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Alfred Adler, born in 1870 and died in 1937, was a psychologist and associate of Freud. He believed that the human personality was a conglomeration of many different struggles, and that things such as inferiority complexes or superiority complexes, the family situation, the creative self, and the narrative we tell ourselves about ourselves. In fact, Alfred Adler was the coiner of the term “inferiority complex,” and he believed that the primary motivator for any of our actions is to strive toward perfection and eradicate any flaws we might have within ourselves.
According to Adler, dreams are one of the ways in which our flaws are revealed to us. In order to work through our problems and to attain perfection, we must bring our dreams to our conscious mind and interpret them correctly. Dream symbols are very important in Alfred Adler’s dream theories, as they are the only way to be sure that you are interpreting your dreams correctly and gaining a true understanding of yourself.
The Concept of Will to Power
Alfred Adler referred to the quest to improve yourself as the will to power. This concept refers to the use of your will to overcome your faults, and thus to gain power over yourself and become perfect, unhampered by the inferiority complex that has probably followed you your whole life since infancy, when you were completely helpless and powerless. In addition, according to Adler, people also use this in order to gain power over each other, as power is the primary motivator for all humans.
Alfred Adler denied the idea that we are motivated by our unconscious minds, instead believing that all our actions have a conscious motivation, and are driven by one of four factors: getting, avoiding, ruling, and being socially useful. Altruism, of course, falls under the category of socially useful, but it may also serve the purpose of ruling if it has the effect of buying one respect and prestige. People are rare who are truly and purely motivated by the prospect of being socially useful, though this is a form of perfection and should be striven for.
Dream Theories Focused on Relationships
Dreams, of course, in Alfred Adler’s dream theories, tell us what our faults are. If we see ourselves being cruel in a dream, this reveals a cruelty within ourselves that we must strive to mend and reform. Dreams also reveal our fears and the things that are keeping us back from achieving our full potential. According to Alfred Adler’s dream theories, for instance, if you dream about confronting your boss and yelling at him, this is often because you are afraid to do so in waking life, but that dreams are a safe arena in which you can play out your wishes.
A lot of dreams are wish-fulfillment in this way, but some are more practical, and provide solutions for how to actually solve the problems in real life. Regardless of whether the dream represents wish fulfillment or practical advice, the dream about confronting one’s boss clearly shows where the dreamer’s fear and uncertainty lies: in the relationship with the boss.
A lot of Alfred Adler’s dream theory centers on the idea of dreams as a safe place in which ideas can be entertained which would otherwise be too threatening or uncertain for the conscious mind. Dreams so often represent threats and fears because, in dreaming, we are safe to consider these ideas. The fears represented in our dreams may be very literal – a dream about falling may indicate that you know you are going to be flying in an airplane, climbing a mountain, or even simply hanging Christmas lights on your house and are afraid of possibly falling. They may also be figurative – the same dream about falling may indicate that you fear falling from a certain social station, that you feel your life is out of control and you are falling with no one to catch you, or that you fear a fall from grace.
Dream Solution and Thoughts
The way in which the dream is resolved may also be literal or figurative. A person who catches you may indicate an individual person whom you trust, or it may indicate your desire for someone – anyone – to save you. Alternatively, it may represent a circumstance that you foresee or hope will save you from your figurative fall. As with all dream interpretations, Alfred Adler dream interpretations are highly personal, so that only you will be able to understand their true meaning. However, you must be willing to research and learn about the dream symbols, as dreams are highly symbolic and cannot always or even often be taken at their surface value.
No dream theorist is the be all and end all of dream interpretation, and Alfred Adler is no exception. However, he has valuable insights into the world of dreaming, though some of his science and his ideas may by now be outdated. For instance, the study of psychology in general no longer believes that infants imbibe an inferiority complex from being helpless at the beginning of their lives; on the contrary, parenting magazines abound with recommendations on how to instill confidence by being present for babies and responding to their needs.
In addition, it is commonly recognized and accepted that the unconscious and subconscious affect our actions, and that we take many actions without having a known, conscious reason for doing them. Nevertheless, the general idea that dreams reveal aspects of ourselves, especially fears, is quite true and valid, and modern dreamers can learn much about themselves from examining their dreams and analyzing the causes of the things they dream from the context of their own lives and personalities. Dreams also provide a venue for simple fantasy wish-fulfillment, which itself is revealing about oneself and also is quite simply enjoyable and pleasurable.