The 12 Basic Principles of Adlerian Psychology.

The following is taken straight from Ansbacher & Ansbacher’s book on Adler’s psychology:
1. There is one basic dynamic force behind all human activity, a striving from a felt minus situation toward a plus situation, from a feeling of inferiority towards superiority, perfection, totality.

2. The striving receives its specific direction from an individually unique goal or self-ideal ,which though influenced by biological and environmental factors is ultimately the creation of the individual. Because it is an ideal, the goal is a fiction.

3. the goal is only “dimly envisaged” by the individual, which means that it is largely unknown to him and not understood by him. This is Adler’s definition of the unconscious: the unknown part of the goal.

4 The goal becomes the final cause, the ultimate independent variable. To the extent that the goal provides the key for understanding the individual, it is a working hypothesis on the part of the psychologist.

5. All psychological processes form a self-consistent organization from the point of view of the goal, like a drama which is constructed from the beginning with a finale in view. This self-consistent personality structure is what Adler calls the style of life (strange attractor!) it becomes firmly established at an early age, from which time on behavior that is apparently contradictory is only the adaptation of different means to the same end.

6. All apparent psychological categories, such as different drives or the contrast between conscious and unconscious, are only aspects of a unified relational system and do not represent discrete entities and quantities.

7. All objective determiners, such as biological factors and past history, become relative to the goal idea; they do not function as direct causes but provide probabilities only. The individual uses all objective factors in accordance with his style of life. “their significance and effectiveness is developed only in the intermediary psychological metabolism, so to speak.”i

8. The individual’s opinion of himself and the world, his “appercetive schema,” his interpretations, all aspects of the style of life, influence every psychological process. Omnia ex opinione suspensa sunt was the motto for the book in which Adlr presented Individual Psychology for the first time.

9. The individual canot be considered apart from his social situation. “Indiidual Psychology regards and examines the individual as socially embedded. We refuse to recognize and examine an isolated human being.”

10. All important life problems, including certain drive satisfactions, become social prolems. All values become social values.

11. The socialization of the individual is not achieved at the cost of repression, but is afforded through an innate human ability, which, however, needs to be developed. It is this ability which Adler calls social feeling or interest. Because the individual is embedded in a social situation, social interest becomes crucial for his adjustment.

12. Maladjustment is characterized y increased inferiority feelings, underdeveloped social interest, and an exaggerated uncooperative goal of personal superiority. Accordingly, problems are solved in a self-centered “private sense” rather than a task-centered “common sense” fashion. In the neurotic this leads to the experience of failure because he still accepts the social validity of his actions as his ultimate criterion. The psychotic on the other hand, while objectively also a failure, that is, in the eyes of common sense, does not experience failure because he does not accept the ultimate criterion of social validity.

John Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.

First, let’s look at the historical context in which Calvin articulated his doctrine. Luther condemned the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church on three grounds:

1. They withheld the cup from the laity.
2. Transubstantiation.
3. The idea that the priest performs a good work or sacrifice on behalf of the people in the Lord’s Supper.

Zwinglians were memorialists. Calvin’s doctrine is actually quite a bit closer to that of Luther’s than it is to Zwinglians. Zwinglians believe it is a strictly symbolic memorial.

It must be understood that Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is enormously influenced by St. Augustine’s writings on the subject. Augustine’s writings long preceded the ratification of transubstantiation as official Roman Catholic doctrine. Nonetheless, in this respect, Calvin has substantive patristic pedigree in Augustine. Let’s look at how each defines the sacrament:

John Calvin’s definitions:

1. “an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith.”
2. “A testimony of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.”

St. Augustine’s definitions:

1. Visible words of God.
2. Visible sign of a sacred thing.
4. Visible form of invisible grace.

Calvin borrowed from Augustine in five important respects:

1. The nature of signs and their relationship to the reality that is signified – Like Augustine, Calvin emphasized the importance of not conflating the sign with the thing signified. The two are inseparable but also irreducibly distinct. Contrary to being a closet Nestorian due to his insistence on the locality of Christ’s physical body in heaven, Calvin’s understanding of the relation of the sign to the thing signified is modeled on a properly Chalcedonian christology which acknowledge the distinction between Christ’s two natures while also affirming their inseparability.

Instead, it is Lutherans who are in danger of the christological heresy of Eutychianism, since Luther declares that the bread, once consecrated, becomes a totally new substance called “flesh-bread,” which confuses and mixes the natures of Christ so that he becomes a kind of non-Chalcedonian chimera.

For Calvin, the “substance” or “matter” of the sign must be distinguished from the sign itself. As stated below, there is a visible sign of grace whose matter or substance (the person of Christ) is nonetheless fruitless for the unbelieving recipient. To cite Augustine, carnal reception of the spiritual supper does not cease being spiritual, but it is not so for you.

So Calvin: “They do not bestow any grace of themselves, but announce and tell us, and (as they are guarantees and tokens) ratify among us, those things given us by divine bounty. The Holy Spirit…is he who brings the graces of God with him, gives a place for the sacraments among us, and makes them bear fruit.”

So the sign and thing signified must be distinguished but never separated. Indeed, Calvin says that “the union formed between the divine and human activity in the event of God’s action in the sacrament is so close as, practically speaking, to become one of identity…The name of the thing, therefore, is transferred here to the sign – not as if it were strictly applicable, but figuratively, on the ground of that connection which I have mentioned.”

Nevertheless, the sacramental union is “so transcendent and freely personal that the thing signified must be regarded as distinct from the sign.” It is in this way that Calvin tries to articulate his understanding of the Lord’s Supper in terms of a properly orthodox Chalcedonian christology, in which the two natures are distinct but utterly inseparable.

2. The figurative nature of the words of the institution –
When Christ says “this is my body, this is my blood,” he is certainly speaking literally. He does say that the symbols are “figurative,” but this did not seem the same thing to Calvin that it does for modern ears. It does not refer to bare, inefficacious symbols. Instead, the body is applied to the bread and his blood to the wine in a manner similar to the Holy Spirit appearing in the form of a dove (Jhn. 1:32).

“Now the reason why the Spirit was so called was this – that he had appeared i the form of a dove. Hence the name of the Spirit is transferred to the visible sign. Why should we not maintain that there is here a similar instance of metonymy and that the term body is applied to the bread, as being the sign and symbol of it…? I Lay it down, then, as a settled point, that there is here a sacramental form of expression, in which the Lord gives to the sign the name of the thing signified…We must now proceed farther, and inquire as to he reason of the metonymy. Here I reply, that the name of the thing signified is not applied to the sign simply as being a representation of it, but rather as being a symbol of it, by which the reality is presented to us…Hence the bread is Christ’s body, because it asssuredly testifies, that the body which it represents is [truly] held forth to us, or because the Lord, by holding out to us that symbol, gives us at the same time his own body, for Christ is not a deceiver, to mock us with empty representations. Hence it is regarded by me as beyond all controversy, that the reality is here conjoined with the sign, or, in other words, that we do not less truly become participants in Christ’s body in respect of spiritual efficacy, than we partake of the bread.”

Indeed, it is absurd hyper-literalism of a dispensationalist degree when Luther requires a woodenly “literal” reading of “This is my body, this is my blood,” rather than understanding the language in terms of a metonymy of Christ’s full person, including both his divinity and humanity, which believers are confirmed as being partakers of in the Lord’s Supper. Christ is present in the Supper, and he confirms his promises to believers and stands in judgment of unbelievers (judgment being quite the opposite of grace) who unworthily participate in it.
3. The unprofitable nature of unworthy reception – The sacraments are invincibly spiritual, and the faithlessness of the one who takes the supper in an unworthy manner does not negate this, but they do not receive grace. The confirmation of the promises to the believer’s confirmation requires the work of the Holy Spirit, and so unbelievers obviously do not receive this confirmation because they do not possess the Holy Spirit. Citing Augustine, Calvin understands that there can be invisible sanctification without a visible sign, and on the other hand, there can be a visible sign without authentic sanctification.

Indeed, for Calvin, an essential component of the Lord’s Supper is the Holy Spirit’s lifting the believer to heaven to participate in communion with Christ in such a way that the Spirit confirms to us that we are partakers of Christ’s *full person* (both his humanity and deity, not just his spirit, as some misunderstand him to teach) by virtue of their union with Christ’s full person.

4. The heavenly location of Christ’s natural body – like Zwingli and unlike Luther and Roman Catholics, Calvin insisted that Christ could not be physically present in the sacrament because he is physically in heaven, whereas Lutherans argue that the attributes of Christ divine nature (in this case, his omnipresence) are transferred to his human nature so that his entire person can be physically in the bread and wine no less than he is physically in heaven.

5. the relationship between the sacraments of both testaments to Christ.

The Latin word used to translate the Greek “musterion” is sacrament. Calvin says it was “applied to those signs which reverently represented sublime and spiritual things.”

Essential to Calvin’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper is his understanding of the relation of the Word to the Sacrament. He says of the sacrament that “from the definition I have set forth we understand that a sacrament is never without a preceding promise but is joined to it s a sort of appendix, with the purpose of confirming and sealing the promise itself, and of making it more evident to us and in a sense ratifying it.”

The two are joined and the sacraments accomplish what the word accomplishes. Indeed, the sacraments require the word in order to even be sacraments. Nor does the word have any power apart from the sacrament. And so the two are jointly necessary and mutually and reciprocally produce the efficacy of the other.

Insofar as the sacraments are seals of God’s promises, they are also signs of the covenant. So Calvin:

“Since the Lord calls his promises ‘covenants,’ and his sacraments tokens of the covenants, a simile can be taken from the covenants of men. What can the slaughter of a sow accomplish unless words accompany the act, indeed, unless they precede it? For sows are often slain apart from any inner or loftier mystery. What can giving the right hand accomplish when hands are often joined in battle? Yet when words precede, the laws of covenants are by such signs ratified, although they were first conceived, established, and decreed in words. The sacraments, therefore, are exercises which make us more certain of the trustworthiness of God’s word.”

For Calvin, the Lord’s Supper seals and confirms to the believer’s conscience that they are authentic partakers of Christ’s full person and body, both human and divine. The mystical union of the believer with Christ’s person and body is essential for understanding his doctrine. Christ, the eternal Son of God, assumed human flesh so that he might communicate the benefit of adoption to us as Sons of God, which we now vicariously participate in by virtue of our union with him.

It is his incarnation that allows us to enjoy expiation, imputation and intercession. Unless we are in union with him, as our head, we do not enjoy these benefits. The promises of the covenant are obviously only efficacious to those who are actually in the kind of legal union with Christ that makes them efficacious. The idea that the supper communicates grace even to the non-elect or unregenerate is utterly ridiculous. How can Christ’s promises be confirmed to those who are not even part of his body, by which we alone are partakers of promises?

The Lord’s Supper must be understood in terms of the promises of the covenant. The supper, as signs and tokens of the covenant, must be understood in terms of the blessings promised to the ones in the covenant and curses to those promised outside. We must understand it in terms of the covenant and in terms of the relation of our union with Christ to the promises of the covenant, not in terms of some kind of magical cannabalism.

When the animal was slain in Gen. 15 and the promises made to Abraham, it is clear that the promises were made solely to Abraham and his offspring and not to the Canaanites, for example. Nothing was promised the Canaanites except destruction precisely because they were not part of the covenant as recipients of God’s covenantal promises.

In our union with Christ, we become partakers of his body, his flesh and blood (Eph. 5:30). Calvin says that just as Eve was made from Adam’s body and joined to it, so also, we are true members of Christ if we are part of his body.

Many Reformed have departed from a truly Calvinistic view of the Eucharist and argued that we only benefit from Christ’s spiritual presence rather than participation with his full body. The Lutheran Heshusius accused Calvin of this and Calvin responded:

“I do not restrict this union to the divine essence, but affirm that it belongs to the flesh and blood, inasmuch as it was not simply said, My Spirit, but, my flesh is meat indeed; nor was it simply said, My Divinity, but, my blood is drink indeed.

Moreover, I do not interpret this communion of flesh and blood as applying only to the common nature, in respect that Christ, by becoming man, made us sons of God with himself by virtue of fraternal fellowship; but I distinctly affirm, that our flesh which he assumed is vivifying by becoming the material of spiritual life to us. And I willingly embrace the saying of Augustine, as Eve was formed out of a rib of Adam, so the origin and beginning of life to us flowed from the side of Christ. And although I distinguish between the sign and the thing signified, I do not teach that there is only a bare and shadow figure, but distinctly declare that the bread is a sure pledge of that communion with the flesh and blood of Christ which it figures.”

The sure pledge of the communion with the body of Christ produced in the Eucharist causes it to nourish, strengthen and sustain our faith. Those are the intended subjective effects of the Eucharist.

To speak of the sign as a sign is, to be sure, to speak of a representation, but it is not a bare representation of something absent, as memorialists believe, but a representation of something really present. The Latin term Calvin uses is not “adesse,” which indicates a physical presence, but “exhibere,” which presupposes a presence which manifests it. Calvin is emphatic that the signs re not bare and empty figures, but objectively efficacious. He does not teach, as many Reformed churches do, that the bread and wine are mere symbols of Christ’s body and blood.

Christ’s full person is person for believers in the Lord’s Supper thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, our separation from the local presence of Christ’s person is overcome and we are able to participate in his Person as recipients of his covenant ratification through the Spirit’s power. Calvin insisted that Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper, and he therefore can be understood as teaching the “true” presence of Christ.

That is, Christ is truly present insofar as we enjoy covenant ratification to our consciences as members of his Person and body, but he is not “really” present if by this it means that he actually leaves heaven and enters the Supper. Nonetheless, Calvin insisted on the “true” presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper because he intended to contrast it with the idea of a deceptive or illusory presence.

Christ is no less present in the Supper than the bread and wine are to us as real elements, but this does not mean that he is physically present in a manner understood by Roman Catholics and Lutherans. Thus, Calvin certainly does agree with Lutherans and Roman Catholics that Christ is truly present, but he disagrees with them concerning the mode of this presence. For Calvin, Christ’s physical body is in heaven and will remain there until he returns physical in glory.

Apart from this, the return of Christ in the second coming has no meaning. In what sense could Christ physically return again, if Christ’s humanity were given the attribute of omnipresence as Luther had said?

In any case, there are 4 crucial points that must be kept in mind as we turn to an account of Calvin’s understanding of the mode of presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

1. The body of Christ – Our redemption is wrought through Christ’s body and apart from this we can’t be saved. This body remains in Heaven until he returns in glory, as the Bible says. Calvin says that the “eating” and “drinking” of Christ is understood by some to refer merely to faith. Calvin says that for such, to eat is merely to believe, whereas Calvin says that we eat Christ’s flesh as a result of this faith. We do eat Christ’s flesh in believing, but this is because it is made ours first by faith. This eating, therefore, is the result of faith rather than its equivalent.

Calvin is quite emphatic, as noted before, in his dialogue with the Lutheran Heshusius, that he most certainly does not believe that we enjoy merely the spiritual presence of Christ.

“Moreover, I am not satisfied with those persons who, recognizing that we have some communion with Christ, when they would show what it is, make us partkers of the Spirit only, omitting mention of flesh and blood.”

So also:

“I say that although Christ is absent from the earth in respect of the flesh ,yet in the Supper we truly feed on his body and blood – that owing to the secret agency of the Spirit we enjoy the presence of both. i say that distance of place is no obstacle to prevent the flesh, which was once cruciiffed, from being given to us for food. Heshusius supposes, what is far from being the fact, that I imagined a presence of deity only.”

So Calvin even acknowledges that there actually are some out there who insist that we only commune with Christ spiritually rather than also communing with his human nature, which constitutes the other half of his personhood. He also notes how easy it is to confuse his own position with such individuals, and strenuously seeks to distance himself from such individuals in his dialogue with Lutherans.

We eat the person of Christ, not the Spirit of Christ.

2. We are lifted up to heaven by the Holy Spirit and it is in this way that Eucharist partakers commune with Christ.

3. Participating with Christ in the Supper is therefore a heavenly action involving flesh being eaten in a spiritual manner – As the Holy Spirit lifts us up to heaven to enjoy the person of Christ, Christ also “descends” to us, not by leaving heaven, but, through the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, we ascend to heaven through the Spirit, and on the other hand, the risen Christ by his Spirit descends to us and nourishes us spiritually. Both are true, absolutely, but Calvin emphasizes the former (while acknowledging the truth of both).

4. The true presence of Christ is a celestial mode of presence rather than a local one. Christ’s body is not included in the elements, not currently present on earth, etc.

To feed on Christ’s *full person* spiritually is not to say that our consumption of Person is merely imaginary. For example, Christ is our spiritual temple. but this does not mean that the Temple promises in the OT were merely “figurative” or “allegorical.” No, Christ is a real, literal Temple, more literally real than any Temple made of brick and mortar because a Temple is simply the dwelling place of God. as members of his body, we are literally components of the Temple of God.

We partake of Christ not through our digestive system but through faith. Faith is that organ which digests the real body and blood, the person, of Christ, and it is only through faith that this occurs.

Alfred Adler on “individual” psychology.

Why is Alfred Adler’s psychology called “Individual” psychology? Because the word suggests indivisibility (in this case, indivisibility of the self). In other words, Alfred Adler looks at the human subject in terms of its overarching unity, rather than thinking in terms of objectively conflicting drives centering around sexuality and aggression.
Instead, all actions, even apparently contradictory ones, can be subsumed into an over-arching unity with a single, teleological purpose in mind. The self is not fragmented and internally conflicting. Instead, it marshals all its forces into one single goal.

SEE: Style of life.

Alfred Adler’s summary of neurotic behavior

For Adler, the neurotic individual overcompensates because of is inferiority or insecurity feelings. This helps him protect his self esteem. He tends to use is symptoms in order to justify his lack of social interest and self-centeredness, and if only it were gone, t hen he would be able and willing to engage in socially useful activities. This is called “safeguarding.” Children who are spoiled may become narcissistic and neglected children may seek revenge against society.

Neurotic approaches to life include:
1) A distancing attitude
2) Detours
3) A narrowed path
4) A hesitating attitude.

Alfred Adler’s personality typology

Alfred Adler articulates four different types of individuals based on both their degrees of activity and degree of social interest:

Socially useful person – High social interest and high activity.

Ruling Person – Low social interest but high activity. This individual is only out for self-interest rather than others. This may take the form of despotism.

Getting person – This person takes all and gives nothing. They have little or no social interest.

Recluse – This individual exhibits both low social interest and low activity.

Avoiding Type – Those who try to escape life’s problems and abstain from socially constructive activity.



Alfred Adler on the “masculine protest”

In a 1910 paper on what he termed “psychic hermaphroditism”, which is the notion that both sexes have both masculine and feminine traits. Childhood inferiority is initiated when the child feels weak and therefore “feminine,” contrasting this with adults who are strong and capable. This sense of inferiority is called the “masculine protest,” or the desire to be a man. This is because they feel unmanly. The problem with neurotics is that their childhood involved being made to feel as though being made to feel weak and “unmanly.”

The child feels weak in the presence of adults and so feels feminine. It is called the “masculine protest” because it entails that men who exhibit “feminine” traits such as compassion, cooperation and sympathy are less manly than those who exhibit more “masculine” traits, such as ambition, competition and aggression. This involves therefore making neurotic compensations. Adler believed that women, rather than suffering from “penis envy” as Freud opined, were made to feel inferior in a male-dominated society, and so they try to go beyond ordinary gender roles. This results in a comparable “protest.”

Neurotic symptoms in males may entail exaggerated “masculine” behavior, particularly in a manner that is maladaptive. This can issue in a kind of megalomania in which one sets impossibly high goals for oneself. The individual exhibits an excessive desire for triumph. This intensifies the abilities of the individual, and so the masculine protest can lead to artistic, literary and philosophical achievement. This is to be contrasted with Freud’s view, that art is the result of sublimated sexuality.

For Adler, will-to-power within the context of the lived experience of a power deficit (differential relative to an insurmountable situation or being made to feel inferior) leads to abnormally high striving. This can lead to pathological fantasies of grandeur when there is an excessive strong masculine protest. In women, Adler believed that this can result in sexual anaesthesia.


Loneliness linked with hostility, research suggests

A link between hostility and loneliness was famously hypothesized in 138 by Zilboorg. It was only recently, however, that this hypothesized connection was tested. Two samples of men were provided measures of loneliness and hostility. Of these subjects, 91 participated in a second study in which they were given the opportunity to administer raversive noise to a confederate who was critical and rejecting towards the participant for making errors on an ESP task.

The data was pretty clear. Lonely men exhibited higher levels of hostility towards women and tended to endorse the idea that men and women are, by nature, adversarial in their relationships. Men who were given the opportunity to administer aversive noise did so more if they were lonely. Ultimately, “Despite some qualifications, the results generally are consistent with Zilboorg’s contention that lonely individuals manifest greater aggressive tendencies.”

Another study found something similar:

Hostility and helplessness are recurrent themes in severely lonely adults, and they can be both causes and effects of subjective feelings of loneliness. Since many lonely patients report a history of abuse, hostile and helpless states of mind may reflect identification with hostile (aggressor) or helpless (passive) attachment figures. Hostile intrusiveness and helpless withdrawal by the parent are 2 distinct patterns of parent-child misattunement that can lead to infant disorganization via disrupted emotional communication and to loneliness later in life. Anxious-ambivalent lonely older adults tend to exhibit hyperactivating hostile behaviors (to deal with a core sense of powerlessness), whereas those with fearful-avoidant attachment styles exhibit deactivating helpless behaviors (to deflect intense underlying feelings of rage). Based on this model, we outline different treatment approaches for lonely persons with different attachment styles by describing the successful treatment of two severely lonely, suicidal veterans. We describe an approach to treating hostile and helpless behaviors in lonely patients, using validation, mentalization, reality orientation, and socialization. Validation provides a sense of safety and rapport. Mentalization allows the lonely individual to better appreciate his or her own mental processes and those of others. Reality orientation provides feedback to lonely individuals on whether their perceptions are accurate and reality-based and helps them appreciate the consequences their behavior may have for self and others. Finally, socialization reduces disenfranchisement by teaching/re-teaching individuals social skills that may have become impaired by prolonged isolation.”

Theodore Millon’s 9 Principles for Conceptualizing Personality and Its Disorders

“1. Personality disorders are not diseases.

2. Personality disorders are internally differentiated functional and structural systems, not internally homogeneous entities.

3. Personality disorders are dynamic systems, not static, lifeless entities.

4. Personality consists of multiple units at multiple data levels.

5. Personality exists on a continuum. No sharp division exists between normality and pathology.

6. Personality pathogenesis is not linear, but sequentially interactive and multiply distributed through the entire system.

7. Personality criteria by which to assess pathology should be logically coordinated with the systems model itself.

8. Personality disorders may be assessed, but not definitively diagnosed.

9. Personality disorders require strategically planned an combinatorial modes of tactical intervention.”

An introduction to critical realism

Critical realism is distinct in important respects from mainstream realism. First, let us get to the basics. Critical realism is essentially an ontological position. It is not epistemological. Indeed, Andrew Sayer says that this form of realism is quite permissive when it comes to epistemology. All it requires is that we believe in a world existing independently of us, that has causal efficacy whether we exist or care about it at all. Thus, this is different from the social constructionism currently popular among social scientists. According to such thinkers, reality is socially constructed and constituted by linguistic norms. Critical realists, like other realists, accept that there is a world which exists independently of us.

Yet just because the world exists independently of us, that does not mean that we have unmediated access to it. To be sure, social and linguistic and political norms profoundly affect the way we think. Thus, we do not (necessarily?) have access to the truth. All we can know is that it does indeed exist, although this does not mean we have unmediated access to it. The problem with writers like Thomas Kuhn is that, although they introduced indeterminacy into the subjective realm, he did not articulate a sense in which reality exists independently from the mental and social and political paradigms we rely upon when we investigate the world.
In any case, accepting Roy Bhaskar’s form of ontological realism does not mean that we end up being positivists or naive epistemological realists. We must take account of the various forces which constituted our subjectivity, and this includes both social and non-social factors. Andrew Sayer recounts his own experience in battling both social constructionism and naive realism, demonstrating how we can be realists in ontology while also acknowledging how utterly messy the world is and how precarious our attempt to acquire knowledge about it empirically. Sayer explored “the aftermath of the major debates in the philosophy of science of the 1960s and 70s – the philosophy of science, and the anti-naturalist approaches of interpretivism or hermeneutics in the philosophy of social science.” It was within this context that critical realists “offered an alternative to empiricism and conventionalism in the philosophy of natural science, and to positivism and interpretivism in the philosophy of natural science,
I started out with critiques of positivism, especially its expectation that the social world could be shown to be a composite of a number of behavioural regularities which would eventually be described by social laws akin to those of natural science…In attempting to develop an understanding of these that was both dynamic and spatial, it slowly dawned on me that social systems were necessarily open, and that they evolved rather than equilibrated, not least because people have the capacity to learn and change their behaviour. Consequently, I realized the goal of finding rough regularities, let alone laws, to describes social systems, was a pipe dream…”
Now let us proceed to an articulation of what critical realism actually teaches. First, it acknowledges a distinction between what it refers to as the transitive vs. the intransitive. The intransitive world refers to the objective world that is distinct and independent from us. It is the world in itself. On the other than, there is the realm of theories and discourses and resources which constitute the transitive dimension of scientific knowledge. The theories of the transitive realm can say virtually anything whereas the world of the intransitive is what it is. Thus, against positivists, reality is theory-laden and discourse always mediates our pursuit of knowledge. However, this does not mean that the world can be reduced to this discourse. It exists independently from us as well.
Next, Bhaskar makes three basic ontological distinctions about the intransitive world: There is the real, the actual and the empirical. The “real” refers to whatever exists in terms of its causal powers or processes:
“First, the real is whatever exists, be it natural or social, regardless of whether it is an empirical object for us, and whether we happen to have an adequate understanding of its nature. Secondly, the realm is the realm of objects, their structures and powers. Whether they be physical, like minerals, or social like bureaucracies, they have certain structures and causal powers, that is, capacities to behave in particular ways, and causal liabilities or passive powers, that is, specific susceptibilities to certain kinds of change. In the transitive dimension of science we try to identify these structures and powers, such as the way in which bureaucracies can process large volumes of routine information very quickly, in virtue of their structure (hierarchical organization, specialization and filing systems, etc.). Similarly, individuals , in virtue of their physical make up, when they are currently unemployed and idle. Realists therefore seek to identify both necessity and possibility or potential in the world – what things must go together, and what could happen, given the nature of objects.”
Thus, the domain of the “real” refers to whatever exists in general, and this includes both the subjective and the objective, the transitive and the intransitive. The “real” refers to things in general as opposed to the “actual,” which refers to the activation of these powers. It refers to “what they do and what eventuates when they do, such as when the bureaucracy’s powers are activated and it engages in activities such as classifying and invoicing, or the previously idle person does some work.” Lastly, there is the empirical. This refers purely to the subjective domain of experience.
Next, we must understand the critical realist approach to understanding stratification and emergence. The aforementioned distinction between the real, the empirical and the actual helps us provide what is known as a “stratified” ontology. This is to be opposed as the “flat” ontologies “populated by either the actual or the empirical, or a conflation of the two. Thus empirical realism assumes that what we can observe is all that exists, while ‘actualism’ assumes that what actually happens at the level of events exhausts the world, leaving no domain of the real, of powers which can be either activated or remain dormant.” It is thus important to consider the “empirical” “real” in terms of ontology. That is, our subjective experiences cannot be relegated to mere epistemology or philosophical anthropology. Instead, subjects, their experiences and ideas are “real” and can be studied in terms of ontology. This means that Heidegger is correct in his description of fundamental ontology as phenomenology insofar as the phenomenological falls under the realm of the ontological (even if we may disagree with him concerning his perception of the phenomenological as “fundamental”).
The critical realist acknowledges that the world is constituted in terms of emergence. Thus, systems are more than the sum total of their parts. This means that there are “situations in which the conjunction of two of more features or aspects gives rise to new phenomena, which have properties which are irreducible to those of their constituents, even though the latter are necessary for their existence.” Thus, “social phenomena are emergent from biological phenomena, which are in turn emergent from the chemical and physical strata. Thus the social practice of conversing is dependent on one’s physiological state, including the signals sent and received around our brain cells, but conversing is not reducible tot hose physiological processes. Reductionist explanations which ignore emergent properties are therefore inadequate.”
Thus, critical realism is not reductionistic. It acknowledges the existence of multiple levels of strata and supervenience without requiring that all that emerges from it be reducible to it. Sayer summarizes helpfully both sides of the equation:
“…while we don’t have to go back to the level of biology or chemistry to explain social phenomena, this does not mean the former have no effect on society. Nor does it mean we can ignore the way in which we rect back on other strata, for example through contraception, medicine, agriculture and pollution.”
This takes place in a complicated manner in the social world, in such a way that complicates the facile distinction between agent and structure:
“In the social world, people’s roles and identities are often internally related, so that what one person or institution is or can do, depends on their relation to others; thus, what it is to be a tutor cannot be explained at the level of individuals but only in terms of their relation to students, and vice versa. The powers which they draw upon depend partly on their relations to one another, and to relevant parts of the context, such as educational institutions…Internal relations fall outside the ontological grids of positivism, which systematically misrepresents society by presenting such phenomena as reducible to independent individuals or atoms. At the same time, we can be affected by things whose existence and position is only contingently or externally related to our own existence, by chance encounters. Individual biographies are crucially influenced by such accidents.”
Part of the articulation of critical realism requires an understanding of its understanding of causation. Bhaskar critiques the HUmean “successionist” view of causation according to which it involves regularities among “sequences of events.” It is the distinction between the real and the actual that will help us deconstruct this Humean account of causation and demonstrate why it is problematic. Causation cannot merely be understood as the regular succession of events. Instead, it involves the search for causal mechanism. Mere observation of successive events does not allow us to acquire knowledge or understand causation. We do not go looking for social “laws” as the positivist might do from the Humean perspective:
“The conventional impulse to prove causation by gathering data on regularities, repeated occurrences, is therefore misguided; at best these might suggest where to look for candidates for causal mechanisms. What causes something to happen has nothing to do with the number of times we have observed it happening. Explanation depends instead on identifying causal mechanisms and how they work, and discovering if they have been activated and under what conditions.”
Thus, we must discover the nature of the structure or an object that we are studying, looking into the mechanisms or powers which produce it:
“the teacher’s power to mark pupils’ work depends on his or her knowledge and qualifications and on being accepted by the school and public as legitimate; the price mechanisms depends on structures of competitive relations between profit-seeking firms producing for markets, and so on. Again, the dependence of social structures on, inter alia, shared understandings is evident in these examples, in terms of the acceptance of the teacher’s right to teach, and the public’s understanding of the meaning of money in the case of price competition.”
Of course, within the realm of the real is the hermeneutic or subjective realm. The subjective realm is a realm of meaning that must be interpreted rather than merely measured or counted quantitatively. Nevertheless, the subjective and the material always interact with one another:
“Meanings are related to material circumstances and practical contexts in which communication takes place and to which reference is made. so while we can endorse much of hermeneutics, realism insists a) on the material commitments and settings of communicative interaction, and b) on the presence of a non-discursive, material dimension to social life.”
“Where researchers are concerned with discourses and the meaningful qualities of social practices, understanding these is not a matter of a bstraction followed by concrete synthesis, but of interpretation. However, realists would add that to interpret what actors mean we have to relate their discourse to its referents and contexts. It also needs to be remembered that social reality is only partly text-like. Much of what happens does not depend on or correspond to actors’ understandings; there are unintended consequences and unacknowledged conditions and things can happen to people regardless of their understandings.”
While the ontology of critical realism is compatible with multiple different research methods, we must understand the distinction between intensive and extensive research methods. Both are important and complement one another, but there is a distinction which the critical realist believes many others may miss out on. The intensive approach begins with individuals. Not an individual person, necessarily, just a selection from the world. WE take a selection of the world as an individual and we “trace the main causal (including discursive) relationships into which they enter and study their qualitative nature as well as their number.” Extensive research, however, involves description of patterns or regularities. Important though the extensive approach is to social sciences, it is important not to do what positivists do and base all our research on description of regularities or the quantitative or clearly measurable.
The intensive research director might ask how a process works in a specific case or small number of cases. They would also be interested in which causal mechanisms in these particular cases introduce certain changes and what specific agents in a specific location actually end up doing. The extensive researcher, in the same instance, may want to describe distinguishing features of a population or whatever regularities or common patterns obtain within that population and how widely specific characteristics or processes may be represented and distributed elsewhere. This would be the difference between the sorts of questions different researchers may ask. Thus, there is a close parallel between the intensive and the idiographic, on the one hand, and the extensive and the nomothetic, on the one hand. Where the intensive is interested in causal groups, the extensive is associated with taxonomic groups, classifying and universalizing.
On the one hand, the intensive researcher is concerned with causal grouping, when it comes to the sorts of groups studied, whereas the extensive is concerned with taxonomic groups because he is interested in describing and categorizing and cataloging regularities. While the intensive researcher wants to look at causal explanations of the production of certain events or objects, the type of account produced which the extensive researcher wants to look at consists of “Descriptive ‘representative’ generalizations, lacking in explanatory penetration.” The intensive researcher wants to look at substantial relations of connection in concrete instances, whereas the extensive researcher wants to look at “formal relations of similarity.” Those engaged in extensive research may use statistical analyses and large-scale surveys of relevant representative samples or populations, whereas the intensive researcher might want to look at specific, individual instances, agents or events in their causal contexts. Both of these approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and both are necessary. Both are complementary to one another.  The intensive researcher might want to focus on looking at open systems, whereas the extensive researcher is involved in the creation of artificially “closed” systems in which certain generalizations can be made from the observation of regularities.

What is maladaptive daydreaming?

Maladaptive daydreaming” is a clinical construct coined by the clinical psychologist Eli Somer. He defines it as “extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning.” In his article on the subject, four of six patients in a trauma practice were diagnosed with a dissociative disorder and two were diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. He summarizes the main heads under which he analyzes the concept: “Identified MD functions included Disengagement from Stress and Pain by Mood Enhancement and, Wish Fulfillment, Fantasies;and Companionship,Intimacy,and Soothing. Recurrent themes were Violence;Idealized Self; Power and Control; Captivity; Rescue and Escape; and Sexual Arousal.”

Somer notes that the vast majority of individuals daydream. He also notes psychologists who point to individuals who exhibit “fantasy-prone personalities,” and who spend the majority of their lives in their own fantasy world. Many of those with fantasy-prone personalities engage in daydreaming or “fantasizing as a means of coping with loneliness or isolation and escaping from aversive environments.” He notes another psychologist who argues that it is correlated with “an aversive childhood environment, including harsh physical and sexual abuse.”

But what functions do these daydreams serve?

1) “Disengagement from Stress and Pain by Mood Enhancement and Wish Fulfillment fantasies – All of those whom Somer studied admitted that an important element of their daydreaming had to do with escaping painful reality and constructing an alternate reality that is more palatable. It makes them feel powerful rather than impotent, safe rather than afraid. One of the narcissistic patients reported using sexual daydreaming to feel dominant and in control.

2) “Companionship, Intimacy, and Soothing” – The purpose of these was to make up for disappointing or absent romantic realities. One subject admitted to fantasizing about cuddling with his girlfriend while watching a movie, and another admitted to fantasizing that he was still with a girl who had devastated him by rejecting him.

There are recurrent themes in these daydreaming episodes as well. One of the most disturbing is violence

1) Violence – Five of the six individuals spoke of violent fantasies which did not seem to produce any internal conflict with them. In other words, they genuinely identified with the person in their daydreams. They would oftentimes fantasize about hurting or killing others, oftentimes in an extremely gruesome or sadistic manner.

2) Idealized Self – In this theme, the individuals fantasize about whom they wish they could be. One man who felt sexually inadequate would frequently fantasize about being loved by many women.

3) Power and Control – This motif has to do with domination and control. One of the subjects reports fantasizing about dialogues in such a way that they are latered to cause the subject to be the victor. The participant repeatewdly relives such scenarios in which he says the perfect thing. One of the fantasies of another participant had to do with the domination of women.

4) Captivity, Rescue and Escape – The participants who reported these “often felt ensnared in their abusive environments, trapped in avoidance of their tormented pasts, and evasion of life’s challenges”(Somer). They construct elaborate fantasies of successfully escaping violent scenarios.

5) Sexual arousal – One of the subjects admitted to engaging in rape fantasies. She used it to fall asleep. Another subject likewise admitted that he only fell asleep after fantasizing about seducing a woman. Yet another admitted that he preferred fantasizing about sexual domination to actual intercourse with his girlfriend.


1) Onset – In all of the participants, the daydreaming began with difficult experiences in childhood. One began after her grandfather had molested her at the age of 8. Another admits her fantasizing began during a period of incest with her brother. Yet another recalled that she had begun after being incestuously victimized, and that this was likely the reuslt of ac ombination of this traumatic experience with a fantasy-prone or imaginative personality. In yet another participant, the fantasizing predated humiliation over delayed puberty, but became increasingly compensatory and grandiose at this time. He would imagine himself as a successful soccer player. In yet another instance, one of the participants began to fantasize about a continued romantic relationship following its traumatic dissolution. At the age of 16, during which this took place, his fantasy life became so elaborate that he dropped out of school.

2) Kinesthetic elements – The daydreamers report engaging in different activities while daydreaming. One of the participants reported pacing back and forth for hours.

Somer suggests that the “kinesthetic element served as hypnotic induction and deepening device, and points out the similarities between day dreaming and hypnosis. This finding is in line with past research reports on the relation-ship between childhood trauma, imagination and hypnotizability.”

Summarizing the study, he says:

“This study sheds preliminary light on the subjective experience and meaning of malignant fantasy in a group of psychotherapy patients. Analysis of the participants’ verbatim transcripts leads to the conclusion that these bright persons may have had a creative but normal imaginary disposition that preceded their child-hood predicaments. Painful interpersonal experiences encountered during a time when basic assumptions about the world and their self-images were developing,sent these young persons into their much safer imaginary world.”

He concludes:

“Analyses of the interviews provided for this study reveal a more complex picture that does not render strong support to this theoretical formulation. Whereas,all respondents reported varying degrees of negative daydreaming experiences,they also described a rich variety of rewarding daydreams relating to images of an idealized self involved in empowered behaviors, adjusted interpersonal conduct,and soothing experiences. The data from this study suggest that MD could, at least partially, be explained as a phobic behavior reflecting the avoidant alternative.Negative MD often included representations of aversive experiences, maladjusted responses and their meanings.This imaginary process serves as a painful reminder of the threats associated with the real world, increases phobic fears, and promotes avoidant behavior. The avoidance is rewarded not only by the negative reinforcement associated with the removal of the aversive stimulus, but also by the positive day dreaming, which provides an alternative of vividly satisfying emotional experiences.”