ADLER Alfred — philosopher and psychiatrist, representative of the movement of depth psychology, b. February 2, 1870 in Vienna, d. May 28, 1938 in Aderdeen (Scotland).

He studied medicine in Vienna and there he earned his doctorate in 1896. From 1902–1911 was worked together with S. Freud. In 1912 he began to lecture at the Paedagogical Institute in Vienna, and from 1914–1935 he also lectured at American and British universities. In 1914 he founded and edited the periodical "Internationale Zeitschift für Individualpsychologie". In 1921 he organized in Vienna the first paedagogical clinic for children, and thereafter many other clinics in various cities and countries (including one in Berlin), which implemented Adler's views on upbringing; in 1935 the Austrian government closed his clinics. Starting in 1930, in the face of totalitarian nationalism in Europe, Adler's attempts to develop a doctrine concerning the social sphere made him appear more like a preacher telling people what to believe than a scientist.

He presented his views in: Studie über Minderwertigkiet von Organen (W 1907, Mn 1927); Über den nervösen Charakter (Mn 1912, 19284); Praxis und Theorie der Individualpsychologie (Mn 1920, 19304; Heilen und Bilden, Grundlagen der Erziehungskunst für Ärtze und Pädagogen (Mn 1922, 19283 — together with C. Furtmüller); Menschenkenntnis (L 1927, Z 19546; Znajomość człowieka. Charakter, Wwa 1934, 19482); Schwer erziehbare Kinder (Dr 19276; Die Technik der Individualpsychologie (I-II, Mn 1928–1930, F 1984); Individualpsychologie in der Schule (L 1929; Psychologia indywidualna w wychowaniu, Wwa 1934); The Science of Living (NY 1929); The Pattern of Life (NY 1930); The Case of Mrs Adler (L 1931); What Life Should Mean to You (Bs 1931; Wiedza o żuciu, Wwa 1939); Der Sinn des Lebens (W 1933; Sens życia, Kr 1933, Wwa 1986).

As Freud's first disciple, Adler opposed certain views of his teacher. He rejected Freud's conception of sexuality, and he looked for the source of conflict in social conditions rather than in man's nature. He started a new school of psychoanalysis called individual psychology. In his individual psychology he emphasized the role of the environment in the development of personality. He also emphasized the striving for power, namely the desire to govern and for superiority as the motivation for man's actions, and taught that this results from an inferiority complex. The basic law of human life is to overcome the "feeling of inadequacy" and to prove one's superiority. When this desire is unfulfilled, the result is psychological disturbances and neuroses, and these can be healed only by social feelings: the sense of community and of one's own social value. Therefore, the family plays a large role. A man's family structure and its living conditions influence a man's character, as does an upbringing for social life so that he may realize himself in some area and leave behind selfish ends for the sake of community. The individual will develop properly only when he lives as a part of the whole of society and aims at the perfect form of his community, for mankind's development was only possible because of a common striving for perfection in creating an ideal community.

Adler introduced into psychology the concept of the human individual as a unique and non-repeatable being who must be valued according to his individuality. In evaluating a man's psychic life, which Adler saw as a dynamic process where life energies came into being, we should therefore emphasize the problem of personality. From childhood each man has a "life-style" whose form does not change, and by this life-style we can study his psyche as we look at his earliest experiences as they were shaped by his family, school and social conditions, because there is a constant connection between a man's childhood and his later life. Human character is not innate, but it is partly the product of the child's creative actiion, and thereby it is included in his life-style. Thus Adler devoted much attention to upbringing and mistakes in upbringing, and thought that a knowledge of the child's spiritual life is the core of individual psychology.

Adler thought that we can analyze a man in terms of his attitude toward the three inevitable human questions that must be resolved: how to relate to other people, to one's profession, and to love. These grow in relation to society, cosmic factors and the other sex, and the way they are resolved determines the fate and success of humanity. A man's image of the world depends upon his opinion of himself and of the social roles that define his thought, will and action.

Adler's individual psychology consists in the methodical analysis of the individual person's psychological characteristics. He emphased the role of awareness as opposed to the primitive biological theories then prevalent in psychology. His psychology did not investigate the particular components of psychological life, but studied it as a whole in its uniformity.

Adler's views in his scientific and social work gained special acceptance in the USA and Canada.

L. Chmaj, Teoria pedagogiczna psychologii indywidualnej [The paedagogical theory of individual psychology], Kr 1930; P. Bottome, Alfred Adler, a Portrait from Life, NY 1957; L. Chmaj, Prądy i kierunki w pedagogice XX wieku [Currents and directions in 20th century paedagogy], Wwa 1963, 107-112, 117; J.D. Utyman, EPh I 15–17; J. Pastuszka, Historia psychologii [History of psychology], Lb 1971, 502–503; J.E. Crandall, Theory and Measurement of Social Interest, NY 1981; A. Bruder-Bezzel, Alfred Adler. Die Entstehungsgeschichte einer Theorie im historischen Milieu Wiens, G 1983; Tatarkiewicz HF III 304; R. Dreikus, Fundamentals of Adlerian Psychology, Ch 1989.

Agata Szymaniak

<--Go back