SOCIAL INTEREST IN
CHALLENGING TIMES—-John M. Reardon
7-10, 2018 the Adler Tribe will gather in Toronto. The
focus will be “Social Interest in Challenging Times.” That is a compelling
challenge, calling forth transforming effort and energy. Adler was definite:
Social Interest is the mark of mental health.
As “People of Social
Interest” we ask:
—how is Social Interest
innate in humans?
—given the “current
state,” what do we face?
Adler in his article
“Origin of the Striving for Superiority and of Social Interest” (in
“Alfred Adler Revisited”– p. 49-56– hereafter AAR) declares that
“the striving for perfection is innate.”(p. 49) Further, that
striving “is innate as something which belongs to life, a striving, an
urge, a developing, a something without which one could not even conceive of
Also, on that page, Adler
—“to live means to
—“in the ovular cell
rests the fundaments for the development.” And-
—“we are dealing
here with something primary, something which adhered already to primordial
“primal” self, we possess not only the goal to develop and grow, we
are endowed with the “stuff” to do so. In our first
“primal” experience–birth–somatic and primitive brain memories are
sparked. Birth excites fear, threat, loss, and sensations. We are being
“pushed” or “taken out” of our first “home.” Our
innate urges and primitive skills are tested.
Inferiority is experienced,
felt, and etched within. Now, we have:
“primal” “minus feeling.”
force” and desire to overcome is ignited.
—our first emotive
action, crying, bursts forth. And-
tend to us, and a “primal” positive is felt. We have learned!
compensation, and overcoming is instinctual and ready.
instinct, intuition and emotive tools serve us.
We are embraced and brought
into “our family.” We are taken “home.” Our social life begins. Adler
was quick to point out that social refinement was promoted by a
“normal-adaptive” style of parenting. Equally, he pointed out that
self and social development was impaired by “pampering” and
“neglecting” styles. “Useful” and “Useless” Life
Styles were thus, begun.
To the innateness of human
striving for perfection and superiority, Adler also declared Social Interest as
humanly innate (AAR p. 53). He instructed that Social Interest must be
developed, and be done within social context. In fact, Adler held that the
perfection goal contained the goal of ideal community (AAR p. 52). And, social
feeling is the force that exists and remains within our unity of innate
strivings. Further, in this same article, Adler highlights “the
contribution of forebearers,” and he notes that “the new born child would
always find that in life only what others have contributed to life, to welfare,
to security”(AAR p. 52).
So, while all are innately
equipped, here are a few concerns about “the current state”:
Let’s engage in self and
social critique, and ask–“have we done a better job of ‘protecting and
validating’ our children, than we have of inciting Social Interest in
them?” Adler was clear that combining appreciation for “forebearers’
contribution” with innate social feeling residing in children was key to
full human living.
Another question we might
ask is–“how thoroughly and consistently have we worked through family,
school, and culture to lead in what Adler called ‘upbringing’ and ‘correct
guidance of the creative power of the individual’ “(AAR p. 56).
One of the biggest
“act as ifs” inherent in Adlerian philosophies is pursuing
“feeling with the whole, ‘sub species aeternitatis’ under the aspect of
eternity.” Which he says, “means striving for a form of community
which must be thought of as everlasting, as it could be thought of as if
mankind had achieved the goal of perfection” (AAR p. 51).
With our “primal”
strains and innate gifts how do we incite social feeling in an era of:
—devices used to achieve
“significance” with minimal relational contact or work?
—devices used to ensure a
belonging that is “virtual” and not based in human contact?
entitlement,” using media to ensure “place and importance” by merely
saying and depicting “self importance” without real human contact and
—using personal isolation
to inoculate oneself against life’s difficulty, struggle, disappointments, and