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superiority striving

An appreciation for the evolutionary struggle of all living things to adapt successfully inspired Adler to apply the concept of superiority striving to the understanding of human being.  He posited that the goal of success pulls the individual forward toward mastery and the overcoming of obstacles.  He observed that, for social interested individuals, the goal of superiority is on the useful side of life and contributes to the developing human community. He further described his observation of the discouraged person who, operating on the useless side of life under the burden of increased feelings of inferiority, makes the error of supposing that (since he feels inferior to others) his task is to attain a position of superiority over them.  Since this movement only invites the antagonism of others, it contributes to his further defeat and creates a disturbance in the life of the community.  The discouraged person may express his superiority striving in self-elevation, depreciation of others, and self-aggrandizement, countering his immense feelings of inferiority with a pattern of compensatory pretenses to superiority which may be termed a superiority complex.


Excerpted with permission from Griffith, Jane & Powers, Robert L.