- Summarize the contributions of Neo-Freudians to personality theory (Adler’s inferiority complex, Erikson’s psychosocial stages, Jung’s ideas of the collective unconscious and archetypes, and Horney’s coping styles)
Freud attracted many followers who modified his ideas to create new theories about personality. These theorists, referred to as neo-Freudians, generally agreed with Freud that childhood experiences matter, but deemphasized sex, focusing more on the social environment and effects of culture on personality. Four notable neo-Freudians include Alfred Adler, Erik Erikson, Carl Jung (pronounced “Yoong”), and Karen Horney (pronounced “HORN-eye”).
Alfred Adler, a colleague of Freud’s and the first president of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society (Freud’s inner circle of colleagues), was the first major theorist to break away from Freud (Figure 1). He subsequently founded a school of psychology called individual psychology, which focuses on our drive to compensate for feelings of inferiority. Adler (1937, 1956) proposed the concept of the inferiority complex. An inferiority complex refers to a person’s feelings that they lack worth and don’t measure up to the standards of others or of society. Adler’s ideas about inferiority represent a major difference between his thinking and Freud’s. Freud believed that we are motivated by sexual and aggressive urges, but Adler (1930, 1961) believed that feelings of inferiority in childhood are what drive people to attempt to gain superiority and that this striving is the force behind all of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Adler also believed in the importance of social connections, seeing childhood development emerging through social development rather than the sexual stages Freud outlined. Adler noted the inter-relatedness of humanity and the need to work together for the betterment of all. He said, “The happiness of mankind lies in working together, in living as if each individual had set himself the task of contributing to the common welfare” (Adler, 1964, p. 255) with the main goal of psychology being “to recognize the equal rights and equality of others” (Adler, 1961, p. 691).
With these ideas, Adler identified three fundamental social tasks that all of us must experience: occupational tasks (careers), societal tasks (friendship), and love tasks (finding an intimate partner for a long-term relationship). Rather than focus on sexual or aggressive motives for behavior as Freud did, Adler focused on social motives. He also emphasized conscious rather than unconscious motivation, since he believed that the three fundamental social tasks are explicitly known and pursued. That is not to say that Adler did not also believe in unconscious processes—he did—but he felt that conscious processes were more important.
One of Adler’s major contributions to personality psychology was the idea that our birth order shapes our personality. He proposed that older siblings, who start out as the focus of their parents’ attention but must share that attention once a new child joins the family, compensate by becoming overachievers. The youngest children, according to Adler, may be spoiled, leaving the middle child with the opportunity to minimize the negative dynamics of the youngest and oldest children. Despite popular attention, research has not conclusively confirmed Adler’s hypotheses about birth order.
Link to Learning
One of Adler’s major contributions to personality psychology was the idea that our birth order shapes our personality. View a summary of birth order theory here.
|Trust vs. mistrust
|Trust (or mistrust) that basic needs, such as nourishment and affection, will be met
|Autonomy vs. shame/doubt
|Sense of independence in many tasks develops
|Initiative vs. guilt
|Take initiative on some activities, may develop guilt when success not met or boundaries overstepped
|Industry vs. inferiority
|Develop self-confidence in abilities when competent or sense of inferiority when not
|Identity vs. confusion
|Experiment with and develop identity and roles
|Intimacy vs. isolation
|Establish intimacy and relationships with others
|Generativity vs. stagnation
|Contribute to society and be part of a family
|Integrity vs. despair
|Assess and make sense of life and meaning of contributions
Carl Jung (Figure 2) was a Swiss psychiatrist and protégé of Freud, who later split off from Freud and developed his own theory, which he called analytical psychology. The focus of analytical psychology is on working to balance opposing forces of conscious and unconscious thought, and experience within one’s personality. According to Jung, this work is a continuous learning process—mainly occurring in the second half of life—of becoming aware of unconscious elements and integrating them into consciousness.
Jung’s split from Freud was based on two major disagreements. First, Jung, like Adler and Erikson, did not accept that sexual drive was the primary motivator in a person’s mental life. Second, although Jung agreed with Freud’s concept of a personal unconscious, he thought it to be incomplete. In addition to the personal unconscious, Jung focused on the collective unconscious.
The collective unconscious is a universal version of the personal unconscious, holding mental patterns, or memory traces, which are common to all of us (Jung, 1928). These ancestral memories, which Jung called archetypes, are represented by universal themes in various cultures, as expressed through literature, art, and dreams (Jung). Jung said that these themes reflect common experiences of people the world over, such as facing death, becoming independent, and striving for mastery. Jung (1964) believed that through biology, each person is handed down the same themes and that the same types of symbols—such as the hero, the maiden, the sage, and the trickster—are present in the folklore and fairy tales of every culture. In Jung’s view, the task of integrating these unconscious archetypal aspects of the self is part of the self-realization process in the second half of life. With this orientation toward self-realization, Jung parted ways with Freud’s belief that personality is determined solely by past events and anticipated the humanistic movement with its emphasis on self-actualization and orientation toward the future.
Jung also proposed two attitudes or approaches toward life: extroversion and introversion (Jung, 1923) (Table 2). These ideas are considered Jung’s most important contributions to the field of personality psychology, as almost all models of personality now include these concepts. If you are an extrovert, then you are a person who is energized by being outgoing and socially oriented: You derive your energy from being around others. If you are an introvert, then you are a person who may be quiet and reserved, or you may be social, but your energy is derived from your inner psychic activity. Jung believed a balance between extroversion and introversion best served the goal of self-realization.
|Energized by being alone
|Energized by being with others
|Speaks slowly and softly
|Speaks quickly and loudly
|Thinks before speaking
|Thinks out loud
|Stays on one topic
|Jumps from topic to topic
|Prefers written communication
|Prefers verbal communication
|Pays attention easily
|Acts first, thinks later
Another concept proposed by Jung was the persona, which he referred to as a mask that we adopt. According to Jung, we consciously create this persona; however, it is derived from both our conscious experiences and our collective unconscious. What is the purpose of the persona? Jung believed that it is a compromise between who we really are (our true self) and what society expects us to be. We hide those parts of ourselves that are not aligned with society’s expectations.
Connect the Concepts: Are Archetypes Genetically Based?
Jung proposed that human responses to archetypes are similar to instinctual responses in animals. One criticism of Jung is that there is no evidence that archetypes are biologically based or similar to animal instincts (Roesler, 2012). Jung formulated his ideas about 100 years ago, and great advances have been made in the field of genetics since that time. We’ve found that human babies are born with certain capacities, including the ability to acquire language. However, we’ve also found that symbolic information (such as archetypes) is not encoded on the genome and that babies cannot decode symbolism, refuting the idea of a biological basis to archetypes. Rather than being seen as purely biological, more recent research suggests that archetypes emerge directly from our experiences and are reflections of linguistic or cultural characteristics (Young-Eisendrath, 1995). Today, most Jungian scholars believe that the collective unconscious and archetypes are based on both innate and environmental influences, with the differences being in the role and degree of each (Sotirova-Kohli et al., 2013).
|Moving toward people
|Affiliation and dependence
|Child seeking positive attention and affection from parent; adult needing love
|Moving against people
|Aggression and manipulation
|Child fighting or bullying other children; adult who is abrasive and verbally hurtful, or who exploits others
|Moving away from people
|Detachment and isolation
|Child withdrawn from the world and isolated; adult loner
Horney believed these three styles are ways in which people typically cope with day-to-day problems; however, the three coping styles can become neurotic strategies if they are used rigidly and compulsively, leading a person to become alienated from others.
Think It Over
- What is your birth order? Do you agree or disagree with Adler’s description of your personality based on his birth order theory, as described in the Link to Learning? Provide examples for support.
- Would you describe yourself as an extrovert or an introvert? Does this vary based on the situation? Provide examples to support your points.
- Select an epic story that is popular in contemporary society (such as Harry Potter or Star Wars) and explain it terms of Jung’s concept of archetypes.