Adler & Freud: Loyalty oath, dissension, and debates

Freud insists all members agree that sexual impulses (libido) alone determines normal and neurotic personality. Adler disagrees. Debates are scheduled.

Up to now: Adler and Freud work together
to create treatments for the neuroses. Freud wants to advance psychoanalysis
under his leadership. Seeing Adler’s growing influence, he calls for a “loyalty
oath.” Adler & others object. A series of debates is planned. In the first,
Adler offers over-compensation for inferiority feelings as another explanation
for neurotic behavior.

In March, 1909, the Psychoanalytical Convention was held in Germany. Through a spokesman, Sandor Ferenczi, Freud proposed an international Psychoanalytical Society, with Jung, a Swiss citizen, as its president. This led to an angry private meeting among some members of the Vienna group. Freud dropped in to explain that the present society was made up of Jews, and that to expand psychoanalysis to others, they needed to appeal more widely. He said that Carl Jung, being Protestant, would “save them” from being an exclusively-Jewish “club.”

Back in Austria, Freud appointed Adler president of the Vienna society and editor of the journal. In these roles he brought structure to the group’s meetings. In his
own presentations, however, it was becoming clear that his concepts increasingly diverged from those of Freud.

In a 1910 paper he suggested that each person has both masculine and feminine traits and that childhood inferiority begins as the child feels weak, unable, or
“feminine” compared with adults who are strong, able, and “like Dad.” He called
the “neurotic response” to this situation the “masculine protest.” He said most
women and many men have no direct or “non-neurotic” way to object to
definitions placed on them by a male-dominated society.

A sizable number of the members agreed, and the differences between the two men became more evident: Freud, ever the authoritarian, required uniformity under his banner. Adler, the social democrat, was conciliatory, interested in ideas, and saw himself as one among equals who sought increased understanding.

Adler’s ideas were becoming a direct challenge to Freudian orthodoxy. In talks and papers over several years, Adler had positioned himself in a separate theoretical place.

But Freud's eye was on international recognition, and he did not want the world to see his society in disarray. So at a meeting in November, 1910, he demanded that all members accept that sexual impulses form the basis for the entire psychic life of both neurotic and normal personalities.

At least half the members objected to this “loyalty oath.” They saw it as Freud’s rejection of  Adler and his ideas. This was clearly a challenge to Adler and dissenters on his side. A member loyal to (and speaking for) Freud moved that some meetings be held to discuss connections between Adler’s ideas and Freud’s. A series of debates, if you will.

The debates were held in January and February, 1911. The first, on January 4, was called “Some Problems of Psychoanalysis.” On January 4, 1911, Adler argued that sexuality alone can’t explain neurosis. After all, sex is universal, so something more is needed. He suggested “compensation” and “over-compensation” as two responses a child may make to make up for perceived
inferiority in a world of superior others. Meeting minutes indicate Adler’s
remarks were received positively.

Next time: The debates continue...

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