Neo Freudian: Alfred Adler
"The hardest thing for human beings to do is to know themselves and changes themselves." (Adler, 1928)
Alfred Adler developed a theory that departed profoundly from psychoanalysis.
Adler was the first of the neo-Freudians and in an important way those who followed (Erich Fromm, Harry Stack Sullivan, Karen
Horney) might righly be called "neo-Adlerians."
Adler's individual psychology
marks a shift from an emphasis on intrapsychic
("within the psyche") phenomena to an emphasis on interpsychic
("interpersonal") phenomena. He called his approach individual psychology because it stresses the uniqueness of the individual rather than the universalities of behavior described by Freud.
Adler's argument that goals and expectations have a greater influence on behavior than do past experiences was a major cause of his break with Freud. (Frager and Fadiman, 2005)
Adler was born in Vienna in 1870. There are many descriptions of his family, that he was the son of a middle-class Jewish merchant (Frager & Fadiman, 2005); and that his father was a corn merchant, but the family was well off.
Adler was the second of 6 children--4 boys and 2 girls. It is reported that we was a sickly child who suffered from rickets, a disease caused by a Vitamin D deficiency that makes the bones soft.
The Adler family was reported to have musical talent, with his sister being an excellent pianist, his brother a violinist and Adler himself with the gift of voice.
During his youth, Adler was an avid reader. In his adult life, his familiarity with literature, the Bible, psychology, and German philosophy made him popular in Viennese society and later as a lecturer throughout the world (Frager & Fadiman, 2005).
As a child, Adler was confronted by death on several occasions. When he was 3 years of age, his younger brother died in the bed they shared. Also twice during his youth he narrowly escaped being killed in street accidents; and, at the age of 5, he contracted a severe case of pneumonia and was diagnosed as a hopeless case. Consultation with another doctor saved his life, and as a result, this influenced Adler to become a doctor (Frager & Fadiman, 2005).
At 18 years of age, Adler entered the University of Vienna to study medicine. He received his medical degree in 1895. After a brief specialization in opthamology, he moved on to general practice and then to psychiatry (Crowne, 2007).
During his studies, he met a Russian student, Raissa Epstein, who eventually became his wife. It is reported that she was a dedicated socialist, fiercely independent and well-educated. While Adler was interested in socialist notions, he was more dedicated to developing his individual psychology and devoted his time and energy to this.
Freud heard about Adler and invited him to participate in his Wednesday Psychological Society that eventually became the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society
. Adler became president and co-editor of one of its journals. Like Carl Jung, Alfred Adler had his own notions and was developing his own theoretical perspective. He was never considered a follower of Freud, was not Freud's pupil or a recipient of his training analysis.
After Freud's discovery that he and Adler were miles apart in their theoretical perspectives, Adler resigned as president of the group and took 9 associates with him. It is reported that there were 2 major differences between Adler and Freud: Adler's emphasis on power rather than on sexuality as a central human drive; and, Adler's focus on the social environment and his deemphasis on unconscious processes.
Adler's views starkly contradicted those of Freud and his core psychoanalytic propositions, including the Oedipus complex, the unconscious, infantile sexuality and the primacy of the sexual motive (Crowne, 2007).
The colleagues who left the Psychoanalytic Society also believed that Freud's psychoanalysis was too rigid and intolerant of independent thinking. Adler then founded his own organization, the Association for Individual Psychology which graduallly spread throughout Europe.
Adler and his followers became active in the field of education, especially in counseling and teacher training. They believed it important to work with those who shaped the minds and characters of the young. Adler and his associaties established the first child guidance centers in the public schools, where children and their could receive counseling. (Frager & Fadiman, 2005). Today, we still have guidance and counseling programs in the public schools.
Adler became very popular and people loved to talk to him. He had much wisdom and deep understanding of human nature; and it is reported that this was evident with everyone he came in contact with. (Frager & Fadiman, 2005).
He traveled widely over Europe and the U.S. and published many papers and nonographs. During the first and second world wars, Adlerian groups formed in 20 European countries and in the United States.
In 1927, Adler was appointed lecturer at Columbia University. In 1928, he lectured at the New School for Social Research in New York. Adler left Vienna permanently in w932 due to the rise of Nazism. He settled in the United States and accepted a visiting professorship in medical psychology at the Long Island Medical College. Adler died in Scotland in 1937, at the age of 67, during a walk after a lecture. He had a massive heart attack on the street.
It is reported that Adler held an optimistic view of humankind's propsects and strove devotedly to further them. He inspired hope and confidence in his patients and was especially good with children (Crowne, 2007).
--To Be Continued--