What is Inferiority Complex?

Meaning of Inferiority Complex

The term complex, coined by the psychiatrist Theodor Ziehen, is widely used in psychology. Complexes are important concepts for analytical psychology.

Its founder, Carl Jung, designates as such the loose fragments of personality (or groups of psychic contents separated from the conscious) that function in the unconscious, from where they influence consciousness.

Stimuli such as the feeling of inferiority can activate the subject’s complexes, causing a moment of psychological charge in which the conscience is about to be disturbed, causing pain and irrational reactions. Such a trigger is called a constellation.


The term Complexity of Inferiority was coined by Alfred Adler, a dissenting disciple of Sigmund Freud. Designates the set of attitudes, representations and behaviors that are disguised expressions of feelings of inferiority or their reactions.

For Adler, such a feeling would be a consequence of factors such as the presentation of anomalies, organic issues and/or unfavorable influence of the environment in which the subject is inserted.

Thus, such constitutional variables and their analogous states in childhood would give rise to feeling, demanding compensation in the sense of an exaltation of the feeling of personality: the subject would force a fictitious final end for himself that would attract his psychic forces, the search for compensate, with greater intensity. or less successful, his disability.

Freud disagrees with the theory, alleging that it presents an insufficient and partial narrative conception. According to the father of psychoanalysis, the feeling, instead of being considered an ultimate etiological factor, must be understood and interpreted as a symptom.

In addition, F. added that the origin of the complex may also correspond to real or fantastic damage that the child would suffer, related to the loss of love and castration.

Finally, he pointed out that, structurally, such suffering would translate the tension between ego and superego, underlining the kinship of this feeling with that of guilt.

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