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Erich Fromm Moment | Nov. 5, 2006

I've been thinking about Erich Fromm lately. Rather than introduce him in my own words, I'll share a couple of paragraphs from his Wiki page.

Fromm considered love to be an interpersonal creative capacity rather than an emotion, and he distinguished this creative capacity from what he considered to be various forms of narcissistic neuroses and sado-masochistic tendencies that are commonly held out as proof of "true love." Indeed, Fromm viewed the experience of "falling in love" as evidence of one's failure to understand the true nature of love, which he believed always had the common elements of care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. Drawing from his knowledge of the Talmud, Fromm pointed to the story of Jonah, who did not wish to save the residents of Nineveh from the consequences of their sin, as demonstrative of his belief that the qualities of care and responsibility are generally absent from most human relationships. Fromm also asserted that few people in modern society had respect for the autonomy of their fellow human beings, much less the objective knowledge of what other people truly wanted and needed.

"Fromm believed that freedom was an aspect of human nature that we either embrace or escape. He observed that embracing our freedom of will was healthy, where as escaping freedom, through the use of escape mechanisms, was the root of psychological issues. Three main escape mechanisms that Fromm outlined are automaton conformity, authoritarianism, and destructiveness. Automaton conformity is changing one's ideal self to what is perceived as the preferred type of personality of society, losing one's true self. The use of automaton conformity displaces the burden of choice from the self to society. Authoritarianism is allowing oneself to be controlled by another. This removes the freedom of choice almost entirely by submitting that freedom to someone else. Lastly, destructiveness is any process which attempts to eliminate others or the world as a whole to escape freedom. Fromm said that "the destruction of the world is the last, almost desperate attempt to save myself from being crushed by it" (1941).