WHO AM ‘I’ ?


Vienna Psychoanalytical Society. The first President and the most illustrated member. Two different people. In fact, two very different people. One, a humble plain looking son of a grain merchant growing in the outskirts of Vienna. Second, a very aristocratic elite highly educated imposing person from a well to do family in Vienna. Former, Dr Alfred Adler. Latter, Dr Sigmund Freud.

We all know of Freud. We may not have heard of Adler but surly we have heard of the term he coined ‘Inferiority Complex’.

Adler’s famous book ‘Understanding Human Nature’ was a key publication of his times on what the title says. Today with more advanced understanding, there are refinements and counter theories in psychology on the subject.

But today we will stick to what Adler has broadly said and I will state that with an anecdote.

In loose and very plain terms, a broad non technical interpretation of Adler’s suggestion of how a person would respond at any point of time to the question, ‘Who Am I?’, can be simply determined as an interplay of three I s in that current situation.

The person’s sense of Inferiority, Inadequacy and Insecurity. In life. At home. At work.

The Anecdote:

Those were a little difficult times in office. People were working in their jobs for long. Increments were meagre. Promotions were not an option. Relocations were not happening. For a year, things were moving on at a very slow dull pace.

It began with one or two staff. ‘Sir, it has been long. The job feels dull. I am thinking of looking for a new job. Can you help? Will you please let me know if there is a position vacant? I do not know how much more I can contribute to the current organisation any more. I do not know about this job’s security also. It is a yearly contract.’ I heard. Then the trend increased. More and more staff came. Each with more or less the same request.

When the number of staff wanting you change swelled to ten, the supervisor called a meeting. Of all the staff. It was a two hour meeting. After the meeting was over, he requested the ten to stay back.

Mr Supervisor then said I have asked the ten of you to stay back because I wanted to share with you a new job opportunity that has recently come to me. I thought of you when I read the job.

He then shared the job profile with them. The job description. The Terms of Reference. The salary. The perks. The contract. To be renewed yearly based on performance. The location. The Organization’s name was missing.

And he asked. ‘Well let me know if you are interested. There are enough positions.’

Nine hands went up. ‘This one is not bad. It will be a good change.’

The supervisor waited. Five minutes. For the ‘Thank you’ s to subside.

Then he put up a slide. On the screen. A job. With description and terms of reference. And salary.

The ten watched the slide. As they read, the Supervisor asked ‘Do you read this job?’. They all answered in unison ‘This is our job. What we are doing.’

The Supervisor then asked them to take out the piece of paper with the new job advertisement.

‘In the new job piece of paper in your hand, put the name of your current organization. And spot the difference between the new job and the one on the screen.’

For the next few minutes, there was silence.

Then one of them tore the new job paper. Then another. Then another. Then.

When all the papers were torn, Mr. Supervisor said ‘Well. Now that you know, your idea of a better job is almost an illusion, it is time for you to go back to your office. Think for a week. After a week, if you still want a new job, come to me. I will genuinely try to find a new job for you.’

They all left after another round of tea, biscuits and some laughter.

For nine months, no one came. After nine months, the Supervisor found a better job and left.

A sense of inferiority compared to other peers, a sense of inadequacy of opportunity and finally a sense of insecurity. That is what had summed up who they were as employees in the Organization.

With revelation and renewed trust, they stayed back in the organization.

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