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Adlerian Concepts: Belongingness

Belonging and Initiation in Blumenkrantz’ “Me to We” Approach

I think it is very difficult to find a theory or theoretical base which does not correspond with Adlerian concepts because they are universal and cover the most important areas of human life treating equally individual and social needs. It even has combined innovative approaches (Ferguson, 2010) and common sense, the things that we used to accept as obvious. Sometimes, Adlerian concepts intertwine with traditions that are rooted deeply in our culture. Thus, the Adlerian concept of belonging refers to an ancient tradition of initiation and transition from Me to We, described in Blumenkrantz's article (Blumenkrantz, 2017).

Of course, the article includes other Adlerian concepts (personal uniqueness, connection to the Universe, social interest, inferiority/superiority) but in terms of adolescence, that is exactly initiation/belonging aspect which becomes the clue for a more smooth and spiritual understanding of the teenage problems.

If we search for contemporary articles on the topic of initiation/rites of passage, most of the works would be devoted to specific groups and cultures that are close to the communal clan system (also, there could be used the term “primitive”). From Northern Asian peoples in Siberia to tribes of the South Africa, from graduation and commencement to secret societies and gangs (Fontaine, 2018) – people use specific signs of acceptance and admission, embodying need for belonging as a fundamental human motivation to identify themselves and to feel involved in society (Ferguson, 2010).

However, Blumenkrantz marks adolescence as a specific “between” time which is poorly assisted in the modern Western world (2017, p. 194). The stage-crisis approach wrote Blumenkrantz, obliges a person to accomplish certain tasks during certain stages which makes the process of transition uneven and jerky. This has a negative impact on any transition, but for the transition from childhood to adulthood, it is especially crucial, partly because of lack of assistance, partly because of physiological changes and mostly because of the vital importance of the goal of the stage – self-identification. The adolescent is like a baby who knew everything about the Universe being in the mother's womb and has lost that knowledge after birth. Like babies, adolescents have that power of curiosity (which refers to Adler's striving for perfection – Adler, 1938) but the goal is unreachable so they do need assistance and support from the community (Blumenkrantz, 2017).

This support can be partly performed and implemented through the ritual of initiation when adults officially accept a child in their group, and again, Blumenkrantz' and Adlerian concepts align because both emphasize that this change is important for the person and the society (Blumenkrantz, 2017; Ferguson, 2010). In fact, initiation directs the teenager's curiosity/awakeness and affirms their right and desire to explore the world looking for self-identity.

The procedure suggested by Blumenkrantz (PIE) is very interesting as well. Usually, initiation symbolizes birth and labor difficulties but Blumenkrantz shifts the focus from striving to acceptance, building environment both friendly and full of sense. Speaking about how exactly the PIE can work for Adlerian theory, I would say – directly. If any of us, entering a special stage in life or special group could have such a ceremony, that could encourage the person and increase acceptance and relations within the community.

. References:

Adler, A. (1938). Social interest: a challenge to mankind. Oxford, England: Faber & Faber.

Blumenkrantz, D. G. (2017). Going from the ME to the WE: A Long Journey to Where You Are. Anthropology of Consciousness, 28(2), 193–205.

Ferguson, E. D. (2010). Adler’s Innovative Contributions Regarding the Need to Belong. Journal of Individual Psychology, 66(1), 1–7. Retrieved from

Fontaine, J. S. (2018). Initiation. In: Callan, H. (Ed). The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. doi:10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea2330

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