Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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Chapter 3 Adler: Individual Psychology 91

(Freud 1926/1959b, p. 212). Moreover, near the end of his life, he was still asking,
“What does a woman want?” (E. Jones, 1955, p. 421). According to Adler, these
attitudes toward women would be evidence of a person with a strong masculine protest.
In contrast to Freud’s views on women, Adler assumed that women—because they
have the same physiological and psychological needs as men—want more or less the
same things that men want.
These opposing views on femininity were magnified in the women Freud and
Adler chose to marry. Martha Bernays Freud was a subservient housewife dedicated
to her children and husband, but she had no interest in her husband’s professional
work. In contrast, Raissa Epstein Adler was an intensely independent woman who
abhorred the traditional domestic role, preferring a politically active career.
During the early years of their marriage, Raissa and Alfred Adler had some-
what compatible political views, but in time, these views diverged. Alfred became
more of a capitalist, advocating personal responsibility, while Raissa became
involved in the dangerous Communist politics of her native Russia. Such indepen-
dence pleased Adler, who was as much a feminist as his strong-willed wife.

Applications of Individual Psychology

We have divided the practical applications of individual psychology into four areas:
(1) family constellation, (2) early recollections, (3) dreams, and (4) psychotherapy.

Family Constellation

In therapy, Adler almost always asked patients about their family constellation,
that is, their birth order, the gender of their siblings, and the age spread between
them. Although people’s perception of the situation into which they were born is
more important than numerical rank, Adler did form some general hypotheses
about birth order.
Firstborn children, according to Adler (1931), are likely to have intensified
feelings of power and superiority, high anxiety, and overprotective tendencies.
(Recall that Freud was his mother’s firstborn child.) Firstborn children occupy a
unique position, being an only child for a time and then experiencing a traumatic
dethronement when a younger sibling is born. This event dramatically changes the
situation and the child’s view of the world.
If firstborn children are age 3 or older when a baby brother or sister is born,
they incorporate this dethronement into a previously established style of life. If they
have already developed a self-centered style of life, they likely will feel hostility
and resentment toward the new baby, but if they have formed a cooperating style,
they will eventually adopt this same attitude toward the new sibling. If firstborn
children are less than 3 years old, their hostility and resentment will be largely
unconscious, which makes these attitudes more resistant to change in later life.
According to Adler, secondborn children (such as himself ) begin life in a bet-
ter situation for developing cooperation and social interest. To some extent, the
personalities of secondborn children are shaped by their perception of the older
child’s attitude toward them. If this attitude is one of extreme hostility and vengeance,
the second child may become highly competitive or overly discouraged. The typical

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