University of Louisiana Personality Psychology Discussion

Question Description

According to Adler, we all feel inferior about something and we cope by compensating. Could you describe how feelings of inferiority influence the behavior of someone you know? Adler places emphasis on overcoming these feelings. How did this person overcome them? Was it in a healthy way or not?

Don’t disclose too much and it does not have to be someone you know personally. But please discuss whether the coping was functional or dysfunctional. Feel free to use a character on a TV show or a movie. (Spiderman, Walter White, Beyonce, and Oprah have been popular in the past so you might want to choose someone different.)

example: From the cartoon show of the same name, SpongeBob is enthusiastic, but also very naïve sea sponge who lives at the bottom of the ocean. The show revolves around SpongeBob’s various experiences, largely at work as a short-order cook, but also with a collection of friends and occasional enemies. The defining trait of SpongeBob is that he is loyal to a repeated fault. He is also someone who strives very hard to “be the best me” in every situation. Unfortunately, things rarely work out for him, at least until the end of the episode.

The constant theme of SpongeBob’s life is that he tries very, very hard to get people to like him. He tries even harder to succeed despite whatever unreasonable obstacles are placed in his way. From Adler’s perspective, we would speculate that he strives for perfection because he anticipates rejection. He almost never flinches when he is verbally abused or when others mock or make fun of him. But he does have deep, even profound feelings and the more he is insulted and derided, the harder he seems to try in subsequent situations. Hence he strives to be the “perfect” employee or friend, aiming to go beyond what others do to cover up the fact that he feels unlovable and insecure, unwanted and lonely.

This is a vicious cycle that sets him up for a pattern of repeated abuse. Often Mr. Krabs, his boss, exploits his good and dependent nature, assigning him horrible work hours or job tasks. Plankton and Karen, the nemeses, try to capitalize on his need to please in their endless quests to steal the Secret Formula for Krabby Patties. Squidward, his grumpy, depressed coworker, constantly derides SpongeBob, often manipulating SpongeBob’s desire to please by stringing him on with difficult or seemingly impossible work responsibilities.

Even people who try to be kind to SpongeBob cannot help occasionally exploiting his tendency to be a perfectionistic “people pleaser”. SpongeBob’s bumbling and not-too-intelligent friend Patrick takes occasional advantage of SpongeBob’s naive hardworking ethic. The generally kind Sandy has called him “Idiot Boy” and often cruelly engages him in extreme sports that are way beyond his ability. Mrs. Puff, SpongeBob’s boating teacher who is tolerant to a fault can be almost as brutal as his boss as SpongeBob’s dependency and clumsiness.

Yet despite these personal setbacks, SpongeBob continues to trudge on, striving to get people to like him by being “the best SpongeBob I can be.” We do not know much about his past or childhood. But we know that his method of overcompensating for his deficits would have been profoundly interesting to Adler, who would have examined SpongeBob’s memories and dreams for key incidents that led him to believe that he could “perfect” his way into security and happiness.

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Prof. Angela

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