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Neo-Freudian Perspectives

Neo-Freudian theorists de-emphasized the importance of sexual drives as motivators of behavior, focusing instead on how social needs shape personality.

While Freud believed people are motivated by sexual and aggressive urges, his colleague, Alfred Adler, suggested people are motivated by feelings of inferiority. He proposed the inferiority complex, which refers to a person's belief that they lack worth and fail to measure up to societal standards. Adler claimed these feelings arise in childhood, creating a drive to gain superiority. He suggested this drive is the force behind all thoughts, emotions, and behaviors throughout life.

Instead of the psychosexual stages outlined by Freud, Adler proposed that social connections drive childhood development. He identified three fundamental social tasks: having a career, having friendships, and having a long-term intimate relationship. Adler focused mainly on conscious motivation, considering it more important than unconscious drives. Adler also suggested that birth order shapes personality. According to him, oldest children start out as the focus of their parents' attention. When a sibling joins the family, the first child compensates for having to share that attention by overachieving. The youngest child may become spoiled because they are accustomed to getting whatever they want. Adler suggested that this pattern gave middle children an opportunity to minimize the negative qualities of the youngest and oldest children.

Carl Jung, one of Freud's protégés, also split from him. Jung did not accept sexual drives as a primary motivator and considered Freud's concept of the unconscious incomplete. Jung proposed that in addition to their own personal unconscious, each person also had access to a large collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is a form of universally shared memory, inherited from human and pre-human ancestors, containing myths, symbols, concepts, and archetypes.

An archetype is a prototypical model of people, ideas, or behavior that exists within the collective unconscious. Character archetypes reflect common personalities including the hero, the maiden, the villain, the caregiver, and the ruler. Thematic archetypes encompass common experiences such as coming of age, falling in love, and facing death. These archetypes have been represented across cultures in artwork, literature, folklore, and fairy tales.

Jungian Character Archetypes

According to psychologist Carl Jung, there are 12 major character archetypes, or models of people's personalities and behaviors. He believed these archetypes were an inborn part of the collective unconsciousness, made up of our ancestral experiences.
Another concept Jung proposed was the persona, a mask a person consciously creates to hide parts of the self that do not align with society's expectations. According to Jung, the persona is based on conscious experiences and ideas in the collective unconscious. For example, a celebrity or politician may project an excessive image in public that is not natural when out of the public eye. Such excess may be associated with notions of masculinity or femininity that exist within the collective unconscious.

Jung also introduced two personality types that are basic orientations of the ego: introversion and extraversion. An introvert is a person who is energized by their own inner activity. They enjoy being quiet, reserved, and alone. They typically act cautiously and excel at focused work. An extravert is outgoing and energized by being around other people. They are socially oriented, somewhat impulsive, and easily distracted. For a person to be psychologically healthy, both orientations must be present, balanced, and adapted to deal with the external world effectively.

Karen Horney, one of the first women trained as a Freudian psychoanalyst, identified aspects of Freud's theories that were biased toward women. For example, she did not believe Freud's assertion that women have penis envy (jealousy of the male anatomy). According to Horney, any jealousy women feel arises from privileges granted to males but withheld from females. She also suggested that men's womb envy (jealousy that they cannot give birth) causes men to devalue women.

Horney also wrote about basic anxiety, a feeling of helplessness in a hostile world. She identified three ways of coping with this unconscious anxiety. The first coping style, moving toward people, revolves around affiliation and dependence. People who rely too much on this approach depend on others to provide frequent attention and affection. The second coping style, moving against people, is based on aggression and assertiveness. People with this coping style calm their anxiety by fighting, bullying, and taking advantage of others. The third coping style, moving away from people, involves detachment and isolation. People who rely too much on this approach relieve anxiety by withdrawing from people, and avoiding love and friendship.