Fromm: Humanistic Psychoanalysis Learning Objectives After reading Chapter 7, you should be able to:
1. List Fromm's basic assumptions about personality.
2. Describe the existential (human) needs identified by Fromm.
3. Discuss Fromm's notion of the burden of freedom and how people attempt to struggle with that burden.
4. Explain what Fromm means by positive freedom.
5. Describe Fromm's nonproductive character orientations.
6. Discuss Fromm's views on the productive orientation.
7. List and describe Fromm's three severe personality disorders.
8. Describe Fromm's research methods.
9. Discuss Fromm's psychohistorical study of Hitler.
Summary Outline I. Overview of Fromm's Humanistic Psychoanalysis
Erich Fromm's humanistic psychoanalysis looks at people from the perspective of psychology, history, and anthropology. Influenced by Freud and Horney, Fromm developed a more culturally oriented theory than Freud and a much broader theory than Horney.
II. Biography of Erich Fromm
Erich Fromm was born in Germany in 1900, the only child of orthodox Jewish parents. A thoughtful young man, Fromm was influenced by the bible, Freud, and Marx, as well as by socialist ideology. After receiving his PhD, Fromm began studying psychoanalysis and became an analyst by virtue of being analyzed by Hanns Sachs, a student of Freud. In 1934, Fromm moved to the United States and began a psychoanalytic practice in New York, where he also resumed his friendship with Karen Horney. Much of his later years were spent in Mexico and Switzerland. He died in 1980.
III. Fromm's Basic Assumptions
Fromm believed that humans have been torn away from their prehistoric union with nature and left with no powerful instincts to adapt to a changing world. But because humans have acquired the ability to reason, they can think about their isolated condition—a situation Fromm called the human dilemma.
IV. Human Needs
Our human dilemma cannot be solved by satisfying our animal needs. It can only be addressed by fulfilling our uniquely human needs, an accomplishment that moves us toward a reunion with the natural world. Fromm identified five of these distinctively human or existential needs.
First is relatedness, which can take the form of (1) submission, (2) power, or (3) love. Love, or the ability to unite with another while retaining one's own individuality and integrity, is the only relatedness need that can solve our basic human dilemma.
Being thrown into the world without their consent, humans have to transcend their nature by destroying or creating people or things. Humans can destroy through malignant aggression, or killing for reasons other than survival, but they can also create and care about their creations.
Rootedness is the need to establish roots and to feel at home again in the world. Productively, rootedness enables us to grow beyond the security of our mother and establish ties with the outside world. With the nonproductive strategy, we become fixated and afraid to move beyond the security and safety of our mother or a mother substitute.
D. Sense of Identity
The fourth human need is for a sense of identity, or an awareness of ourselves as a separate person. The drive for a sense of identity is expressed nonproductively as conformity to a group and productively as individuality.
E. Frame of Orientation
By frame of orientation, Fromm meant a road map or consistent philosophy by which we find our way through the world. This need is expressed nonproductively as a striving for irrational goals and productively as movement toward rational goals.
V. The Burden of Freedom
As the only animal possessing self-awareness, humans are the freaks of the universe. Historically, as people gained more political freedom, they began to experience more isolation from others and from the world and to feel free from the security of a permanent place in the world. As a result, freedom becomes a burden, and people experience basic anxiety, or a feeling of being alone in the world.
A. Mechanisms of Escape
To reduce the frightening sense of isolation and aloneness, people may adopt one of three mechanisms of escape: (1) authoritarianism, or the tendency to give up one's independence and to unite with a powerful partner; (2) destructiveness, an escape mechanism aimed at doing away with other people or things; and (3) conformity, or surrendering of one's individuality in order to meet the wishes of others.
B. Positive Freedom
The human dilemma can only be solved through positive freedom, which is the spontaneous activity of the whole, integrated personality, and which is achieved when a person becomes reunited with others.
Vi. Character Orientations
People relate to the world by acquiring and using things (assimilation) and by relating to self and others (socialization), and they can do so either nonproductively or productively.
A. Nonproductive Orientations
Fromm identified four nonproductive strategies that fail to move people closer to positive freedom and self-realization. People with a receptive orientation believe that the source of all good lies outside themselves and that the only way they can relate to the world is to receive things, including love, knowledge, and material objects. People with an exploitative orientation also believe that the source of good lies outside themselves, but they aggressively take what they want rather than passively receiving it. Hoarding characters try to save what they have already obtained, including their opinions, feelings, and material possessions. People with a marketing orientation see themselves as commodities and value themselves against the criterion of their ability to sell themselves. They have fewer positive qualities than the other orientations because they are essentially empty.
B. The Productive Orientation
Psychologically healthy people work toward positive freedom through productive work, love.andreasoning. Productive love necessitates a passionate love of all life and is called biophilia.
VII. Personality Disorders
Unhealthy people have nonproductive ways of working, reasoning, and especially loving. Fromm recognized three major personality disorders: (1) necrophilia, or the love of death and the hatred of all humanity; (2) malignant narcissism, or a belief that everything belonging to one's self is of great value and anything belonging to others is worthless; and incestuous symbiosis, or an extreme dependence on one's mother or mother surrogate.
The goal of Fromm's psychotherapy was to work toward satisfaction of the basic human needs of relatedness, transcendence, rootedness, a sense of identity, and a frame of orientation. The therapist tries to accomplish this through shared communication in which the therapist is simply a human being rather than a scientist.
IX. Fromm's Methods of Investigation
Fromm's personality theory rests on data he gathered from a variety of sources, including psychotherapy, cultural anthropology, and psychohistory.
A. Social Character in a Mexican Village
Fromm and his associates spent several years investigating social character in an isolated farming village in Mexico and found evidence of all the character orientations except the marketing one.
B. A Psychohistorical Study of Hitler
Fromm applied the techniques of psychohistory to study several historical people, including Adolf Hitler—the person Fromm regarded as the world's most conspicuous example of someone with the syndrome of decay, that is, necrophilia, malignant narcissism, and incestuous symbiosis.
X. Related Research
Although Fromm's writings are brilliant and insightful, his theory ranks near the bottom of personality theories with regard to stimulating research. Reasons for this may be Fromm’s broad approach, and that his ideas are more sociological than psychological in many ways. However, topics of interest to Fromm, such as alienation from culture and nature in general, can be studied psychologically at the individual level and can have implications for well-being. For example, Mark Bernard and his colleagues found, as they predicted, that perceived discrepancies between one’s values and those of society lead to feelings of estrangement, and that these feelings of estrangement lead to anxiety and depression (Bernard, Gebauer, & Maio, 2006). These findings support Fromm’s ideas. Another area of research influenced by Fromm’s ideas is that of political beliefs. Jack and Jeanne Block (2006) made a longitudinal study, first assessing the personality types of preschoolers, then following up almost 20 years later on the political beliefs of the participants, who were now young adults. They found that children described as easily offended, indecisive, fearful, and rigid were more likely to be politically conservative in their 20s, and those described as self-reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating, and relatively under-controlled were more likely to be politically liberal in their 20s. This research not only shows how people deal differently with their “burden of freedom,” but also how powerfully predictive personality types are, even when measured at very early ages.
XI. Critique of Psychoanalytic Social Theory
The strength of Fromm's theory is his lucid writings on a broad range of human issues. As a scientific theory, however, Fromm's theory rates very low on its ability to generate research and to lend itself to falsification; it rates low on usefulness to the practitioner, internal consistency, and parsimony. Because it is quite broad in scope, Fromm's theory rates high on organizing existing knowledge.
XII. Concept of Humanity
Fromm believed that humans are the "freaks of nature," because they lack strong animal instincts while possessing the ability to reason. In brief, his view is rated average on free choice, optimism, unconscious influences, and uniqueness; low on causality; and high on social influences.
Test Items Fill-in-the-Blanks 1. Fromm said that human, or _______________________, needs grow out of attempts to find meaning in life.
2. Compared with Freud, Fromm put more emphasis on _________________ influences.
3. The ______________ ___________ refers to Fromm's notion that humans have acquired the ability to reason yet lack strong animal instincts.
4. To Fromm, ___________________ needs represent our attempts to avoid insanity.
5. A sense of _________________ refers to our capacity to be aware of ourselves as a separate entity.
6. The need to feel at home again in the world is called ________________________.
7. Fromm said that people have felt more _______________ as they have gained more economic and political freedom.
8. The human need of _____________is the drive for union with another person.
9. Necrophilia is the opposite of _________________________.
10. To Fromm, ____________is the most common mechanism of escape in American society.
11. Fromm believed that ________________ is the successful solution to the human dilemma.
12. Fromm called _______________ the "freaks of the universe."
13. To Fromm, the _______________ orientation is a result of modern commerce.
14. Fromm called the sketching of a psychological portrait of a prominent person _______________________.
15. Fromm believed that _______ was the epitome of a person suffering from the syndrome of decay.
True-False _____ 1. Fromm adopted a belligerent attitude toward people while serving in battle during World War I.
_____ 2. Compared with Freud, Fromm placed more emphasis on biological determinants of psychic conflict.
_____3. Fromm's social theories were influenced by Karl Marx.
_____4. Although Fromm had some differences with Freud, he remained a loyal follower of Freud throughout his lifetime.
_____5. Fromm believed that a symbiotic relationship is the ideal form of relatedness.
_____6. Malignant aggression is unique to the human species, according to Fromm.
_____7. People have developed existential needs to keep from going insane.
_____8. To Fromm, depression stems from feelings of malignant aggression.
_____9. Sadism is one attempt at decreasing basic anxiety.
_____10. The cycle of conformity and powerlessness can be broken only by achieving positive freedom.
_____11. Fromm believed that the nonproductive orientation has both a positive and a negative aspect.
_____12. The exploitative character is an outgrowth of modern capitalism.
_____13. Fromm believed that a lack of satisfaction of any of the five human needs can result in insanity.
_____14. Masochistic and sadistic tendencies are strategies of uniting with another person.
_____15. Fromm believed that political and economic freedom lead to feelings of isolation and powerlessness.
_____16. Psychologically disturbed people, Fromm said, have failed to establish union with other people.
_____17. Exploitative characters believe that the source of all good is outside themselves.
_____18. Fromm believed that symbiotic attachment to the mother is based on the need for security rather than on sex.
_____19. In a study of a Mexican village, Fromm found no evidence of the hoarding personality.
_____20. Fromm emphasized similarities rather than differences between humans and other animals.
_____21. Fromm listed Winston Churchill as 20th century's most notable example of a person with the syndrome of decay.
Multiple Choice _____ 1. As an adolescent, Erich Fromm
a. aspired to be a famous general in the German army.
b. assumed that people in his native land were less belligerent than those in enemy nations.
c. made two unsuccessful attempts to commit suicide.
d. none of these.
_____ 2. Fromm believed that the rise of capitalism has contributed to
a. the growth of personal freedom.
b. a greater degree of happiness among people.
c. feelings of anxiety, isolation, and powerlessness.
d. higher levels of community cohesion.
_____3. Which of these people was NOT an important influence on Fromm's thinking?
a. Sigmund Freud
b. Thomas More
c. Karl Marx
d. Johann J. Bachofen
e. Karen Horney
_____4. One of Fromm's basic assumptions is that people have been torn away from a union with nature, and lacking adequate animal instincts, they must rely on reason. This condition is called
a. the rational imperative.
b. the human dilemma.
c. manifest destiny.
_____5. According to Fromm, the four basic elements in the process of love are knowledge, care, respect, and