Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler, the second of seven children, was born in Rudolfsheim, a village near Vienna on 7th February, 1870.

Adler's father was a Hungarian-born, sharp-witted, Jewish grain merchant. He developed rickets and did not walk until he was four years old. As a child he also suffered from pneumonia and he heard a doctor say to his father, "Your boy is lost". (1)

Franz Alexander has argued: "While still uncertain on his feet, he was involved in a series of street accidents. Nevertheless, he did not resign himself to a life of infirmity. After frequent contacts with physicians, Adler resolved to become a doctor. While longing for the days when he could join the other boys in athletics, he spent his time reading works of the great classical writers." (2)

Alfred Adler later recalled that "my eldest brother was the only one with whom I did not get along well". He felt his mother showed her preference for this elder son. Adler got on much better with his father who praised him for his intellectual abilities and his relationship with his two younger sisters and his two younger brothers were also harmonious.

While studying at the University of Vienna he met Raissa Epstein. Born in Moscow she had been involved in left-wing politics in Russia and was a friend of leading Bolsheviks such as Leon Trotsky and Adolph Joffe. Raissa had left her home country because women were not allowed to study at the Russian universities. He received his medical degree in 1895 and two years later he married Raissa and over the next few years gave birth to four children. According to Hendrika Vande Kemp: "Raissa Epstein Adler, a radical socialist, influenced her husband’s views on women and served as a feminist model for her daughters and son." (3)

Adler began his medical career as an ophthalmologists, later switching to general practice. Despite his busy practice he continued to study philosophy and sociology. He also read the early work of the early psychologist, Richard von Krafft-Ebing. (4) It was during this period he rejected Judaism because it was a religion for only one ethnic group and he wanted to "share a common deity with the universal faith of man". However, in reality, all the children were brought up as atheists. (5)

Adler became a psychologist but later recalled that when he was a young man he was "discontented with the state of psychiatry". At this time he became aware of the work of Sigmund Freud who had published several important books such as Studies on Hysteria (1895), The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). "He (Freud) was courageous enough to go another way, and to find the importance psychic reasons for bodily disturbances and for the neuroses." (6)

Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud

After reading a hostile review of one of Freud's books in the Neue Freie Presse, wrote a letter of protest to the newspaper. According to Adler's biographer, Phyllis Bottome, "Freud was much touched by it and sent Adler the famous postcard thanking him for his defence and asking him to join the discussion circle of psychoanalysis." Freud small group of his followers who met every Wednesday evening and became known as the "Wednesday Psychological Society". (7)

Each week someone would present a paper and, after a short break for black coffee and cakes, a discussion would be held. The main members of the group included Otto Rank, Max Eitingon, Wilhelm Stekel, Karl Abraham, Hanns Sachs, Fritz Wittels and Sandor Ferenczi. Stekel claimed that it was his idea to form this group: "Gradually I became known as a collaborator of Freud. I gave him the suggestion of founding a little discussion group; he accepted the idea, and every Wednesday evening after supper we met in Freud's home... These first evenings were inspiring." (8)

It was clear that Freud was the dominant character in the group that were mostly Jews. Hanns Sachs said he was "the apostle of Freud who was my Christ". Another member said "there was an atmosphere of the foundation of a religion in that room. Freud himself was its new prophet... Freud's pupils - all inspired and convinced - were his apostles." Another member remarked that the original group was "a small and daring group, persecuted now but bound to conquer the world". (9)

Fritz Wittels argued that Freud did not like members of his group to be too intelligent: "It did not matter if the intelligences were mediocre. Indeed, he had little desire that these associates should be persons of strong individuality, that they should be critical and ambitious collaborators. The realm of psychoanalysis was his idea and his will, and he welcomed anyone who accepted his views. What he wanted was to look into a kaleidoscope lined with mirrors that would multiply the images he introduced into it." (10)

The Wednesday meetings sometimes ended in conflict. However, Freud was very good at controlling the situation: "His diplomatic skill in modifying both his own demands and those of rivals was married to a determined effort to remain scientifically detached. Time and again his cool voice and calming influence broke into heated discussions and a volcanic situation was checked before it erupted. Considerable wisdom and tolerance marked many of his utterances and occasionally there was a tremendous sense of a figure, Olympian beside the pigmies around him, who quietened the waters with the wand of reason. Unfortunately, this side of Freud's character was heavily qualified by another. When someone put forward a proposition which seriously disturbed his own views, he first found it hard to accept and then became uneasy at this threat to the scientific temple he had so painfully built with his own hands." (11)

Unlike other members of the group, Alfred Adler openly questioned Freud's fundamental thesis that early sexual development is decisive for the making of character. Adler forcefully evolved a distinctive family of ideas. According to Peter Gay, the author of Freud: A Life for Our Time (1989), "Adler... secured an ascendancy among his colleagues second only to Freud." However, Freud disliked his socialist approach to the subject, "as a Socialist and social activist interested in the amelioration of humanity's lot through education and social work." (12) Freud once told Karl Abraham that "politics spoils the character". (13)

As early as 1904, Adler told Freud in writing that he did not intend to participate any longer in the Wednesday discussions. Freud then wrote a long letter to Adler, in which he asked him to change his mind and also flattered him by saying that he considered him the "sharpest head" in the entire circle. "In a conversation that then materialized from his suggestion, Freud was able to sway Adler to revoke his decision." (14)

Adler developed a new theory in 1906 based on his work as a general practitioner near Vienna's famous amusement park. According to Carl Furtmüller: "Artists and acrobats of the shows. All of these people, who owned their living by exhibiting their extraordinary bodily strength and skills, showed to Adler their physical weaknesses and ailments. It was partly the observation of such patients as these that led to his conception of over-compensation." (15)

Adler gives the example of Demosthenes who in boyhood had a speech defect: "The stammering boy Demosthenes became Greece's greatest orator." Peter Hofstätter disagreed with this example: "Demosthenes, who once stammered, is the classic paradigm of overcompensation. But the facts in this case, too, are not so easily determined, because first of all, stammering is not dependent on an inferior organ, but is really already itself a failed overcompensation - the act of speaking becomes problematic by the excess of attention directed to it." (16)

Adler believed the effort of compensation always conditioned an increase in brain capacity: "Organ inferiority is counterbalanced by a higher achievement of the brain." A sense of inferiority is the bases of neuroses and psychoses. Adler wrote: "From the attempt to compensate, or to overcome a physical defect or lack - that is, an organ inferiority - functional supervalence, even genius, can follow; but a mental illness, namely neurosis, is just as likely." (17)

During the first presentation of his idea, Adler used the example of the deafness of Ludwig van Beethoven of how a person can turn a defect into greatness. At first Freud agreed with Adler's theory as it could be linked to the sexual instinct that he believed was so dominant. During the meeting he suggested that the individual's egotism or excessive ambition might be connected to a sense of inferiority. (18)

Carl Jung was present at a meeting of the Wednesday Psychological Society where Adler came under attack for his "inferiority complex" theory: "The criticism directed at the doctrine of organ inferiority seemed too harsh to him (Jung). In his opinion, it was a brilliant idea, which we (the participants) are not justified in criticizing because we lack sufficient experience." (19)

In 1908 he presented the paper, The Aggressive Instinct in Life and in Neurosis, where he took a look at the concepts of sadism and masochism."Until now, every examination of sadism and masochism has taken as its starting point those sexual manifestations in which traits of cruelty are added. The driving force, however, apparently derives in healthy people... apparently from two originally separate instincts which merge later on. From this it follows that a resulting sadomasochism corresponds to simultaneous instincts: the sexual instinct and the aggressive instinct." (20)

Adler began to argue that the "aggressive instinct" flowed into other areas such as the "striving for power" or "striving for superiority". Freud rejected this idea: "I cannot bring myself to assume the existence of a special aggressive drive alongside of the familiar instincts of self-preservation and of sex, and on an equal footing with them. It appears to me that Adler has mistakenly promoted into a special and self-subsisting instinct what is in reality a universal and indispensable attribute of all instincts what is in reality a universal and indispensable attribute of all instincts." (21)

On 11th March, 1908, Fritz Wittels gave a presentation on "The Natural Position of Women". In the paper Wittels attempted to define the "natural" position of women. He condemned "our accursed present-day culture in which women bemoan the fact that they did not come into the world as men; they try however to become men. People do not appreciate the perversity and senselessness of these strivings; nor do the women themselves." (22)

Sigmund Freud gave his support to Wittels but Adler dismissed his views as reactionary: "Whereas it is generally assumed that the framework of present relationships between men and women is constant, Socialists assume that the framework of the family is already shaky today and will increasingly become so in the future. Women will not allow motherhood to prevent her from taking up a profession... Under the sway of private ownership, everything becomes private property, so does woman. First she is the father's possession, then the husband's. That determines her fate. Therefore, first of all, the idea of owning a woman must be abandoned." (23)

The following year Adler gave a lecture "On the Psychology of Marxism". He looked at the ideas of Karl Marx and claimed "that his exposition has demonstrated that the theory of the class struggle is clearly in harmony with the results of our teachings of instincts". He also suggested that Marx and Freud agreed on the subject of religion: "Marx was the first to offer the suppressed classes the chance to free themselves of Christianity - by the new outlook that he gave them."

Some members of the group were hostile to these ideas and Maximilian Steiner suggested that socialism was a form of neurosis. Adler replied: "It is not a matter of neurosis: in the neurotic, we see the instinct of aggression inhibited, while class consciousness liberates it; Marx shows how it can be gratified in keeping with the meaning of civilization: by grasping the true causes of oppression and exploitation, and by suitable organization." (24)

In 1908 the Wednesday Psychological Society was disbanded and reconstructed as the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Adler still remained a member but from Freud's point of view, he was moving steadily away from the central tenet of psychoanalytic theory - the unconscious repression of libido as a cause for neurosis. Adler argued that sometimes the sexual and aggressive drive occur together. Adler took the view that "the aggressive drive was really a mode of striving by which one adapts to arduous life tasks." (25)

Inferiority Complex

In 1910 Adler published The Psychological Hermaphroditism in Life and in the Neurosis where he explained the inferiority complex in great detail. "The feeling of inferiority whips up... the instinctual life, excessively intensifies wishes, gives rise to over sensitivity, and produces a craving for satisfaction that will not tolerate compromise... In this hypertrophied craving, in this addiction to success, in this wildly behaving masculine protest lie the seeds of failure - though also the predestination for genial and artistic achievements." (26)

Freud wrote to Carl Jung about how he was worried about the development of Adler's theories. "It is getting really bad with Adler. You see a resemblance to Bleuler; in me he awakens the memory of Fliess; but an octave lower... The crux of the matter - and that is what really alarms me - is that he minimizes the sexual drive and our opponents will soon be able to speak of an experienced psychoanalyst whose conclusions are radically different from ours. Naturally in my attitude toward him I am torn between my conviction that all this is lopsided and harmful and my fear of being regarded as an intolerant old man who holds the young men down, and this makes me feel most uncomfortable." (27)

Adler argued that the child feels weak and insignificant in his relationship to adults. He disagreed with Freud's view on the pre-eminence of the sex instinct. Adler believed that it was more important to consider how the individual reacted to feelings of inferiority. Freud found the idea interesting but believed that his theory was a "fact" whereas Adler's theory was "uncorroborated speculation". (28) Freud continued to work with Adler who he thought was "a decent fellow" who was suffering from "paranoid delusions of persecution". (29) He told Ludwig Binswanger that: "It is necessary to be wary of Adler's writings. The danger with him is all the greater considering how intelligent he is." (30)

Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler

In an attempt to keep Alfred Adler within the group, Freud arranged for him to replace him as President of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Another rebellious member of the group, Wilhelm Stekel, was appointed as Vice-President. Freud also established a new monthly periodical, Central Journal for Psychoanalysis, that was jointly edited by Adler and Stekel. This move did not work and after another dispute in February 1911, both Adler and Stekel resigned their posts. (31)

Adler complained that he had been treated unfairly as "the best heads and the people of honest independence" were on his side. (32) In August 1911, Freud told one of his followers that Adler's behaviour was the "revolt of an abnormal individual driven mad by ambition, his influence upon others depending on his strong terrorism and sadism". (33) As Peter Gay has pointed out that this was "denunciation as diagnosis" and that Freud was "using psychological diagnosis as a form of aggression." (34)

Ernest Jones was a loyal follower of Freud and he had some hostile things to say about Adler: "He (Adler) was evidently very ambitious and constantly quarrelling with the others over points of priority in his ideas... Adler's view of the neuroses was seen from the side of the ego only and could be described as essentially a misinterpreted picture of the secondary defences against the repressed and unconscious impulses... His whole theory had a very narrow and one-sided basis, the aggression arising from 'masculine protest'. Sexual factors, particularly those of childhood, were reduced to a minimum... Adler insisted that the Oedipus complex was a fabrication... The concepts of repression, infantile sexuality, and even that of the unconscious itself were discarded, so that little was left of psycho-analysis." (35)

Bernhard Handlbauer, the author of The Freud-Adler Controversy (1998) has argued that Freud's attitudes reflected his more conservative upbringing: "Fourteen years older than Adler, he was much more strongly shaped by the bygone nineteenth century, in which aggressive revolts against authority were brutally punished. The solid middle-class life he led was based, in fact, on inhibiting - and tabooing - aggressive behaviour. Adler, on the other hand, had married a politically radical and personally emancipated woman." (36)

Nineteen years later Adler explained his dispute with Freud. "In my striving to find a better way (of understanding) I was often in dispute with Freud and his collaborators... As I discovered, every part agrees with all other parts. I saw the marvellous harmony of the style of life. Yet, Freud was pointing out strongly the science of sexual psychology and the sexual libido. This was at a time when he was only interested in the notion that every movement, every expression, and symptom had a sexual factor. Freud insisted culture resulted from the suppression of the sexual libido." (37)

Alfred Adler wrote to Lou Andreas-Salomé explaining his position: "My position toward the Freudian school has has unfortunately never had to take into account its scientific arguments... How could it be that this school tried to treat our ideas as a common good while we always stressed only the falseness of its views? For me, such things are just proof that the Freudian school does not believe at all in its own theses, but rather only intends to save its investments." (38)

Carl Furtmüller has argued that the conflict was partly due to their different personalities. "Freud was the man of the world, careful of his appearance; unsatisfactory though his university career was, knowing how to use the prestige of title and the dignity of a professor... Adler was always the common man, nearly sloppy in his appearance, careless of cigarette ashes dropping on his sleeve or waistcoat, oblivious of outer prestige of all kinds, artless in his way of speaking although knowing very well how to drive his points home." (39)

Society for Individual Psychology

Adler founded the Society for Individual Psychology in 1912 after his break from the psychoanalytic movement. He had several followers who became known as Adlerians. They believed that "there is one basic dynamic force behind all human activity, a striving from a felt minus situation towards a plus situation, from a feeling of inferiority towards superiority, perfection, totality." The striving receives its specific direction from an "individually unique goal or self-ideal, which though influenced by biological and environmental factors is ultimately the creation of the individual." Although the goal is created by the individual it "is largely unknown to him and not understood by him". This is Adler's definition of the unconscious: "the unknown part of the goal". (40)

Adler's group initially included some supporters of the ideas put forward by Friedrich Nietzsche who argued in books such as Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), Twilight of the Idols (1888) and Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is (1888) that the "will to power" is the main driving force in humans - achievement, ambition, and the striving to reach the highest possible position in life.

Wilhelm Stekel commented that Adler was a "fanatical socialist". (41) Ernest Jones claimed that most of Adler's supporters were socialists: "It is not irrelevant to recall that most of Adler's followers were, like himself, ardent Socialists. Adler's wife, a Russian, was an intimate friend of the leading Russian revolutionaries; Trotsky and Joffe, for instance, constantly frequented her house... This consideration makes it more intelligible that Adler should concentrate on the sociological aspects of consciousness rather than on the repressed unconscious." (42)

In his autobiography, Leon Trotsky admitted that it was Adolph Joffe who introduced him to the ideas of Adler. "Joffe was a man of great intellectual ardour, very genial in all personal relations, and unswervingly loyal to the cause... Joffe suffered from a nervous complaint and was then being psychoanalyzed by the well-known Viennese specialist, Alfred Adler, who began as a pupil of Freud but later opposed his master and founded his own school of individual psychology. Through Joffe I became acquainted with the problems of psychoanalysis, which fascinated me although much in the field is still vague and unstable and opens the way for fanciful and arbitrary ideas." (43)

Psychology and Socialism

Alfred Adler was a committed socialist. He argued that all attempts at introducing a more humane system had ended in failure: "All laws of society of the past, the tablets of Moses, the teachings of Christ, always fell into the hands of the powerful who misused the holiest for the purpose of the domination. The most clever falsehoods, the most refined tricks and treachery were called upon to shift the recurrence of the feeling and the creativity of the senses of community toward a striving for power, and thus make it ineffective for the well-being of all. The years of capitalism with their unfettered greed for dominance have aroused rapaciousness in the human soul."

Adler became a supporter of Karl Marx: "Only in socialism did the feeling of community remain as the ultimate goal and end as demanded by unhampered human fellowship. All the inspired socialist utopias who were looking for or discovered social systems, instinctively saw, as did all reformers in history, a mutual interest in the struggle for power. And in the dark machinery of the human soul, Karl Marx discovered the common struggle of the proletariat against class dominance. He encased it forever in the conscience of his supporters and showed a way to a final manifestation of the feeling of the community. The dictatorship of the proletariat was redemption from class confrontation and class striving for power."

Adler believed that the desires for socialism was connected to man's feeling of inferiority: "In every country, socialism is at the point of fruition... It was the proletariat's feeling of inferiority in his struggle for survival that, like a thorn causing irritation, made him search for a new way to overcome the suppressor and to discover a better organization and a better economic system." (44)

On the outbreak of the First World War, some socialists in Germany such as Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Paul Frölich and Paul Frölich, called for people not to serve in the armed forces. However, Liebknecht was the only member of the Reichstag who voted against Germany's participation in the First World War. He argued: "This war, which none of the peoples involved desired, was not started for the benefit of the German or of any other people. It is an Imperialist war, a war for capitalist domination of the world markets and for the political domination of the important countries in the interest of industrial and financial capitalism. Arising out of the armament race, it is a preventative war provoked by the German and Austrian war parties in the obscurity of semi-absolutism and of secret diplomacy." (45)

The leadership of the German Social Democratic Party argued that it was the duty of socialists to join the armed forces. Adler was unwilling to fight but volunteered to serve in the medical corps in the Austrian-Hungarian Army. The war had a great influence on his thinking. "The ideal of peace, Adler thought could be accessible only when man surrenders his self-centered orientation, which seeks to overcome feelings of insignificance. Even during the horrors of war, Adler had seen remarkable examples of man's unselfish duty to his fellow beings. From those days onward, Adler began to emphasize the importance of 'good-will', not with a 'will to power', could man find his full potential." (46)

In 1917 Alfred Adler published Study of Organ Inferiority and its Psychical Compensation. He explained that compensation is a strenuous effort to make up for failure or weakness in one activity through excelling in a either a different or an allied activity. The boy who fails at sport may compensate for the failure by working very hard at his academic studies. Adler also identified "overcompensation" where an individual attempts to deny a weakness by trying to excel where one is weakest. (47)

It has been claimed that illustrations of this are not hard to find. "The power-driven dictators of recent times have been mostly men of short stature, who may have suffered a sense of physical powerlessness for which they over-compensated by a struggle for political might. Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin were short, as was Napoleon before them. Theodore Roosevelt, a frail boy with weak eyes, took up boxing at Harvard and later led the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War. Overcompensation is an energetic and effective (though not necessarily admirable) way of meeting weakness." (48)

Bolshevism and Psychology

In an article, Bolshevism and Psychology (1918), Alfred Adler attempted to apply his psychological theories to the current political situation. Adler welcomed the fall of the German Empire: "The means of power have been torn from us Germans... The victor's laurel that adorns the brow of the strong commander does not lead to anguish in us. We were the infatuated for many years and have now become wiser. Behind the sorrow and the misery of the present our people see the shining glimmer of a new realization. We were never more miserable than in the height of our power! The striving for power is an ill-fated delusion that poisons human fellowship! Whoever seeks fellowship must forsake the striving for power."

Adler went on to argue that defeat of Germany and Austria had created certain advantages: "We are closer to the truth than are the victors. We have behind us the sudden collapse that threatens others... A deep tragedy such as our people experienced must make for vision or else it misses its only sensible purpose. Out of its agonizing experience, the renewed Germany brings us the most deep-seated belief of all civilizations in the final rejection of the striving of people and in the irrevocable raising of the sense of community to be the guiding thought."

However, Adler, like others on the left, had not supported the Russian Revolution. He agreed that the regime of Tsar Nicholas II had been appalling but it had been wrong of the Bolsheviks to overthrow the government. "Under the coercive regime of the Tsars, depravity is inflamed and spreads senseless violence across the land. Whoever, still has any vitality directs his thoughts toward cunning and force in order to overthrow the rule of the tyrant. Driving a resisting multitude of people into an artificial socialist form of government is akin to destroying a costly vase out of impatience."

As a supporter of Karl Marx, Adler believed that the revolution should only take place when it had the support of the majority of the people. He argued that people had to go through an important educational process before socialism could be introduced: "Every form of education must aim for the most favourable conditions for receptiveness... Lasting retention comes about only for what a person has received as a subject and accepted by his own will. The process of Bolshevism shows all the mistakes of a poor, antiquated method. Even if it were to succeed somewhere by subjecting a majority, no one would be happy. Socialism without the appropriate philosophy of life is living like a puppet without a soul, initiative, or talent. If Bolshevism succeeds, it will have compromised and vulgarized socialism." (49)

Influenced by the work of Eduard Bernstein, Adler declared that socialism could best be attained by reformist, parliamentary, evolutionary and educational methods. In 1919 the school system of Vienna sought Adler's advice, and, in 1919, he founded the first child guidance clinic in the city. Adler was an early advocate in psychology for prevention and emphasized the training of parents, teachers, social workers that allow a child to exercise their power through reasoned decision making whilst co-operating with others for the good of society. (50)

Adler took a keen interest in the curriculum and believed that history teaching had prepared young men to fight in nationalist wars: "Daily these people were subjected in their schools to lectures on their obligation to honour the ruling house. All the melodies of their childhood fill their ears with awesome sounds flattering and praising the monarchy. Distorted history boasts of bellicose glory... and seduces the souls of boys to seek mystical bliss in bloodshed and in battles. Incessant eloquent sermons pour from thousands of pulpits preaching the exhilaration of servitude and slavish obedience. Every seat of learning teaches the student the art of subservience." (51)

Understanding Human Nature

Adler continued to write about the importance of the feeling of inferiority in motivating individuals. In his article, The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology (1923) he argued: "The striving for significance, this sense of yearning, always points out to us that all psychological phenomena contain a movement that starts from a feeling of inferiority and reach upward. The theory of Individual Psychology of psychological compensation states that the stronger the feeling of inferiority, the higher the goal for personal power." (52)

In his book, Understanding Human Nature (1927), Adler looked at a variety of different subjects, including birth-order. Adler believed that the firstborn child would be in a favorable position, enjoying the full attention of the new parents until the arrival of a second child. This second child would cause the first born to suffer feelings of dethronement, no longer being the center of attention. Adler insisted that the oldest child would be the most likely to suffer from neuroticism which he reasoned was a compensation for the feelings of excessive responsibility as well as the loss of the exclusive attention of their parents. (53)

This was followed by What Life Could Mean to You (1931), a plea for co-operation in a world experiencing great conflict: "We face three problems: how to find an occupation which will enable us to survive under the limitations set by the nature of the earth; how to find a position among our fellows, so that we may cooperate and share the benefits of cooperation; how to accommodate ourselves to the fact that we live in two sexes and that the continuance and furtherance of mankind depends upon our love-life."

Adler argued that in the early stages of our existence we had to co-operate for survival: "It was only because men learned to cooperate that we could make the great discovery of the division of labor; a discovery which is the chief security for the welfare of mankind. To preserve human life would not be possible if each individual attempted to wrest a living from the earth by himself with no cooperation and no results of cooperation in the past. Through the division of labour we can use the results of many different kinds of training and organize many different abilities so that all of them contribute to the common welfare and guarantee relief from insecurity and increased opportunity for all the members of society." (54)

Alfred Adler was a regular visitor to America and in 1929 he was appointed visiting Professor at Columbia University. In 1932 he became chair of medical psychology at Long Island Medical College. After his lectures he worked at his clinic, which was opposite the university. In one letter he said he gave regular public lectures to large audiences. Although he worked mainly in America he spent most of his summer vacations in Vienna. (55)

Adolf Hitler

Austria, like the rest of Europe, suffered greatly during the Great Depression. In 1932, almost 470,000 people, nearly 22 per cent of Austria's labour force, were out of work. By the following year unemployment reached an unprecedented peak with 580,000, or 27 per cent. Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss governed under emergency powers and assumed dictatorial powers. This included banning all political parties and closing down the Austrian parliament.

On 30th January, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Germany's chancellor and over the next few months he banned opposition political parties, free speech, independent cultural organizations and universities and the rule of law. Anti-Semitism became government policy and German Jews, including the psychologists, Erich Fromm, Max Eitingon and Ernst Simmel, left the country. Sigmund Freud wrote to his nephew in Manchester that "life in Germany has become impossible." (56)

Two of Adler's children, Kurt and Alexandra both worked in the field of psychiatry. Alexandra was one of the first women to practice neurology in Austria. She was in charge of a child guidance centre in Vienna until it was eventually closed down by Chancellor Dollfuss. Alfred and Raissa Adler, were both active in the socialist movement and fearing arrest the family moved to the United States in 1935. Alexandra was immediately offered a position as a neurology instructor at the Harvard Medical School. However, as no women were given regular faculty posts, she was added to the research staff with automatically renewable annual appointments. (57)

Alfred Adler went on a lecture tour in Britain. He collapsed on a street in Aberdeen with a fatal heart attack on 28th May, 1937. Sigmund Freud wrote to Arnold Zweig that he had hated Adler for over 25-years. (36) Freud had written in Civilization and Its Discontents (1929) that he could not understand the Christian injunction to universal love as many people were hateful. According to Freud, the most hateful were those like Adler who he thought had let him down. (58)

Primary Sources

(1) Alfred Adler, The Aggression Drive in Life and in the Neurosis (1908)

The aggression drive dominates the entire motor behavior, its motor irradiations being unusually clear in childhood. Crying, fidgeting, throwing oneself on the floor, biting, and grinding one's teeth, are simple forms of this drive which are not infrequently found again later in life, particularly in hysteria.

The aggression drive also dominates consciousness (for example, in anger) as does any drive. It directs attention, interests, sensation, perception, memory, phantasy, production, and reproduction into the paths of pure or altered aggression. In doing so, it enlists the aid of the other drives, especially those of the inferior organs which are the basis of the psychological main axes, and thus it explores the entire world of aggression possibilities. All this can be regularly observed when the drive life is reasonably strong.

The excited but contained aggression drive creates the cruel figures of art and phantasy, as well as the horrors of history and of individual life. The psyche of the painter, sculptor, and especially the tragic poet, who with his creation wants to awaken "fear and pity," reveals the confluence of originally strong primary drives to see, to hear, to touch. By the detour of the aggression drive, these become effective in highly cultivated forms and, at the same time, give us a good illustration of the transformation of drives.

The stronger aggression drive creates and chooses a large number of occupations, not to mention criminals and revolutionary heroes. The occupations of judge, police officer, teacher, minister, physician, and many others are taken up by persons with a larger aggression drive and often show continuity with analogous children's games. Some children's games, the world of the fairy tales and its favorite figures, the sagas of the various peoples, hero worship, and the many cruel stories and poems of children's books and readers are created by the aggression drive for the aggression drive. A further haven for the aggression drive is politics with its innumerable possibilities for activity and logical interpretation of any attack, Napoleon being the favorite hero. Interest in funerals and death notices, superstition, fear of sickness and infection, as well as fear of being buried alive and interest in graveyards often uncovers a secret lascivious cruelty, while the aggression drive may be otherwise repressed.

Whereas the aggression drive so often withdraws from our perception through turning against the self and through refinement and specialization, it becomes altogether a hidden-figure puzzle in the reversal into the antithesis of the aggression drive. Charity, sympathy, altruism, and sensitive interest in misery represent new satisfactions on which the drive, which originally tended toward cruelty, feeds. If this seems strange, it is nevertheless easy to recognize that a real understanding for suffering and pain can only come from an original interest in the world of torment. The greater the aggression drive, the stronger will become this cultural transformation. Thus the pessimist becomes the preventor of dangers, Cassandra becomes a warner and prophet.

All these manifestations of the aggression drive are found again in the neuroses and psychoses. We find pure expressions of the aggression drive in temper tantrums and attacks of hysteria, epilepsy, and paranoia. Phases of the turning round of the drive upon the self are hypochondria, neurasthenic and hysterical pain, the entire syndrome of complaints in neurasthenia, hysteria, accident neurosis, ideas of reference and persecution, self-mutilation, and suicide. Reversals into its opposite are the mild traits and Messianic ideas of hysterics and psychotics.

We must mention one more phenomenon, anxiety, which has the greatest significance in the structure of the neuroses. It represents a phase of the aggression turned upon the self and is to be compared with the hallucinatory phase of other drives. The various forms of anxiety come about because the aggression drive, which is at the basis of anxiety, can take hold of various systems. It may enervate motor systems (tremor, shaking, cramps, catatonic phenomena, functional paralysis as inhibition of aggression).

(2) Alfred Adler, Critique of Freud's Concept of Sexuality (1908)

The real question is whether the beginning and the end and all the symptom formations of the neurosis are to be found in the fate of the sex drive. I must answer this question with a brief description, not of the isolated sex drive, but of its development in the ensemble of the drives.

Biologically speaking it would not be possible to maintain that every drive has a sexual component, including the drive to eat, the drive to see, and the drive to touch. One must assume rather that organic evolution has led to developments which we must regard as the differentiation of originally present potentialities of the cell. Thus a nutritive organ has followed the will and need of assimilation; touch, auditory, and visual organs have followed the will and necessity to feel, hear, and see; a procreative organ followed the will and necessity for progeny.

The protection of all these organs became so necessary that it was approached from two sides: through the sensations of pain and of pleasure. But this was not enough, and thus a third safeguard developed in the form of the organ of prudence, the organ of thinking, the brain. In the laboratory of nature, all three safeguards can be found. While peripheral defects or accentuated pain and pleasure sensations may arise in the inferior organ, the most variable part, the central nervous system, takes over the final compensation.

(3) Alfred Adler, Bolshevism and Psychology (1918)

The means of power have been torn from us Germans... The victor's laurel that adorns the brow of the strong commander does not lead to anguish in us. We were the infatuated for many years and have now become wiser. Behind the sorrow and the misery of the present our people see the shining glimmer of a new realization. We were never more miserable than in the height of our power! The striving for power is an ill-fated delusion that poisons human fellowship! Whoever seeks fellowship must forsake the striving for power.

We are closer to the truth than are the victors. We have behind us the sudden collapse that threatens others... A deep tragedy such as our people experienced must make for vision or else it misses its only sensible purpose. Out of its agonizing experience, the renewed Germany brings us the most deep-seated belief of all civilizations in the final rejection of the striving of people and in the irrevocable raising of the sense of community to be the guiding thought...

All laws of society of the past, the tablets of Moses, the teachings of Christ, always fell into the hands of the powerful who misused the holiest for the purpose of the domination. The most clever falsehoods, the most refined tricks and treachery were called upon to shift the recurrence of the feeling and the creativity of the senses of community toward a striving for power, and thus make it ineffective for the well-being of all...

The years of capitalism with their unfettered greed for dominance have aroused rapaciousness in the human soul. No wonder that our psychological apparatus marches under the banner of the striving for power. Science, short-sighted and too ready to justify everything, explained in terms of pop-psychology, the lust for power as innate and immutable qualities of man's psyche.

Only in socialism did the feeling of community remain as the ultimate goal and end as demanded by unhampered human fellowship. All the inspired socialist utopias who were looking for or discovered social systems, instinctively saw, as did all reformers in history, a mutual interest in the struggle for power. And in the dark machinery of the human soul, Karl Marx discovered the common struggle of the proletariat against class dominance. He encased it forever in the conscience of his supporters and showed a way to a final manifestation of the feeling of the community. The dictatorship of the proletariat was redemption from class confrontation and class striving for power...

For many socialists, Bolshevism's most important point, the forceful establishment of socialism, appeared to be self-evident.... Under the coercive regime of the Tsars, depravity is inflamed and spreads senseless violence across the land. Whoever, still has any vitality directs his thoughts toward cunning and force in order to overthrow the rule of the tyrant. Driving a resisting multitude of people into an artificial socialist form of government is akin to destroying a costly vase out of impatience.

Every form of education must aim for the most favourable conditions for receptiveness... Lasting retention comes about only for what a person has received as a subject and accepted by his own will. The process of Bolshevism shows all the mistakes of a poor, antiquated method. Even if it were to succeed somewhere by subjecting a majority, no one would be happy. Socialism without the appropriate philosophy of life is living like a puppet without a soul, initiative, or talent. If Bolshevism succeeds, it will have compromised and vulgarized socialism.

In every country, socialism is at the point of fruition... It was the proletariat's feeling of inferiority in his struggle for survival that, like a thorn causing irritation, made him search for a new way to overcome the suppressor and to discover a better organization and a better economic system...

The rule of Bolshevism is based on the possession of power. Thus its fate is sealed. While this party and its friends seek ultimate goals which are the same as ours, the intoxication of power has seduced them. Now the terrible mechanism is automatically released in the unprepared minds of men whereby attacks are answered with counterattacks, without regard for the goal of society, only because the mutual will to power is threatened. Cheap reasons are given to justify action and reaction. Fair becomes foul, foul becomes fair! The Bolshevists must reply by reinforcing their power positions. There can be no reduction in violence, but only further increases, as is always the case when power has the decisive word. If there is any means to call a halt, it can only be the remembrance of the miracle of social interest which we must perform and which will never succeed through the use of power. For us the way and the tactics are determined by our highest goal: the cultivation and strengthening of social interest.

(4) Alfred Adler, Progress in Individual Psychology (1923)

The striving for significance, this sense of yearning, always points out to us that all psychological phenomena contain a movement that starts from a feeling of inferiority and reach upward. The theory of Individual Psychology of psychological compensation states that the stronger the feeling of inferiority, the higher the goal for personal power.

(5) Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature (1927)

We limit ourselves to normal cases of mutual influence, we find that those people are most capable of being influenced who are most amenable to reason and logic, those whose social feeling has been least distorted. On the contrary, those who thirst for superiority and desire domination are very difficult to influence. Observation teaches us this fact every day.

(6) Alfred Adler, Reason, Intelligence and Feeble-Mindedness (1928)

To see with the eyes of another, to hear with the ears of another, to feel with the heart of another. For the time being, this seems to me an admissible definition of what we call social feeling…. All failures - neurotics, psychotics, criminals, drunkards, problem children, suicides, perverts, and prostitutes - are failures because they are lacking in social interest.

(7) Alfred Adler, Technology of Individual Psychology (1930)

When I have had occasion to talk with individuals of oppressed races, as with Jews and Negroes, I have called their attention to the very great tendency to oppress one's neighbor. Is there any human being who has not felt the jealousy and envy of others against him? Why should one be obliged to take seriously the criticisms and vexations of which one can become the object in matters of nationality, religion, or even hair color?

We know that children with red hair are exposed to teasing from which they then suffer. This is one of many ancient superstitions which represent gross errors.

One must explain to such children that there is a whole series of injustices in mankind, that people often find a means of oppressing others, and that this always takes the same form. If one people wants to depreciate another, if one family considers itself superior to another, then they stress particular traits to use as a point of attack. But this takes place only if the object of the attack lends himself to it. The red haired boy must understand that he is not there to serve as a target for the others in letting them irritate him. It is the same all through life; if someone shows irritation, the attack persists. The red-haired boy must consider the attack on account of his hair as a sign of stupidity on the part of the one who launches it.

(8) Alfred Adler, The Forms of Mental Activity (1933)

The honest psychologist cannot shut his eyes to social conditions which prevent the child from becoming a part of the community and from feeling at home in the world, and which allow him to grow up as though he lived in enemy country. Thus the psychologist must work against nationalism when it is so poorly understood that it harms mankind as a whole; against wars of conquest, revenge, and prestige; against unemployment which plunges peoples into hopelessness; and against all other obstacles which interfere with the spreading of social interest in the family, the school, and society at large.

We should be concerned to create and foster those environmental influences which make it difficult for a child to get a mistaken notion of the meaning of life and to form a faulty style of life. Since social movements spring from, and are borne by, the style of life that predominates in one or two generations, the student of group psychology must necessarily make himself familiar with the facts about the development of styles of life. Once the style of life has been formed, it can be corrected only when the individual fully realizes the error he committed in the use he has made of his environment as well as his heredity.

When a social movement has gone astray, this recognition of a basic mistake is equally necessary. An erring social movement can be modified or allayed only when the group has been brought to the realization that a genuine feeling of significance cannot be achieved by a false means; or, in other words, that a release from a feeling of insignificance must be effected in a more useful, productive, friendly way. Hence, anyone who hopes to put a stop to misdirected social movements must be able to prove cogently that the feeling of insignificance of the group can be securely relieved only by some other and better means, one which is more in tune with the spirit and the idea of the community of mankind.

Student Activities

Adolf Hitler's Early Life (Answer Commentary)

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (Answer Commentary)

Heinrich Himmler and the SS (Answer Commentary)

The Last Days of Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

Trade Unions in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler v John Heartfield (Answer Commentary)

Hitler's Volkswagen (The People's Car) (Answer Commentary)

Women in Nazi Germany (Answer Commentary)

German League of Girls (Answer Commentary)

Kristallnacht (Answer Commentary)

The Political Development of Sophie Scholl (Answer Commentary)

The White Rose Anti-Nazi Group (Answer Commentary)

The Hitler Youth (Answer Commentary)

Night of the Long Knives (Answer Commentary)

British Newspapers and Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

An Assessment of the Nazi-Soviet Pact (Answer Commentary)

Lord Rothermere, Daily Mail and Adolf Hitler (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler and the Beer Hall Putsch (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler and the First World War (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler and the German Workers' Party (Answer Commentary)

Adolf Hitler the Orator (Answer Commentary)

Sturmabteilung (SA) (Answer Commentary)

Who Set Fire to the Reichstag? (Answer Commentary)

Appeasement (Answer Commentary)

References

(1) Hertha Orgler, Alfred Adler, the Man and His Work (1939) page 1

(2) Franz Alexander, Psychoanalytic Pioneers (1995) page 79

(3) Hendrika Vande Kemp, The Feminist Psychologist (Volume 30, Number 2, Spring, 2003)

(4) Hertha Orgler, Alfred Adler, the Man and His Work (1939) page 6

(5) Phyllis Bottome, Alfred Adler: Apostle of Freedom (1939) page 65

(6) Alfred Adler, lecture, Individual Psychology and Freudian Psychology (4th December, 1930)

(7) Phyllis Bottome, Alfred Adler: Apostle of Freedom (1939) page 57

(8) Bernhard Handlbauer, The Freud-Adler Controversy (1998) page 13

(9) Frederick Crews, Freud: The Making of An Illusion (2017) page 621

(10) Fritz Wittels, Sigmund Freud (1924) page 134

(11) Vincent Brome, Freud and the Early Circle: The Struggles for Psycho-Analysis (1967) page 40

(12) Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1989) page 216

(13) Sigmund Freud, letter to Karl Abraham (1st January, 1913)

(14) Manès Sperber, Alfred Adler (1926) page 18

(15) Carl Furtmüller, Alfred Adler (1965) page 334

(16) Peter Hofstätter, Introduction to Deep Philosophy (1948) page 273

(17) Bernhard Handlbauer, The Freud-Adler Controversy (1998) page 42

(18) Alfred Adler, Wednesday Psychological Society (17th October, 1906)

(19) Carl Jung, Wednesday Psychological Society (6th March, 1907)

(20) Alfred Adler, The Aggressive Instinct in Life and in Neurosis (1908)

(21) Sigmund Freud, Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy (1909)

(22) Fritz Wittels, Wednesday Psychological Society (11th March, 1908)

(23) Alfred Adler, Wednesday Psychological Society (11th March, 1908)

(24) Alfred Adler, Wednesday Psychological Society (10th March, 1909)

(25) Franz Alexander, Psychoanalytic Pioneers (1995) page 80

(26) Alfred Adler, The Psychological Hermaphroditism in Life and in the Neurosis (1910)

(27) Sigmund Freud, letter to Carl Jung (3rd December 1910)

(28) Stephen Wilson, Sigmund Freud (1997) page 73

(29) Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1989) page 223

(30) Sigmund Freud, letter to Ludwig Binswanger (13th December 1910)

(31) Stephen Wilson, Sigmund Freud (1997) page 74

(32) Alfred Adler, letter to Ernest Jones (7th July, 1911)

(33) Sigmund Freud, letter to Ernest Jones (9th August, 1911)

(34) Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1989) page 223

(35) Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1961) pages 399-400

(36) Bernhard Handlbauer, The Freud-Adler Controversy (1998) page 60

(37) Alfred Adler, lecture, Individual Psychology and Freudian Psychology (4th December, 1930)

(38) Alfred Adler, letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé (16th August, 1913)

(39) Carl Furtmüller, Alfred Adler (1965) page 346

(40) Alfred Adler, Individual Psychology (1964) page 1

(41) Wilhelm Stekel, The Autobiography of Wilhelm Stekel (1950) page 542

(42) Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1961) page 401

(43) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) pages 227-228

(44) Alfred Adler, Bolshevism and Psychology (1918)

(45) Karl Liebknecht, Justice (17th December 1914)

(46) Franz Alexander, Psychoanalytic Pioneers (1995) page 84

(47) Alfred Adler, Study of Organ Inferiority and its Psychical Compensation (1917)

(48) Ernest R. Hilgard and Richard C. Atkinson, Introduction to Psychology (1967) page 520

(49) Alfred Adler, Bolshevism and Psychology (1918)

(50) Hertha Orgler, Alfred Adler, the Man and His Work (1939) page 190

(51) Alfred Adler, A Mass-Psychological Study of a Nation’s Guilt (1919)

(52) Alfred Adler, The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology (1923)

(53) Alfred Adler, Understanding Human Nature (1927)

(54) Alfred Adler, What Life Could Mean to You (1931)

(55) Hertha Orgler, Alfred Adler, the Man and His Work (1939) page 191

(56) Sigmund Freud, letter to Samuel Freud (31st July, 1933)

(57) Hendrika Vande Kemp, The Feminist Psychologist (Volume 30, Number 2, Spring, 2003)

(58) Sigmund Freud, letter to Arnold Zweig (22nd June, 1937)

(59) Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1989) page 615