SOCIAL INTEREST IN CHALLENGING TIMES—-John M. Reardon 

 

On June 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 life."(p. 49)

 

Also, on that page, Adler asserts:

—"to live means to develop." And-

—"in the ovular cell rests the fundaments for the development." And-

—"we are dealing here with something primary, something which adhered already to primordial life."

 

Within our "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:

—the first "primal" "minus feeling.”

—our "creative force" and desire to overcome is ignited.

—our first emotive action, crying, bursts forth. And-

—"they" come, tend to us, and a "primal" positive is felt. We have learned!

—our striving, compensation, and overcoming is instinctual and ready.

—personal sensation, 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?

—a "new entitlement,” using media to ensure "place and importance" by merely saying and depicting "self importance" without real human contact and interaction?

—using personal isolation to inoculate oneself against life’s difficulty, struggle, disappointments, and disagreements.

 

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