About Gerhard Adler

Gerhard Adler began the Association of Jungian Analysts in 1976, with colleagues from the Society of Analytical Psychology.  He was one of a few analysts to share a close bond with Carl Jung, as they shared an ethos about the human psyche and the unconscious mind. This formed when they worked together in Zurich, applying Jung’s pioneering ideas of depth psychology. Gerhard Adler is known for his editing of Jung’s collected works with Michael Fordham  and Sir Herbert Read, and for co-founding the Society of Analytical Psychology (SAP) in London in 1945.  In 1956, Gerhard Adler was co-founder of the International Association for Analytical Psychology and later became IAAP president from 1971-77.

Alongside running his private analytical practice from Eton Avenue, London, he wrote and lectured internationally. He cultivated Jung’s ideas and helped to anchor analytical psychological thinking in the UK. 

Background  

Gerhard Adler was born in Berlin in 1904. At 23, He took his PhD in psychology at the University of Freiburg in 1927 then moved to Zürich to study and work at the Burgholzi Psychiatric Clinic under the supervision of Carl Jung. It is no surprise Adler’s theoretical approach mirrored Jung’s.

Carl Jung (1875-1961), was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst; an exceptional thinker and compassionate therapist, who saw the unconscious as a source of creativity, spirituality, and a deep relational ability Gerhard Adler supported Jung in his objection to Freud’s attempt to impose a ‘one size fits all’ psychology on everyone, embracing the idea of respecting the whole of the individual’s experience. Adler, like Jung, valued the spiritual and was drawn towards ideas of wholeness, and what all humans have in common the ‘collective psyche’.

Jung trusted Adler to co-edit the English translation of his collected works from German, with Michael Fordham and Sir Herbert Read. He also edited two volumes of Jung’s letters.
Following the rise of fascism in Germany the Adler family fled Berlin in 1936, and settled in North London. They were able to establish themselves in private analytical practice and begin to collaborate with a nascent group of Jungian analysts in London with whom he was able to share his depth of knowledge of Jungian analytical psychology. Over time, he began to write and lecture. This culminated in publishing his own works, including Studies in Analytical Psychology (1948), still widely read as an important introductory text to Jungian psychology. A second book, The Living Symbol (1961) documents a case study of traditional Jungian analysis, while Dynamics of the Self (1979), explored Jung’s concept of the Self.

Adler went on to further Jung’s ideas about symbol formation as important to understanding the human psyche and its functioning. He followed Jung’s belief that neurosis arises from the ego’s attempts to resolve unbearable conflict and expresses a loss of meaning and purpose in a person’s life. He wrote:

‘Every conflict can be regarded as having its cause in the past, but it may be more fruitful to try to understand and interpret the pathogenic conflict as expressing the present’.

A purpose toward which one’s life can be directed is present in much of Gerhard Adler’s writing.
His concern for professional standards and training in analytical psychology spurred him to become a co-founder of the Society of Analytical Psychology in 1946. In 1976, feeling at odds with the trend in analytical psychology in the UK towards privileging of developmental themes, accompanied by a devaluation of the transcendental aspects of the human psyche, he formed AJA.

Gerhard Adler died in December 1988 in London.

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