From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
Jump to: navigation, search

Freudian Dictionary

"Inferiority Complex"

As a matter of fact the phrase "inferiority-complex" is hardly ever used in psycho-analysis. It does not refer to anything which we regard as simple, let alone elementary.[1]

Inferiority, Sense of

To trace it back to the perception in oneself of some organic disability or other, as the school of so-called Individual Psychologists like to do, seems to us a short-sighted error. The sense of inferiority has a strong erotic basis. The child feels itself inferior when it perceives that it is not loved, and so does the adult as well. The only organ that is really regarded as inferior is the stunted penis-the girl's clitoris. But the major part of the sense of inferiority springs from the relationship of the ego to its super-ego, and, like the sense of guilt, it is an expression of the tension between them. The sense of inferiority and the sense of guilt are exceedingly difficult to distinguish. Perhaps we should do better if we regarded the former as the erotic complement to the sense of moral inferiority.[2]


The term "feeling(s) of inferiority" refers to a group of representations and affects that reflect an individual's self-devaluation in relation to others. In The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Sigmund Freud mentioned a dream marked by both feelings of inferiority and infantile omnipotence. The thematic content of this dream is explicitly anal, which is significant, since Freud later often returned to anal issues as forces that can have a positive or negative impact on self-esteem.

Freud addressed feelings of inferiority, notably,...