Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler
Born Feb. 7, 1870
Rudolfsheim near Vienna, Austria-Hungary (now Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus, Vienna, Austria)
Died May 28, 1937 (at age 67)
Aberdeen, Scotland
Nationality Austrian

The great psychologist Alfred Adler was the first person to coin the phrase “inferiority complex.” He did so not in passing, but he coined it as part of his extensive work in the field of psychology. As part of his work, he was able to establish the system of “individual psychology,” which focused on the notion that human beings are an individual whole and effective treatment of patients was based on recognizing this fact.

Adler’s Early Years

Alfred Adler was born on February 7, 1870, near Vienna. His early life was quite hard as he suffered from rickets, which made it impossible for him to walk until the age of four. When he did turn four, he contracted pneumonia.

His father was a grain merchant and had limited funds to help with his son’s care. The very young Adler heard the doctor tell his father survival was unlikely. Even at the young age of four, these words gave Adler the resolve to become better and also contributed to his decision to become a doctor. Adler would succeed on both accounts.

As a young man, Adler showed a great interest in psychology and philosophy. He also delved into the subject of sociology and his interest in sociology would manifest in his achievements in the academic sphere of psychology.

Adler went on to attend the University of Vienna. Interestingly, his major field of study was eye medicine. In time, he changed his concentration to areas related to neurology and psychiatry. He completed his medical degree in 1895.

A Career in Psychology

Although Adler was a practicing eye doctor, he maintained a serious interest in psychology. In time, he became friends with Sigmund Freud and would routinely attend the meetings of the “Wednesday Society.” The informal meetings Freud entertained at his home on these evenings were not frivolous ones. They reflected the very early start of the psychoanalytical movement.

The association did not last forever. Eventually, Adler split from Freud. In 1912, he went on to establish the Society for Individual Psychology. There were many facets to the system of psychology Adler prescribed. Among the core tenants was the notion that the social realm played just as an important part in the establishment of a strong mind as what existed deep within the subconscious.

The Adlerian School of Psychology

Adler also was critical in promoting another very important component of psychology. This component was known as the social element. On the most basic of levels, the social element referred to the proper reintegration of a psychologically harmed individual back into society. By helping someone properly readjust to society, the person may be less likely to suffer psychological relapses that make mental healing difficult.

Alfred AdlerAlfred Adler went on to establish his own school of psychology and it was deeply rooted in the notion that social dynamics played a role in a strong mind. He also emphasized that helping people overcome their feelings of inferiority would further benefit states of mind.

Interestingly, the entire notion of someone lying on a couch when talking to a therapist derived from the Adlerian School. This approach sought to move away from the overly business-like method of the doctor and patient sitting on a couch.

Adler did achieve quite a bit of fame and international notoriety thanks to his unique methodologies. He was in great demand as a lecturer and traveled all over the world promoting his beliefs. It was his lifelong goal to establish a new school of psychology and psychotherapy that would rival the common, more established methods in existence.

“Individual psychology” was the official name given to his methodology and it reflected a more social and communal strategy. He noted that if parents, teachers, and social workers contributed to the well-being of young persons, then quite a number of psychological problems could be avoided.

Adler’s Final Years

Alfred Adler was on a three week trip to Scotland in 1937 to visit the University of Aberdeen when he passed away. He was walking down a street when he suffered a heart attack and died on May 28, 1937. His last words were simply a single mention of his son, Kurt.

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