Lydia Sicher - An Unsung Adlerian
By Adele K. Davidson, Ed.D., editor of
The Collected Works of
Lydia Sicher: An Adlerian Perspective,
published by QED Press, second
Beyond a small group, Sicher's important contributions to the field of
psychology, her view of the world community, and philosophy of living are
not known. She wrote approximately 243 published articles, unfortunately
only 24 are in English.
She was trained by Alfred Adler when he was Director of the Clinic for
Nervous Diseases at the Mariahilfer Franz-Joseph Ambulatorium in Vienna.
By this time she had already achieved her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. When
Adler left Vienna in 1929 for the United States, he appointed her to
succeed him as director of the Clinic and all the Adlerian work which
included the child guidance clinics and training centers in the Viennese
schools. She served in this capacity until the Austro-Fascist government
closed all mental health activities.
Both Sicher and her husband Harry, also a physician, left Hitler's
Austria and started on their way to the States via England. Harry preceded
her to the U.S. and shortly after this, she was seriously hurt in an
automobile accident. It was a year before she was able to travel to the
U.S. She lived and worked in Utah and then moved to Los Angeles. Perhaps
another reason her work is not more widely known is because she was never
totally well and energetic enough again to produce the extensive literature
that she did in Europe. She did, however, in both Utah and Los Angeles
organize, train, and gather a few people to carry on the Adlerian
Rather than focusing on her as an unsung Adlerian, we need to see why we
should sing about her work. She enriched Adler's ideas with further
explanations, reinforcements, practical examples, and analogies that
clarified. As with most Adlerians, she illustrated her teaching with
metaphors and stories. Some highlights follow.
One of her major contributions is her unique perspective on the human
condition which she communicates clearly and simply. For example, in her
seminar on "The Social Implications of Being Human - I" she
contrasts the differences between totalitarian (i.e., collective) and
cooperative societies. At the same time she links cooperation with the
interdependence among individuals, thus connecting these social
psychological events with types of governments.
She tells us that "the ants and bees are physically adapted to any
situation for the satisfaction of their basic needs and the ants have
not changed in fifty million years. On the other hand, human society
changes fast from one decade to another. The insects rule this
perfect state in the one way we humans do not like: in a totalitarian way.
In a completely totalitarian collectivistic society, no one considers what
the other individual might need. If the workers need more workers, as with
the winged ants, their wings are bitten off, then they have more workers.
If no queen is left in a beehive, a working bee larvae is fed differently,
then they have another one who rules."
Style of Life: Life as a River
Sicher's metaphor of the river illustrates the choices that humans make
to drift or to take control and influence the situations of life.
"People can do all kinds of things in a river, they can drift, i.e.,
follow the circumstances. Then they are spit out where the river wants to
spit them out. Then another merciful wave comes along and takes them along
for a while then spits them out at another place where they do not want to
be. Then they think they are the victims of the circumstances of the
river. It is also possible, however, for people to go in where they want
to, taking the current into consideration. They can swim and get out
approximately where they want to be, in other words they consider the
circumstances of the river and create their own movement. They are not
pieces of driftwood that get pushed along or get stuck somewhere. These
pieces of driftwood are the people who 'could be' and when they are old
talk about 'what they could have been.' These are the drifters which we
see in neurotics and other kinds of people in difficulty. We forget that
we have a say in what we want to use with our heredity. We can say what we
want to use of our circumstances and in which way we want to influence our
She goes on to say that one of the most difficult implications of being
human is the role that people play in their own and others' lives. Another
problem: those who do not want to play a role at all.
Sicher presents a strong argument with vivid examples of how both men and
women protest that men have more value. Although this does not contradict
what Adler stated, his examples are those of women resenting their inferior
positions and striving to overcome. In popular literature the notion that
men attempt to protect their superior positions is not understood. The
term "masculine protest," if used at all, frequently is thought
of as similar to Freud's notion of penis envy, which only women have. She
relates the difficulties that men and women have in cooperating and
communicating with each other. Both sexes may see themselves moving on a
vertical plane rather than on a horizontal one; thus, they compete and
strive to overcome each other.
Sicher's humor usually has a tinge of serious commentary, as in her view
of the missing link. "I am sometimes very malicious. I am quite
convinced that we are the famous missing link that people look for between
the apes and the humans. We know something about the monkeys and suddenly
there were human beings. But where is the missing link? It seems that we
do not know where it is, so I always call us the missing link. We have not
developed too far from the animals, in general, and we have lost our tails,
which is the greatest tragedy in my opinion, as it was a very useful
Her unique perspective on the human condition is always a positive and
hopeful one. She points the way toward correcting our mistakes by
improving our connection with others (social interest). In this, she
follows Adler's great contribution to all of us.
The Collected Works of Lydia Sicher: An Adlerian Perspective
Edited by Adele K. Davidson, Ed.D., may be ordered from:
155 Cypress Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
For Master Card and Visa orders call: 1-800-773-7782
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