Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington


The Feelling of Community

Developed by Henry T. Stein, Ph.D.

The following Classical Adlerian quotations are from the Adlerian Translation Project Archives at the Alfred Adler Institute of San Francisco (AAISF/ATP). Selected works of Alfred Adler, Kurt Adler, Lydia Sicher, Alexander Mueller, Sophia de Vries, Anthony Bruck, Erwin Wexberg, Alexander Neuer, Sophie Lazarsfeld, Ida Loewy, Ferdinand Birnbaum, and other Classical Adlerians have been collected, translated, edited, and converted into electronic text. All of this material is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without the expressed consent of Dr. Stein at htstein@att.net.

Alfred Adler:

"For good reasons does Individual Psychology avoid studying the isolated individual. It views him only in a cosmic and social context. Fiercely besieged by nature and suffering from considerable physical weakness, man's intellect points him to that communal living. This process of association, itself the result of personal weakness and insecurity, indicates a precondition that must be met in every way just as does the will to live, as life itself, must tacitly be accepted: Man is a social being. Expressed differently: The human being and all his capabilities and forms of expression are inseparably linked to the existence of others, just as he is linked to cosmic facts and to the demands of this earth." (From a new translation of "Critical Considerations on the Meaning of Life," IZIP, Vol.III, 1924, in the AAINW/ATP Archives).

"What about social interest, is that also inborn or does one have to instill it in people? Of course, it is also inborn, but it can only become developed when the child is already exposed to life around him. It can only unfold in social association, in the same way that character traits are formed, however, only in the way the child halfway understands social cohesion. The determining factor is the creative strength of the child, guided by environment, by education, influenced by the experience of his body and how he appraises it. Considering the contemporary situation of psychological development of mankind, and maybe also its physical development, we must evaluate the inborn foundation of social interest as too insufficient and not strong enough to develop and unfold without social understanding. There are inborn faculties and functions, which carry through almost completely on their own, for instance, breathing. We are not that far at all with social interest, we have not developed it in the same way as breathing, yet we have to expect the development of social interest as an end goal of completeness intensely enough that mankind in the future will possess it and use it as he does breathing." (From a new translation of "Origin of the Stiving for Superiority and Social Interest," IZIP, Vol. XI, 1933, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

"And since true happiness is inseparable from the feeling of giving, it is clear that a social person is much closer to happiness than the isolated person striving for superiority. Individual Psychology has very clearly pointed out that everyone who is deeply unhappy, the neurotic and the desolate person stem from among those who were deprived in their younger years of being able to develop the feeling of community, the courage, the optimism, and the self-confidence that comes directly from the sense of belonging. This sense of belonging that cannot be denied anyone, against which there are no arguments, can only be won by being involved, by cooperating, and experiencing, and by being useful to others. Out of this emerges a lasting, genuine feeling of worthiness. " (From a new translation of "Individual Psychology," Einführung in die neuere Psychologie, 1926, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)


Alexander Mueller:

"Community feeling should be compared to health. A state of health is considered normal, and a state of illness is considered abnormal. In this same sense, the possession of community feeling is normal, and its absence is abnormal, according to the opinion of Individual Psychology." (From a translation of a lecture on Individual Psychology by Dr. Müller in Rotterdam. January 10th, 1934, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

"We all originate in the community. In childhood, the human individual is not only taken care of and protected, but his strengths and capabilities unfold under the direction of others. He is also given knowledge which makes it possible for him to exist by himself later on. It is true that this transfer to the child takes place through a few individuals, but what has been communicated has always been part of a community, formed and passed on from generation to generation. If it is possible for an adult to exist in rigid isolation, then this is only possible because of the knowledge and abilities he has received from a human community." (From Chapter VII of "You Shall Be a Blessing," published by the AAINW.)


Sophia de Vries:

"If you have the feeling of community, and you are interested in your fellow man, then you cannot keep competing, and trying to do one better than others. And this is what people do all the time--they want to take it away from someone else, to keep their own glory. They go in a direction that leads only to them, and is away from mankind." (From a transcribed, tape recorded seminar given by Sophia de Vries on 2-20-76, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

"The main thing (the way Adler has explained it to us) is that you establish a very close relationship to begin with. Because of the relationship you have established, you can go on and the person feels comfortable in cooperating with you. As a result of the cooperation he does something that he hasn't done too much of before, mainly he shows the beginning of applying a feeling of community." (From a transcribed, tape recorded interview with Sophia de Vries on 5-3-80, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)

"All of my efforts are devoted toward increasing the feeling of community of a person. I know that the real reason for his malady is his lack of cooperation." (From a transcribed, tape recorded interview with Sophia de Vries on 5-3-80, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)


Lydia Sicher

"The German word Gemeinschaftsgefuhl means feeling of community, of belonging. It means having to work at something that transcends not only one's own person, but also the small group to which one belongs. It transcends the family, one's church affiliation, one's race. It has to do with melting into or relating oneself to the community of man, or as people often name it more poetically, the brotherhood of man." (From "The Collected Works of Lydia Sicher: An Adlerian Perspective," edited by Adele Davidson.)

Anthony Bruck:

"One of the English translators of Adler asked him if he could translate "Gemeinschaftsgefuehl" as Social Interest. Adler said yes, but many of his pupils, including myself, have found the translation not an equivalent but only a pale rendering of the German term which correctly translated means: "Feeling of Community", a much stronger term expressing psychological closeness." (From "Alfred Adler: As We Remember Him," edited by Guy Manaster.)

"Since Adler's teachings require the feeling of community to be really felt and understood, only those who have this attitude became enthusiastic about Adler's teachings." (From "Personality differences between Freud and Adler," an unpublished manuscript by Anthony Bruck, in the AAINW/ATP Archives.)


Erwin Wexberg

"Were it not for communal life every human being would have to begin from the beginning."

"The reciprocal nature of social contacts is apparent: anyone who makes no social contacts soon finds himself isolated. Society makes the same mistakes toward the isolated individual as he makes toward society. If your approach people coldly they will be hard and cold with you."

"It is much easier to love the whole world than to cultivate the deep friendship of two or three close friends. The love of humanity imposes no obligations beyond the pretty words used to describe it."

(From "Individual Psychology," by Erwin Weber.)


Henry Stein and Martha Edwards

"Adler based his psychology on the central concept of (in German) Gemeinschaftsgefühl. It is a difficult concept to translate adequately and has been translated by the phrases social interest, social feeling, community feeling, and social sense. Adler and many of his followers came to prefer the term feeling of community. It is a multi-level concept. Individuals may understand and put into practice some levels and neglect the development of others."

"If people have developed the feeling of community at the affective level, they are likely to feel a deep belonging to the human race and, as a result, are able to empathize with their fellow humans. They can then feel very much at home on the earth -- accepting both the comforts as well as the discomforts of life. At the cognitive level, they can acknowledge the necessary interdependence with others, recognizing that the welfare of any one individual ultimately depends on the welfare of everyone. At the behavioral level, these thoughts and feelings can then be translated into actions aimed at self development as well as cooperative and helpful movements directed toward others. Thus, at its heart, the concept of feeling of community encompasses individuals' full development of their capacities, a process that is both personally fulfilling and results in people who have something worthwhile to contribute to one another. At the same time, the concept denotes a recognition and acceptance of the interconnectedness of all people."

"Adler saw the connections among living beings in many different spheres and on many different levels. An individual can feel connected with another, with family, friends, community, and so on, in ever widening circles. This connectedness can encompass animals, plants, even inanimate objects until, in the largest sense, the person feels connected with the entire cosmos. If people truly understood and felt this connectedness, then many of the self-created problems of life -- war, prejudice, persecution, discrimination -- might cease to exist."

"Furthermore, individuals need to acknowledge their connectedness both to the past as well as to the future. What we are able to do in our lives depends very much on the contributions made in the past by others. A critical question that Adler saw facing each person was, "What will be your contribution to life? Will it be on the useful or useless side of life?"

(From "Classical Adlerian Theory and Practice," by Henry Stein and Martha Edwards, at http://go.ourworld.nu/hstein/theoprac.htm .)




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Henry T. Stein, Ph.D., Director
Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washington
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