Fromm: Humanistic Psychoanalysis
Erich Fromm’s basic thesis is that modern-day people have been torn away from their prehistoric union with nature and also with one another, yet they have the power of reasoning, foresight, and imagination. This combination of lack of animal instincts and presence of rational thought makes humans the freaks of the universe. Self-awareness contributes to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and homelessness. To escape from these feelings, people strive to become reunited with nature and with their fellow human beings.
Fromm’s humanistic psychoanalysis assumes that humanity’s separation from the natural world has produced feelings of loneliness and isolation, a condition called basic anxiety.
Fromm was very interested in historical and cultural perspectives on human nature, not just psychological perspectives.
The changes in the human condition lead to feelings of anxiety, isolation, and powerlessness. The cost is freedom and this cost far exceeds the benefits. Humans have two alternatives:
to escape from freedom into interpersonal dependencies
to move to self-realization through productive love and work
Founded the International Institute of Social Research in Geneva
Sense of Identity Adjustment to a group Individuality
Frame of Orientation Irrational goals Rational goals
The burden of freedom results from humans being torn from nature yet remaining in the world with the same physical limitations as other animals.
As children become more independent from their mothers they gain more freedom to express their individuality. However, at the same time they experience the burden of freedom, that is, the loss of security from being with mother. This causes basic anxiety.
There are three primary mechanisms of escape:
Authoritarianism (the tendency to give up the independence of one’s own individual self and to fuse one’s self with somebody or something outside oneself, in order to acquire the strength which the individual is lacking.
This can happen with a powerful partner and is called masochism
Or, it can happen by dominated in the unity with another person called sadism by controlling and exploiting others
Destructiveness (rooted in the feelings of aloneness, isolation, and powerlessness, and it seeks to do away with other people)
Destroying others to acquire a feeling of lost power
Conformity (people who conform to try to escape from a sense of aloneness and isolation by giving up their individuality and becoming whatever other people desire them to be)
The more they conform the more powerless they feel; the more powerless they feel the more they must conform
People can break the cycle of conformity and powerless only by achieving self-realization and positive freedom.
Positive Freedom can be attained by the individuals spontaneous and full expression of their rational and emotional potential
Positive Freedom is a successful solution to the human dilemma of being part of the natural world and maintaining individuality
Love and work are the twin components of positive freedom
The person’s relatively permanent way of relating to people and things
“The totality of inherited and acquired psychic qualities which are characteristic of one individual and which make the individual unique.”
People relate to the world in two ways
By acquiring and using things (assimilation)
By relating to self and others (socialization)
These thing happen productively or nonproductively
Non productive orientations
Receiving things passively
Receptive characters feel that the source of all good lies outside themselves and that they can only relate to the world by receiving things like love, knowledge, and material possessions.
Negative qualities include passivity, submissiveness & lack of self-confidence
Positive qualities include loyalty, acceptance, & trust
Exploiting or taking things through force
Exploitive characters believe that the source of all good is outside them yet they act aggressively to take what they desire rather than passively receiving it.
Like to steal from others
Negative qualities include egocentrism, conceited, arrogant, and seducing
Positive qualities include impulsivity, pride, charm, and self-confidence
Hoarding characters seek to save that which they have already obtained. They hold everything inside and do not let go of anything.
They, in a sense, focus on what is not alive
Negative qualities include rigidity, sterility, obstinacy, compulsivity, and lack of creativity
Positive qualities include orderliness, cleanliness, and punctuality
Marketing or exchanging things
Market characters see themselves as commodities with their personal value dependent on their exchange value and their ability to sell themselves.
They have shaky personal security and adjust to fit what others want
Negative qualities include aimlessness, opportunistic, incompetence, and wasteful
The single productive orientation has three dimensions
The individual works toward positive freedom and the realization of their potential
Only through productive activity can people solve the basic human dilemma
That is, to unite with the world and others while retaining uniqueness and individuality
Healthy people work not as an end in itself but as a means of creative self-expression
Healthy people have biophilia, a passionate love of life and all that is alive
Self-love and love of other are inseparable but that self-love must come first
In summary, Fromm believed that healthy people rely on some combination of all five character orientations. Their survival as healthy individuals depends on their ability to receive things from other people, to take things when appropriate, to preserve things, to exchange things, and to work, love, and think productively.
Personality Disorders are marked by problems in these three areas, work, love, and thought, and especially in love.
Necrophilia (attraction to death & the opposite of biophilia)
Necrophilic personalities hate humanity; they are racist, warmongers, and bullies; they love bloodshed, destruction, terror, and torture; and they delight in destroying life. They are strong advocates of law & order; love to talk about sickness, death, and burials; and they are fascinated by dirt, decay, corpses, and feces. They prefer night to day and love to operate in darkness and shadow.
All people behave aggressively and destructively at times, but, the entire lifestyle of the necrophilous person revolves around death, destruction, disease, and decay.
Malignant narcissism (interest in themselves so that this thinking impedes the perception of reality so that everything belonging to a narcissistic person is highly valued and everything belonging to another is devalued)
Preoccupation with the body can lead to hypochondriasis
Or can lead to moral hypochondriasis when the preoccupation is with guilt
Their sense of self worth depends on their narcissistic self-image and not on achievements. When their efforts are criticized by other, they react with anger and rage, frequently striking out against their critics, trying to destroy them. If the criticism is overwhelming, they may be unable to destroy it, and turn the rage inward resulting in depression and feelings of worthlessness.
Incestuous symbiosis (an extreme dependence on the mother or mother surrogate)
Can be an exaggerated form of mother fixation
They are inseparable from the host person; are blended together
These individuals feel frightened and anxious when the relationship is threatened
The attraction to death, taking pleasure by destroying others, and neurotic symbiosis with mother figures form what is called the syndrome of decay while biophilia, love, and positive freedom comprise the syndrome of growth.
He believed that the aim of therapy is for patients to come to know themselves.
Without knowing ourselves, we cannot know any other person or thing.
Because communication is so important, Fromm believed that the therapist must relate “as one human being to another with utter concentration and utter sincerity.”
This is accomplished through
Fairy tales & Myths
Examples of the application of Fromm’s methods include:
The Mexican Village study
The psychohistory of Adolph Hitler
Exquisite writing style!!
Negligible research and few empirical studies – 1
Unable to falsify what is done – 1
Ability to organize and explain is clear but the terms, precision, and explanations are lacking – 2
As a guide to action, it is difficult for therapists to know exactly what to do with clients – 2
There is little internal consistency and it is difficult to follow single themes – 2
Fromm’s theory is anything but parsimonious – 2
Fromm’s theory is both pessimistic and optimistic (P = O)
It is both free will and deterministic (FW = D)
It emphasizes a future orientation rather that the past causes (C < T)
It stress the conscious and unconscious equally (C = UC)
It stress social causes and culture more than biology (S > B)
And, it places more emphasis on similarities as opposed to individuality (S >I)