As we have seen this week when looking at both psychoanalytic and neo-psychoanalytic theory, much of our mental health and success in adulthood is related to the events and relationships of our childhood. Much like Freud, Alfred Adler believed that childhood events are pivotal for the adult. For Adler, his pivotal childhood events were the development of rickets which kept him from walking until the age of four and contracting a near-fatal case of pneumonia at age five. These events served to inculcate a lifelong ambition which centered around his becoming a physician in order to focus on the curing of deadly diseases.
According to Alfred Adler, all people have moments when they feel inferior. For many, such moments will lead them to strive to compensate for that weakness. When this happens, it leads to what he calls “superiority striving,” in which the person is motivated by his or her feelings of inferiority to overcome and strive for betterment, achievement, and perfection.
It is important to note that superiority striving is different from simply striving for power. Adler considered this an unhealthy desire because the sole goal is power. The way that someone strives to meet his or her goals from an Adlerian point of view is referred to as a style of life.
Adler is also known for his study of birth order and its impact on personality.