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Salvador Dali Life Span Development and Personality

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Many of the most prominent artists are linked not only to amazing art, but also mental illness. Salvador Dali, a modern surrealist, falls into this description. He was considered an artistic genius by many. His work comes from his life and who he was as a person. He has been the source of not only art scholars, but also psychological studies. Background

Salvador Dali born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, Spain, located 16 miles from the French border in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. His father, Salvador Dali y Cusi, was a middle class lawyer and notary. Salvador’s father had a strict disciplinary approach to raising children—a style of child-rearing which was very different from that of his mother, Felipa Domenech Ferres. She often indulged young Salvador in his art and early eccentricities. It has been said that young Salvador was a precocious and intelligent child, prone to fits of anger against his parents and schoolmates. Because of his behavior, Dali was subjected to furious acts of cruelty by more dominant students or his father. The elder Salvador wouldn’t tolerate his son’s outbursts or eccentricities, and punished him severely. The relationship between Salvador and his father deteriorated when Salvador was still young, the father, Salvador, competed for his wives attention with the young Salvador. Dali had an older brother, born nine months before him, also named Salvador, who died of gastroenteritis.

When Dali was 5 years old his parents took him to the grave of his older brother and told him he was his brother’s reincarnation. In the metaphysical prose, Dali recalled, “[we] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections.” He “was probably a first version of myself, but conceived too much in the absolute.” Dali considered his parents naming him after his dead brother “an unconscious crime”. In his memoirs Dali recollects the moment of realization as follows: “For the first time in my life, I was shocked to recognize the absolute truth about myself. A psychoanalytical study helped me to understand the tragic basis of the structure of my personality. The matter at issue is that my dead brother lies deep within my soul, and he was loved so much by my parents that I was even named after him: Salvador. This terrific shock was like enlightenment. It explains why I felt fear on every occasion when I entered my parents’ room and saw the picture of my dead brother covered with fine lace.

His beauty induced the extremely opposite reaction of me visualizing this ideal brother in the state of a final decay during the whole night while I was lying in my bed. I could only fall asleep if I was thinking about my own death. I felt as if I were lying in a coffin and only then could I finally calm down” (as quoted by Gibson, op. cit. 491.). His parents felt guilty about the death of the elder son and according to certain biographers (e.g. Gibson), they always treated the younger Salvador as if he was the dead brother. Dali grew up in a pathologically overprotected environment and his mother allowed to do whatever he wanted. As an adolescent Dali expected his family and friends to behave the same way towards him as his mother did. If he was denied anything, he exploded into a violent rampage.

In school, Dali behaved in an introverted manner and suffered from erythrophobia (a fear from blushing and feeling ashamed), He had a fear of Praying Mantises to the point of a Phobia. and (Laederach-Hofmann, MD, FMH, APPM, Mussgay, PhD, & BĂĽchel, MD, 2002). This fear was translated to his paintings in later life. As a teen, Dali often behaved in a bizarre and violent way: he pushed a boy over a bridge on to the rocks, jumped off the stairs on purpose or bit into a bat carcass full of ants (Maddox, op. cit.). Complex interactions can be detected among the life events of the painter, the psychopathological aspects of his extravagant personality, and the characteristic system of symbols present on his surrealistic paintings.

Personality traits
Salvador Dali had problems in adjustment to others and the world around him. He was self-absorbed and prone to narcissistic injury; he did not like criticism and felt as though others had no right to be critical of him because he was so far superior to others. He would often become violent when criticized. Dali was expelled from school because he refused to be tested and he saw his professors as inferiors. He proclaimed himself as a genius to be compared only with the great masters. Dali was devoted to only one person in his life, his wife, Gala, he was submissive and caring to her. Dali’s narcissism was evident in his lack of empathy, hostility, and punishing nature to all other in his life. Erikson’s theory applied to Dali

Erikson’s Developmental Stage Theory attributes Dali’s need to be special as rooted in childhood problems with identity. His poor behavior as a student can attributed to problems with industry vs. inferiority, the 4th stage of development in Erikson’s theory. According to (“Erikson’s Stages Of Development”, n.d.). During this stage, often called the Latency, we are capable of learning, creating and accomplishing numerous new skills and knowledge, thus developing a sense of industry. This is also a very social stage of development and if we experience unresolved feelings of inadequacy and inferiority among our peers, we can have serious problems in terms of competence and self-esteem.

Dali had a difficult time forming relationships with his peers at this age, and thus, had low self estem. As the world expands a bit, our most significant relationship is with the school and neighborhood. Parents are no longer the complete authorities they once were, although they are still important. Erikson theorized that from ages 18-35 people tend to seek out companionship and love. Our significant relationships at this age are with marital partners and friends. His odd relationship with his wife, Gala, can be attributed to an unresolved conflict of intimacy vs. isolation. Alder’s Theory of Personality

•Adler’s work was based on the inferiority complex and the striving for superiority. He felt as though there were many situations within a child’s life that could bring about these inferiority feelings. Adler thought that the driving force behind all human actions is the striving for perfection or superiority. This would explain Dali’s superiority complex.

•Adler’s theory best describes Dali’s personality and why he felt superior to other people. His theory also explains his relationship with his mother and wife. Adler’s definition explains Dali’s narcissism and his success as an artist. Although by many Dali’s was considered a failure in his personal life, Dali did not see himself as a failure, but a success. He turned his insecurities to a feeling of superiority and created a world where he was superior in life through his art. Operant conditioning also explains Dali’s bizarre behavior based on the rewards for his dramatic works and theatrical displays. The artistic world is a place where the narcissist can be successful because the artist only competes with themselves.


Laederach-Hofmann, MD, FMH, APPM, K., Mussgay, PhD, L., & BĂĽchel, MD, B. (2002, March,April). Patients With Erythrophobia . Psychosomatic Medicine, 64(2), 358-365. GIBSON, IAN. (1999): Salvador DalĂ­, The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali. Aquila kiadĂł, Budapest Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton Erikson’s Stages of Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.learning-theories.com/eriksons-stages-of-development.html summary of adler’s theory of personality. (2002, September 05). In WriteWork.com. Retrieved 12:37, December 23, 2012, from http://www.writework.com/essay/summary-adler-s-theory-personality

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