Guest Author | December 10, 2018

Can an Inferiority Complex be a Good Thing?

Yes, it can be. In fact, Alfred Adler purported that the very act of being human means we have an inferiority complex.

inferiority complex

Adler 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]

Adler was a colleague of Sigmund Freud and is the father of Individual Psychology. 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] 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]

As a Master’s student at the Wright Graduate University, I have studied Adler and Individual Psychology through a lens of childhood development and 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 completely 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] 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 be able to develop himself fully.

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. If we embrace our inferiority, it motivates us to excel. If we deny it and develop a superiority complex, it denies us from 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 to my circumstances, I will. As a lover of Adler and the master of my fate, I choose to prevail.

REFERENCES

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]

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