Theories of Personality by A. Adler and E. Fromm


Personality theories have drawn sharp reactions from different theorists around the world. Several theories have emerged with the aim of explaining personality issues. These theories include Adler’s psychology and Fromm’s humanistic psychoanalysis, among others. Alfred Adler worked with Freud in his analytic society from 1902 until 1911.

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He then left over a disagreement with Freud on major theories. Later on, he formed another group known as Individual psychology. The group was initially known as Society of Free Psychoanalytic Research. Adler was perceived as inferior, and this may have instigated his change into an independent theorist. Fromm, on the other hand, was born in 1900 in Germany.

His main influencers were Marx as well as Freud in his socialist ideology. He was also molded by writings of the Bible, having sprung from a Jewish family of Orthodox background. After his University studies in Germany, he moved to the United States where he continued his psychoanalytic practice.

This paper will explore their two theories on personality, comparing and contrasting their strengths and weaknesses. It will also endeavor to apply these theories on Dr. Gregory House’s character and finalize by providing a personal opinion on the same (Boeree, 2011, p. 1).

Personality psychology

This term is sometimes known as personology. It refers to the study of an individual or a person. More often than not, people think of traits of individuals whenever personality psychology is brought up. However, this is never the case. It only makes part of that person. The term is much wide and opens up to a broad definition of being a person.

This field, therefore, serves as the topmost compared to other categories of psychology. Personology involves consideration of other subjects such as motivation, memory, psychotherapy, biology, genetics, perception, sensation, psychopathology, evolution, and learning, among others. The topic is sometimes seen as least scientific since it relates more to philosophy than research.

This is the main reason why it is referred to as personality theories (theories). Some of these theories concur while others differ (Boeree, 2011, p. 1). Scientists and psychologists usually yearn to have a unified concept, with credible scientific evidence. This is the same with personality psychologists, even though their wish is always hard to come by.

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Studying personology encompasses a thorough understanding of the human as well as the factors that influence them. These factors are social, and environmental, among others. To prove these theories, personal psychologists also require the use of research methods. The two methods usually employed in research are qualitative and quantitative.

Personality psychologists find it hard to perform experiments. They, therefore, carry out prototypical experiments. This form of the experiment involves the measuring of dependent variables and the manipulation of independent variables. These methods of measurements can analyze the effects of reality movies on individuals. For instance, if an individual watches a scary movie, it is possible to show as well as rate how scary the movie is.

This would help in measuring individuals’ behavior and effects such as anxiety, and rate of sweating, among others. For instance, there is a correlation between scary movies and the rate at which viewers get scared (Boeree, 2011, p. 1).

Theories of personality

Over the years, several theories have emerged on personology. Personality theories were proposed by several personal psychologists. These included Sigmund and Anna Freud, Erikson, Alfred Adler, and Erich Fromm, among others. This paper covers Adler and Fromm’s theories of personality as described below (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67).

Individual psychology

Alfred Adler developed the theory of individual psychology, after separating from Freud over theoretical disagreements. He was born in 1870, to Jewish parents, graduating with a medical degree in 1895 from the University of Vienna. In his theory, individual psychology, Adler postulates that there exists a single motivation or drive, which influences all our experiences and behaviors.

He named this force (motivational force or drive) as the striving for perfection. The force can also be related to that of self-actualization. People tend to want perfection, a move to fulfill their dreams and potentials. Perfection and ideals are usually pursued in this case.

In a social context, people want to fulfill these objectives. However, in psychological terms, the objectives are unreachable. Trying to be perfect makes people undergo painful situations in life. According to Adler, people tend to adopt assertive drive when denied their drives such as inadequate food, love, sex, among others (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67).

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Adler also used compensation to refer to his theory of basic motivation. In this regard, he explained that personalities could account for our failures in life such as inferiority and shortcomings, among others. He also made comments on masculine protest, which made boys more aggressive and in control than girls. This can be observed in most cultures where boys seen to be assertive are encouraged, while girls are only encouraged to be shy and quiet.

According to Adler’s psychology, we are born with a sense of inferiority. Children begin life as feeble and helpless. They, therefore, strive to overcome these problems to be superior to the people around them. He then explains that those who desire to be important people in society feel so out of inferiority in their respective lines of desire.

If this problem exceeds, one may experience the inferiority complex, which is a complete opposite of striving for superiority (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67). Another element that Adler talked about in his psychology was on Parenting and Birth order. According to him, children who are improperly reared tend to suffer long-term effects. These parental styles were pampering and neglect.

He argued that the former, which refers to the overprotection of children, would probably result in ill quipped adults who may not be able to deal with the realities of life. These children are also said to doubt their abilities and could seek others to play the roles of their protective parents.

The latter, which he referred to as those who are not protected, may grow to mistrust people and even find difficulties in making intimate relationships due to fear. According to him, the best way to deal with these situations is in protecting and not sheltering children from the evils of the world. In other words, it is important to teach our children how to protect themselves (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67).

Adler also developed theories on birth order. He believed that the order of birth in families affected children’s personality. In this regard, he holds that first-borns undergo more problems than the rest of the children. This, according to him, is due to the sudden change in attention, after considerable pampering, when the other siblings arrive.

He also believes that the middle born children tend to have it easy as they have the luxury of trying to achieve superiority over their elders as well as remaining well above their younger siblings. The last born, on the other hand, is likely to experience major personality problems, according to Adler.

This is because they get more pampering than even the oldest children do. They are therefore significantly inferior to their siblings and unprepared to face the problems of the world (AllPsych & Heffner Media Group, Inc., 2008, p. 1).

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Humanistic theory

Humanistic Theory of personality was developed by Fromm. His childhood was not enjoyable. His mother was usually depressed and his father, moody as usual. He was born in Frankfurt and lived in Germany until he completed his University Education. He then moved to the United States and went on to Mexico. Fromm hailed from a Jewish Orthodox family, even though he later referred to himself as an atheist mystic.

His thoughts on humanity started at a tender age 12 when he witnessed painful deaths of a 25 years old woman and her father. This led him to think more about humanity, among other experiences in life. Fromm’s theory blends Freud and Marx’s theories. In this regard, he introduces the idea of freedom, which he believes is the central feature of human nature.

He gives examples of animals as an illustration of determinism. This is mainly because animals never worry about freedom. For instance, taking woodchucks as an example, they do not need counseling during their development to become woodchucks (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67).

In his theory of personality, Fromm describes three methods that would assist an individual to escape from freedom. These are Authoritarianism, destructiveness and Automaton conformity. Fromm explains that freedom forms the greatest problems for the majority of people. He also believes that freedom comes with the inability to gain authority as well as overwhelming loneliness.

According to him, people employ different methods of alleviating anxiety, which may be directly linked to their opinion of freedom. These include individualization, destructiveness, conformity, and automation as well as authoritarianism. In authoritarianism, people tend to submit to entities that they believe are greater than them to escape freedom.

They may also make themselves authoritative over those who, in their opinion are enemies. These authorities may be religious, political, or social leaders or beliefs (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67). The other method is automaton conformity, which is the most common of all, at least according to Fromm. In this technique, Fromm believes that our inability to show power due to fear and anxiety forces us to try to conform to larger societies.

This, in some sense, gives us the logic of power, which people greatly desire. However, this does not make us unique and distinctive. The other technique is destructiveness, which forces as to destroy those we believe hold power to our needs. For instance, resources of a country and control, among others. This makes us extreme and antisocial and at the same time rationalizing our misguided deeds.

Fromm, therefore, dismisses these methods as unhealthy and believes that the only way and healthy technique is to embrace freedom. This, according to him, would grant us true power, which originates from individuality. He also believed that to achieve individuation; one must do what they want to and no what they are supposed to do (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67).

Fromm also speaks of symbiotic and withdrawing families. The former involves the mutual dependence of family members. In fact, in most cases, either the child or the parent ‘swallows’ the other. This leads to a condition in which either the child or parent cannot develop and utilize his/her personality. The swallowed individual is manipulated by the other.

This is very destructive to children, as they cannot develop a personality of their own. The latter, on the other hand, features cold hatefulness in families. Parents demand highly of their children and put in place specific guidelines that they are to follow. Most of these families produce children who are strongly driven to achieve whatever their families or cultures term as a success.

It is also important to note that Fromm developed several orientations of social unconsciousness, these included receptive, exploitative, hoarding marketing, and products associated with peasant, Aristocratic, Bourgeois, modern and Humanistic societies. In essence, he believed that a productive society gave rise to a humanistic society (Fromm, 1941, p. 177).


The theories above have several strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, they concur in some areas as well as differ. The two theorists lived in comparable times. They did most of their studies on psychology in the early 20th centuries. Their personality theories concur in several ways. These include their belief in family structures, individualism, among others (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67).

Adler believes that parents should protect their children from evils, although sheltering them from these evils can be counterproductive. This is a positive comment as is observed in several families. Pampering children is very destructive as they end up without the necessary skills or personalities to face the world. Fromm also concurs with this idea by postulating that symbiotic families are problematic.

This is because one, between the parent and children, must compromise. In either case, children grow to be unprepared for their future as their personalities are left in an immature state. This is, therefore, a strong case and is important in helping families give good care to their children (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 12-67).


As much as these theories meet, they contain several points of disagreements. While Adler categorizes families in the order of their birth to define their probable personalities, Fromm, on the other hand, categorizes these families as either symbiotic or withdrawing. This is quite different, as they do not give an adequate explanation as to why these theories are preferred.

For instance, in Adler’s theory concerning the order of birth, he postulates that first and Last-born are the least prepared to face the world, the latter being in the most difficult situation. The explanation he gives, as pampering of the first and last-born, and the sudden withdrawal of attention does not quite make a significant impact.

In reality, first born tend to succeed in life, and last-born even better as they come when more resources are available for their continuation. Fromm also talks of withdrawing families, whom he believes tend to succeed in life, as they gain the driving force from their parents.

This is also quite debatable and weak as realities show that neglected and severely punished children tend to outgrow such treatments and develop resistance, which may make them rebellious and aggressive (Fromm, 1941, p. 177).


These theories are important in establishing the forces that drive individuals. For instance, From talks of our need to escape from freedom, which leads to anxiety and loneliness. He also talks about the techniques we employ to help us manage these problems. These include destructiveness, automaton conformity, as well as authoritarianism.

In concluding, he states that people should embrace freedom, as this is the only healthy way of dealing with their problems as well as attaining individuality. This is quite important in encouraging the world to be original and unique in its activities. This will make them poses highly needed individuality. Adler, on the other hand, talks of the drive, or motivational force on individuals.

He then explains that those who desire to be important people in society feel so out of inferiority in their respective desires. If this problem exceeds, one may experience the inferiority complex, which is a complete opposite of striving for superiority. This theory applies to individuals who know their drives; the knowledge of what drives an individual helps him /her manage the goals.

It also helps save people from developing inferiority complex due to unattainable objectives. People should be realistic and know that some things such as perfection are unachievable, and keep striving to be better even when things are not easy (Fromm, 1941, p. 177).

House, M.D. (Dr. Gregory House)

This series has its protagonist as Dr. Gregory House, who is popularly known as Dr. House. The setting is a teaching hospital in New Jersey, which is known as (PPTH) Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. The characters involve Dr. Gregory House, who heads the Diagnostic Medicine Department, Dr. James Wilson, who heads the oncology department and is House’s friend.

Others are Dr. Lisa Cuddy, and Dr. Allison Cameron, who are endocrinologist and immunologist respectively, among others. Season one of these series introduces Dr. House and his colleagues Robert Chase, Allison Cameron, and Eric Foreman. Chase is introduced as his longstanding friend, Cameron as empathetic and understanding, while Foreman as a new colleague.

Dr. Lisa Cuddy, who runs the show in PPTH, cuts House’s privileges since he had blown off over six years of duty in the clinic. She does this, thinking that House would begin to make up for this time. House is depicted as frequently hiding from patients and even refuses to see them. He claims that it is not advisable to be attached to patients and uses this to justify his behavior.

This changes when he meets a stubborn patient, as he empathizes and reveals the cause of his leg damage. Cameron, on the other hand, gets romantic with House even though he does not respond. They get a new Chairman in Edward Vogler who has just donated $100 million to the Hospital. Cameron resigns out of frustrations from Vogler. He dislikes House and even tries to get him sacked.

However, Vogler ends up sacked instead, by Cuddy. In the meantime, House tries to get Cameroon back to work and even agrees with a date for the same. She gets disappointed by House but later agrees that House can love (MIS, Inc., 2011, p. 1).

Opinion on the theories based on Dr. Gregory House

From the series, we can observe Dr. Gregory’s character and personality, which explains a lot about him. Firstly, he believes that everyone lies for one reason or another. He is also seen as a diligent observer and therefore a good diagnostician. He is also quick-witted, and this is seen in how he deals with the stubborn patient. He speaks his mind to everyone without allowing undue influence.

This makes Dr. Gregory follow into Fromm’s theory of Humanistic psychoanalytic. From talks of techniques that would help people to solve problems of anxiety, which emerge from the desire to escape freedom. He, therefore, advises people to embrace the freedom to attain individuality. This is what Dr. Gregory House does, he does not care what others say, and he does things his way.

Even when a cruel Chairman comes, with all the pressures, that forces Cameron out of a job, House continues with his daily routines. He hides from patients and says whatever comes without fear or favor. This show how much he embraces freedom and Fromm’s humanistic theory of personality. This helps in making him unique among his colleagues (MIS, Inc., 2011, p. 1).


Personality theories are essential in understanding human and their surroundings. Several theories have been brought forward to explain different personalities. Among these include individual psychology and humanistic psychoanalytic, among others. These theories were developed by various theorists such as Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Erick Fromm, among others.

The paper analyses Adler’s psychology and Fromm’s humanistic psychoanalytic. This is then related to a character in HOUSE, M.D., known as Dr. Gregory House. It is found that the protagonist holds to Fromm’s choice of embracing freedom. This helps him to achieve individuality, which is a key component of personal development (AllPsych & Heffner Media Group, Inc., 2008, p. 1).

Reference List

AllPsych & Heffner Media Group, Inc. (2008). Personal synopsis. Allpsych ONLINE: The Virtual Psychology Classroom. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from:

Boeree, C.G. (2011). Personality Theories. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from:

Feist, J. & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Fromm, E. (1941). Escape from Freedom. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC. p. 177

MIS, Inc. (2011). The TV show “House M.D.” — shortened to “House” — broadcast on Fox on Monday nights is a medical descendent of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from:

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