Compare and Contrast the personality theories of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler Essay

Compare and Contrast the personality theories of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler

It is evident that when bodies of formulations as numerous and complex as personality theories are examined there are many qualities by which they can be compared and distinguished. Here we shall point the more important as basis for what ever generalizations may eventually seem worthwhile concerning the state of contemporary theory specifically the personality theories of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler.

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Freud’s attack upon the traditional psychology of consciousness came from different direction. His psychoanalytic theory of personality states the basic philosophies that human beings are basically determined by psychic energy and by early experiences. Unconscious motives and conflicts are central in present behavior. Irrational forces are strong: the person is driven by sexual and aggressive impulses. Early development is of critical importance because later personality problems have their roots in repressed childhood conflicts. Its key concepts discusses that normal personality development is based on successful resolution and integration of psychosexual stages of development. Faulty personality development is the result of inadequate resolution of some specific stage. Id, ego, and superego constitute the basis of personality structure. Anxiety is the result of repression of basic conflict. Ego defense are developed to control anxiety. Unconscious processes are centrally related to current behavior.

Alfred Adler’s psychosocial theory of personality is that a positive view of human nature is stressed. Humans are motivated by social interest. By striving towards goals, and by dealing with the tasks of life. People are in control of their fate, not victim of it. Each person at and early age creates a unique style of life, which tends to remain relatively constant throughout life. This approach emphasizes the individual’s positive capacity to live in society cooperatively. It also stresses the unity of personality, the need to view people from their subjective perspective, and the importance of life goals that give directions to behavior. People are motivated by social interest and by finding goals to strive for.

Alfred Adler maybe regarded as the ancestral figure of the “new social psychological look” because he broke with Freud over the issue of sexuality, and proceeded to develop a theory in which social interest and a striving for superiority became two of its most substantial conceptual pillars. Adler was the first psychoanalyst to emphasize the fundamental social nature of humans. In sharp contrast to Freud’s major assumption that human behavior is motivated by inborn instincts, Adler assumed that humans are motivated primarily by social urges. Humans are according to Adler, inherently social beings. In one sense, then, Adler is just as biological in his viewpoints as Freud. Both assume that a person has an inherent nature that shapes his or her personality. Freud emphasized sex , and Adler stressed social interest. This emphasis upon the social determinants of behavior that had been overlooked or minimized by Freud is probably Adler’s greatest contribution to psychological theory. Adler’s second major contribution to personality theory is his concept of the creative self.  Unlike Freud’s ego, which consist of a group of psychological processes serving the ends of inborn instincts, Adler’s self is highly personalized, subjective system that interprets and make meaningful that will aid the fulfilling the person’s unique style of life. A third feature of Adler’s psychology that sets it apart from classical psychoanalysis is its emphasis upon the uniqueness of personality. Adler considered each person to be unique configuration of motives, traits, interests, and values; every act performed by the person bears the stamp of his or her own distinctive style of life. Adler’s theory of person mini9mized the sexual instinct that in Freud’s early theorizing had played an almost exclusive role in the dynamics of behavior. To this Freudian monologue on sex, Adler added other significant voices. Humans are primarily social and not sexual creatures. They are motivated by social and not by sexual interest. Their inferiorities are not limited to the sexual domains, but may extend to all facets of being, both physical and psychological. They strive to develop a unique style of life in which sexual drive plays minor role.  In fact, the way in which one satisfies sexual needs is determined by one’s style of life and not vice versa. Adler’s dethroning of sex was for many people a welcome relief from the monotonous pansexualism of Freud. Finally Adler considered consciousness to be the center of personality, which make him the pioneer in the development of an ego-oriented psychology. Humans are conscious beings; they ordinarily aware of the reasons of their behavior. They conscious of their inferiorities and conscious of the goals for which they strive. More than that humans are self-conscious individuals  capable of planning and guiding their actions with full awareness of their meaning for their own self realization. This is the complete antithesis of Freud’s theory, which had virtually reduced consciousness to the status of nonentity – a mere froth floating on the great sea of the unconscious.


Journal Articles

Caws, P. 2005. Analysis with Freud: Psychoanalytic Criticism. Sartre Studies

International 11: 166+.

            Parrott. L. 1992. Earliest Recollection & Birth Order: Two Adlerian Exercises.

                        Teaching of Psychology 19: 40+.

            Pollak, R. 1998. Psychoanalysis: Public opinion. The Nation 267: 1-14.

            Polanski, P. 2002.  Exploring Spiritual Beliefs in Relation to Adlerian Theory.

                        Counseling and Waves 46: 127+.


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