Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mahatma Striving for Success; Examining Gandhi with Adlerian Theory



Here we examine the life of Gandhi through the framework of Alder’s theory “Striving for Success or Superiority” and attempt to find what forces shaped Gandhi’s perceived inferiority, how they propelled his superiority striving and how he overcame his perceived inferiority. While examining the motivational influences of Gandhi’s through Alder’s framework the author will attempt to shed insight how he obtained his high level of superiority striving, as well as his goals, how they influenced his career choices, and how his unique style of life that helped him accomplish these goals.



In Alder’s (1956) theory “Striving for Success or Superiority” the central force behind human behavior is an innate human tendency to feel inferior and seek completion or wholeness through the creation, internalization and completion of one’s own fictional final goal.  Adler’s theory stated that although this functional goal is partly constructed out of the raw materials, such as those provided by genetics and sociocultural influences, it is actually created with creative power from one’s own subjective perceptions of reality (Feist, 2009). Alder’s theory argues that a person’s subjective perceptions shape their motivational influences, behavior, and creative power shapes their unified and self-consistent personality, which then develops into a person’s style of life (Feist, 2009).Alder’s (1956) suggest that in conjunction with the innate human tendency to be compelled by feelings of inferiority to gravitate towards completion or wholeness through success striving integral to development of healthy fictional goals that strive for success and social interests is a child’s parental attachment styles (Feist, 2009). Alder (1956) argues that while genetic components contribute to the potentiality of character and sociocultural factors contribute to the development of social interest, it is the type of love and nurturing that parental influences give that is the determining factor in the development of healthy objectives for success striving (Feist, 2009). Alder’s argues, that children who receive love and security from their parents nurturing and consequently semi-consciously set and pursue a final goal with superiority defined in terms of success and social interest (Feist, 2009).


When we examine the life Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi through this framework of Alder’s we would say that Gandhi would have been continually motivated to strive for success or superiority by the need to overcome inferiority feelings. Alder’s theory also suggested that as the youngest child of three siblings Gandhi would have been most likely to struggle with strong feelings of inferiority and lack a sense of independence. Alder would have argued that these innate feelings of inferiority and lack a sense of independence would have worked to motivate Gandhi throughout his life to exceed his older siblings. Gandhi’s observable inferiority or weakness could be that he was a mediocre Indian Hindu student part of lower caste social class in India (Progress Report, 2014). From this perspective, Gandhi may have chosen to be a lawyer and peace activist to overcome the feelings of inferiority he felt growing up middle-class yet subject to discrimination and oppression all over the world because he was an Indian, Hindu or part of the lower caste system. Thus we could assume that growing up with feelings of inferiority created by the oppression in the caste system a significant motivator in Gandhi’s adult choice to peacefully fight against colonialism, racial discrimination, economic exploitation, India's Independence, and human rights.

The history of Gandhi’s proclaims his parents were cultured and devout Hindu’s (The Progress Report, 2014). Gandhi himself, a cultured and devout Hindu, proclaimed his father “brave, incorruptible, and short-tempered and remembered his mother as a saint” (The Progress Report, 2014). Seemingly essential to the completion of his goals was Gandhi’s faith, which was largely influenced by his mother’s own devotion to her faith. Gandhi’s faith contributed significantly to his very unique style of life and altruistic philosophy.  His very unique style of life and altruistic philosophy helped him achieve great things primarily by allowing people see that this motivational intent was pure and good, thus increasing his social power. Consequently, central to the motivational forces that influenced Gandhi’s was the inferiority and fear he felt in times when he strayed from the principals of his religion and honesty. Early childhood experiences when Gandhi defied his faith, ate meat, stole from his brother and hid from his parents to cover his sins admittedly made Gandhi feel fear, anxiety, and likely supremely inferior as well.

Perhaps more significant than his rebellion from his faith and parents was the relief he felt from fear, anxiety, and inferiority when he confessed to his father. In Gandhi’s memoirs, he writes of time when he confessed a sin of theft against his brother to his father expecting to be rebuked with anger and violence and instead his father wept (The Progress Report, 2014). Gandhi later wrote, “Those pearl drops of love cleansed my heart and washed my sin away” (The Progress Report, 2014). Gandhi also proclaimed this “was his first insight into the impressive psychological power of ahimsa, or nonviolence” (The Progress Report, 2014). These moments with his father led to the insight into the power of ahimsa or nonviolence and led to the development of subjective perceptions that were extremely influential for young Gandhi. From Alder’s perspective, it was these early and influential moments with his parents that significantly contributed to the development of Gandhi unified and self-consistent style of life, honest convictions and non violent activism that left a mark of honor all over the world.

From Alder’s perspective, it was to overcome his perceived inferiority that Gandhi developed a style of life which was honest and non-violent and became a leader who acted out of social interest instead of for personal gain. The history of reflects that Gandhi utilized “Satya (truth) and Ahimsa (non-violence) in pursuit of truth (God), in its most pristine manifestations, justice and liberty for man” (Bhavan, 2004). From his actions in life, we can presume that primary fictional goal was finding equality for all people through honesty and non-violence. Although imprisoned several times, Gandhi lived to become the most renowned leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India when he utilized nonviolent civil disobedience to lead India to independence (Wikipedia, 2014). This monumental achievement inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world (Wikipedia, 2014). The long-term outcome of Gandhi’s striving is extremely motivating for many people including those who were directly affected by his actions, those indirectly affected and those who read about him now.