alfred-adler

Alfred Adler | Dream Encyclopedia


Alfred Adler (1870–1937) was an Austrian psychiatrist who developed a personality theory referred to as individual psychology. He was at one time closely associated with Sigmund Freud, but broke with Freud to develop his own form of psychotherapy. Adler placed much less emphasis on dreams than other schools of psychiatry, and his attitude toward dreams is somewhat inconsistent. Even though he did not develop a full-blown theory of dreams, his thoughts on this subject had a significant influence on later dream theorizing.

To oversimplify the difference between Freud and Adler, Freud focused on sex and aggression and Adler focused on power and status. Adler viewed much human motivation as originating during the lengthy period of child- hood, when we are relatively powerless to control our lives. In response to this feeling of helpless- ness, the human being, according to Adler, develops a powerful urge to master his or her world. This desire for control and mastery becomes the central drive in human life.

Dreams would clearly have a different significance for Adler than they had for Freud. In Freudian theory, dreams are fundamentally arenas within which inner tensions, many of them safely hidden from view in the unconscious, could be safely discharged. Often these tensions have roots in infantile conflicts, making dreams pasoriented. For Adler, on the other hand, dreams become part of the larger project of the individual to master his or her life. In particular, dreams come about as a result of an effort—whether that effort is effective or not—to anticipate future situations, so as to allow us to imaginatively prepare for them. Although dreams are intended to help the dreamer acquire more control over his or her world, Adler recognized that many dreams are maladaptive, in the sense that, if one were to actu- ally follow their guidance, the practical results would be to detract from, rather than enhance, the goal of mastery over one’s environment.

Adler’s views provide a radically different perspective on dreams from Freud’s. For Freud dreams serve to discharge inner tensions originat- ing in the past and hidden in the unconscious, whereas for Adler the function of dreams is to anticipate the future. Also, one of the results of Adler’s portrayal of dreams is to make them more related to the thoughts and motivations of waking consciousness, in marked contrast to Freud’s portrayal, which emphasizes the disjunction between the waking and the dreaming state. Adler’s ideas, particularly as developed and for- mulated by later theorists, have influenced many contemporary therapists.

Dreampedia | Dreampedia