Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
Inferiority feelings (G., Minderwertigkeitsgefühl) are those universal human feelings of incompleteness, smallness, weakness, ignorance, and dependency included in our first experiences of ourselves in infancy and early childhood. Inferiority feelings continue to be experienced to greater or lesser degree throughout adult life. For the well-adapted individual, whose sense of solidarity and belonging among others is cultivated by education and encouragement, these feelings serve as spurs to effort and as a source of motivation to overcome obstacles, to grow, and to improve oneself and the community. [Note that the word feelings in this formulation is not to be understood as equivalent to emotion, as used otherwise. Here it refers to a sense of things, a contact with underlying reality, prior to biased opinion, perhaps by analogy to "sea legs" for one accustomed to the sense of being on board a moving vessel.] [See Existentialism.]
To be human means to feel inferior (p. 115).
Every child is actually inferior in the face of life and could not exist at all without a considerable measure of social interest on the part of those close to him (p. 115).
At the beginning of every psychological life there is a more or less deep inferiority feeling (p. 115).
To be a human being means to possess a feeling of inferiority which constantly presses toward its own conquest (p. 116).
The inferiority feeling dominates the psychological life and can easily be understood from the feeling of imperfection and of incompletion and from the incessant striving of man and mankind (pp. 116-117).
Inferiority feelings are not in themselves abnormal. They are the cause of all improvements in the position of mankind (p. 117).
Human beings are in a permanent mood of inferiority feeling, which constantly spurs them on to attain greater security (p. 123).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 60).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.