A huge part of psychoanalysis focuses on social psychology. Erich Fromm was a prominent psychoanalyst. Here are three quotes from him to ponder about society.
Society affects every human. That’s why it is the foundation of psychoanalysis. The founder and creator of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, came up with this initial idea. His followers and students went further with his ideas, including the psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm.
Erich Fromm was a German social psychologist. As a follower of the psychoanalytical theory, he continued Sigmund Freud’s works on the analysis of society. For that reason, Fromm is better known as a social psychoanalyst. For him, psychoanalysis must follow a humanistic approach. Previously, we saw psychoanalysis from Freud’s and Jung‘s point of view through quotes. Now, it is time to see psychoanalysis as Erich Fromm saw it.
Erich Fromm on Love
Erich Fromm is known for his focus on love; much of his work focused on trying to explain it. From the psychoanalysis approach, Erich Fromm analyzed society based on love because for him, human society could be understood through human feelings. This quote is from his 1956 book, The Art of Loving, a book that collected his works about love as a human desire and feeling.
According to Fromm, the condition to love is a paradox. The reason being that there is not a single condition for humans to love, but there is a single condition for humans to be alone: that is why love is a paradox. We realize our need for loving and being loved once we are alone, and being alone is also the main motivator to constantly search for love.
Fromm perfectly portrays the human need to love. If we go further from this quote, we can understand why love is such a relevant topic. We all are constantly searching for love and that mainly happens because being alone motivates us to reach for someone to love, and for being loved by someone.
In this quote, Fromm gives a more complex but complete meaning for love. We are used to seeing love as a feeling when the truth is that love is more than just a feeling. According to this psychoanalyst, love is a construct that combines judgment, biology, and determination. The reason love remains, and the reason we constantly search for love, not only to give, but to receive is because if love was just a feeling, it would come and go, but not remain. Yet, it remains.
Erich Fromm on Society and Suffering
Society is a key aspect to understanding suffering in psychoanalysis. The main reason is because society conditions suffering. Furthermore, society not only conditions suffering, but is built on suffering, and raises humans under the concept of avoiding it. For this reason, psychoanalysts conclude that suffering is a part of being alive. That is exactly what Erich Fromm raises in his 1976 seminal book To Have or To Be? The Nature of the Psyche.
In this quote, Fromm reunites many truths from society, that we must understand to live. The first thing he proposes is the vision of humanity as a population in suffering. If you think about it, that is exactly how we are. We are a mass full of suffering and chaos. However, that is a consequence of our own actions and behaviors as a mass.
Why does suffering happen without our being aware of it? Well, it happens because we are too busy avoiding suffering, so we subconsciously make suffering happen again. How do we do this? According to psychoanalysis, we trigger our suffering by constantly struggling between the “to have” and the “to be”. As in, we have two ways to exist: one based on what we have, and one based on what we are. That is where the suffering comes from: all that society imposes us to have, instead of letting us be.
This quote from Erich Fromm is a callout for awareness. This quote invites us to realize the fact that we all, as a society, are the main cause of suffering and that only in this way will we recognize that we must stop avoiding suffering, and start living. And the only way to do that is by each of us discovering that what we are, is what we have. So, being ourselves is the only way to live, instead of behaving as society expects.
Erich Fromm on “Being” and Growing
This quote perfectly matches the previous quote from Erich Fromm because if the only way to live is by being, then what is “being” and how should we “be”? These points were the main subjects of study for this psychoanalyst because as human beings, we spend almost our entire lives searching for our reason for existence. When the truth is that, the only reason for existence, is being who we are. Erich Fromm discusses this in his 1989 manuscripts book The Art of Being.
This quote allows us to realize something I have mentioned before in this article, and one of the main things we can learn from psychoanalysis. Suffering is part of life; it is almost inherent. Suffering means working and putting in effort, or we wouldn’t even be able to be alive. This gives us life experience. If it weren’t for suffering and struggling to survive, and to be ourselves, we wouldn’t learn and conquer, and find a reason for existence. Through pain and anxiety, we change as people.
Growing and achieving is a part of life and each human being needs to grow and achieve goals. That is how we connect the being, the growth and the suffering. There is no growth without suffering, and there is no human being that doesn’t grow and change in life.
One of the best things about these three quotes from Erich Fromm is that they perfectly represent the close relationship between society and each individual. Also, these quotes can help us understand that there are some things we can’t avoid because avoiding them would mean avoiding life, such as suffering. All we have is ourselves, who we are, and what we are. And that is the key to living life: being.