Dr. Bernard Shulman

Dr. Bernard Shulman, co-founder of Adler University, died November 24, 2018 at age 96.

One the most important scholars, practitioners, and teachers to advance Adlerian psychology, Dr. Shulman wrote more than 100 articles and books about Adlerian practice, and traveled the world lecturing about Alfred Adler.

His son Robert shared some words with us:

Dad saw his last patient in the office on his 91st birthday.  The day after his 92nd birthday, he suffered a heart attack followed by a stroke while in intensive care.  However, after a rehabilitation stint, he returned to the home he shared with mom since 1956, now always with a member of the family to watch over them both.  Six weeks ago, his health took an abrupt decline.  After a short hospital stay for gentle rehydration, we brought him home, showered him with love and attention, worked to get his words out as he examined his life in preparation for passing.  It was a tremendous honor and privilege to care for him in this manner.

Dad really was a remarkable man.  You have noted in the history of the IAIP, his four terms as president.  I had the honor of accompanying him to a number of IAIP Congresses, the last in Vilnius in 2008.  The following spring, Dad was invited to teach at Machon Adler in Israel and we spent a week there as dad taught and demonstrated Life Style Assessment – for five days, full morning and afternoon sessions.  That was his last such outing.  At 86 years old, he put on quite a performance.  As I reminded him, these last few weeks, the multiple times I said my final goodbyes, he really had a remarkable life and made tremendous contribution… to individuals, really to thousands or more through his writings and teaching.

As for the IAIP, he was always proud of the organization and its growth.  He told stories of his early days, how his first presidency was a compromise between the two continents, and how he was declared a dictator by some (he laughed at this) in his first term as he tried to run a meeting with rules and propose bylaws that had been lacking at that point.  After his fourth term, he declined a fifth as he felt he had both made his contribution and that to survive, an organization needed to develop new young leaders.  At least, that was his story, and he stuck to it.

It’s a sad time, but a joy to celebrate dad’s wonderful life.


Harold Mosak

Evanston, Illinois October. 29, 1921-June 1, 2018

The Adler University co-founder and Distinguished Service Professor, Dr. Harold Mosak, passed away Friday June 1st, 2018 at the age of 96 years.

With his mentor Rudolf Dreikurs, and colleagues including Bernard Shulman, Dr. Mosak founded the Alfred Adler Institute – today Adler University – in 1952. The three served as faculty and staff for the Institute, handling all daily tasks, from teaching classes to stuffing envelopes. With his colleagues, Dr. Mosak saw patients daily, taught nightly, and supervised and lectured in between.

Dr. Mosak is considered internationally one of the preeminent interpreters of Alfred Adler. Scores of Adlerians have been trained and supervised by Dr. Mosak across decades, and we and our students are fortunate that he taught across every iteration of our institution – from the Adler Institute to the Adler School to Adler University. Dr. Mosak wrote hundreds of articles and numerous books on Adlerian psychology. He also served as a trustee for most of our institution’s history – from 1963 until 2010. During that time, he served as our longest-serving Board Chair (1963, 1972-1999), and in 1984, as the institution’s interim president.

In the Adler Institute’s early years, Dr. Mosak founded the school’s library. Works by Adler and his students were hard to find, but he acquired them one-by-one and recruited students to the cause. His wife Birdie worked alongside him in to reach out to students and build the collection. Through their efforts, the library grew, and students from around the world came to study at Adler. In 2011, on the occasion of Dr. Mosak’s 90th birthday and through benefactors’ support, the University dedicated its modern library as the Harold and Birdie Mosak Library.

Dr. Mosak was among the first psychologists licensed in the United Stated and Illinois; his Illinois license number was 37. He was a diplomate in clinical psychology (ABPP), and he was a life member and fellow of the American Psychological Association. He completed an A.B. in psychology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Chicago. He also served in the United States Army Air Force (1943-1946).

Dr. Mosak retired from teaching at Adler University in 2015, but he continued to mentor his students. Our alum – young or old – could often be found sitting in consultation with him at the Presbyterian Homes in Evanston, his residence for the final few years of his life.

Harold was part of the Board of Trustees who hired me 15 years ago. I am enormously grateful for his generous mentorship – from our first conversations and tutoring that made me into an Adlerian, to his later counsel about the perils and joys of leading a school, to our visits after his retirement during which Harold continued to advise me on becoming a better president and a better person.

In 1982, Harold shared with the Board what he called A Purely Personal Position Paper on the Institute’s direction.

In the very earliest days, the size of the Board…equaled the number of students enrolled in some of the Institute classes. The Board met annually…because it needed only a single meeting to set the policy of the Institute for the year….. In 1963, as Director of Training, I laid the groundwork with the state of Illinois to have us designated as a post-secondary school….

Since then, we have grown in almost every way-faculty, students, budget, activities, library, and headaches-and in general, the Institute finds itself in good health.

At his retirement celebration in 2015 at the University’s Chicago Campus, Harold said, “I suspect Adler is smiling down on us today because of the things the people of the last 60 years have accomplished.” Earlier this week, Harold told Raymond E. Crossman that he continued to smile upon all of us, as we advance the important work he started.


Yair Hazán Trasante

October 31st, 1953, Colonia - May 6th, 2015, Montevideo

Yair Hazán Trasante (October 31st, 1953, Colonia – May 6th, 2015, Montevideo) was a professor, psychologist, Didactic Analyst and Honorary President of the Adlerian Study Centre. He was recognized as the natural leader in spreading Alfred Adler’s thought in the Spanish language; distinguished in the 26th Congress of the International Association of Individual Psychology (IAIP) held in Paris – France in July 2014. Author of several scientific publications, a columnist for the “Periódico El Øtro Psi”, official newspaper of Universityof Buenos Aires and in the Newsletter of Adlerian Studies Centre.


He was born on October 31st, 1953 in Juan Lacaze, Department of Colonia on the River Plate. His father was a Mussulman from the Ottoman Empire and his mother was Uruguayan from an Italian family. He was the youngest of two sisters and one brother, as he said: son of old age. He grew up with the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church values and as from his childhood he learnt to live with the religious diversity. He never denied the influence he had had from some priests from the Clergy and Salesians on his ethic, social and intellectual life.

Besides, coming from a workers leftist vanguard city, he took, as from, a very early age a compromised political position to finish with social injustice and violent attack of the dominant social classes.

In times of Uruguay military dictatorship he was discharged from teaching, suffering very serious physical, psychological and social attacks on part of the military.


1972When Rudolf Dreikurs died he became a member of a teaching formation with out knowing that his name existed. Besides, the same year the only book there was of Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs was proscribed, Como lograr la disciplina en el niño y en el adolescente (Original title: A Parents Guide to Child Discipline) writing in collaboration with Loren Grey, Paidos Editorial. He could not read it because as Prof. Hazan said in Homage to Rudolf Dreikurs(2009) in the University of the Republic with the special invitation from Dr. Eva Dreikurs Ferguson:

the imperialism hit us with dictatorships in all Latin America. And Adler and Dreikurs works were forbidden. Because Adler had been a social militant so had Dreikurs. And this was not looked on as a good thing by fascist authorities of the time () All the men on depth psychology are pages from the same book but Adler and Dreikurs gave us a peculiar contribution with the participation and the power to reach the valour of these other men. To leave the inferiority feeling which they have put on us but which we have been an accomplice and accepted it

1997When the democracy was re-established,the Center of Adlerian Studies was founded in the Pedagogic Museum of Montevideo – Uruguay, after more than ten years of preparation. It was sixty years since Adler had died and a centenary since Dreikurs’ birth.

2007 The first Adlerian Internacional Congress was organized: Everything could be different at the Kolping Institute Uruguay

2010 He went to University of El Salvador (UTEC) for the main lecture titled: How to avoid violence from Psychological point of view of Alfred Adler.

2011 He took part in 25th Congress of the International Association of Individual Psychology (IAIP) at the University of Vienna and reburial of Alfred Adler’s ashes at the Central Cementary of Vienna.

He published a book as co-writer with Dr. Michael Titze (Germany) Fundamentals of DepthTeleologicalPsychology, Psicolibros Editorial.

2012-2013 He took part in various congresses and seminars organized by Federación Uruguaya de Psicoterapia (Fupsi) and Symposium of University extension given by Adlerian Center Studies, free and open to all the public.

2014 He took part  at 26th Congress of the International Association of Individual Psychology (IAIP)  in Paris.

He founded the first course en permanent formation of Compared Adlerian Psychology at the University of the Republic.

Eternal remembrances

According to Clemente Estable: to remember is such a surprising miracle like creation. Remembering is to go back to a little dreamt reality.  Memory is light of life and in this light the day remains at night () It is the only thing reversible in time, which matures the experience.  To remember the best is an exercise in refinery because the best can only be remembered by the best of ourselves.

His life should be translated as one of a man of good works, essentially in favour of the most humble, the most needed should benefit from his help, advice and counselling  of the most diverse  fields. His culture was so ample there, that it went from  the most practical and aplicable knowledge to the most abstract. We can be convinced that his, “as if”, the icon of the archetype of the “old wiseman”.

The Adlerian Studies Centre (CEA) will continue his works because the seed has being sown in fertile ground the people are involved in improving his work, challenge which will imply redoubling the effort and preparation.

Funeral services and necropolis

His ashes were strewn to the wind, complying with his will. The chosen place was “The lighthouse of Punta Carretaof Montevideo, on the River Plate because it meant that the name Yaír is “illuminate”. Orange gerberas flowers were thrown and the poem “The Calling” byRabindranath Tagore was read and the emotive letter from our dear Adlerian friend Alyson Schafer.

The Memory is inscribed forever in the message which we sent from the Board of CEA on the day of his decease:

Mister Didactic Analyst Prof. Yaír Hazán has left us and will always remain with us on Wednesday the 06 of May 2015. The best of him is in each one of us who had him as a professor, psychotherapist and friend with a common goal: “help people to be free and responsible”and expand the message of Adlerian thought. He never went on holiday and when they asked  him why, he liked to say as Don Bosco: “I will rest when I die”. Now he is resting in peace.

Centros de Estudios Adlerianos



Robert Leonard Powers

Port Townsend, WA Dec. 29, 1929-April 23, 2013

The Rev. Robert L. Powers, priest of the Episcopal Church and licensed clinical psychologist, died on April 23, 2013 in Seattle, WA following a long, multifaceted illness. He was a 15-year resident of Port Townsend, WA and a communicant at St. Paul’s Church.

He was born on December 29, 1929 in Buffalo, N.Y., son of Leonard Philip and Amelia Isabelle (Probst) Powers. The religious values of his Irish Catholic and German Protestant grandparents, and also of his Jewish grandmother-by-affection, inspired his ministerial studies. He attended Capital University, Columbus, Ohio (BA), Yale University Divinity School (MDiv), attended the General Seminary of the Episcopal Church, NY, NY, and studied with Father Eligius Buytaert at the Franciscan Institute, Olean, NY.

Powers was made a deacon in 1956 by Bishop Lauriston Livingston Scaife of the Diocese of Western New York and Bishop Thaddeus Zielinski of the Old Catholic (Polish National) Church, and was ordained a priest in 1957. He served in Olean, NY, and Elkhart, IN, and as priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church Center and All Saints Chapel in Chicago’s Loop.

In Chicago, Powers began his studies in psychology at the Alfred Adler Institute (now the Adler School of Professional Psychology) where he earned a certificate in psychotherapy under the direction of Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs. Continuing at the University of Chicago, he completed a master’s degree in religion and personality. In 1972, he passed the examinations in Illinois for licensure as a clinical psychologist. He joined the faculty of the Adler School, taught at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL, counseled former prisoners at St. Leonard’s House, and for fifteen years counseled families monthly in a public setting at the Adler School. In 1995, he was designated Distinguished Service Professor by the School. He retired as professor emeritus.

Powers was a board member of the Illinois Division of the American Civil Liberties Union, president of the Chicago Chapter of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity, and was in Selma, AL with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the civil rights struggle. He served as president of the Chicago Psychological Association (now the Illinois Psychological Association) and as president of the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology (NASAP).

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Jane Serrill Griffith, a licensed clinical counselor. Together, they conducted a private practice in Chicago, taught at the Adler School, coauthored articles and texts in the psychology of Alfred Adler, and traveled widely in the U.S. and abroad, teaching and lecturing. In 2011, at its annual conference, NASAP presented the society’s Lifetime Achievement Award to them jointly for their contributions to Adlerian psychology.

Powers is also survived by three children from his former marriage: Sarah Amelia Knight (Daniel), Oak Park, IL; Rachel Anna Powers (Steven Mesler), Seattle, WA; John Edward James Panaioti Powers (fiancée Jennifer Bostic), NY, NY; his four grandchildren: Matthew and Helen Knight and Sebastian and Sophia Mesler; and his three stepsons: William John Bell (Joanne), Floyd, VA; Bruce Griffith Rushing (Christina), Acworth, NH; Robert Kyger Rushing (Kim) of Seattle, WA; his six step-grandchildren: Bradley Sime, Darcie Luster, Samuel Bell, Sierra Bell, Grace Rushing, and Sylvie Rushing; and his two step-great-grandchildren, Marissa and Colton Sime. He was preceded in death by his sole sibling, Thomas Philip Powers.

The funeral service was held at Thomsen Chapel, Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, WA with the Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel, Bishop of the Diocese of Olympia, presiding, assisted by The Rev. Irene Watanabe.

Donations may be made in memoriam to the Robert L. Powers Scholarship Fund, Adler School of Professional Psychology, 17 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60602; or Episcopal Relief and Development, 815 Second Ave., 7th Floor, NY, NY 10017.


NASH, Edna May (nee McDermid)

November 2, 1922 - April 30, 2012

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Edna May Nash on April 30, 2012. Edna passed away suddenly at her home from heart failure during the course of a courageous battle with pulmonary fibrosis. Edna is survived by her loving partner Al Tranfield, her daughters Sylvia Martin (Terry), Rosemary, Barbara (Ted Ansbacher), son Gregory (Susan), grandchildren Greg, Regan, Mark, Charles, Emily, Zachary and Spencer and great grandchildren Justine, Summer and Iileitia.

In 1886 Edna’s grandparents came to B.C. from Ontario and settled in Parksville on Vancouver Island. Her mother Harriett was born in 1889 and went to school at the age of 2 so the school would have enough students to qualify for a grant. On July 22, 1908 Harriett married Edna’s father William McDermid, in 1909 Edna’s only sister Grace was born and soon thereafter the family started farming in Parksville. Edna was born in Parksville November 2, 1922 and within a few years showed amazing talent as an athlete, winning many track and field awards. In preparation for her athletic events Edna’s father timed her run to the back field to round up the cows and return them to the barn. Edna was one of only two students in her grade 12 class, both of whom went on to university. Edna’s father passed away suddenly in 1940, just as Edna was leaving the farm to attend UBC.

In October, 1943 Edna met Bernard Nash and they were married within two months, on December 27, 1943. Children soon followed. Along with millions of others in the post-war era, Edna and Bernard built and shared a life together founded on common values, commitment, love, family, the Church and community involvement. They lived and raised their family in West Vancouver where Bernard had settled with his family in the 1920s.

In 1956, with Bernard practicing law and 4 children at home (ages 4, 7, 9 and 11), Edna returned to her teaching career. While she taught full time, she completed her Bachelors of Education and Masters in Counselling Psychology through night and summer school courses. Edna loved teaching, her students and all of the extracurricular activities, including coaching field hockey, volleyball and track and field. Edna became a Registered Psychologist and then, in 1985, took early retirement from her position as an Area Counsellor in the Vancouver School District to pursue a private practice.

Edna’s psychology practice thrived. She also taught at the University of British Columbia and introduced distant televised Education and Psychology courses through the Knowledge Network. She presented at many international conferences including the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology (NASAP) of which she served as President. For many decades she attended and taught at the annual International Committee of Adlerian Summer Schools and Institutes (ICASSI) around the world. She was a founding member of the Adlerian Psychology Association of British Columbia and became an admired leader in the field of Adlerian Psychology, classroom management and family education.

Edna and Bernard had been married for 53 years when Bernard passed away in 1996. Edna continued to lead a full life with her psychology practice, community involvement and participation in conferences well into her eighties. Then in 2007, a mutual childhood friend introduced Edna to Al Tranfield, a childhood school mate. Al and Edna had not seen each other in 68 years. From their first meeting they were inseparable, having a deep and abiding love for each other and sharing Al’s sailboat the “Ardea”, the joy of music, family celebrations, morning puzzles over breakfast, their apartment view and many other simple joys of life. Al brought pure happiness to Edna’s life and gave her loving care over those 4 1⁄2 years, and particularly through the challenges of her illness.

Edna will be remembered for her love for all people, her encouragement of others and her commitment to making this world a better and more peaceful place. She was inspired by everyone. Her passion, compassion and social interest moved her to contribute relentlessly to the broader community throughout her life. She truly wanted life to last forever. As she said in her final days, “It has been such a good time!!”

A special thanks to Dr. Virani, Dr. Swiston and Leah Christoff and the outstanding cardiology and respirology teams at VGH for their care and treatment of Edna through her illness.
A celebration of Edna’s life will be held on June 2, 2012, 11:30 am at St. Anthony’s Church at 2347 Inglewood Ave., West Vancouver BC. The family intends to establish a foundation and/or scholarship in Edna’s memory. In Lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Nash & Company “In Trust” for the Edna Nash Family Education Fund. (Suite 3013, Three Bentall Centre, 595 Burrard Street Vancouver BC, V7X 1C4). Thank you to all.

23th IAIP Congress papers, Congress papers, Invited Lecture

The changing of the female role from a. Adler to nowadays

Gyongyver Karpati

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was the doctor of the lower middle classes in Vienna at the beginning of the1900s. 
He studied gender roles in this social layer which was characterized by complete family structure, classic male pattern, father as breadwinner.The mother looked after the family and brought up the children.
Carrying out social psychological research Adler came to the following intuitive idea: the personality form and behaviour characteristic of the genders is influenced by culture “a product of culture”.

By 1912 Adler completed his personality theory and put it into the larger context of social psychological research. He examined the view of his age concerning genders which said: women are of less value.

At the turn of the century most women realised their lower value status in society but they accepted it. In this acceptance they were helped by their typically feminine attributes such as gentleness, self-sacrifice and obediance. The mentally healthy women gave a feminine reaction to the criticism of the age and came to terms with the female role of their age. Thus society remained healthy as well. Women remained women and men remained men.

In the lifework of Adler’s contemporary, the other great analyst C.G.Jung (1875-1961) the word Role has a different meaning. In Jung’s analytical model the Role (=persona=mask) is the top of the personality pyramid, the top layer, which is in contact with the outside world. The Rolepersonality has a balancing function between the inside and outside world. It synchronises the expectations of the environment and the inner needs.

In Jung’s personality model the feminine anima and the masculine animus are parts of the individual unconscious. In the collective unconscious we can find the archetypes of the magna mater and the old wise.

Researching the structural forms of the female psyche Toni Wolf, Jung’s follower, described four female types: Amazon, Hetera, Mother and the Medial woman.

All four types have a cultural historical background. They can be identified with Greek goddesses. -Arthemis, Aphrodite, Demeter and Hestia- so they are probably archetypes. AMAZON: independent, efficient, success-oriented. She lacks patience and empathy. HETERA: ideal partner, inspirational woman. MOTHER: protects, supports, cares, helps THE MEDIAL WOMAN (medium) understands the subconscious background. She can play a mediator role in her environment and towards the transcendent.

According to Wolf every woman possesses these four basic structures. A woman will realize the structure which is most in accordance with her character. As her character matures she will integrate a second and a third stucture in her personality. The integration of the fourth structural form means the total approach towards Selbst. This fulfillment of the female role takes a lifetime.

Adler does NOT talk about roles but life tasks. In his finalist way of thinking the term task determines the goal better. Out of the three life tasks the male or female role of the person is fulfilled through the love relationship. Human relationships and career are effected and coloured by gender roles.

During the fulfillment of life tasks life periods follow. At the start of their CAREER, the young woman, the Amazon, functions independently, efficiently, ambitiously. At the beginning of the serious LOVE RELATIONSHIP, the marriage, the woman is a real partner. If she inspires her husband in all respects she is a Hetera. In later years of the marriage, at the birth of children she fulfills herself in her female role as Mother. As aging woman, who has cared for HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS all her life, she gathers and intertwines people with the help of her life experience. By her knowledge of people she reflects on the subconscious and towards the end of her life she mediates more and more towards the transcendent. She is the Medial woman.

The terminology of Jung’s and Adler’s analytical method is different but its ideas about the structural forms of the female role are the same. The psyche of the mentally stable woman develops throughout her life. Adler adds: it develops dinamically towards its personality ideal.

Opposed to the classical female roles we saw the start of the feminist movements. One of its leading personalities was Simone de Beauvoir French writer -Sartre’s follower and partner. In 1949 she published her book “The other sex” as a response to Freud’s teachings. Beauvoir was appalled by the fact that in psychoanalysis the woman is overshadowed by the man. In her view the female identity is not defined by birth but develops through outer influences. There is no difference originally between female and male personality. If it does appear it is only the impression of the education that the man forces on the woman. This picture becomes firmly rooted in women as a kind of stigma. This is the first violence against women.

Beauvoir’s statement makes the female identity conditional, she questions the female identity. This idea is subject to criticism today.

The categories of gender identity and gender roles become obvious if we look at the table compiled from the book “The modern theory of sexuality” by hungaryan Béla Buda.

TABLE in the view of modern social psychology

sexual identity = sexual conscious+ unconscious

sex role = sexual role

the behaviour attributed for sexes in a certain culture

gender role = the psychological features of the sociological gender role

pervasive role = sexual role + age role. All other human roles are based on it.

In the emancipation of women it is an extreme, wrong teaching that the harder, the more masculine a woman acts, the more valued she will be. Consequently the western emancipated woman got to her own exploitation. Amid the fast developing technical advances of our age the human mind aims to rule the world. Emotions and the soul become unnecessary on the labour market. Fortunately, feminism has changed a lot over 50 years. This is demonstrated by an Urugayan feminist’s speech from 1995 which I will cite from. (This speech was delivered in Libanon at an Arabian conference by Maria Teresa Bocile Santiso). There is a fundamental condition, valid for every woman, which is independent of culture, religion, social layer, age, or level of education. And this is the female body. The first experience in a woman’s life is that she possesses her female body. This is a woman’s life condition and attitude. Every woman possesses this special thing. They possess the inner and outer ability to carry life, feed and give birth. This identity which is deeply rooted in the female nature can be found in every culture. It is an anthropological originality, an ability for life. “

Henri Boulad ( Philosopher, theologian, teacher, psychologyst. Alexandria 1931-) says in his book : For the world the woman is a gift. But the “impolite” world only cares about the profit value of this gift.

This is what happens in Hungary at workplaces nowadays. How many points does a woman doctor/ psychologist make with her activity, what is its point/ forint value? The same thing comes into question in marriages . Who earns how much? It is prostitution where the woman can be best given a forint value.

Boulad defines a woman’s value by her existence. “The existence of mankind depends on women”-he says. The realisation of a woman’s basic value: the care which is so strong that it ties together every age and culture. A woman’s care spreads over the whole world. A woman hopes that the world will experience an intellectual deveopment and a strengthening of moral values. She wants the truth to reveal itself and good to manifest itself.

The traditional role of women is the most modern in our present and this is not a paradox. I’ll try to outline the traditional threefold role virgin-spouse-mother of a woman according to H. Boulad:

Virgin. Longing, waiting. Waiting for a man, the polarity of a woman’s personality

Spouse. Keeping the virginity of the heart: undivididness, total commitment to a man

In sex: the other person is in the centre of events all the time.

Loyality: Excluding everybody else. Getting from eternal love to the absolute, the eternal. This end feeds the previous values. It is the woman who understands this art, not the man. She teaches these things to him.

Mother. Every love must exceed itself. Duality must grow into a threefold, fourfold etc. relationship. Physical and psychological fertility perfects love.

In summary we can say:

For their healthy mental development children need male and female models which are transparent, easily recognisable due to their contrasting nature, and carry both the outer and inner signs of their gender.

The essence of the harmony of becoming a woman: to be aware of the high-ranking values of their own womanhood. To create a contrast to the male identity, but at the same time to complement the man. It is important for a woman to live out her being special, since she is capable of motherhood, of passing on life, of ensuring the continuity of human life. This idea is well expressed in an English proverb with which I would like to end my article:

” The hand that rocks the cradle is the one which moves the world.”


ADLER, Alfred: Co-operation between the sexes (1978.W.W Norton§Company , INC )
BOULAD,Henry:The suffering and mission of women (1997.Marton Aron Publishing House)

Budapest, 22 August 2005

HUNGARY, 1068, Budapest, Rippl-R.u. 27.

23th IAIP Congress papers, Congress papers, Invited Lecture

Power and disability

Timothy S. Hartshorne

Society, and the logic of social living, asks its members to cooperate through the life tasks (work, love, friendship). Success with the life tasks involves using one’s abilities in a useful and creative manner to support the well-being of community. When a person courageously uses his or her abilities and develops these with a sense of social interest, he or she becomes useful to society, and so acquires power – influence. This is the power of perfecting what one has to offer – one’s abilities. But when people have dis-abilities this can become problematic.

Part of the difficulty is how we tend to think about disabilities. Fine and Asch (1988) challenged five assumptions that influence attitudes toward disability: (1) that disability is located solely in biology, (2) that the problems of the disabled are due to disability-produced impairment, (3) that the disabled person is a “victim”, (4) that disability is central to the persons’ self-concept, self-definition, social comparisons, and reference groups, and (5) that having a disability is synonymous with needing help and social support. The son of a friend severely broke his leg and after six weeks in the hospital was in a wheel chair for a period of time. I saw father and son one day leaving school. I smiled at the father, Tom, and said, “Now you see the importance of wheel chair accessibility and handicapped parking spaces.” Tom replied, “I never got it before.” His son was not permanently disabled, and in fact at 9 years old today is an excellent football goalie. But to the extent that buildings and parking were not accessible, during that time he was disadvantaged. The physical condition did not make him disabled. The physical barriers that existed in the world reduced his abilities. If the barriers can be removed, a person’s dis-abilities may no longer be so significant. However, these barriers are not always physical; they are frequently social as well.

Adlerian psychology is a psychology of use and not possession; it is about what you do with the abilities that you have. But society may not always recognize the use, and societal structures may serve to increase feelings of inferiority among those who find that their disabilities block them from access to society. Consider the life tasks.

Work: are there abilities that compensate for the disabilities? Are the disabilities relevant to the work? I was asked recently whether a person who as Cerebral Palsy should be hired as a school psychologist. I asked about her training and experience. She had graduated from a training program, and had worked as a school psychologist before and evidently did well. But although she seemed quite capable, the school to which she had applied for a position was very concerned.
Love: are there traits that compensate for not representing the ideal in beauty or masculinity? My friend Jim was divorced and had decided it was time to start dating again. A widow I knew was also interested in a social life. But she was born with only one arm, and wore a prosthetic. I asked Jim if it would bother him to date someone with one arm. He said that it would.
Friendship: What would other people say if you were friends with that person? In college I knew a fellow student who today we would say had high functioining autism. He seemed very isolated, and I suggested to my girlfriend that perhaps I should try to make friends with him. She thought that was a terrible idea, because others would judge me for being friends with him. A family eating out with their severely disable son had to endure people changing tables to move away from them.
This leaves few options for those with disabilities. One is to form a community separate from the larger society, and some societies support this by providing programs and developing structures that guarantee the isolation of this community of dis-abled. The deaf community is a good example. Members have developed their own culture and language, and in many cases have developed a sense of superiority. The deafblind are not generally welcome in the deaf community, nor in many cases are people who have physical disabilities in addition to their deafness. The use of cochlear implants is frowned upon because it implies there is something wrong with being deaf. But within the deaf culture a member’s abilities are recognized and valued and the hearing impairment is irrelevant.

Special Olympics is an extremely popular way to provide some power to a disadvantaged group. But despite the enormous amount of volunteer work by those without disabilities, the program is one of only relative power. In the context of one’s own group there is the potential for achievement, but in the eyes of society it is in some respects still “pretend” olympics, and unfortunately perpetuates the separation and isolation of the disabled. “We give them their program.” There is no real power here. There is no Lance Armstrong – the disease has not been overcome.

Another option is to strive to compensate for one’s disabilities and become a success, and so powerful; striving for a personal superiority. Some societies like to parade the heartwarming stories of those who have succeeded in spite of every obstacle society may have laid in their way. Christopher Reeve was a very powerful individual, but he was powerful before his horse riding accident. There was a librarian I knew with CP who was evidently quite brilliant, at least according to the heart warming newspaper article I read about him. He still appeared to lead a life of isolation, but he was a success. Judy, in a wheel chair and with a hearing impairment has managed to succeed at work despite problems with a co-worker. “If it was up to her, I’d have been gone long ago. Fortunately, she and I are at the same level and she’s not a manager, so I don’t have to worry about that….After thirteen years, I really don’t care anymore. I’m still here, that’s the best revenge.” These people seem to have done it in spite of the barriers. Of course this leads to discouragement for those who have tried and failed, and more fail than succeed, and for the few who succeed it interferes with social interest (because group membership is contingent) and creates the fear of losing one’s position. As Green, Davis, Karshmer, Marsh, and Straight (2005) note, “The difficulty, of course, is that where the attitudes of others lead to discrimination, chances of attaining positions of power are limited thus encouraging further discrimination and status loss” (pp. 209-210).

According to Link and Phelan (2001), the lack of access to social, economic, and political power leads to the possibility of stigmatization, as seen in labeling, stereotyping, separating, reducing status, and discriminating.

Labeling assigns social salience to recognized differences. It is one thing to have difficulties relating and communicating with others; it is another thing to be autistic. Labels create their own realities, which is why this is countered in the US with person first language. I would not dare to refer to a “deafblind person” in the US; I would have to say “a person who is deafblind” to emphasize that they are a person first and foremost. In other parts of the world persons who are deafblind want to be referred to as “deafblind persons,” because it is part of the social definition they have created for themselves, much like the deaf community, which is never called a community of persons who are deaf.

Stereotyping is assigning negative attributes to the labeled differences, or placing social significance on differences. Would you date a one-armed woman? Would you be seen with a one-armed woman, or a college student with Aspergers? Would you eat at the table next to a woman with CP who was drooling? Is that one unfair?

Separation results in a sense of “otherness;” a sense of not belonging. When the reactions of others unmistakably communicate not only a lack of acceptance, but a rejection of whatever abilities one might be able to contribute, this is deeply discouraging. This is very hard for parents to see happening to their children. I spoke with the mother of a young girl with a genetic syndrome who was sitting on the floor slightly rocking. Although the girl was functioning very well, even on grade level at school, the mother worried about the rocking. “If we could only get her to stop the rocking she would be nearly normal.” This mother eventually gave her daughter plastic surgery to improve her facial features. “I want her to have a date for the prom.”

Status loss and then discrimination occurs when the ability to participate fully in the community is denied. I knew a woman with epilepsy who was prevented from attending school after fourth grade due to her condition. We now have laws to prevent this, but as we know, you can outlaw discrimination but you cannot outlaw prejudice and stigmatization.

Besides living in one’s own group where some power may be available, or striving for personal superiority by compensating for one’s disabilities, a third option is to courageously advocate for recognition of those abilities that can still serve society and make a contribution, if society will remove some of the roadblocks that are in the way. But advocacy takes a great deal of courage. The strongest advocates tend to be the parents, although not all parents have the courage to do this, and even those who do can be worn down. Let me mention two strong advocates, both fathers. I spent a day with the father of a young adult girl with a genetic syndrome on a train and bus trip from Brisbane to Surfer’s Paradise. Ken has been a mover and a shaker for persons with his daughter’s syndrome in Australia. It was a difficult trip. On the train his daughter dropped the stuffed animal she was carrying. When I tried to pick it up for her, she briefly attacked and scratched me. At a mall she had to go to the bathroom. She was capable of going by herself, but she was gone a long time. Eventually Ken had to go into the women’s room to fetch her out. Of course we endured many stares as we journeyed. I asked Ken the next day as he was sitting and starring into space if it was hard. All he could do was nod and work to keep the tears from welling up. Another father was sitting with his son who was engaged in self-stimulation. Like Ken, this father has been a strong advocate for disability rights and inclusion. The father, with an affectionate smile on his face said, “Son, you are acting retarded.” His son, who is profoundly deaf, continued the self-stimulation. The father continued to smile, but a bit wistfully. Advocacy means both living with the child and facing the community’s barriers and attitudes. Both can be exhausting and discouraging.

Adlerians should be advocates for the courageous who seek to belong in spite of dis-abilities through the recognition of the abilities that are there. Adlerians should think about the kinds of statements that discourage those with disabilities:

The counselor who tells the parents that they have to grieve over the child they did not have before they can love their disabled child.
The physician who works on the child’s hands and legs as if the limbs were not attached to a whole person.
The falsely encouraging parents who assure their children that they can grow up to be anything they want to be, even when the children want to be ballerinas or football players in spite of their wheelchairs.
The colleges that tell persons with disabilities that they cannot be accepted because they would not be able to cut it with the rest of the able-bodied students.
The mother who does not want her son to marry a disabled woman or the father who does not want the man with a disability to marry his daughter.
The therapist who tells clients that they are in denial of their disabilities.
It is not about the disability – it is about the person and their courage to contribute. Adlerians should use their holistic perspective to see beyond the disability and see the abilities.

Adlerians should help society to focus on the “use” of all people, instead of what they possess. When interviewing parents of children with disabilities I administered an inventory popularly used to measure stress in these parents. One of the questions was “Do you do as much now as a family as you did before your child with disabilities was born?” One mother very quickly responded “No,” which according to the authors of the instrument would indicate greater amounts of stress. But then she continued, “We now do more.” I once asked a group of fathers how they had been changed by having a child with severe disabilities. One raised his hand immediately and replied, “Before he was born I had two other sons with whom I spent no time at all. I was either working or drinking. After this child was born I recognized that I could no longer continue like that, and I gave up drinking and I changed jobs so that now I can spend time with all three of my boys.” That is power.


Fine, M., & Asch, A. (1988). Disability beyond stigma: Social interaction, discrimination, and activism. Journal of Social Issues, 44, 3-21.

Green S., Davis, C., Karshmer, E., Marsh P., & Straight, B. (2005). Living stigma: The impact of labeling, stereotyping, separation, status loss, and discrimination in the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. Sociological Inquiry, 75, 197-215.

Link, B. G., & Phelan, J. C. (2001). Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 363-385.

1 2 3 4 5 6