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Alfred Adler ( Concept and Principle: The Struggle for Perfection )

  •  The Struggle for Perfection

According to Adler, an understanding of human personality was possible only in light of an understanding of the person’s goals. In contrast to Freud, who was a strict determinist,

 Adler adopted the teleological position that current behavior is directed by future goals. People have a purpose in life—to attain perfection—and are motivated to strive toward attainment of this ideal. This movement toward perfection or completion, Adler proposed, is driven by feelings of inferiority—a continual struggle from“minus to plus.”Thus, according to Adler, we are all engaged in a “great upward drive.”

 The related concept of fictional finalist is based on the work of the philosopher Hans Vaihinger, who maintained in his book, The Philosophy of “As-If” (1911/1952) that people create the ideas that guide their behavior. Adopting this view, Adler believed that people strive for perceived or imagined goals that give direction to their behavior. These goals are not tangible; they are imagined ideals. In his later writings, Adler abandoned the term fictional finalism and instead used the term guiding self-ideal (Watts & Holden, 1994, pp. 161–163).

 In his earliest writings, the final goal of this struggle was domination— aggressive, all-powerful control over others. Humans were seen as selfish and concerned only with self-aggrandizement. Later, Adler revised his thinking and defined the ultimate goal as superiority. Individuals can formulate this goal so that it guides them along either a constructive or destructive path. The destructive path leads them to seek to dominate and exploit others. Adler talks about it as a striving for a goal of personal superiority. It is a striving that sees others as enemies or obstacles in the person’s path, which must be removed, overcome, or destroyed; according to Adler, only neurotics strive for such a mistaken goal. 

In contrast, the constructive path leads people to relate to others with the cooperation and goodwill; healthy people, in Adler's view, act in accordance with social interest. The striving for superiority by healthy people involves movement toward perfection or completion. In other words, Adler believed that all individuals were continually striving to improve themselves as they progressed toward perfection. He thought that such a goal could be attained only by cooperative efforts. When each of us seeks to contribute to the welfare of others, we all benefit. Through cooperation, each individual is helped to survive and to grow as a human being. Finally, Adler believed that the development of healthy or unhealthy goals is shaped to a considerable extent by experiences in the first five years of life.

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