Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was contemporary with Freud. He was born in Vienna, the second of six children, and
became a doctor at the age of twenty five, despite having been told by one of his school teachers that he was
only fit to be a cobbler's apprentice! Adler was one of the few professionals who reacted favourably to Freud's
book, The Interpretation of Dreams, and he joined Freud's elite discussion circle in 1902. However, subsequent
attempts by the two men to find common ground caused a huge chasm to divide them and Adler left the circle in
1911 to set up his own school. He could not accept Freud's generalisations about wish fulfilment and did not
agree that sexual trauma or repression was always the cause of neurosis.
Adler identified the drive for personal power and self-assertion as the most important factor in the human
psyche. He gave us the ever-popular concept of the superiority and inferiority complexes, which he thought,
were caused by childish attempts to compensate for defects in the personality resulting from natural feelings of
inadequacy experienced during childhood. He believed that dreams are emotional rehearsals where we
practice modes of behaviour that will increase our power and self-worth. Anything that causes us to fall short of
this goal is highlighted in our dreams in order that we may identify and overcome those character traits that
prevent us from being who we really want to be.
Copyright J.C.Harthan 2004