When individuals have feelings of inadequacy that are so intense that daily living is impaired, they are said to have an inferiority complex.
The term inferiority complex was coined in the 1920s by French psychologist Alfred Adler (1870– 1937), a one-time follower of Sigmund Freud who became disenchanted with Freud's theory of unconscious drives. Although Adler believed that underlying motivations help create personality, he introduced the concept of ego psychology. His theory of personality changed the focus to the role of conscious factors in determining behavior. According to Adler, all humans experience feelings of inferiority as children; people spend the rest of their lives trying to compensate for those feelings. As people replace the utter dependence of childhood with the progressive independence of adulthood, feelings of inferiority persist in varying intensity. For some people, the sense of inferiority serves as a positive motivating factor; these people strive to improve themselves in an effort to neutralize their feelings of inferiority. However, some people become dominated and, as a result, crippled by an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. These people, tortured by self-doubt, are said to have an inferiority complex. Adler believed that the opposite of an inferiority complex, a superiority complex, can also result from early feelings of inferiority. A superiority complex is the result of striving for perfection in order to master feelings of inferiority.
See also Adler, Alfred; Ego ; Motivation ; Personality .
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