Inferiority to Neuroticism – Alfred Adler

inferiority to neuroticism


Neuroticism according to Alfred Adler is a psychological disorder that arises from an individual’s unsuccessful attempts to cope with feelings of inferiority. 


From Inferiority to Neuroticism: Alfred Adler


Adler believed that inferiority feelings are a constant driving force in all behavior.

Feelings of inferiority can contribute to neuroticism when individuals consistently perceive themselves as inadequate or inferior. It creates a deep sense of vulnerability and anxiety. In an attempt to cope with these feelings, they may develop coping mechanisms.

These strategies are aimed at protecting their fragile self-esteem. However, over time, these coping mechanisms can become maladaptive, leading to neurotic behaviors.

In essence, the very strategies individuals employ to shield themselves from feelings of inadequacy can, over time, backfire, resulting in a cylc of distress and maladaptive behaviors, which is a hallmark of neuroticism.


Understanding Neurotic Behavior according to Alfred Adler


According to Adler, individuals with neurotic tendencies are seen as grappling with a sense of inferiority and an aggregate need for validation. Alfred Adler, a pioneer in individual psychology, believed that neuroses often stems from the individual’s perception of inadequacy, leading them to adapt coping mechanisms to compensate for their perceived shortcomings.

These individuals might strive for excessive attention, dominance, or success in an attempt to overcome their underlying feelings of inferiority. Adler emphasized the importance of understanding an individual’s unique life experiences and the development of a more constructive and socially connected lifestyle as a means to address neurotic behaviors and achieve psychological well-being.


Defense mechanisms of Neurotic people:


These defense mechanisms can be used by individuals with both neurrotic tendencies and feelings of inferiority. 



Neurotic people may offer excuses or rationalizations to justify their behaviors, deflecting blame or responsibility away from themselves and their perceived shortcomings. This defense mechanism serves to protect their self-esteem and avoid confronting their feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. 

Making excuses shift blame or responsibility away from themselves, preventing them from having to confront their own perceived shortcomings or mistakes.



Aggression can be divided into three types.

1. Depreciation:

This type of aggression involves belittling or criticizing others to make oneself feel superior. Neurotic individuals may engage in depreciation by diminishing the value or accomplishments of those around them, thus boosting their own self-esteem.

2. Accusation:

Accusation as a defense mechanism involves blaming others for one’s own shortcomings or mistakes. Neurotic individuals may accuse others of being responsible for their problems or failures, thereby deflecting attention away from their own perceived inadequacies.

3. Self-accusation:

This form of aggression is directed inwardly, where neurotic individuals blame themselves excessively for their difficulties or failures. They may engage in self-accusation as a way to reinforce their feelings of inferiority and self-punishment.


Withdrawal refers to the tendency of neurotic individuals to disengage from challenging or anxiety-inducing situations. This withdrawal serves as a protective strategy to shield themselves from feelings of inferiority or failure.

1. Moving Backward:

This refers to a neurotic tendency to regress or retreat to a previous, less challenging stage of life or development. For instance, an adult who faces difficulties in their career might move back to their parent’s home, reverting to a more dependent and less autonomous state. This retreat is an attempt to avoid the challenges of adult life and the feelings of inadequacy associated with it.

2. Standing Still:

Here, a neurotic individual may resist personal growth or change and remain stagnant in their current circumstances. They avoid pursuing new opportunities or challenges that could potentially trigger feelings of inferiority. This could manifest as someone who remains in a dead-end job for years, fearing change and progression.


Neurotic individuals may exhibit a pattern of indecision and hesitation, particularly when faced with choices or opportunities for personal growth. This hesitancy can serve as a defense mechanism to protect their self-esteem. 

By delaying decisions or actions, they avoid the potential for failure or making a “wrong” choice, which could trigger feelings of inferiority. Hesitating allows them to maintain a sense of control over their lives and protect their self-esteem by avoiding situations where they might feel inadequate.


Another defense mechanism discussed in Adlerian psychology. This defense mechanism involves individuals deliberately creating obstacles or excuses that could potentially hinder their performing in a particular task or situation. 

They set up barriers before attempting a task, and when they fail, they attribute the failure to the eternal obstacle or handicaps they intentionally created rather than their own abilities. They say “ I could have succeeded if not for these obstacles”

And if they succeed despite self-imposed handicaps can temporarily boost self-esteem. They may feel a sense of accomplishment, even though they intentionally made the task more challenging.


Final Words: 

Inferiority feelings and maladaptive coping can significantly impact an individual’s life. They lead to heightened anxiety, hinder healthy relationships, and limit personal growth. Recognizing and addressing these tendencies through therapy and personal growth is crucial for achieving psychological well-being and a fulfilling life.


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