Fredonia Shakespeare Club learns about Alfred Adler

Skeeter Tower

The fifth meeting of the 2018-2019 Fredonia Shakespeare Club year was held on Nov. 8 at the home of Nicki Schoenl. President Joyce Haines welcomed 14 members.

Priscilla Bernatz read the minutes from the Nov. 1 meeting. The minutes were approved as written.

Members voted on a proposed new member, Gail Crowe. Crowe will be invited to join the Club beginning with the Nov. 15 meeting.

President Haines read a resignation letter from Pat McQuiston.

The Club’s area of study this year is The World Between WWI and WWII. Harriet Tower read her paper “Alfred Adler” which is summarized as follows:

Adler was born on Feb. 7, 1870 to Hungarian Jewish parents, who had lived their entire married life in Vienna. Vienna before 1918 was the capital of the great Hapsburg empire, in power for over 600 years and boasted all the trappings of a wealthy city of culture. The music of Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert had earned it the title of world capital of music. There existed a cafe society where intellectuals gathered to discuss ideas and politics. The city was an incubator of ideas, a center for scholarship and diversity and Adler was very much at home there.

As a child, Adler overcame several serious health crises and vowed at an early age to become a doctor. He completed medical school at the university of Vienna and began his first practice in a neighborhood near the circus. He observed that many circus people like himself, had overcome congenital weaknesses only to develop unique athletic abilities. These observations reinforced his earliest theories of compensation and over compensation which were incorporated into his first publication in 1906, Organ Inferiority and Its Psychic Compensation. Other early writings connected deplorable working conditions with eventual illness and he became known as an astute diagnostician and a social activist and reformer. His solid reputation led to an invitation by Sigmund Freud, pioneer psychoanalyst, 14 years his senior, to join a newly formed group of physicians discussing psychology and neuropathology.

Adler became the first president of the group known as the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and the first editor of the prestigious Psycho-Analytical Journal. He remained with this group until 1911 when it became evident that his innovative thinking was challenging to Freud and his ideas had in fact become antithetical to classical psychoanalysis. He began a new group and his theories were called Individual Psychology with Individual meaning “indivisible,” that is holistic, derived from the Latin” Individuum.”

Adler rejected Freud’s notion that man is motivated by instincts and drives and that the basic drive is sexual in nature. Instead he maintained that man is a social being whose basic desire is to find a place in the group, to belong. He believed human actions are purposive and one must understand the unique individual goals to understand one’s freedom of choice, self-determination and creativeness. Emotions he described as the means one develops to help deal with a situation and that in controlling our emotions we gain a sense of responsibility. Adler rejected the mainstream assumption of the times that males are superior to females and described recognition of equality of the sexes as a sign of healthy maturity. He used the German word Gemeinschaftsgefuhl (translated most closely as “social interest” meaning the need to be and feel one with all humankind. To Adler, attainment of social interest indicated a valid test of one’s mental health.

World War I devastated Austria and the previously immense Austro-Hungarian empire was diminished to about an eighth of its original size by 1918. Adler along with other Social Democrats worked to rebuild the social structure of the new Austrian Republic. School reform and ambitious programs for public health and revival of theater, arts, libraries and Adlerian child guidance clinics came into existence.

Adler also traveled to many counties to demonstrate and teach about Individual Psychology. He was convinced that his understanding of human nature if broadcast widely enough would make a difference in the destructive behaviors and power struggles he witnessed around the world. His first trip to America was in 1926 and before the end of that decade, Adler along with the behaviorist Watson, emerged as key figures in American psychology.

Adler saw great potential in America and as civil war broke out in Austria in 1934 he began to plan a move to America for himself and his family, fearing the rising influence of the Nazi party. Key Adlerians followed, settling in various parts of the USA and bringing Individual Psychology with them. The most influential of these were Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher, who dedicated their lives to translating unknown works of Alfred Adler and interpreting his ideas more clearly. Rudolf Dreikurs, an influential advocate of Adlerian psychology established the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology and the Adler School of psychology in Chicago. It was Rudolf Dreikurs who was on a lecture tour in Scotland with Alfred Adler when he died suddenly of a heart attack at the peak of his career that May 1937.

Although Adler’s name is not prominent today, his ideas have been gradually incorporated into diverse fields, and have been mainstreamed into contemporary thought. His use of the term” lifestyle” described the unique law of movement of the individual, a subjective interpretation of oneself in relation to life. He believed that family atmosphere and family values, the constellation of the family and the interaction between members of the family were the most significant contributors to the formation of personality. Birth order, early recollections and selective memory, dream interpretation as problem solving all become part of understanding the developing human personality.

Democratizing psychological insights remains a powerful legacy and Adler’s methods for self-help, parent training and teacher training are all gaining ground. Adler spoke of three life tasks we are called upon to address: work, social relationships and sex. Current Adlerians have added awareness of self and spirituality. Another vital area under discussion to be included includes mastery of parenting and family. Current Adlerians are addressing issues of LGBTQs, prison reform, policing and trauma, systemic injustice, lack of mental health services for low income people, racism and the plight of refugees. Alfred Adler would be proud and the world will be a better place because of his contributions.

Dr. Minda Rae Amiran assisted at the tea table.

The next meeting of the Club will be held at the home of Joan Larson, when Bernatz will present her paper on “The Spanish Civil War.”