a life of MORE.


The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Want a Playful Relationship? How to Keep the Playfulness Alive

Do you ever wish you had a more playful relationship? Do you worry that your relationship seems to be fraught with conflict? Or worse, that things feel “blah” and boring?


Want to have a more playful relationship? Here’s how some of the closest couples keep their connection strong and fun.


Playfulness is crucial to a healthy relationship. It’s that playfulness that helps us build a connection with our partners and grow together. When we experience stress or conflict, we may worry that it’s a sign that our relationship is damaged—that it’s no longer enjoyable and fun.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep the passion alive in your relationship. Here’s what you need to know about enjoying a playful relationship where both partners get what they want.

Playful Relationships Don’t Avoid Conflict

We may assume that fighting is a sign that our relationship is broken. Maybe we grew up avoiding conflict or never seeing our parents fight. On the other hand, maybe our parents fought often, and we fear that we’re repeating certain patterns in our own connection.

First of all, it’s essential to recognize that there are conflict, awkwardness, and moments where we’re ready to just freakin’ throttle the other person in every relationship. It’s totally normal and comes with the territory of sharing a life where each person is emotionally invested. So whether the relationship is new or decades-old, conflicts will come up.

In most relationships, we faced some real rip-roaring moments, but we should use those moments as a platform to awaken our connection, make it deeper, and yes, even laugh and play along the way.

John-Paul Sartre said playing is part of being alive and being engaged. Having a playful relationship isn’t simply the act of playing games with your partner or seeking entertainment—going on dates and doing the routine dinner and a movie. Instead, a playful relationship is full of adventure and discovery! It’s about taking up new hobbies, exploring new places, going for walks and hikes, and getting yourself out of the mundane. New and fresh experience is critical to relationships (romantic, friendly, and even our relationship to ourselves).

Fighting is also crucial to relationships. Conflict keeps us passionately engaged. Most of the time, we fight because we care. We’re fighting because we want more! Conflict helps us express our yearnings and get them met. When we express our desires to our partners, we know and understand that they see and accept us for who we are. We stop holding back and holding in and instead explore the dynamic, the control, the power, and the behaviors together.

On the flip side of the fighting, couples who learn to mix fighting with a balance of play are happier. When you have more play in your relationship, the fighting becomes less of a big deal. Of course, the message is still important, but it’s the playful side tempering us and helping us take down our guard and defenses so we can truly hear what the other person is trying to say.

Playfulness Might be Hard to Find When Couples Are Always Together

We work together and live together. We spend a great deal of time together. When a couple is in a situation like ours, they may find conversations about work taking over. Even if couples don’t work together, if they both work from home or focus on home tasks (like raising kids), conversations can start to feel monotonous and logistical.

It’s important to mix things up and experience new, exciting activities together. If the focus is always on work and the day-to-day minutia, we miss out on all that other interesting and exciting stuff—the shared experiences that help us connect. As they say, all work and no play make for dull relationships.

We spoke with Jennifer and Eric, married 17 years, parents of teens, and co-owners of a business. They both reported a “dulling” of their relationship. The conversation was becoming boring. Fights and arguments surrounding work (where Eric is Jennifer’s manager) spilled over into their home life. The boss/employee dynamic wasn’t translating well into their daily life, and there were feelings that they needed to bring to light.

Power struggles can be a common source of conflict when couples work together, like Jennifer and Eric, and even when they don’t. Sharing a home office or simply sharing the tasks of managing a household together can permeate every interaction and lead to arguments.

Suddenly couples find themselves simply talking about bills and “to-do lists” or zoning out with soft addictions in front of the television. One person takes the lead as the “boss,” and the other resents them for being so damn bossy. The fun of the relationship has disappeared. If this has become your relationship, it’s time to WAKE UP!

Couples need to break out of the routine and find new ways to orient towards aliveness. New experiences are essential—and we don’t need to go around the globe to get them.

We can find many unique and engaging experiences right in our own backyards. We can think back to what we did when we were first dating. Maybe we loved spending time outdoors, antique shopping, or dancing. It’s time to reengage in the things that stimulate both members of the relationship.

When both sides of a couple are committed to learning and growing, they can often find many activities to strengthen and nourish the relationship. We enjoy cross-country skiing and visiting the symphony, but each couple is different. We have to discover the activities that make our hearts leap for joy! As they engage more in these exciting activities, most couples find that they’re reminded of all the things they truly appreciate about their partner.

How to Find Playfulness When Relationships are in Constant Conflict

Other couples may feel like their relationship’s joy and playful side is buried by layers and years of conflict. The good news is: conflict is a good thing! It doesn’t usually mean the relationship is broken (or even damaged). Conflict is stronger than apathy, so conflict means both sides are still concerned about how things turn out in the relationship. The key is to put the energy into fighting FOR the relationship.

As we learn in the Rules of Engagement, no one takes more than 50% of the blame, and both members of the couple are 100% responsible for their own happiness. Productive conflicts help us “battle towards bliss,” but they require that we fight fair and assume goodwill on the other party’s part. When conflict arises—and it will—use it as an opportunity to discover more about each other.

In our book The Heart of the Fight, we discuss the many ways that couples can have productive conflicts and arguments. We shouldn’t avoid arguing or fighting, but we should recognize that when we go into the battle, we’re hoping to come away stronger and more deeply connected.

Of course, when someone says something critical, most of us get defensive. We can be frustrated and hurt if a partner tells us something we don’t want to hear (like, “you’re just like your dad”). This may lead us to shutting down or slinging mud right back at our partner. Underneath it all, though, part of what REALLY irks us? There’s a kernel of truth to most criticism.

To really engage and approach couples’ conflict from a transformational perspective, put away the “you said, I said” laundry list of arguments. Instead, we can tell our partner what we really want out of the situation—our truest yearnings.

What is the thing that we’re yearning for? Maybe it’s to be loved, to be secure, to be respected. These yearnings are often underneath our upset. Once we pinpoint that, the battle is halfway toward resolution.

When both parties are honest about their feelings, a lot can come to light. Expectations can create vulnerabilities, and past resentments and unmet and unexpressed yearnings can eat away at us.

Part of transformational living is to express these yearnings and get them out in the open. We don’t need to express them in an accusatory or mean way. We can even approach the expression playfully. When we allow ourselves to share truths with another person, those walls start coming down. Suddenly we find ourselves getting back to the dynamic that drew us together.

Find Playfulness When a Relationship Feels One-Sided

Unfortunately, sometimes we’re more committed to transformation than our partner. We may be ready to express new ideas and work on our relationship while our partner is fine with the status quo—and that’s precisely the problem! One way to keep a partner where they are is to make it very comfortable. When we do whatever they ask, never complain, and wait on them hand-and-foot, why would they change?

We’re being a little tongue in cheek here, but you’d be surprised how many people tell us how awful their partners are, and all the things they ask of them and all the things they resent—yet they CONTINUE TO DO THEM! Usually, one person is seething and completely upset, and the other person has no clue that there’s even a problem.

If this sounds familiar, we need to stop being passive-aggressive. Stop making it easy for the other person to ignore our yearnings and needs.

Leave the dirty laundry on the floor, the toilet seat up, or the dishes in the sink. Stop doing the things that lead to resentment. When people do this, their partner will usually realize that things are uncomfortable, and it’s time to change!

Surprisingly, this too can actually be a fun “game”! Many couples take the challenge to see how long it takes to get their partner to notice a few of their frustrations. The key is to be honest and express feelings openly. When we tell our partner we’re going to change our behavior, we must follow through. Don’t threaten or withhold or continue to stew in resentment.

When we’re honest about our feelings, we can often get back on the same page—we may even find reasons to laugh about the situation. Bringing playfulness back into our relationship can help keep the spark alive and bring us even closer together with our partners.

For more ways to connect with your partner and strengthen your relationship, visit Wright Now. We have a huge selection of courses and webinars to help you live the life of your dreams. Start moving forward in your relationships, career, and personal growth. Get more out of life today!


Can an Inferiority Complex Be A Good Thing?

For most of us, an inferiority complex sounds like a bad thing. After all, doesn’t it seem like it would set us back to believe we’re not good enough or that we don’t measure up to others?

Can an Inferiority Complex Be A Good Thing


The truth is that everyone feels inferior from time to time. We all hit roadblocks where we may feel like we’re not quite cutting it. So is that so terrible, or can an inferiority complex actually be positive?

In short, yes—our inferiority complex can be a positive part of our growth. In fact, Alfred Adler purported that the very act of being human means we have an inferiority complex.

We All Have an Inferiority Complex from Time-to-Time

When Adler explained the positives of an inferiority complex, he said, “to have no inferiorities is to be without movement… because we are alive, we encounter situations that require more of us than we are currently prepared to offer.” [1]

In other words, if we’re living life to the fullest, we’re going to encounter situations where we face challenges and maybe even fear we don’t measure up.

For those unfamiliar with Alfred Adler, he was a colleague of Sigmund Freud and is the father of Individual Psychology. Much of what we know about psychology today came from Adlerian theories. What’s important to understand about Individual Psychology is that it “provides not only a strategy of psychotherapy but a philosophical framework with which to comprehend information relevant to an understanding of human nature.” [2] It gives us the how and the why behind much of what we do.

As a psychotherapist, Adler was not interested in merely diagnosing a patient so much as establishing a philosophical understanding of how his childhood development impacted his adult development. Dr. Bob Wright, a proponent of Adlerian theory and founder of the Wright Foundation and Wright Graduate University, said that “childhood is about developing who are you. Adulthood is about developing who you could be.” [3]

Most of our Master’s students at the Wright Graduate University have studied Adler and Individual Psychology through a lens of childhood development. We’ve learned that a state of inferiority is part of the shared human condition.

In truth, a child is inferior as he is physically smaller and utterly reliant on his caregiver. Hence, an inferiority state is crucial for development. It’s important to understand that these inferiority feelings can motivate us “to ‘become’ and compel us to work together to overcome.” [4]

When we think about it, the world is really set up for adults. When we are kids, we don’t know how to operate within the world. We’re constantly learning and discovering new ways of being. We look to mom and dad to tell us what we need to do. We know that we don’t know everything.

As we grow older, we may expect ourselves to know it all. We may even avoid situations where we must learn a new skill (or show others that we don’t know what we’re doing).  Many of us are trying to fake it until we make it or pretend that we’ve got it all under control. In reality, most of us encounter new, unfamiliar situations daily. We navigate through them as best we can, but we may be left with feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, or fears—in other words, an inferiority complex.

When Inferiority Shifts to Superiority

When we don’t know how to do something, instead of masking it or trying to hide our doubts in a situation, what if we stood up and embraced it? What if we used our inferiority complex to help us master the problem at hand—to grow, learn, and become better at the skill we may be trying to develop.

Unfortunately, instead of embracing our inferiority to propel us to greatness, many of us develop a superiority complex to mask our feelings of inferiority. Adler said that “people, by virtue of being human, have ‘defects and vices which we hope to conceal.'” [5] If a person is too worried about looking superior, he will never fully develop himself.

If we have a superiority complex, we may believe that we’re better equipped than others to handle a given situation. We may think that we know more about the situation and don’t need to push ourselves to learn or grow because we’ve already achieved mastery.

While this may sound like a healthy sense of self-esteem or ego, it’s actually a mask we use to protect ourselves. None of us wants to feel inferior, so many of us try to puff ourselves up. We act overly confident because we don’t want to be vulnerable. But rather than an over or under confidence, we’d be better off aiming for a realistic view.

Adler believed for a person to embrace and leverage inferiority, he must strive for superiority. He said that “striving for superiority is neither good nor bad. It is part of the human condition. How it expresses itself is what matters.” [6] This means that how we view our inferiority affects our accomplishments in life.

Believing that we’re already ahead of the game can leave us complacent—even bored. There’s no reason to try because we’ve maxed out our capacity. We’re at the top, and there’s nowhere else to go. This type of superiority complex can be quite dangerous. Not only can it be off-putting to those around us, but it can interfere with our ability to evolve and become what we could be.

Not that we should believe we’re terrible or tear ourselves down. Believing that we’re less than others can throw us into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We think we’re inferior, stupid, or not good enough, so we project that outward. In turn, others treat us the way we believe we deserve, and it continues to reinforce our self-doubt.

On the other hand, some aspects of a realistic inferiority complex can remind us that we have room to grow. It’s not about believing that we can’t do something or that we’ll never get it. Instead, it’s about recognizing our blind spots and realizing where there is room for improvement so we can get on the right path and take the crucial steps to propel us forward toward the life we want to live.

If we embrace our inferiority, it motivates us to excel. If we deny it and develop a superiority complex, it robs us of realizing our full potential.

Furthermore, when a person’s “self-concept falls short of the self-ideal, he experiences feelings of inferiority.” [7] A self-concept is an awareness of what we are, while a self-ideal is what we want to be.

Through my Master’s courses, I have established my self-ideal and who I choose to become. I have also learned the gaps between who I am and who I will become. If I choose to be victorious over my struggles, I will. If I choose to be a victim of my circumstances, I will. As a lover of Adler and the master of my fate, I choose to prevail.

Decide to Go Forward to the Life You Want

When we wonder how to overcome an inferiority complex, we may be asking the wrong question or looking at it the wrong way. What if, instead of overcoming it, we looked at the areas where we feel inferior and examined what we could do to learn and grow in those places?

We all have areas where growth is critical to living the best life and reaching our fullest potential. We can take a cue from our young friends at the way we can look at the world. When kids view new situations, they see them as a problem to solve. They encounter many new experiences each day—each one bringing with it a chance to stretch themselves and try out a new approach.

We can keep this “young mindset” by looking at situations in a similar light. Each day brings plenty of opportunities to discover and unearth new truths about ourselves. When we tap into our potential, knowing that we don’t “know it all,” we open ourselves to learning and making new connections.

If you’re ready to learn more, please explore our personal growth courses at Wright Now. We offer an array of options to help you unlock your fullest potential and move into your next best self. So don’t miss the opportunity to leap forward today!



1. Primer Of Adlerian Psychology: the Analytic – Behavioural – Cognitive Psychology Of Alfred Adler Harold Mosak – Routledge – 2015 [56]

2. Ibid [Preface X]

3. Wright, Bob Dr. “Fulfilling your purpose” A4S podcast

4. Primer of Adlerian Psychology: the Analytic – Behavioural – Cognitive Psychology Of Alfred Adler Harold Mosak – Routledge – 2015 [80]

5. Ibid [80]

6. Beames, Thomas B. A Student’s Glossary of Adlerian Terminology. Ladysmith, B.C.: T.B. Beames, 1992. [Superiority Striving]

7. Primer Of Adlerian Psychology: the Analytic – Behavioural – Cognitive Psychology Of Alfred Adler Harold Mosak – Routledge – 2015 [56]