Comparing the theories of Freud, Adler and Jung

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Alfred Adler, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung collectively and individually contributed immensely to the development of contemporary psychology. The three notable individuals either worked together at some point or corresponded on a number of topics, though they had varied views and each went ahead to adopt his unique theories. Adler developed the theory of personal development, Freud the theory of sexuality and Jung’s of mythology

All the three individuals had varied views on personality. Freud viewed an individual as possessing three levels of personality, the id, ego and the superego. The id contained primitive drives that acted on the basis of pleasure principle. Its main goal was to seek immediate pleasure and avoid pain. The ego was aware of reality and operated via the reality principle, on the basis of secondary processes of perception, recognition, judgement and memory. The superego sought perfection, it contained values and social morals contained within the conscience, Boeree, (2006).

Jung on the other hand, identified the ego as the conscious mind which was related to personal unconsciousness. He developed the concept of collective unconsciousness a part of the psych which was inherent, and influenced our experiences and behaviours especially the emotional ones. According to Jung, this collective unconsciousness linked humanity together, made people fall in love, share religious experiences, have similar dreams, literature and fantasies, Aziz, (1999).

The contents of the collective unconscious he called archetypes similar to what Freud called instincts. There is a particular difference since Jung’s archetypes were not biological like Freud’s, but were largely spiritual. Jung further developed the personality typologies; one of his most famous accomplishments. He identified the concepts of introversion and extroversion as the main definitions of personality and sensing, thinking and intuition as the major ways of relating to the world whether introverted or extroverted. These formed the foundation of the Myers-Briggs Type indicators are founded.

Adler on the other hand developed the concept of individual psychology as the means of understanding the personality of any human being. Adler felt that, the key to understanding individuals’ personality was to study them as unified wholes rather than a collection of parts as both Freud and Jung had proposed. He was of the view that, a psychologist had to consider both the physical and social environments of individual. His theory is particularly popular since it sought to understand the complete lifestyle of an individual rather than consider specific segments of an individual’s personality, Boeree, (2006).

Freud proposed that sex drive was the driving force in individual behaviour. He wrote extensively on how sexuality starts when people are young shaping their behaviour throughout their lives. He indentified the psychosexual stages; the oral, anal, phallic, latency and the genital stages and developed fixation, a concept in which improper or inadequate response to any of the stages generated conflict. On the other hand, Adler proposed that sex drives did not direct the behaviour of individuals, but every individual had the inherent desire to fulfil his potentials; a theory he called striving for perfection. It proposed that, every individual had the will to be assertive at times when their needs and desires were frustrated.

Adler also introduced the psychological theory of compensation, a view since all individuals had varied shortcomings, inferiorities or other problems they all sought to either overcome of compensate for them. A person with a shortcoming could develop an inferiority complex in which he/she could be governed by overwhelming forces of inferiority. Alternatively, the individual could develop an inferiority complex, a feeling of self centeredness in which an individual feels he better than all other individuals, this is to cover for his shortcomings.

His theory of organ inferiorities and compensation proposed that all individuals who had different forms of shortcomings such as poor hearing, weak lungs, liver problems, responded through compensation, when they sought to make up for their deficiencies. Freud on the other hand sees individuals as living with tensions and anxiety; such as reality, neurotic and moral anxieties. Rather than compensation as Adler had stipulated, these could be managed through various defence mechanisms. Defence mechanisms according to Freud were schemes in which the ego strived to manage both the id and the super Ego which were in conflict and which triggered particular forms of anxiety, Boeree, (2006).  .

Some of the defence mechanisms identified by Freud included; denial, displacement, intellectualisation, projection, rationalization and sublimation. Jung on the other hand, defined the goal of life as that of trying to realize self (this was similar to Adler’s position). He described self as a union of opposites that transcends the same opposites. Humans were therefore neither and both good or bad, evil or holly, male or female, conscious nor unconscious. There was therefore, no reality, but a total confusion created by a collection and different interpretation of archetypes. Some of the archetypes identified by Jung included mana which symbolized spiritual power, the shadow which comprised of the sex and life instincts, the persona which represents the public image or the personality advanced by every man. He also identified the anima and the animus the part of individual’s personality responsible for sex appropriate role playing, being either male or female, Aziz, (1999).

Freud differed with Adler on the concept of lifestyle for he considered the mind of man to be the product of the past such as early childhood experiences. Jung on the other hand, viewed man as controlled by archetypes, which were not rational but spiritual, beyond the control of man. Adler saw man to be motivated by the prospects of future prospects, Boeree, (2006). That rather than be driven mechanically by our past, we are drawn towards our goals and desires all of which are future oriented. This concept he called Teleology. Whatever ones views are on which school of thought is more appropriate, all the three individuals contributed immensely to the broadening of our interpretation of psychological ideas and the understanding of human from the psychological perspective.


  • Aziz, R. (1999) Synchronicity and the Transformation of the Ethical in Jungian
  • Psychology .Westport, CT: Greenwood. ISBN 0-313-30452-1
  • Boeree, C. G. (2006) Alfred Adler 1870 – 1937.Retrieved from the web on
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  • Boeree, C. G. (2006) Sigmund Freud 1856-1939. Retrieved from the web on
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