Superiority complex is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person's feelings of superiority counter or conceal his or her feelings of inferiority. The term was coined by Alfred Adler (February 7, 1870 – May 28, 1937), as part of his School of Individual psychology. It was introduced in his series of books, including "Understanding Human Nature" and "Social Interest".
The superiority complex is an exaggerated striving for superiority in which the individual hides their feelings of inferiority. The inferiority complex, in contrast, is an exaggerated feeling of inferiority in which the individual hides their striving for superiority. While everyone has feelings of inferiority and strive to overcome them, to be called a complex, the feeling or striving must be pathological in nature. In the case of superiority complex, the individual would deny any feelings of inferiority, any attempt to uncover it would likely be met with resistance, or violence. While a patient may exhibit one complex or the other, Adler believed that if one complex was present, then the other can be found hidden in the patient's actions. Also, Adler believed that in every case of mental illness, an exaggerated feeling of inferiority will be found. Patients are defined not by whether or not they have an inferiority complex or superiority complex, but how it manifests itself in the patient's actions.