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Inferiority complex

Suhasini Pandit is an 18-year-old student in the first year of home science. She is a very introverted girl, has very few friends, finds herself uncomfortable in the class when she is asked any question and is unable to answer even though she know the answer. She shies away from get-togethers and parties. Even at home, she is quiet and reserved. She herself feels very guilty (without adequate reason) and is low on self-confidence. She feels that she is inferior to others and always takes a submissive stance in most of her interactions. She is also unable to have meaningful relationship with any person and always feels abandoned by others.


Suhasini suffers from the “inferiority complex”. The inferiority complex is one of the most important discoveries of modern psychology. Although the term has been adopted and used in common parlance, not all are fully sure as to how they understand the term or whether they use it in the right way. It is never helpful, for example, to tell Suhasini that she is suffering from an inferiority complex. To do so would only emphasize her feelings of inferiority without showing her how to overcome them. We must recognize the sense of inadequacy that is revealed in her life style and encourage her at the very point where her courage fails her. Inferiority complex – the words just define the kind of situation in which she is unable to live a useful life, and thereby sets limits on her efforts and activities. Giving the problem a name is no help at all. We cannot make them courageous by saying, “You are suffering from an inferiority complex”, any more than we can help someone with a headache by saying, “I can tell you what is wrong with you. You have a headache.”


The inferiority complex manifests itself in the presence of a problem for which Suhasini was not properly adapted or equipped, and highlights her conviction that she is unable to solve it. She will try to restrict her field of action and will be more concerned with avoiding defeat than with pressing forward to success. She will give the impression of hesitating, of standing still, or even of retreating in the face of difficulties. The conviction is that she must not venture ahead and keep only to familiar circumstances. She must avoid all the dangers and hence keep to herself. The feeling is that when she is faced with the problems of life, there is nothing that she can do to improve things. She feels very vulnerable due to her increased sensitivity and believes that the world is treating her very brutally. She has confined herself to situations in which she feels able to dominate. In this way, she wants to live her life protected from everything. However, the goal is to obtain a feeling of calm without working to improve the situation. Because of such a attitude, Suhasini is prone to a lot of psychiatric problems like stammering (hesitant attitude due to the conflict of low self-esteem and social interest), scholastic backwardness, occupational disinterest, marital evasion, insomnia and somnolence (too weary to face the tasks of the day), inhibited sexuality (feeling of inadequacy in approaching the opposite sex), obsessional neurosis (need to repeat the same meaningless actions that have no apparent goal), agoraphobia (safety in familiar circumstances), melancholic depression (feelings of abandonment) and even suicide (a reproach or revenge against increased sense of vulnerability). These problems are due to her having set an impossible ambitious goal whose failure results in a feeling of inadequacy. Due to her shyness, embarrassment and feelings of guilt, her inferiority complex is seen on the surface. If the situation goes from bad to worse she resorts to tears and complaints – this is also an effective weapon for disrupting co-operation and enslaving other people. She will readily admit her mistakes and her inability to look after herself.


What should Suhasini do?


The feelings of inferiority themselves are not abnormal. They in fact are the cause of all improvements in the human condition. Scientific progress is possible when people are conscious of their ignorance and their need to prepare for the future; it is the result of human beings to improve their lot. We devise increasingly meaningful solutions to our problems, move on to new difficulties and arrive at new solutions. In this way, we become capable of contributing to society. Suhasini, you will have to move beyond your circle of familiarity and meet the problems of existence in this world. You may not be able to dominate other people in non-familiar situations but that is not the goal anyways. The goal is for you to leave the comfort of being able to live in those situations only where your feelings of inferiority are not challenged. You can win affection and love by independent efforts outside the bounds of your home. You should start looking for relationships, which hold a meaning for you. Life will continue to pose problems all the time, and therefore you will never find yourself in a state of complete mastery over your environment. You need to get rid of the pessimism that you have brought on yourself and find an interim solution. You may not be entirely satisfied with the solution and the striving will continue, but in any case, it will be a hopeful, useful striving, directed towards a real improvement in a common situation. You also have to get out of the anxieties surrounding uncertainties in life. Surely, life would be very dull if everything could be foreseen, everything calculated in advance. Our interest in life comes mainly from the uncertainty and if tomorrow were to bring no unexpected opportunities, there would be very little to look forward to in the future. Suhasini, you have to release that block in your development. Find solutions that are nor superficial. Proceed with courage and independence to solve your problems in accordance with the social feelings as well as your own needs.

Dr. Darshan Shah

Dr. Darshan Shah, a renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist, is committed to make a difference in the area of mental health and help individuals cope with feelings and symptoms; change behavior patterns that may contribute to one’s illness and henceforth contribute to their newly improved pathway of life.