Dr. Alfred Adler's Psychology for Everyone
The LifeCourse Institute of Adlerian Psychology
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|Dr. Alfred Adler and Individual Psychology|
For over a century, the contributions of Dr. Alfred Adler (1870-1937) have been central to
psychology and psychotherapy since at least 1902. As will be seen, his ideas and methods
appear in the theory and practice of nearly all psychologies and counseling approaches
used in the present time.1 This chapter introduces the man and his development Individual
Indeed, Adler made many original contributions to what was then an emerging field. It could be argued that nearly everything he did became the foundation for what would come later:
Humanistic/Existential psychologies: The writings of Carl Rogers, Viktor Frankl, Abrahm Maslow, and Rollo May (all at some time students of Adler) often restate Adlerian concepts. Rollo May is generally considered the official "founder" of existential psychology and therapy; Abraham Maslow is generally considered the official "founder" of Humanistic psychology and therapy. Also, much of what became the "human potential movement," including "encounter groups" and "Gestalt therapy," owe much to Adlers ideas.
Neo-Freudians: It has been suggested that these might better be called "neo-Adlerians." Benjamin Wolman, in his textbook on psychological theories, says,
The inclusion of social forces on personality by neo-Freudians seem to come more from Adler than Freud. Indeed, the similarity of "neo-Freudian" ideas and those of Adler has led to the observation that, "A graduate student would run the risk of being accused of plagiarism if he were to approach another writer so closely." (Allen, 1971, p. 22) Stepansky reminds us, that neo-Freudians may have been as much influenced by social conditions of the 1930s and 1940s as by Adlers earlier ideas.
Cognitive Therapy: Rational-Emotive Therapy (Ellis), Cognitive Therapy (Beck), and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (Bandler and Grinder) seem to include many restatements of Adlers earlier ideas, as will be explored later in detail.
Transactional Analysis: Objective observers have noted there are many similarities between major Adlerian concepts and Bernes Transactional Analysis, such as similarities between the "games" of Bernes Games People Play and Adlers Problems of Neurosis, and Bernes "Life Scripts" and Adlers "Life Style."
Psychoanalysis: Freudian Joost Meerloo noted that, "the whole body of psychoanalysis and psychiatry is imbued with Adlers ideas, although few want to acknowledge this fact. We are all plagiarists, though we hate to confess it. The whole body of social psychiatry would have been impossible without Adlers pioneering zest. (Meerloo, 1970)
Ego Psychology: This expansion of psychoanalysis and stressing of the Ego contains much that Adler first discussed. The minutes of the meeting of the third "debate" in 1911 have Freud complaining that Adler presented an "ego psychology" rather than a "psychology of the unconscious." (see Stepansky, pp. 126-127)
It could be argued that nearly every theory and method of modern psychological treatment employed today has roots in or a similarity with something Adler said or did. Therapists themselves may not realize how "Adlerian" they really are. Yet more than any other, Adler seems to be behind what they do and why they do it. As psychiatrist Joseph Wilder put it, "The proper question is not whether one is Adlerian but how much of an Adlerian one is." (Ansbachers, 1973, p. 13). Of major theorist-practitioners, only Albert Ellis (Rational Emotive Therapy) and Aaron Beck (Cognitive Therapy) acknowledge their debt to Adler. (Corsini, 1973, pp. 167; Beck, 1976, p. 22.) Both claim, however, to have come upon their approaches independently, and look at Adler as a forerunner, not a direct influence. So while practitioners may not know that Adler pioneered the ideas that guide their work, methods, or modalities (group therapy, family therapy, marital therapy, for three examples), they use them all the same.
Central is Adlers idea that the focus of counseling is to alter a clients perceptual scheme (apperceptive schema), the subjective viewpoint that lies behind mistaken thinking, the neurotic Life Style, Private Logic, the clients Guiding Goal, Guiding Line, and Guiding Movement, and more. This fundamental idea is basic to most therapies practiced today, from Gestalt Therapy and Transactional Analysis to the "cognitive" therapies of Ellis, Beck, and Bandler. Neuro-Linguistic Programming speaks of "reframing" the clients subjective framework, which seems to be essentially the same thing.
We turn now to look at Adler himself. (Note: This is a rather long and detailed biography of Dr. Adler)
Alfreds father, Leopold, the son of a Jewish grain merchant, was born in Burgenland, a buffer state between Austria and Hungary, in 1835. Some time in 1850s or 1860s he moved to Penzing, a rural town outside Vienna, Austria, where he met and married Pauline Beer. They and their children were citizens of Hungary. Alfred gained Austrian citizenship in 1911. The family moved several times in Alfreds childhood and youth, including twice to Leopoldstadt, one of Viennas several "Jewish quarters."
First came Sigmund, in 1868, then Alfred, born on February 7, 1870 in Rudolphsheim, a village outside Vienna,. Adler always believed that his older brother over-shadowed him. Then came two girls. One brother died in infancy. Two of Adlers early recollections (ERs) suggest how childhood illnesses focused The Problem he came to believe he would have to solve in life, as well as its Solution:
Here we find reflections of Adlers later concepts of Early Recollections, Fictional Final Goal, Compensation, Ideal Image, Inferiority, and Courage in Striving. But one of Adlers childhood memories was not what it seemed to be. Sperber says:
Indeed, Adlerians know that many of the ERs clients relate are not entirely factual. However, people believe what they believe, and act as if their beliefs are true. So even fabricated ERs serve a purpose as ways a person views self, others, and the world. In cases where clients cannot recall an early recollection, the therapist may suggest that they make one up. Adler believed that, invariably, such fictive recollections will still accurately reflect some early lesson about life.
Adler says his mother pampered him until a brother was born. When she transferred her attention to the new-born, Adler said, "I felt dethroned, and turned to my father, whose favorite I was." His fathers advice, "Never take anything for granted, but find out everything for yourself" became Adlers life-long motto. Hoffman notes that one Passover, young Alfred decided to stay up all night to see if, as hed been told, an angel would come to "inspect" the home to make sure it contained only unleavened bread. He substituted some leavened bread for the matzos in the cupboard, and later said "I was not altogether surprised when the angel did not turn up." (p. 9)
Adler: School Years
In 1879, Adler attended the Sperlgymnasium (where Freud had been a student in 1865) and, when the family moved to Hernals in 1881, he attended the Hernalser Gymnasium until he was 18. Hoffman (p. 15) describes schooling of the time as being boring, rigorous, with rote learning and without personal challenge. For eight years, the students were drilled in Latin, Greek, German language, German literature, history, and geography, mathematics, physics, and religion. The dominant teaching method seems to have been pointing out student mistakes, and entirely lacking in positive encouragement. Also, Adler entered his school career a year younger than his classmates, and always felt a little behind and, therefore, always needing to catch up. Doubtless there is something here which is related to his later idea of "inferiority" and the need to move from a "minus" to a "plus" position in life.
Adlers parents raised their children as nominal Jews, and were technically observant during Adlers childhood. The goal of middle-class Jewish families of that time (freed from anti-Semitic laws and restrictions of the previous century) was to assimilate into the dominant culture in order to get ahead both economically and socially. As a young married man, Adler joined a Protestant church to ensure his children some sort of religious education. He encouraged his children to read the Bible "for its psychological wisdom and insights into human nature." (Hoffman, p. 9)
Like other middle-class Jews of the period, Adlers parents wanted at least one son to enter a profession. Thus his schooling took the academic rather than trade-school track. Young Alfred began his schooling aimed at medicine, which became more important when his older brother had to drop out of school to help with the family business. When Adler did poorly in mathematics, his father threatened to apprentice him to a cobbler, which apparently had an effect, since Adler led his class in math from then on.
In the Fall of 1888, Adler entered the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Vienna, to become a practicing physician. He completed his first of three qualifying exams in 1892, and then fulfilled the first half of a year-long military obligation. After two more qualifying exams, he received his medical degree in 1895, completing his internship as a volunteer at the Viennese Policlinic. He then did the second half of his military obligation, and returned for two years of postgraduate training in psychiatry.
In 1899 he opened a private practice as an internist, then turned to the specialties of neurology and psychiatry. He and his new wife, Raissa, set up an apartment in the same building as his office, in a lower-middle-class neighborhood with a large Jewish population. Indications are that Adler worked hard, often with little sleep, to build his medical practice.
A word about medical education in Austria at the time: Hoffman (pp. 19-23) describes the situation as grim. Emphasis was on diagnosis, rather than treatment or patient care. The Austrian approach was called "therapeutic nihilism" by the rest of the European medical community. The poor feared going to the hospital because chances were great they would die there; incoming patients had to pay in advance! Patients were treated as teaching experiments rather than for their illness. All who died were autopsied to advance diagnostic skills, not medical treatment.
Adler developed an interest in socialism sometime in the mid-1890s, not for its politics but its "optimistic viewpoint that peoples lives could be immeasurably enhanced through specific societal action" (Hoffman, p. 22). He read Marx and Engels, wrote editorials for local newspapers on how social conditions contribute to illness, engaged in heated discussions at a local café, and also attended socialist meetings. It was at such a meeting that he may have met his future wife.
Adler: His Marriage and Family
In the summer of 1897, he met Raissa Timofeyewna Epstein. December 23 the same year, they married in Smolensk, Russia. He was 27, she 24. Hoffman (p. 25) suggests they may have met at a socialist meeting, but also notes Adler never wrote or spoke of their meeting, and both Alexandra and Kurt told Hoffman that they never heard their father speak of it.
Raissa, the second daughter of affluent Jewish parents, was born in Russia in 1873. As a female, she was not allowed to enroll in Moscow University, so went to the University of Zurich, where she was discovered socialism, an interest that continued when she moved to Vienna in 1897. According to Hoffman, Adler "felt immediately exhilarated by her intelligence, idealism, and life-minded commitment to world betterment through socialist activity." (p. 26) Hooper & Holford relate that she "overwhelmed young Dr. Adler with her brains, idealism, and determination to change the world; [she was] an exotic new woman." (p. 39)
Alfred and Raissa had four children: Valentine (1898), Alexandra (1901), Kurt (1905), and Nelly (1909). Alexandra and Kurt became Adlerian psychiatrists in New York City, and were active in promoting Individual Psychology. "Val" emigrated to Russia in about 1933, only to die in a Siberian gulag. Nelly remained in Vienna to pursue an acting career, and eventually moved to the US..
In 1898, Adler published his Health Book for the Tailoring Trade, in which he not only pioneered a psychological approach to problems in the work place, but also introduced some of the ideas that would later appear in Individual Psychology. He urged the medical establishment to look at how illness among workers in this "cottage industry" could be traced to working conditions. He suggested that treatment should include social factors and changes in working conditions. One direct result of this small book was that several new laws were passed based on Adlers suggestions.
In 1908, Adolf Joffe, a journalist with the exile socialist newspaper Pravda (whose editor was Leon Trotsky), came to Adler for treatment of a morphine addiction. Joffe (later a key figure in Lenins Bolshevik government) spoke highly of Adler to Trotsky. The two men met and for the five years the Trotskys lived in Vienna, the families were close friends. Kurt Adler recalls that the two men would play chess or take the children to the park on weekends, while the wives, Nathalia and Raissa, stayed home to discuss socialism and their Russian homeland. Raissa became a dedicated Trotskyite, and even more dedicated to social change in her homeland.
Alfred and Raissa were happy the first several years, but tensions developed as it became clearer that they had different ideas about what was important. Adler sought to establish himself as a major contributor to psychological theory and psychiatric practice. Raissa became increasingly political active in socialist circles. By 1912 the differences were enough that Raissa took the children to Russia for "an extended vacation," actually a marital separation.
In 1914, with war imminent, Adler wrote asking her to return. But now, as a Russian, she was technically an enemy of her Austrian husband! With typical direct action, she gained an audience with the Czar and swore she was a loyal Russian who had been forced to marry an Austrian. (Hooper & Holford, pp.96-97). Of the change in Raissa induced by this separation, the novelist Phyllis Bottome wrote:
From this point, Raissa became important in Austrian politics, and viewed her political strivings as more important than Adlers work.
Adler, Freud, and Psycho-Analysis
In 1899 Adler attended a lecture by Sigmund Freud. In an interview in 1928, he recalled his first contact with Freud:
At that time, nervous disorders were treated symptomatically, through cold water cures, etc. All these methods, to which hypnosis also belongs, seemed to me not to get at the root of the problem and to be essentially not more than miracle cures. I searched deeper and deeper to get at the basis of the psychological connections, encouraged by the writings of Charcot and Janét. then in 1899 I attended a lecture by Dr. Freud who, like myself, was attempting to find psychological connections of the various neuroses. I was a nerve specialist and was interested in pathological anatomy and internal diseases. To recognize these in advance, or rule them out, is in my opinion one of the most important preconditions of any psychological treatment method. During 1902 I was invited to discuss with Freud and some of his pupils the problems of neurosis. (Ansbachers, 1964, pp. 336-337)
In 1900 Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams. Novelist-turned-biographer Phyllis Bottome said it was reviewed by the Neue Freie Presse, whose tradition was to ridicule anything new, calling it "this new Egyptian dream book." She reports that Adler wrote a letter of support which Freud took kindly. However, no such review or letter has been found. (Bottome, who made her mark as a fiction writer, seems too much of a doting Adler fan to also be an objective historian; hence, we take her "biography" of him with a grain of salt!)
Sperber, who met Adler in 1921, gives another version, that Adler attended Freuds lecture to the Vienna Medical Association . When Freud met with hostility and ridicule, Adler "was appalled, and expressed his feelings publicly in a medical journal, giving an exhaustive account of Freuds lecture [and] demanding that Freud and his teachings be given the attention they deserved. (Sperber, 1974, p. 23). Again, no such response by Adler has been found.
Freud knew of Adler as a widely-known and respected neurologist. They had met professionally on at least one occasion, and Freud had referred patients to Adler. So in 1902 he invited Adler to discuss the psychological treatment of neurosis, in a simple hand-written post card something like this:
Ernest Jones, Freuds biographer, notes that four men received such cards: Max Kahane and Rudolph Reitler (two of Freuds patients), Wilhelm Stekel (a doctor and also a patient), and Adler. Carl Furtmüller, Adlers close friend, later wrote of Adlers impressions of those first meetings:
For the first six years meetings were held in Freuds home and were called, simply, the "Wednesday Psychological Society." In 1909 it was renamed the Vienna Psycho-Analytic Society. A year later, attendance (about 15 of the 30 members on average) out-grew Freuds dining room, and meetings were moved to the Doctors Medical College (Mediziunisches Doktoren-Kollegium) where Jones noted the atmosphere became "chillier and more formal." (Jones, 1955, p. 130).
It is often, but erroneously, believed that Adler was a "follower," "disciple" or "student" of Freud. While this was true of the others, it was not so of Adler. In fact, throughout his association with Freud, he maintained a personal and professional independence. He was never a "Freudian," and was never psychoanalyzed, which made him unique among the Societys members. Rather, he came to the group as, and continued to be, a well-known psychiatrist in his own right, an independent thinker who attended to contribute and help formulate the psychological treatment of neurosis. Hoffman reminds us that this idea was set forth by Freud himself, in his 1914 paper, The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement, in which he said that several group of admirers, including Adler, sought him out to teach them psychoanalysis, which Freud generously agreed to do. (Hoffman, p. 42)
Adler was always incensed that Freudians referred to him as a disciple. Abraham Maslow said he dined with Adler in New York around 1935, at which time he raised the question of Adlers Freudian "discipleship." Maslow notes that Adler "became very angry, flushed, talking loudly enough to attract other peoples attention. He said that this was a lie and a swindle for which he blamed Freud entirely . He said that he had never been a student of Freud, or a disciple or a follower. He [said he had] made it clear from the beginning that he didnt agree with Freud and that he had his own opinions." (Maslow, 1962, p. 127)
From the beginning, Adler was Freuds favorite. It has been widely noted that this was a pattern Freud repeated several times: choosing a favorite, only to have that man "turn against him." In the early years, it has been rumored that Adler was briefly physician to Freud and some of Freuds family members.
In 1904, Adler treated 19-year-old Otto Rank for a lung problem. They discussed philosophy and psychology, and in 1906 Adler invited Rank to attend a meeting of the society. He did, and was hired to take minutes. One of his first tasks was to take notes of Adlers talk On The Organic Bases of Neuroses based on his forthcoming book, A Study of Organ Inferiority.
In that talk and book, Adler made several key points: That neuroses derive from some organ inferiority or weakness; that sexual precocity can be laid to such inferiority; and that individuals strive to overcome such inferiority by compensation for the organic lack, stressing that such efforts may become over-compensation aimed at dominance of the inferior organ. Ranks notes say Freud responded positively to Adlers ideas.
When the book itself was published three months later the membership, including Freud, were enthusiastic. Adler was now seen as the major contributor, after Freud, of ideas to extend psychological understanding and psycho-analysis.
Then in 1908, in a published paper called The Aggression Drive in Life and in Neurosis, Adler suggested aggression as a second key to personality, equal with sexuality. Freud rejected the concept as not fitting within orthodox psycho-analysis. Adler had offered another way to explain neuroses, a way which conflicted with Freuds libido-based theories.
Adler: The Rift With Freud
Several things were happening in 1908-1910: Adlers ideas as well as his leadership were becoming popular with more and more of the members; Freud had met the Swiss Protestant, Carl Jung, and realized his ideas had a wider audience; at the same time, he began to realize it was limited by its membership, which in Vienna was almost exclusively Jewish.
In March, 1909, the International Psychoanalytical Convention was held in Germany. Through a spokesman (Sandor Ferenczi) Freud proposed an international Psychoanalytical Society, with Jung as its president. This led to an angry private meeting among some members, at which Freud appeared and stated that the movement had no future so long as it was thought of as only a Jewish movement:
Returning to Vienna, the members were somewhat mollified when Freud appointed Adler as his successor as president of the Vienna Society, and as coeditor of the societys Journal. For about a year, Adler was happy in his new roles, bringing a new organization to what had been a group of weekly discussants.
Even so, in his presentations it became clearer that he was developing a viewpoint quite different from Freuds. In a 1910 paper on "psychic hermaphroditism" (that each person has both masculine and feminine traits), Adler proposed that childhood inferiority begins as the child feels weak, unable, etc., ("feminine") compared with adults who as strong, able, etc. He called this the "masculine protest. "Such children are placed in a role which appears to them as unmanly. All neurotics have a childhood behind them in which they were moved by doubt regarding the achievement of full masculinity . . . The starting point for the feminine tendencies of the neurotic is the childs feeling of weakness is the face of adults." (Ansbachers, p. 47)
The term masculine protest relates to the idea that men who exhibit compassion, sympathy, cooperation, and like "feminine" traits are less manly than those who exhibit "masculine" traits: aggression, ambition, or competition. In rejecting their natural masculinity, such men must make neurotic compensations. Likewise, Adler saw that many women, seeking to go beyond gender definitions of a male-dominated society, felt a similar "protest." Adler suggested this as another way to understand those who came to psycho-analysis. It was a view that Freud had to reject.
Yet many members agreed with Adler, and the differences between the two men became more evident: Freud, the authoritarian, required uniformity under only his banner, and saw himself as the emperor of the psycho-analytic empire. Adler, the social democrat, was conciliatory, interested in the power of ideas, and saw himself as one member among equals who all sought increased understanding. More important than personal considerations was that Adlers ideas were becoming a direct challenge to Freudian orthodoxy. By his talks and papers over several years, it was clear that Adler had positioned himself in a separate theoretical place from Freud.
But Freud, his eye on international recognition, did not want the world to see his society as being in disarray. So in November, 1910, he demanded that all Society members must accept his theory that sexual impulses form the basis for the entire psychic life in both neurotic and normal personalities.
The society's minutes indicate that at least half the members objected to what was essentially a loyalty oath to Freud, and a rejection of Adlers ideas. So Eduard Hitschmann (speaking for Freud) moved that one or more meetings be dedicated to the connections between Adlers ideas and Freuds. Freud amended the motion to include specific explanation of the masculine protest.
The meetings were held on in January and February, 1911. Sources differ as to the titles of the talks. Hoffman says Adlers first lecture. January 4, 1911, was called "Some Problems of Psychoanalysis" (p. 70) while Stepansky says it was titled "The Role of Sexuality in Neurosis" (p.113).
So on January 4, 1911, Adler argued that sexuality is not sufficient to explain neurosis because it is universal in all human beings. Something more is needed. He suggested his earlier concepts of "compensation" and "over-compensation" as two paths a child may take through life to make up for perceived inferiority in the face of superior adults. This was linked to Adlers earlier ideas about organ inferiority. Meeting minutes indicate that the talk was received positively, with few comments and then mostly positive. Hoffman says that "the compatibility of Adlers views with the basic tenets of psychoanalysis was not questioned, and the appropriateness of the Vienna Society as a forum for the explication of Adlers theories was implicitly conceded." (P. 117)
The next several meetings were devoted to discussions of Adlers first talk. Freud did not take part, but others seemed to speak for him. Paul Federn, especially, when he remarked that "if sexuality is not the center and cause of the neuroses, then Adlers views represent a real danger; he has done regressive work and aligned himself with the opponents of Freuds teachings." (Hoffman, p. 70)
Adler then gave his second, more detailed talk on February 1, 1911, "The Masculine Protest as the Central Problem of Neurosis" (Hoffman) or "Repression and Masculine Protest: Their Role and Significance for the Dynamism of Neurosis." (Stepansky).
Although Adler began, as he did in his first lecture, with praise for Freuds original insights, he quickly moved on to introduce several differing ideas on the formation of personality. He spoke of the influence of the "ego instinct" as it moves the individual in the direction of importance, power, and even dominance. He said that this impulse will influence the childs various relationships, including, but not limited to, sexuality. He then introduced his idea that neuroses are formed by two forces: "The budding of a feeling of inferiority connected with the inferiority of certain organs; and, unmistakable indications of an actual fear of a feminine role. When these two factors support each other, emotional life becomes falsified." (Hoffman, pp. 70-71)
He then went on to justify "masculine protest" as a method for understanding neurosis. Specifically, he introduced his belief that culture and its definition of gender roles is a major factor in the development of neurosis. He gave as an example that women are devalued by men in a male-dominated culture, so that their contributions and "feminine" attributes are accorded lesser value than so-called "masculine" ones. Instinctual drives, including sexuality, may give a direction (richtunggebendes Mittel) but do not, alone, explain neurosis.
Adler suggested that the Egos safe-guarding ability to avoid psychic harm helps manage inferiority feelings. How the individual experiences sexually, influenced by social forces, and what the person does as a result, and not sexuality itself, is the key. Neurotic personality is distinguished from normal personality by what individuals do to overcome feelings of inferiority. Most people compensate within a normal range; others over-compensate and cross the line to neurosis.
Adler thus portrayed the infant not as at the mercy of instincts, but as an active participant in adapting to the circumstances of life. Clearly, in Adlers new "ego psychology," Ego supplants Libido and interpersonal forces (e.g., culture) are set forth as at least as important as intrapsychic forces. Although there is no record that Adler used the term, it is here that he introduces what would become his "principle of the psychology of use," that symptoms may be as useful in attaining goals which serve the individuals goals.
The debates led to heated discussion and much dissension among the members. Freud himself was not conciliatory. He began by accusing Adler of taking over his own concepts and simply renaming them. He then described Adlers approach as of great harm to psychoanalysis, as reactionary and retrogressive. And he then said that Adlers approach (by down-playing sexuality) might gain him followers in the short run, but that, "Instead of psychology, it presents, in large part, biology. Instead of the psychology of the unconscious, it presents ego psychology. Instead of the psychology of the libido, of sexuality, it offers general psychology. . . . It is ego psychology, deepened by the knowledge of the psychology of the unconscious." (Hoffman, p. 71)
The next two meetings contained only reactions to Adlers ideas, mostly in a very heated and negative vein. Among Adlers defenders was Stekel, who alone of the members had been with both men from the first meeting. He said that "Adlers views are not incompatible with Freuds but are simply a structure built on Freuds foundation." Freud responded, "While Stekel does not see any contradiction between Adlers views and Freuds doctrines, one has to point out that two of the persons involved do find this contradiction: Adler and Freud." (Hoffman, p. 72)
The writing was on the wall, and Adler resigned his presidency of the Society that same evening. He continued to edit the society journal, and to attend meetings, until the break for summer vacation. During the summer, Freud told the publisher that he could no longer work with Freud on the journal, and that the publisher must choose between them. Word of this got to Adler, who submitted the following in the August issue:
When the membership learned of this, twelve members wrote a letter of protest of Freuds actions, and stated that they, at least, would continue to seek to work with Adler. This led Freud, at the first meeting after the summer break (October 11, 1911) to move formally that there could be no "dual membership" with his group and any that Adler might form. Eight of Adlers friends thanked the group for all they had learned while being members, and left.
Stepansky notes that it was neither theoretical differences between the two men, nor a consensus among the members that the twos views were not compatible nor which led Adler to leave the group. Rather, it is clear that Freud had a political agenda, and Adler was a liability. Thus "[Adlers] resignation of the Society presidency and subsequent departure from the group was the product of a premeditated assault engineered entirely by Freud." (p. 146)
The Development of Individual Psychology
In a few weeks Adler and the others formed what they were calling The Society for Free Psycho-Analytic Research. Freud objected that "free" meant his members were not free to think independently, and insisted that the term "psycho-analytic" be reserved for his own approach.
Adlers group did not want to be seen as a rebellious sect but as an independent group of thinkers. So they looked for another name. Personality Psychology was considered, but was already in use by another approach very different from Adlers. The decision being Adlers, in 1912 he chose Individual Psychology to stress that personality is indivisible ("Individual" from the Latin individuum, meaning "that which is whole and inseparable"). This was to contrast with Freuds separating of the mind into Id/Ego/Super-Ego. Even though Adler "went his own way" and the parting with Freud was not amicable, records of the Vienna Psycho-Analytic Society show that Adler continued to attended its meetings for several months.
The new group began to meet regularly at Adlers apartment to discuss Adlers ideas, Raissa being the groups recording secretary. When the apartment became too small for them, a larger place was found. Furtmüller, who was with Adler from the beginning, described the new group this way:
Clearly the atmosphere was one of encouragement, acceptance of variant ideas, and charged creativity. Released from Freuds insistence on agreement with him, they saw themselves at the beginning of a new and largely uncharted territory, where their contributions could make a real difference.
By 1912, Adler had completed The Nervous Character, and had submitted it to the Vienna Medical School as basis for non-paying teaching position. He had by now established almost all of the major categories of Individual Psychology, including the "As If" principle, fictions and Fictional Finalism, inferiority feelings and superiority strivings, Guiding Goals, and the like. (Furtmüller would later say it "lacked only the final pillar" of the complete Adlerian system, that is, Social Interest).
Around this time that Raissa and Alfred had a "trial separation," as Raissa took the children for an extended vacation to her homeland of Russia.
The next year he published several articles on the role of the unconscious in neurosis and the clinical practice of IP: principles of the practice of IP, individual-psychological treatment of neuroses, as well as his preference for face-to-face meeting with patients rather than Freuds use of the couch with the clinician sitting behind and out of sight of the patient.
The summer of 1914 signaled the beginning of World War I, with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. With the growing tensions in Europe, Adler begged Raissa to return to Vienna.
Also in 1914, Adler started the Societys professional journal, The Individual Psychologist, of which he and Furtmüller were coeditors. Publication was suspended after only a few issues with the outbreak of World War I. That same year, the two men were coeditors of Healing and Education: Medical-Educational Papers of the Society for Individual Psychology. This collection moved Adler firmly into the field of education. In his closing words to this volume, he spoke of the undeniable need for physicians and educators to work together. Individual Psychology is for us an artistic endeavor which enables us to regard all expressive movements in the context of a self-consistent becoming. The result is the following most important presupposition for the practice of education: to sharpen the sense of reality through illumination of the unrecognized life plan and through its revision, and to remove pathological and asocial aberrations through change of the self-created system." (Adler, 1914, p 399.)
At this time also, Adler had begun a correspondence with G. Stanley Hall. The most prominent psychologist of that time in the United States, Hall had brought Freud to lecture at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and introduced Freuds ideas to America. Yet Halls own published articles indicated that he preferred Adler to Freud. Hall encouraged Adler to conduct a series of lectures in the United States, a project that would wait twelve years.
And in this same year, Freud completed and published his monograph, The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement, in which he originated certain myths regarding the beginnings of the psycho-analytic movement. As Hoffman notes, in it Freud
recounted that a group of early admirers had sought him out to teach them psychoanalysis, and that among these was Alfred Adler. Freud paternally agreed to do so, and such was the origin of the Wednesday Psychological Society. Ever since this condescending account was published, Freudian adherents have described Adler as a mere "pupil" or even a "disciple" of their esteemed leader. Freuds version is likewise erroneous, more for its crucial omissions than for what it badly present. (pp. 41-42)
In 1915, the Vienna College of Professors rejected The Nervous Character (or The Neurotic Constitution) as being "more philosophy than medicine." A result was that Adler could not teach in the medical school. Adlers daughter, Alexandra, would note later that this signaled the beginning of Adlers taking Individual Psychology beyond the medical professions directly to the general public.
In 1916 Adler was drafted into Austrian army as physician, serving at a hospital in Semmering, some 50 miles southwest of Vienna. His main job was to return soldiers to the front as quickly as possible. He soon came to realize that psychology was being used mainly as a method for separating out malingerers.
In early 1917, Adler was transferred to an Austrian hospital in Krakow, Poland, and again in November, was transferred to the Vienna district of Grinzing which was dedicated almost exclusively to the treatment of soldiers with typhus. Adler returned home during his leaves, where he spoke with his friends about what he had learned during his war-time experiences, including the need for "fellow feelings" as a psychological principle.
Adler was among the first to recognize that war took a psychological toll on many soldiers, resulting in debilitating psychiatric conditions which lasted long after the war-time events. In January of 1918 he wrote a major paper on "war neuroses," which became required reading for military doctors in Germany for the next thirty years. (The condition was later called "shell shock," and today is part of the psychiatric term, "post traumatic stress disorder.")
After World War I
His war experiences also led him to the final "pillar" of his psychology: Gemeinschaftsgefühl, usually translated as "social interest" although sometimes as "community feeling" or "fellow feeling." As Furtmüller puts it,
During this period, he wrote and published on various topics, and was invited to deliver a speech to the Zurich Association of Physicians. In it, he called for prevention as a focus of psychology. This new idea (psychology to that time considered for as treatment only) was picked up by several news services. Adlers name now became known around the world, the first indication that his work would soon receive international recognition.
On November 11, Armistice was declared, which plunged Austria into several years of famine and poverty as a now-partitioned Europe struggled with a post-war depression.
Returning after the war, Adler and the Society renewed their activities with a new intensity. Journal publication was resumed, ways were sought to integrate the concept of social interest into the larger system, and they began to find new arenas in which to strive. Chief among these was education, specifically adult education, school reform, teacher training, and child guidance.
Over the next several years, Adler wrote and lectured on a variety of topics, including child-rearing, prostitution, juvenile psychology, pre-delinquent and delinquent youth. In 1919 he started the first of more than 30 child guidance clinics based on his methods. And that fall he began offering the first of what would become many psychology courses at Peoples Institute.
In 1921, at the age of 16, a young Manes Sperber attended one of these courses and was impressed enough to become one of Adlers most devoted followers. He also became a devoted Marxist/Leninist, helping to form a "Marxist Wing" within Individual Psychology. At a 1925 meeting, Sperber, with several others of the "Marxist Wing" of IP, challenged one of the speakers, Rudolph Allers, for not being socialist enough. "At this point, the twenty-year-old Sperber angrily leaped to his feet and tore Allers papers to shreds. Allers . . . turned to Adler for defense. To the surprise and shock of the entire society, he stood up and said, 'But perhaps the boy is right!' " (Hoffman, p. 144)
But by 1930 Adler had had enough. At the fifth International Congress for Individual Psychology in Berlin, he told Sperber "to end his communist proselytizing and that he [Adler] wanted nothing to do with such misguided activity." (Hoffman, p. 258) Years later, in 1970, in his book subtitled "Alfred Adler in Perspective," Sperber would write,
Making the situation more difficult for Adler was that, during this same time, his wife, Raissa, was an advocate of communism, lecturing and writing on the subject. And indeed, it is clear that Adler himself, in lectures, writings, and classes during this period, held a certain socialist flavor. Which led him to champion the cause of educational reform, including teacher-education. The idea for "teaching teachers" had come early in Adlers career, as he says:
Vienna University was not interested in including teacher training in its curriculum. So Viennas municipal government decided to establish its own school, the Pedagogical Institute. This in turn led to the creation of the Institute of Psychology, which emphasized developmental and educational psychology.
Adler, for several years a regular lecturer at the Peoples Institute, became a professor at the Pedagogical Institute in 1924. His classes included "The Difficult Child " and "Problem Children in the Classroom," in which he used a case-study approach to illustrate Individual Psychology principles. In his first three years, Adler taught more than 600 teachers. From this period comes his famous educational motto, "Anyone can learn anything."
As noted, in 1919 he started the first child guidance clinic in Vienna. In a few years there were over thirty such clinics, the Erziehungsberatungsstelle (family education centers), involving teachers, parents, and children. Here Adler pioneered early forms of group and family therapy. According to Alexandra Adler, the centers had the cooperation and sponsorship of the government. Each was staffed by a physician, psychologist, and social worker.
Adlers attempts to effect change in education were resisted by those wedded to the traditional authoritarian ways. And with Hitlers victory in 1934, all "educational reforms" dating back to 1919 were abolished as "fostering democracy." (Hitlers rise to power was doubtless a factor in Adlers decision to emigrate to the US in 1935.)
By the 1920s, Adler had achieved international prominence. He had devoted followers and child guidance centers in the US. In 1924 he published a summary of his ideas to that point in Praxis und Theorie der Individualpsycholgie (published in 1927 as The Theory and Practice of Individual Psychology).
Around the same time, an American psychiatrist, Walter Wolfe, came to Vienna to study under Adler. Wolfe would became the first American member of the Society, and Adler would appoint him as assistant editor of the international journal, and English translator of Understanding Human Nature which was to have a great effect on the American public.
In 1925, a London Magistrate visited the US and was so impressed by the Adlerian child guidance centers there that she returned to England to form similar programs. Such interest led to the formation of a London branch of the International Society for Individual Psychology.
Adler in the US
In America, a number of universities had invited Adler to speak, among them Harvard, Brown, and the University of Chicago. Despite some misgivings about sailing so far away, and leaving his wife and children behind, (and a bad dream the night before leaving), He left Southampton, England, on the luxury liner S.S. Majestic, in late November of 1926. While aboard, he spent time perfecting his English, since he was determined to address his audiences in English, unlike Freud, who spoke only German in his one US lecture at Clark University.
Adler spent his first few weeks in lectures at New York hospitals and churches, and in meeting new friends, among them Ira Ewile, MD, a pediatrician and educator who had established a child guidance clinic attached to Mt. Sinai hospital. As Adlers presence became known (and because he had just come from Europe, in whose politics Americans were interested) he was increasingly the subject of newspaper interviews. Hoffman notes, "Published the day after Christmas, the Worlds detailed article featured a prominent sketch of Adler absorbed in thought. The banner headline read Mussolini Spurred to his Fight for Power by Pique Over Inferiority as a Child, Says, Dr. Alfred Adler." (Hoffman, p. 175)
More important to the development of Individual Psychology, however, was his statement to one reporter that "the behavior patterns of persons can be studied from their relation to three things: to society, to work, to sex," which would become "the three tasks of life" in Adlerian thought, and which he expanded in his lecture on January 11, 1927, to the prestigious New York Academy of Medicine.
Adler spend the next weeks lecturing in Providence, RI, and Boston, at the same time meeting with admirers who would go on to become key leaders in education. Hoffman (p. 179) notes that, while in Boston, he addressed the DAR, where one member told him, "Our ancestors came over on the Mayflower." To which he responded, "Yes, yes, and I cam over on the Majestic!" Adler had not quite gotten the hang of English, but his slips were treated with humor and kindness by the press.
From February 13, Adler spent six weeks in the Midwest. He received an enthusiastic reception in Chicago, where he was invited by the board of education to deliver lectures for teachers and school administrators. Hoffman (p. 181) notes that more than 2500 applications for tickets had to be turned down due to lack of space in the Field Museum, which seated several thousand.
After additional Midwest lectures with similar receptions, he returned to New England for several more meetings, then to New York, and sailed for home on the S. S. Leviathan on April 11, a very satisfied man. Only one thing bothered him: despite his enthusiastic letters to Raissa, he had received none from her, and he was getting the impression that she did not share his feelings of success.
The next two years saw Adler working to increase the influence of IP throughout Europe and New Britain through lectures, consultation, and setting up educational and child guidance programs. His efforts were hampered on two sides.
On the professional side, there was the increasing pressure of Sperbers group to convince Adler to side with Marxism. In addition was a recent book by Alice Gerstel, who had been drawn to Individual Psychology as a student in Munich. In 1924 she wrote Freud and Adler, comparing the two approaches. But in 1927 her The Road to We: An Attempt to Combine Marxism with Individual Psychology (and its enthusiastic acceptance by Sperber et al) confronted Adler with the Marxist/Leninist sub-group that was seeking to turn Individual Psychology to its own purposes.
On the personal side were his increasing marital difficulties. Despite his efforts to help Raissa set up their new country home about an hour from Vienna, these did not seem to offset a growing coolness on her part and the feeling that she resented her husbands many new friends and new-found international success. All of this was on Adlers mind as he prepared for his second and even more extensive tour of the US. It appears that he believed it would be much like the first, and so was quite surprised to find such a large gathering awaiting him as he disembarked on February 11, 1928, and the major press conference held for him at his hotel.
His way had been paved for him by the November, 1927, publication of Understanding Human Nature. Already in its second printing when he arrived, it was a runaway best-seller. Indeed, Hoffman states, in a note beneath a reproduction of the books advertisement, "with astute marketing by Greenberg Publisher, Adlers books gained great popularity in the United States and helped create the new genre of self help." The book sold over 100,000 copies in three printings in the first six months.
The book was actually based on lectures Adler had given at the Vienna Peoples Institute, from notes taken by Walter Wolfe. As Hoffman has noted,
Adler spent his first month in the US lecturing at the New School for Social Research, founded just eight years earlier, in Manhattan. He also led classes at the Institute for Child Guidance in New York, among whose students was Carl Rogers, who recalled later in life how much Adler had influenced him.
Adler next went again to New England and the Midwest, this time in many more cities, receiving enthusiastic receptions by both professionals and the lay public, and positive articles and reviews in both local newspapers and national magazines.
Adler's Last Years
On his way home in May, Adler stopped in London to discuss the publication of his English lectures. His editor, Philip Mairet, had just published The ABCs of Adlerian Psychology, the first popular English book about Individual Psychology. Hoffman (p. 210-211) indicates Mairets surprise at the jumble of disorganized material that Adler expected him to create a book from, as well as Adlers apparent disregard for the process. It appears that Adler simply trusted his editor to develop the book with the only caveat being, "Do not fear to elaborate or extend in our sense."
Adler returned to Vienna flushed with the success not only of his latest US tour, but of his secure knowledge that he had many loyal friends at home. The following year appears to have included (in addition to public lectures, the training of therapists, and starting more child-guidance clinics) a daily sameness.
He came to his office early, and worked alone until around 11 AM. Then he would invite friends and colleagues to gather to talk about clinical or educational matters. At 2 PM he would begin seeing patients. At least once a week an evening was spent with friends at the Café Siller, discussing Individual Psychology.
Adlers third American tour began in January 1929. It was hoped that he newest book would generate a response similar to Understanding Human Nature. It did not. Published the year before in Germany under a lengthy title, it was published in the US as The Case of Miss R. Hardly anyone bought it or read it, and it is generally considered today to be Adlers least-well-known book.
Adler began his tour with a visit to California, where he lectured at and visited colleges and local schools. By early March he was again lecturing at the New School for Social Research in New York, in two classes of some forty lectures. One was an introductory course in Individual Psychology, while the second was on advanced applications of IP to specific issues. Also, he conducted live demonstrations of his method of interviewing children and parents. From transcriptions of these demonstrations came another book, The Pattern of Life, involving 12 cases.
During this stay, he worked hard to establish parent-education centers modeled on those begun in Austria. It was estimated that 40,000 people took part in his parenting classes in the first six months. (Hooper and Holford, p. 123)
After his return to Vienna in the summer of 1929, Adler decided to relocate to the United State permanently. Raissa refused to join him, because her friends were in Vienna, she did not speak English, and she abhorred American politics. Thus began an informal but amicable marital separation, seeing each other each summer. But in 1935, Adler became ill and wrote a telegram to his wife from his hospital bed in America, asking her to join him. She agreed, but said she would come only to support him in his illness, and on the condition they would return to Vienna for the summer.
In 1933, their oldest daughter, Valentine, had moved to Moscow with her husband. She was never heard from again, letters and telegrams being returned. Adlers inability to learn anything about her cast a dark shadow on the remaining years of his life. Only after intervention with the Russian government, by Adlers friend Dr. Albert Einstein in 1945, was it discovered that she had been imprisoned in a Siberian gulag, where she died in 1942. For Adler, the news came eight years too late.
When Alfred and Raissa stepped off the boat in New York in September of 1935, reporters were on hand to interview them. Adler is reported to have delivered a statement about "the foolishness of thinking that women are inferior. Womens inferiority is a male lie, and repetition of the lie is responsible for women believing it." (Hooper and Holford, p. 134).
He settled in New York as Professor of Medical Psychology at the Long Island School of Medicine. By this time his approach had become popular world-wide, and nearly three dozen associations of Individual Psychology had been formed in many countries. By all accounts, Adler spent the last two years of his life constantly writing, conducting therapy, teaching, and planning or carrying out lecture tours. The most extensive of all, covering six countries in 3 months, was set for 1937. One morning on that tour, in Edinburgh, Scotland, he decided to go for a morning walk. He collapsed of a heart attack, and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Following are selections from a poignant reminiscence by Adlers life-long friend Carl Furtmüller:
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