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Alfred Adler is among the most influential theorists in the field of psychology. Through his works, he was able to show to the world the central themes associated with individual psychology. To establish this, Alfred proposed the classical Adlerian theory, which he used to present an analysis of the individual factors that influence the framework of personality and understanding in the realm of psychology. In this regard, the paper intends to explore Alder from a third eye perspective by reviewing important elements in his biography, the classical Adlerian theory, professional critique on the framework and applicability of the theory, and an individual perspective on the topic.


Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was born on February 17, 1870 in the suburbs of Vienna (Hergenhahn, 2005). He was born to poor parents who belonged to a poor social class and faced a miserable childhood due to this poor beginning. These experiences constantly attached a feeling of low esteem such that he never really appreciated himself. During his childhood, Adler was often sickly and thought that was ugly whenever he was in the company of his peers (Hergenhahn, 2005). This feeling of inferiority and weakness later inspired his interest in organic inferiority and consequently, made him to strive for superiority.

Adler was an individual who loved fitting in wherever he went. He never enjoyed creating differences between himself and other people. He always thought this was the very essence of life; hence, everyone had to struggle and maintain their virtues in line with their environment. According to Engler (2008), Adler had a personal drive about getting along with other people, which made him to become a social and cultural animal. Additionally, these traits are strongly expressed in the Adlerian concept of social interest. Hence, at an early stage in life, Adler was able to look at his society from a different view point, which made him to appreciate the views and concepts shared by other people. Nevertheless, he had a unique mind that made him analyze events and situations with a mature attitude.

When it came to competition, Adler secretly had a strong belief that he was first regardless of the social and biological orders existing around him. As a result, he never admired his older brother and always sought ways of challenging him. In school, Adler’s approach was different from other students, in that when other students strived hard through all means to achieve high standards, Adler took his world in a rather slower stride. This made Adler to become an average performer in school and never passed highly compared to his compatriots. In fact, at one point one of his teachers suggested to his father that they should take him out of school and develop him into a shoe maker (Engler, 2008). This action really angered Adler and he sought to disapprove the teacher. Regardless, of this form of discouragement, Adler gradually rose and became good in mathematics, which he had the most difficulty compared to other sciences. This was a turning point in his life and is probably among the events that nurtured his passion for social interest. Adler’s father was an avid disciplinarian and father forced him to enroll in a medical school. On completing the medical school, Adler did not pass with any special honors, which was a result of the conflict between his passion for precise diagnosis and medicine (Engler, 2008). He went ahead to serve in the Austrian army and served in the World War I.

In his professional life as a psychologist, Adler also became a seasoned educationist who embraced modern ideals. Adler spent a good portion of his last years teaching students on individual psychology at Columbia University and in 1932 he became a permanent resident in the United States (Engler, 2008). Adler was different from his compatriot, Freud, who did not like Americans. To Adler Americans exhibited the desired traits of open-mindedness and optimism. He married Raissa Epstein, a Russian descendant in 1897. His wife Epstein portrayed a very personality, which was largely influenced by her feminist and political ideals (Adler, 2006). This interaction is what probably shaped Epstein’s focus on feminism.

Alder later became acquitted to the Freudian psychology framework after reading the book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams” (Hergenhahn, 2005). This prompted him to write a critical response to the ideas presented by Freud, which according to him were correct given the in-depth analysis that Freud had provided in the book. This response saw him being invited to join the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, which he later became its president in 1910 (Hergenhahn, 2005). This was an important transition in his life because he finally got a chance at leadership; hence, he sought to use the chance to promote his ideals by making other professionals with the same interest to recognize his unique approach to psychology. This did not go well with Freud, whose vision was rather conservative compared to Adler’s liberalist perspective towards psychology. After difference emerged between him and Freud on ideological backgrounds, Adler chose to leave the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and became a self proclaimed theorist to suit his ideals. Initially, Freud has accused Adler of undermining the theoretical framework of psychoanalysis by reducing its main foundations to the level of a common man’s understanding (Hergenhahn, 2005). The personal resentment that Adler felt for Freud made them to part ways such that they never saw each other eye to eye again. In essence, Adler thought that in as much as Freud was a good scientist, his approaches were too strict and had some flaws.

The creativity nature of Adler made him to assign a special meaning and association between a person’s genetic makeup and his/her environment. In this context, he proposed that a person’s hereditary and environment need to be rearranged in an order that increases the advantage of maximizing the arising opportunity (Hergenhahn, 2005). This formed the framework of the theories that he proposed. This line of thought actually reflected the experiences that Adler had gone through as a child and the dramatic transition that had taken place in his life to the then authority he held in psychology. According to Adler’s ideology, the human being was essentially transformed from a sexual creature to a social and cultural one (Enger, 2008). Thus, he was able to demonstrate a good balance between personal interest and society’s fundamentals.

Adler considered a life without social interest to be a mistaken life; hence, the main job of a psychotherapist was to replace the lifestyle with a favorable one that depicting social interest. According to Hergenhahn (2006) “all these recollections may have influenced the type of personality theory Adler developed” (p.513). The writings that were done by Adler directly complement present contributions done by other theorists advocating for the development of feminist, multiculturalism, and social justice perspectives in the society. The writing approach that was used by Adler pursued a therapeutic technique, but failed to document the precise instruments and technique (Adler, 2006). The Adlerian psychotherapy approach was meant to impart creativity into the process such that it could not be transformed into a specific procedure or system (Adler, 2006). In as much as this approach was admired by many, there are those who did not express liking for it. In essence, the theoretical perspectives that were fronted by Adler acted as precursors towards the adoption of psychological issues as currently portrayed in the contemporary field of feminist counseling and psychotherapy (Ivey, 2006).

The Classical Adlerian Theory & Individual Psychology                                                                        

Adler made significant contribution in the contemporary field of individual psychology. Among his achievements was the development of a theoretical framework that continues to be revered by many to the present time. Adler emphasized that in order for individuals to overcome feelings of inferiority, they had to be motivated as children and as later as adults (Adler, 2006). This borrows from Adler’s childhood in which he as greatly denied the comfort of life compared to his peers, who came from better backgrounds. It is in this stride that Adler developed the Classical Adlerian Theory that created a good background for understanding individual psychology of overcoming inferiority.

In his theory, Adler emphasized that the best way to attain power was by overcoming the feelings of inferiority and striving to attain a desired level of perfection or superiority to further reinforce one’s capability of overcoming inferiority (Hergenhahn, 2005). This theory became an important instrument in the domain of psychotherapy where it was used as an ideal tool for accomplishing personal motivation. Based on Adler’s theory, an effective lifestyle can only be achieved when individuals attach a higher meaning to social interest (Adler, 2006). Consequently, by attaching a higher meaning to social interest, individuals are able to overcome their fears of success by merging past experiences in the current environment.

Furthermore, according to Adler’s perspective, experiences that can be assimilated to an individual’s life are essentially understood, while those experiences that cannot be assimilated to an individual’s life are not well understood, and consequently, the interpretation framework used will be different. This way an individual would comfortably create a positive appeal by restraining his or her weaknesses and instead demonstrate admirable strength and a positive will to overlook the current environmental limitations.

Description of their empirical research methodologies

The research methodology that was applied by Alfred Adler was the comparative research psychology. This methodology was essentially used to inform the foundation of individual psychology and the Classical Adlerian theoretical framework. According to Adler (2002) “it uses an empirical basis to formulate a fictional, normative standard, with which the extent of the deviation may then be measured and compared” (p.viii). This Adler’s methodology focused on creating an ideal situation to impart change on the actual event. Comparative research takes the origin of the phenomenon into account, comparing it with the present and attempting to deduce the trend of the future (Adler, 2002). This pragmatic approach was important in ensuring that assumptions in the theory were competently addressed. 

More specifically, the Missing Developmental Experience (MDE) is the methodological approach that was actively pursued by Adler. The MDE approach provided a vivid, timed, and precise simulation of the missing events in a person’s life, which resulted in internal fortification the individual such that they could easily break out of their narrow mindset or limited functionality and enter into an unlimited way of living (Adler, 2006). The method became widely acclaimed for its capability for attaining effective observation that was needed to generate empirical evidence. Thus, by using this method, the research is able to examine the struggle that takes place between two phenomena, with an aim of establishing a balance between them, and exploiting this balance as a mode of adaptation for one’s personality (Adler, 2002).

Critical evaluation of the classical Adlerian theory from industry professionals

Various psychologists have expressed their views on the applicability of the Classical Adlerian theory by critiquing based on the foundation of its theoretical framework. One scientist, Reich Julius, provided a favorable description of the Adlerian theory by specifically focusing on its theoretical principle of organ inferiority, especially those affecting visual interpretation anomalies exhibited in other artists (Adler, 2002). In his critique, he observed that by adopting the capability to transform one’s visual interpretation of phenomena into meaningful items, one can actually make a difference in their pursuit for life.

The Classical Adlerian theory also received positive criticism from Hergenhahn, a German scholars specializing in psychology. The scientist examined Adler’s perspective by tracking down experiences in his life and noted that they are not only a psychological construct, but a life journey, and a transformation towards positive development in a person. Hergenhahn According to Hergenhahn (2005) “once a worldview, final goals, and lifestyle are created by an individual, all experiences are interpreted relative to them” (p.515). Thus, he endorsed the Classical Adlerian theory as a reliable approach that can be used to improve understanding of life’s events.

Another scientist, Ivey Allen, who is an emeritus level university professor at the University of Massachusetts, also provided positive criticism on the work done by Adler. He stated that Adler’s theory actually takes into account the individual perspectives common in human thinking (Ivey, 2006). He also remarked that Adler was not sensational about the methodology used and actually allowed to be applied depending on the practical context as opposed to basing it on theory alone. Allen fronted that “the positive attention Adler directed toward the psychological needs and social interests of women distinguish him from other psychodynamic theorists of his time (Ivey, 2006, p.160).

Personal response/Conclusion

In my view, Alfred Adler’s Classical Adlerian theory is an important instrument that can be used to improve the understanding of individual psychology. This is driven by the fact that Adler not only focused on how the theory would be operational in an ideal setting, but he also sought to bring in practical concepts of life. The experiences that Adler had in his life are a positive sign of how one’s hereditary makeup can be used to in combination with one’s environment to restrain the existing inferiority complex. Adler was able to overcome the challenges that he faced in his childhood and was an average performer in a world that put emphasis on making it big. Finally, Adler’s focus on social interest builds on the existing framework of individual psychology by putting emphasis on the need to respond to the dynamics of modern day living. In essence, it allows men to perceive themselves as important beings who are capable of achieving the greatest height of success. 

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