Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington

Educating Children for Cooperation & Contribution

Volume II: The Work of an Adlerian Psycholoigst in the Schools

Anthony Bruck

Edited by Henry T. Stein, Ph.D. & Laurie J. Stein, M.A.

Preview of Chapter One

The Work of an Adlerian Psychologist in the Schools

by Anthony Bruck

In 1944, Anthony Bruck was Professor in charge of Psychological Reeducation in the Secondary Schools of the Costa Rican Government. Written in 1946, while he was living in Mexico City, this previously unpublished manuscript reflects his twenty years of experience in the schools of the U.S.A., Austria, Egypt, Spain, and Costa Rica.

My Work in a Primary School

1. Personality Studies Based on Essays

Because my work requires the specific reasons for the presence of each trait in an individual, I prefer to get the material I need in the form of a conversation with my consultant. Or, if I must select my perspective consultee among large numbers of children or students, I have them write essays about certain suggestive topics, which will elicit the uniqueness in each personality, as well as the origins of each trait. Of course, the interpretation of these essays depends entirely on my knowledge and ability, but the validity of this interpretation is easily confirmed.

First, I find the consistency of the manifestations of the personality throughout the different essays of the same individual, confirming that essays are a valid basis for understanding a person. Second, the psychological conversations I have with each individual selected for personal contact confirm the opinion I had formed when studying their essays. Third, each individual's later achievements further confirm the validity of the psychological prognosis based on essays.

Of the three boys whose essays follow here, I have known only one personally. I formed my good opinion of this boy, Jose, while analyzing his essays when he was less than 12 years old. That opinion has been confirmed both in our personal contacts during six years and in his progress as a student during this time, without any professional influence on my part. He is now at Harvard University, with a scholarship. As for the other two boys, I have intentionally selected for presentation here two individuals whom I have never met, in order to show how much we can learn from childhood essays about the later personality of each boy or girl.

Clearly, given complete freedom to write whatever they want in their essays, each child represents the task of a special, individual analysis. While the answers in such tests as the "Personality Inventory" have already been validated by comparison with other tests, I must weigh each expression and idea in the essays I read on the basis of my knowledge and experience. Still, this is the only true way to know an individual's attitude and style of life, which lie behind the manifestations so many erroneously see as completely separate traits.

Juan

Essay I: What I Want to Be When Grown Up

When grown up, I shall become a Doctor.

We may interpret the spelling of the word “doctor” with a capital “D” to mean that the profession of a physician must loom large in the boy's mind. We must not, however, jump to the conclusion that the boy is social-minded because he thinks so well of the medical profession. There are many reasons for the desire to become a "Doctor", especially in these countries, where the physician is the most respected of all professional men, and thus has great political, social, and marital chances.

I shall go to other countries in order to study, and I shall make many trips, a thing I like very much to do, and, besides, this profession satisfies me very much,

We were right to have reservations about Juan's socialmindedness, because we find here that he emphasizes the pleasures of trips abroad more than his studies. We may say that he shows more interest in pleasure life than in work life.

and I shall cure people,

Let us keep this "and" in mind. The exercise of his profession seems of little importance to him.

I shall make a lot of dough

This shows a very materialistic attitude toward the profession. Also, he uses the vulgar slang word, "plata" (dough), instead of "dinero".

and I like all that has to do with surgery.

Some surgeons are very humane and eager to help those in need. But some surgeons are very egocentric, interested more in moneymaking than in the social function of their specialty. On the basis of what we have read so far, we cannot expect that Juan will belong to the former group.

I shall go to the different universities, with my family.

Initially, we are surprised to see that Juan speaks about going to foreign universities accompanied by his family. Even a boy of eleven must know that families do not usually go abroad when a son (and brother) goes there to study. But, on second thought, we can easily interpret this "with my family" as a manifestation of a pampered child, who does not want to leave his pamperers behind, and to whom it may even have been promised that his parents, as well as his brothers and sisters (probably not many, since he has been very pampered) will follow him to whatever university town he might go.

I shall buy myself a house from what I will earn

Once more, we see that Juan is most interested in the material consequence of his becoming a "Doctor".

and I shall go to clinics, and visit my patients

This is the third time that references to the profession he wants to study appear following an "and". First come the pleasures and material benefits he can gain from it.

and I would like none of my patients to die..

Another "and," a casual one. The boy does not say: "I shall do all that is humanly possible so that none of my patients die," as a different type of boy, one for whom medicine would be a battlefield on behalf of humanity, might well say. Juan sort of asks "la suerte" (fate) to help him not lose his professional significance and the high income he expects to have, due to a mishap.

Adler taught that we must always check our interpretation of one of an individual's manifestations against as many others as we can get. Let us then see, in Juan's other essays, if we have not been too hostile in the interpretation of his personality, because of a feeling that medicine is a distinctly social profession, to the study of which only definitely social-minded people should be admitted.

Juan

Essay II : Childhood Recollections

One day, when I was five years old, in the absence of my parents, my sister began to tease me,

A counter-person has appeared on our horizon. The boy does not tell us if it was a younger or an older sister, but he seems to be pampered and inclined to indulge himself, so we suppose he must be the younger brother.

I threw a stone at her and broke her head. On another occasion, I threw a knife at her, but it did not hurt her. When my parents came home, they beat me so that I never did it again.

We may imagine the situation in Juan's family like this: As it so often happens, especially when the elder child is a girl, Juan's sister has been "good" and thus has probably been held up as an example to Juan. Pampered as he was, Juan must have been jealous of any credit given to his sister, while she was doubtless jealous of the pampering he received. Thus, in the absence of the parents, she started to antagonize him, while he reacted with the usual violence of the tyrannical, pampered child.

I also remember that, when I entered the first grade, I did not want my mother to leave the school, because I did not feel at home there without her presence, and I cried.

Again, we see that Juan has been a pampered child.

Juan

Essay III: A Dream I Had

One night,I dreamed that I had the winning number in the lottery...

The Costa Rican lottery distributes over 2,000 prizes twice a month, averaging from some 8,000 dollars,(first prize),down to 50 cents. Juan is not the only one who dreams about this prize, which he calls "the winning number;” practically everybody buys lottery tickets thinking only about the first prize. Nevertheless, this desire to get rich quickly and without effort is a typical reaction of the pampered child, accustomed to not making efforts and guided by his style of life to avoid them.

Now we say to ourselves: "If Juan wants to be a physician because he has more than a superficial interest in medicine or surgery, he will say that he used the money for his studies." What does Juan really say? Let us see:

and I went to Europe and I was very happy because I enjoyed myself very much all the time.

Again, we think: "He must be a pampered, youngest child." We suppose there are only two children in the family: the sister he mentioned and Juan, because so far we have heard of no other sibling.

I went to the theaters, to dances, and other places. I was very happy to find myself among so many amusements.

We see that he quite forgot his intention to study abroad.

But then my mother awakened me and I had to go to school. So, it was all over with Europe and the amusements, and I had to study in order to get good grades.

We get a glimpse of the family philosophy: the boy has to bring home "good grades,” not knowledge. Undoubtedly, Juan's parents have a rather materialistic outlook on life, just like their son.

Juan
Essay IV: My Family

My father is in business and my mother takes care of the household. I have a sister, 14 years old.

We see that our assumptions that Juan was the youngest, and that there were no other children besides him and the sister he mentioned, have been correct.

In our house we live alone, my father, mother, my sister and I.

In a country where we almost always find relatives co-living in the house, this "parents and children" unit suggests egocentric tendencies in the parents as well.

Sometimes, I fight with my sister, but this is not customary.

Perhaps not, but we must not forget the intensity of the fights in the past.

After having dictated this analysis, I read the opinion of the class teacher, which I had asked her to give me on a separate sheet. It read:

Thoughtless. (acting without thinking first). Strong-willed. A jester. A sports enthusiast. Careless about his studies. Undisciplined and lacking habits of order. Not frank. Shows little brilliance in his studies. Slow in understanding abstract ideas or in developing such. Under pressure and handled with energy, he has improved somewhat in his studies.

(This is the end of the Chapter One preview. For a full description of the contents of Volume II, go to Educating Children for Cooperation & Contribution: Volume II - Contents.)



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