Alfred Adler: Freud asks Adler for help

Freud asks Adler (1902) to help create treatments for the neuroses. Together they develope psychoanalysis. Adler is Freud's favorite, society president, journal editor. Tensions mount.

So far...Alfred Adler born 1870, Austria. Near death at 4 years from pneumonia led him to life-long goal as a physicain, "to solve the problem of death." Medical school, army, then back to medical scool for graduate work in psychiatry.


In 1899 Adler attended a lecture by Sigmund Freud. He later wrote, “At that time, nervous disorders [neuroses] were treated with cold-water cures or hypnosis. I searched deeper to get at the psychological connections. Then I attended a lecture by Dr. Freud who, like myself, was trying to find psychological connections of the various neuroses.” In 1902 Freud sent a simple post-card inviting Adler to his home to discuss the psychological treatment of the neuroses:

“November 2, 1902:..A small circle of colleagues and followers is going to give me the pleasure of meeting at my house once a week in the evening at half past eight in order to discuss themes which interest us, psychology and neuropathology. Will you have the goodness to join us? We have agreed upon next Thursday, and I am expecting your kind answer whether you would like to come and whether this evening would suit you. With hearty greetings as your colleague, S. Freud”

Adler attended the meetings of what would become the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Adler quickly became a central figure. Never a student or disciple, he was a co-worker in creating the theories and methods of psychoanalysis. Freud saw Adler as the one who would carry on the movement after Freud was gone. But as the years went on, it became clear that Adler’s ideas were moving away from Freud’s strict psychoanalytic thinking.

In 1904, Adler introduced his latest book, A Study of Organ Inferiority, to the Vienna society. In it he said: [1] Neurosis derives from an organ inferiority. [2] Sexual precocity can be laid to such inferiority. [3] Individuals strive to overcome inferiority by compensation for their organic lack [4] Such efforts become over-compensation aimed at dominance or superiority. Freud, with the other members, responded positively. Adler was now seen as the major contributor, after Freud, of ideas to extend psychoanalysis.

Then in 1908 he published The Aggression Drive in Life and in Neurosis. He suggested aggression as a second key to personality, equal with sexuality. Freud had to reject this alternative explanation for neurosis as not fitting his orthodox
psychoanalysis. But there was even more to come.

Several things happened in 1908-1910: (1) Adler’s ideas and leadership were becoming popular with the members, which Freud saw as a challenge to theory as well as to his own leadership. (2) Freud had become friends with the Swiss Protestant Carl Jung, whom he saw as taking psychoanalysis to a wider and non-Jewish world. (3) Members, perhaps following Adler’s lead, openly grumbled about Freud’s dictatorial manner and especially his emphasis on the place of sex in the formation of personality.

Next time: Adler & Freud: Growing dissension

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