Birth Order: Sense and Nonsense - An Adlerian View

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The noted interaction of the personal unity of the individual and the requirement of social interest or participation provides the interplay in which other formative concepts develop in Adlerian theory. Inferiority sets the tone for the individual development of a self-perception. Whether a person perceives themselves as adequate and capable depends on the sense of inferiority, where the person fits into the family constellation, and ultimately the perceptual framework or meaning the person gives to life.

Inferiority and superiority serve as the primary motivators. The family constellation is the most influential and formative social network for a person. It is in the family that the basic notions of life and existence find formation. For his focus on the family constellation, Adler receives credit as one of the earliest contributors to family systems theory. Primarily, family constellation discussions focus on birth position, but also integral to the family constellation focus is the development of what Adler terms a prototype, or the core structure of the style of life or lifestyle.

The core concepts of life and functioning naturally form in the family constellation given the family is the first social network in which the child receives exposure. Here the child learns to value others and empathize with others. Additionally, family exposure and experiences provide various observations from which the child determines how the world must work. Though often faulty and inadequate, these observations, none-the-less, serve as the motivating platform from which a child acts.


We may not even be aware of deeper thoughts until we speak. People may sometimes demonstrate a disconnection between their speech and the meaning intended. It is, of course, infinitely more complex, a thousand times better equipped to attack and to evade; and in the structure of the organs and the capacity of their function, it incorporates the life experience of the individual as well as that of his forebears.

Primarily an agent of attack, collecting useful experiences, exercising self-control, acting with foresight, attempting to protect its tasks by a wide safety coefficient, and never losing sight of its goal—that is how we see the inner life of a human being.

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Depending on how the individual tends to interpret sensory data, a personal interpretation or meaning attaches to each piece of data. Fleisher, in T. Kottman and M. Shulman and H. Rattner, Alfred Adler, Watts, P. Peluso, and T.

Study: Birth Order Doesn't Affect Your Personality - The Atlantic

Eckstein reviews research supporting the notion that birth order provides unequivocal influence in personality formation. The situation in which a child grows up is exemplary for the attitude toward life which he formulates early on and by which he lives more or less unconsciously.

Particular focus on birth order and the character influences appears readily in Guiding the Child. Dinkmeyer and Sperry, Counseling, The oldest child can be typified as ruler of the day. The second child introduces sibling rivalry and must overcome the first born. The middle child may feel squeezed and fight for position. The youngest child, as the baby, is a charming, chosen child. The only child is mature and never dethroned from the chosen position. This originates in the infantile years with the family and builds to a continuous sense of meaning as a contributing adult to the betterment of the greater society.

It leads to positive social interactions with others as seen in the task of friends and provides a springboard from which a person is able to launch a fulfilling career.

Birth order - Wikipedia

The development of fulfilling love with a mate is also contingent upon a healthy social interest. Whether an individual develops what Adler terms superiority or not depends on early experiences and the meaning given to these experiences. A person who gathers a sense of inferiority strives to overcome the inferiority by overcompensation or what manifests as a superiority complex. Maladjusted overcompensation proves debilitating and leads to neurotic symptoms and in the worst cases psychotic expression. The alternative, a healthy sense of superiority and social interest, leads to health and wellbeing.

It is for an individual a striving for a more positive, well-adjusted place in life. Adler describes the teleological nature of Individual Psychology as follows: The science of Individual Psychology developed out of the effort to understand that mysterious creative power of life—that power which expresses itself in the desire to develop, to strive and to achieve—and even to compensate for defects in one direction by striving for success in another.

This power is teleological—it expresses itself in the striving after a goal, and in this striving every bodily and psychic movement is made to cooperate. It is thus absurd to study bodily movements and mental conditions abstractly without relation to an individual whole. Sweeney and J. King and C.

Judith Rich Harris: Why Do People Believe that Birth Order Has Important Effects on Personality?

So, according to Adler, all living things seek a goal. With regard to man in particular, Alfred Adler declares that it is impossible for us to understand his behavior and actions unless we know their goal. The style of life manifests in activity within the three core tasks—friendship, work, and love.

The third aspect Sweeney mentions is the analytical nature of Adlerian theory, and this Dreikurs, Fundamentals, Mosak and Maniacci classify the analytical aspects of Individual Psychology into these two primary parts. Sweeney points out that Adlerian theory differs from the Freudian concept of the unconscious in that the unconscious is not unavailable, but may not be readily understandable.

Adlerian Therapy Essays (Examples)

He understands nothing about his style of life, yet he is continually bound to it. Mosak and M. Corsini and D. The dream is left to the discretion of imagination, which is tethered to the style of life. Selection of certain pictures—the explanation is not to be found in the pictures but in their selection; i. Similes and symbols—in the psychological structure of the simile the inclination toward self-deception is also contained.

Adler, Practice and Theory, They are not fortuitous phenomena, but speak clearly the language of encouragement or of warning. There are no indifferent or nonsensical recollections. One can evaluate a recollection only when one is certain about the goal and purpose which it subserves. It is not important to know why one remembers certain things and forgets others.

We remember those events whose recollection is important for a specific psychic tendency, because these recollections further an important underlying movement. Adler, Understanding Human Nature, Adler, What Life Should Mean, Therapeutic Appraisal of Individual Psychology Perhaps Rattner best explains a general framework for the practice Individual Psychology in the following statement: To individual psychology, psychotherapy is a free collaboration between the therapist and the patient.

In contrast to adherents of other psychological schools, the individual psychologist for the beginning counteracts his authority with the patient. As a matter of principle he places himself on the level of human fellowship, and he must make every effort to avoid any authoritarian position, which, according to Adler, is bound to lead to failure. The four goals and subsequent stages include the following: 1. Establishing an empathic relationship between the counselor and client, in which the client feels understood and accepted by the counselor.

Dinkmeyer, Dinkmeyer, and Sperry, Adlerian Counseling, Ansbacher and Ansbacher, Selections, ; the three remaining approaches proffered by Adler are presented elsewhere in this work or subsumed other topics, i. Helping clients understand their beliefs and feelings, as well as their motives and goals that determine their lifestyle. Helping clients develop insight into mistaken goals and self-defeating behaviors. Helping clients consider alternatives to the problem behavior or situation and make a commitment to change.

Here also, Sweeney provides a precise explanation. These are: 1 empathyrelationship, 2 information, 3 clarification, 4 encouragement, 5 interpretation and recognition, 6 knowing, 7 group and marathon, 8 doing different, 9 reinforcement, 10 social interest, 11 goal-redirection, and 12 support and launching. Dinkmeyer and Sperry, Counseling and Psychotherapy, With the initiation of therapy, the counselor must fully engage and connect with the client.

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  • To formulate a complete and insightful analysis, a therapist explores a number of areas with the client. Sweeney remarks that the Lifestyle Assessment is most thorough when including a review of the family constellation, early recollections, and To gather this data, the therapist may ask some of the following questions: 1.

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    Who was the favorite child? Which child was most like your father? Your mother? In what respects? Who among the siblings was most like you? In what ways? What were you like as a child? How did your parents get along? How did they handle disagreements? Shulman and Mosak offer details for engaging adequately in exploring early Think back to when you were very young, as early as you can remember before the age of 10 , and tell me something that happened one time.

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    • With this material in hand, the therapist is able to move the interpretation stage of therapy. Sweeney details the interpretation stage, The third stage, the Adlerian interpretation process, involves the use of tentative inferences and observations made by the clinician. Shulman and Mosak, Life Style Assessment, Too forceful maneuvering with interpretations may push the client away.

      In this final phase of psychotherapy, the client works to re-educate and reorient themselves to a more functional and effective way of living. This outcome is noticeable specifically in the three life tasks—social and friendship, work, and love. This intervention demonstrates to the client that it is the client who has control over their emotions. By visualizing both positive and negative situations, clients come to realize that emotional reactions are created within their own realm of thinking.

      This technique associates the important connection between thoughts and emotional reactions. Corsini Itasca, IL: F. Peacock Publishers, Inc. Task setting allows the therapist and client to agree on reasonable and obtainable goals which are often reinforced with homework assignments.

      Adler himself qualifies as the father of school guidance counseling with the introduction of his child guidance centers.