Alfred Adler

By: Patrick Cates
February 7, 2010

ALFRED ADLER (1870-1937) was present at the conception, gestation, and birth of psychoanalysis, thrashing out the details with Freud and a handful of other Viennese medical intellectuals at a weekly get-together. But rather than stay focused strictly on the internal mental world, he adopted a holistic view of the psyche emphasizing the importance of external, social influences. And instead of staying on the academic, elitist path from which Freud never really veered, he wanted to democratize the grand psychoanalytic vision and turn it into pragma for the people. Adler fell out with Freud and hit the road to tout his own therapeutic theory and methodology. His ideas became hugely popular, despite his espousal of some unfashionable positions: socialism, proto-feminism, intra-family equality. It is a lasting irony that Adler, inventor of the inferiority complex, was the first of Freud’s colleagues who had the chutzpah to rebel and launch his own highly influential, ahead-of-its-time enterprise.

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