Alfred Adler posited that we develop styles of life that compensate for innate feelings of inferiority. To overcome such feelings, he stated, we strive for a sense of superiority, defined as a desire to achieve emotional health and completeness. However, Adler believed that individuals are often victims of faulty assumptions or inaccurate perceptions of their pasts. These faulty assumptions and the poor choices we make which are based on them, are often a function of our childhood memories, which are affected by our family constellation and birth order.
Adler believed that emotional well-being could be gauged by an individual’s degree of social interests or sense of connectedness to others and to the worldwide community. Considered a psychodynamic theory because of its focus on understanding the dynamic forces that shape one’s psyche, Adlerian therapy has also been described as one of the first to apply humanistic and systemic concepts.
This is because Adler believed that people are influenced by family relationships but not shackled by past events and can make new meaning in life by being goal-directed. Adler saw therapy as occurring through a series of stages that included establishing a collaborative relationship, analyzing the client’s problems, sharing insights, helping the client reorient to new ways of living, and reinforcing and evaluating the change process.
Adlerian therapists will often show empathy, conduct a lifestyle assessment, examine early recollections and dreams, communicate, respect and confidence, focus on strengths and encourage clients, help clients combat faulty assumptions, and focus on goals. Let’s see how Dr. Gilchrist uses some of the above techniques to help Shannon examine how early recollections of her family have affected her need to be perfect and how striving for perfection results in a fair amount of stress in her life.
Jungian analysis assumes that the individual achieves well-being through the exploration of what Carl Jung [assumed spelling] called the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. Containing repressed materials from childhood, the personal unconscious is symbolized by Jung’s archetype of the shadow self, which represents all parts of the psyche unacceptable to self and others. Jung believed that the most important task of early adulthood is to bring the contents of the shadow self to awareness and integrate it into the conscious personality. The shadow manifests as the opposite of Jung’s concept of the persona,
or our public mask. In contrast, the collective unconscious is a universal and transpersonal component of the psyche that contains all human experience and potential. Once the shadow has been embraced, the client can continue in the process of what Jung called individuation, a gradual incorporation of universal archetypal patterns into everyday experience. These archetypes provide blueprints for creative development and manifest in our dreams, art, religious symbols, and myths.
Two of the most significant archetypes are the anima, which represents the feminine within all males, and the animist, which represents the masculine within all females. Jung believed that the unconscious could be accessed through the imagination as manifested in dreams, free association, images, and symbols, as well as what Jung called active imagination.
Exploring these symbols and images are a means of understanding the past, relieving psychological symptoms and finding guidance in creating a full and more meaningful life. In this role play, watch how Dr. Paula Justice works with Karen as they explore dream images to help the client acknowledge and embrace her shadow self, and how it might be integrated into her public self and waking life.