Parent Education

Adler emphasized both treatment and prevention. As a psychodynamic psychology, Adlerians emphasize the foundational importance of childhood in developing personality and any tendency towards various forms of psychopathology. The best way to inoculate against what are now termed "personality disorders" (what Adler had called the "neurotic character"), or a tendency to various neurotic conditions (depression, anxiety, etc.), is to train a child to be and feel an equal part of the family. This entails developing a democratic character and the ability to exercise power reasonably rather than through compensation. Hence Adler proselytized against corporal punishment and cautioned parents to refrain from the twin evils of pampering and neglect. The responsibility to the optimal development of the child is not limited to the Mother or Father but to teachers and society more broadly. Adler argued therefore that teachers, nurses, social workers and so on require training in parent education in order to complement the work of the family in fostering a democratic character. When a child does not feel equal and is enacted upon (abused through pampering or neglect) they are likely to develop inferiority or superiority complexes and various accompanying compensation strategies. These strategies exact a social toll by seeding higher divorce rates, the breakdown of the family, criminal tendencies and subjective suffering in the various guises of psychopathology. Adlerians have long promoted parent education groups, especially those influenced by the famous Austrian/American Adlerian Rudolf Dreikurs (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1964).

Spirituality, Ecology and Community

In a late work, Social Interest: A Challenge to Mankind (1938), Adler turns to the subject of metaphysics, where he integrates Jan Smuts' evolutionary holism with the ideas of teleology and community: "sub specie aeternitatus". Unabashedly, he argues his vision of society: "Social feeling means above all a struggle for a communal form that must be thought of as eternally applicable... when humanity has attained its goal of perfection... an ideal society amongst all mankind, the ultimate fulfillment of evolution." Adler follows this pronouncement with a defense of metaphysics:

"I see no reason to be afraid of metaphysics; it has had a great influence on human life and development. We are not blessed with the possession of absolute truth; on that account we are compelled to form theories for ourselves about our future, about the results of our actions, etc. Our idea of social feeling as the final form of humanity - of an imagined state in which all the problems of life are solved and all our relations to the external world rightly adjusted - is a regulative ideal, a goal that gives our direction. This goal of perfection must bear within it the goal of an ideal community, because all that we value in life, all that endures and continues to endure, is eternally the product of this social feeling."

This social feeling for Adler is Gemeinschaftsgefühl, a community feeling whereby one feels he or she belongs with others and has also developed an ecological connection with nature (plants, animals, the crust of this earth) and the cosmos as a whole, sub specie aeternitatus. Clearly, Adler himself had little problem with adopting a metaphysical and spiritual point of view to support his theories. Yet his overall theoretical yield provides ample room for the dialectical humanist (modernist) and separately the postmodernist to explain the significance of community and ecology through differing lenses (even if Adlerians have not fully considered how deeply divisive and contradictory these three threads of metaphysics, modernism and post modernism are).

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