|Dr Serge Kutek A century ago the birth of psychoanalysis drastically changed our human conception of thought. We discovered to our amazement that our subconscious is at work at every moment of our existence. Our inner self is not merely what we are conscious of. It is deeply rooted in the dark areas of our being, in our personal histories whose origins date back to our ancestors who have left us their marks, if not their painful scars. One of the essential contributions of psychoanalysis is the opening it gives onto the mystery of life in the sense that life is not only the subject of study but the place where the human being comes to terms with himself in his encounter with the other. Psychoanalysis raises the question of ethics. This is at the heart of our practice which cannot be conceived of without it. Ethics lie in the passage of the human being from its source to the place of emergence in the relationship of the dialogue. Its subject-matter is, what is to come, what is not yet known, what is to be found out rather than what is to be. Ethics is not an acquired fact in the sense that it is constantly being reinvented as its end- product is never totally achieved. It is to be found there where the human being reveals himself. It therefore belongs to the realms of mystery. In these times dominated by pragmatism where humanity is losing itself in its quest for efficiency, productivity and profitability it seems to us that is is crucial to place the person of the human being in search of his destiny, at the heart of our preoccupations. The very future of psychoanalysis lies in the taking up of this challenge. A Few Words About Humanism The Humanist movement, which reached its apotheosis in the 16th century, places the human person and individual dignity above all other values. Faith in mankind is a central element with the emphasis being put on man’s creativity and his freedom to choose between animality and divinity. Humanism proposes a model of human perfection. This model is an ethical one for philosophers and moralists, an aesthetic one for artists and a social one for lawyers and politicians. This movement was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman literature. Humanists express the idea that man is working towards intellectual, moral and religious self-realisation and self-accomplishment. They emphasize the upwardly-aspiring human soul which simultaneously encompasses both heaven and earth. Education therefore takes on great importance and its implementation can contradict traditional school learning. A child must be taught in a progressive, ongoing way from birth to adulthood and even beyond. It is in this way that humanity leaves its natural state to enter into the specific environment of mankind which is the world of culture (Erasmus, ‘The upbringing of children’, 1529 ). Humanism defines the movement of the liberation of man through the rediscovery of intellectual and moral values enshrined in greco-roman literature and adapted to modern needs. It is also characterized by the spirit of ecumenism, by the love of people and the desire for balance and harmony between powers. Humanists are, by definition, reformers, as can be seen in the ‘In Praise of Folly’ by Erasmus(1511), More’s Utopia (1515-1516) and Rabelais’ Gargantua(1534). In modern philosophical thought the word humanism has a different meaning. For Karl Marx it is a criticism of man’s alienation, whether it be religious or economic. Man’s ambition is to rediscover his alienated being. Modern humanism gives man his place as an individual free to act as he chooses. The anti-humanism movement in contemporary philosophy is a criticism of classical and modern humanism. It unthrones man from his position as all-powerful leader. Paradoxically, anti-humanism is also a form of humanism as it confers on man his rightful place. Martin Heidegger, in his “letter on humanism”(1947), shows in fact that man’s dignity forbids him from believing himself to be the originator of his state. He is not the subject in the usual sense of the word but the “Guardian of the Being”, that is to say, the place where the being reveals himself and takes on meaning. Freedom, thought and language are the requirements of the Being who by making himself known to us calls us to him. It really is man who speaks as long as words are left free to come to him, for language is the “dwelling place of the Being”. In other words, man is not the centre of the world, another comes before him, that is the Being. A CERTAIN VISION OF HUMANKIND Alfred Adler’s vision of man is based on a few basic concepts around which a dynamic and coherent theory has been construed. As we will see in the course of this argumentation, Adler’s ideas adhere to the classical, modern and contemporary stream of humanism. The basis of Adler’s theory is the feeling of inferiority. This makes up the cornerstone on which the edifice of the personality rests. At the beginning of his career, Adler, based on the discovery of the vicarious nature of the internal balance of the body, became interested in the inferior state of the bodily organs and their psychic compensation. During the period of his collaboration with Freud, he published in 1907 a book on the inferiority of the bodily organs. “The psychical compensation of the inferiority of the body organs”. This publication is the starting point of Adlerian theory as to the formation of the personality. At that time Adler attributed the inferiority complex to organ deficiency. He soon discovered that the inferiority is innately human and independent of any link with the organs of the body. Adler wrote of the inferiority complex : “this feeling conceived and developed naturally, resembles a painful tension which requires a solution to relieve it. This solution is not necessarily pleasant as Freud maintains, but it can be accompanied by a feeling of satisfaction…” Further on he adds : “We have to consider the history of mankind as the history of an inferiority complex and the attempts made to remedy the ailment…..This impulsion should not be considered to be morbid as ,on the contrary, it is orientated towards acquiring control of the outside world and not at all towards seeking a compromise situation or a restful state of inertia….Man is in a permanent emotional state of inferiority which spurs him on constantly, making him act in order to achieve a greater sense of security.” This last remark deserves to be looked into. In fact, not only does the inferiority complex, through its attempts at compensation, structure the personality, but it also structures the course of history by pushing humanity towards its own destiny. In this way Adlerian theory takes on a cosmic and transcendental dimension. Adler does not only bring us a therapeutic method but above all a vision of mankind that goes beyond its own individuality and which concerns the whole of history. This quotation by Adler confirms what we are putting forward : “Who could seriously doubt that the individual, so disadvantaged by nature, has been providentially provided with a powerful inferiority complex which propulses him upwards towards a higher state, towards security and conquest? This formidable and imposed revolt against an inherent inferiority complex which awakens and renews itself in every young child and toddler, is a fundamental part of human evolution”. Man compensates his inferiority complex by projecting himself towards a future goal of greater security whose role is to preserve his ideal of personality. This means preserving his internal cohesion while he constructs his life at the heart of a community. It is in this way that he works out a project which gives meaning to the ‘todayness’ of his life, sheds light on his history and guides his future. According to Adler, security is an element that is constantly sought for and never found. It is through the fact of being sought for and not possessed that the quest for security becomes a strongly motivating factor. It is the answer to an unfathomable desire. The idea of creative thought is essential to Adlerian thought. This means that the workings of the human psyche are not entirely determined by the surroundings in which they evolve. The individual has the freedom to direct his life in view of a finality guided by an intentionality. The person as an articulate subject creates his own life. What is more, there would be no possible therapeutic act without this creative freedom. There could be no creativity either without freedom. According to Adler, psychic phenomena do not belong to the domain of their causal explanation but need to be understood in terms of their orientation towards a finality. This concerns the question of how rather than why. The subject thus organises a directive fictional situation, a source of energy around which he constructs his way of being in the world which crystallises the interpretation that he makes of himself and his surroundings. Adler shows that the subject creates himself in his relations to another. He calls Gemeinschaftgefühl ( a sense of community) the impulse towards the other without which we could not live, which makes us recognize our similarity and difference and which guides us towards a greater existence. The face of the other reminds us constantly of what we are in the process of becoming.. It is probable that the Gemeinschaftgefühl, which takes root in the early link with the mother reaches its most sophisticated expression in our love life. This relationship is the crucible of the process of humanization which continues throughout the history of the person and throughout the course of the history of mankind. HUMANIST PSYCHOANALYSIS How can Adler’s ideas be linked to humanism? The same spirit pervades both of them. Man evolving towards a more human destiny is at the centre of Adlerian theory. The author has a more optimistic vision of man in that he sees him freely creating his destiny in a vast, rich and often tortuous compensatory reaction to his sense of original inferiority. The creative force which drives on this impulse is the desire to advance towards realising oneself fully. This is the road towards oneself in the meeting with our fellow creatures. Like Abraham whose story is told in the book of Genesis, we have to leave by the wayside certain protections which offer a false illusion of security to go towards an unknown place where we will find ourselves. The face of the other reminds us of our own mystery, a remarkable and necessary confrontation where our meaningful story is created . We cannot think of psychoanalysis without asking the question of ethics which is at the heart of our practice. Ethics is at the heart of the transitional movement of the being into its relationship of dialogue. It is not acquired in the sense that it is always to be reinvented as its goal is never achieved. It is to be found there where the being reveals itself . It is thus of the order of mystery. The ethical intention in the psychoanalytical relationship, whose goal is the concern for the self-accomplishment and the greater freedom of the subject , is of the order of transcendence in so far as it opens onto a future that is rich in potential and onto a humanity in search of meaning . This implies faith in a humankind that is capable of goodness and love. Adlerian humanism is not however, completely transferable to that of the 16th century although the foundations are the same : faith in man as a free creator of his own life, respect for the other and transcendence towards being more fully human, the important role of education. Adler describes in actual fact the perverse consequences of over compensation of the inferiority complex towards a condition of omnipotence.. His vision of man can be compared to that of Martin Heidegger who we mentioned earlier, as seen in this perspective, the person who is decentred from himself does not fall into the trap of suicidal omnipotence. Actually the philosopher’s intuition tells him that the Being precedes him. Man, says Heidegger, is the Da-sein, the Being there, that is to say the place where the Being materializes into thought. The Being precedes the human, through whom he comes into being, by making him grow towards all that is more human. Adler expressed this idea by evoking the development of humanity towards a goal of perfection, seen from the angle of eternity. To say that man is preceded by something that is bigger than he is, which makes and moulds him whilst at the same time giving him his place as subject, the unique place where the Being emerges, confers on him his full dignity by not placing him at the centre of the universe. We can guess the dangers of an upbringing whereby the child is the King with all the possible excesses leading towards the superiority complex. Man works his way, through the relationship with the other, towards what he does not know and which nontheless calls and questions him. This questioning makes sense insofar as it incites him to freely create paths of life which raise other questions; The danger lies in the temptation of a set response fixed into a dogma which leads only into immobility and death. CONCLUSION Adlerian psychology gives a coherent, dynamic and optimistic picture of man. Far from being a prisoner of his original frailty, this frailty enables him to grow and to realize his potential by projecting himself into the future. The Adlerian man is free, although his freedom often leads him to build walls which close him in. He creates his own paths of life, which are an expression of his creative power, to go towards what he does not yet know but which he senses intuitively that he needs for his development. In Adler’s vision of things, man matures through his desires and is constantly moving towards what is not immediately comprehensible but which makes sense. Adler tackles the human personality in all its dimensions, biological, psychological and social seeing in him a tireless seeker of meaning. He makes of him a being who is essentially spiritual. The danger in our technical society dominated by the clamour for productivity and pragmatism is not to hear the voice of our inner self calling us, the part which echoes our feeling of inferiority and which calls us to life. Forgetting the Being leads to dehumanization and death.
What is original about Alfred Adler in the domain of psychoanalysis, is his vision of the individual incarnated in the terrestrial and the biological and yet at the same time leaning beyond what is immediately apparent where the potentialities of his humanity are unveiled. Man’s suffering in the here and now of his present and of his history really makes sense when it is understood in relation to its constantly evolving existence. For these reasons Adler is part of the humanist current. It is essential today more than ever before to nuture oases of words where a person can start to listen to himself in a unique encounter with another who accompanies him for a time on the paths of life. This is, we believe, the mission of a humanist psychoanalysis.