Erich Fromm was born in 1900 in Frankfurt, Germany. He was the only child of Jewish parents. Fromm grew up knowing two different worlds – Orthodox Jewish and Christian, where he occasionally encountered anti-Semitism. The Fromm family was far from ideal. He described his parents as “very neurotic,” and himself as “an unbearably neurotic child.”
When the First World War broke out in Europe, Fromm was 14 years old. Although he was too young to fight, he was struck by human irrationality and destructive inclinations. He later wrote: “I was deeply preoccupied with a young man who was tormented by the question of how this war turned out to be possible, as well as the desire to understand the irrationality of the behavior of human masses and the passionate desire for peace and understanding between nations.” The answers to these questions show the enormous influence of Freud and Karl Marx. Freud’s work helped him understand that people are not aware of the reasons for their behavior. While reading Marx, he learned that sociopolitical forces significantly influence people’s lives.
Unlike Freud, Jung and Adler, Fromm did not have a medical education. He studied psychology, sociology and philosophy, he was awarded the degree of Ph.D. at the University of Heidelberg in 1922. He received a basic psychoanalytic education at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute.
In 1934, Fromm emigrated to the United States of America, seeking to avoid the Nazi threat. He started a private practice in New York. Fromm published his first book, Escape from Freedom, in 1941. In it, he showed the special significance of the ways in which social forces and ideologies form the structure of the character of an individual. This trend, developed in a large number of subsequent books, brought Fromm membership in the International Psychoanalytic Association.
In 1945, Fromm became a member of the William Alençon White Institute of Psychiatry. Later he lectured at many US universities and served as a professor of psychiatry at the National University of Mexico from 1949 until his departure in 1965. Together with his wife Fromm in 1976 he moved to Switzerland, where he died of a heart attack in 1980.
I decided to write an essay on the book by Erich Fromm “The Art of Love” in order to better understand what love is, which plays such a big role in the life of every person. I did not expect to receive “accessible instructions in the art of love,” but, on the contrary, to understand the deep roots of this feeling, to get answers to my own questions from the point of view of psychology and philosophy.
In principle, the content of the book Fromm conveyed in the preface, which immediately adjusts the reader to the subject and complexity of the book. Just want to note that, firstly, “The Art of Love” contains many interesting ideas and, secondly, with the majority, if not all, I agree that it is very nice. Therefore, I read this book with great pleasure, although, frankly, I thought about it, almost in every word.
The title of the first chapter is submitted in the form of the question “Is love an art?” Most consider love, say, an accident, which is fundamentally, I think, wrong. Because for many, “the problem of love is only to be loved, and not to love, to know how to love.” Because a significant part of people think that, in fact, it is easy to love, the only problem is to find a suitable object that would meet all the requirements (almost like some kind of product!) And which would then fall in love. It would be more reasonable to say that love is a natural result of efforts and knowledge.
Although some do not even think that in order to love you, you also need to take some effort, and most importantly, that love for someone is more happiness than the consciousness that you love. Also, people can not always distinguish the initial feeling of love with a permanent state of being in love.
Love must learn, Fromm writes, and I share his point of view. Since, if people do not know how to love, then even the so-called “true love” will not last long.
Love is an art, with this I fully agree. And, of course, like every art, it is necessary to learn. But first it is necessary to realize (which for many, it seems to me impossible): we were taught from childhood to treat love simply, without even thinking, that is, questions like “Do you love your son, Manya from a neighboring yard?” In most cases they wanted to hear affirmative answer) that love is an art that, like all craftsmanship, is not given without difficulty, and only then it can be learned.
But, despite all the failures in this area, many put in the first place “more” real things: money, success, power, and so on. And since the same majority are pragmatists, this is largely the case because already at the beginning of the path (anyone) I want to see or at least represent the ultimate goal in some way. When you learn love, it is difficult to talk about it if it is not possible. Fromm correctly writes that our present culture implies worthy efforts to train only those things with which you can acquire money or prestige, and love that benefits “only the soul” but is useless in the modern sense is “luxury.” To change this state of affairs, this book was written. Of course, this is only one reason.
The second chapter of the book, in fact, is devoted to the theory of love. Here I would like to add that the content of the book goes beyond the definition of this feeling, which is understandable. Our life is a combination of various factors and circumstances; therefore, love cannot be separated from reality, from the environment.
Here (in this chapter), as I have already said, there are many interesting ideas. For example, one of them is as follows: a person inherently strives to be identical, that is, subconsciously he wants him to be not one. Although outwardly it seems the opposite: “people live with the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are original, that they come to their convictions as a result of their own thinking”.
In fact, if you dig deeper, you can see that “their ideas are similar to the ideas of the majority,” that is, “the agreement of all is evidence of the correctness of“ their ”ideas.” But since there is still a small need for individualism, it is satisfied with the help of such insignificant distinctive signs as initials on clothes, belonging to a particular party, and so on. But, in fact, complete unity, that is, the feeling that he is not alone, comes only in love. But at the same time, only this feeling allows two beings to become one and at the same time remain two.
Immediately, Fromm gives some definition: “Love is an active force in a person, a force that destroys the walls separating a person from his neighbors; which unites him with others; love helps him overcome feelings of isolation and loneliness; while allowing him to remain himself, to maintain its integrity. ” Sufficiently capacious, in my opinion, the definition.
Thus, the active nature of the feeling consists precisely in the fact that love is, above all, giving, not taking. But in order to give, a person must reach a certain level of development. In fact, “giving is more joyful than taking, not because it is deprivation, but because the expression of my vitality is manifested in this act of giving”.
In his work, Fromm identifies five elements inherent in each kind of love. This is giving, caring, responsibility, respect and knowledge. The ability to give love implies the attainment of a “high level of productive orientation,” in which a person overcomes the narcissistic desire to exploit others and accumulate, and gains faith in his own strength, the courage to rely on himself in achieving goals. “The more a person lacks these traits, the more he is afraid of giving himself away – and, therefore, loving,” believes Fromm.
That love means caring is most evident in the attachment of a mother to her child. Her assurance of adoration will not convince us if we see her lack of custody of the child, if she neglects the feeding, does not try to completely surround him with attention, but when we see her care for the child, we fully believe in her feeling. “Love is an active interest in the life and development of what we love.”
Another aspect of love – responsibility – is the answer to the expressed or unexpressed needs of a human being. Being responsible means being able and willing to “respond”. A loving person feels responsible for his loved ones as well as for himself. In love between adults, responsibility mainly concerns the mental needs of the other.
Responsibility could easily degenerate in the desire for superiority and domination, if there were no respect in love. “Respect is not fear and reverence, it is the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality.” Thus, reverence implies the absence of exploitation. “I want my loved one to grow and develop for his own sake, his own way, and not to serve me. If I love another person, I feel oneness with him, but with what he is, and not with the way I wanted him to be, as a means of my goals. ”
“It is impossible to respect a person without knowing him: care and responsibility would be blind if knowledge did not direct them.” Fromm considered love as one of the ways of knowing the mystery of man, and knowledge as an aspect of love, which is the tool of this knowledge, allowing to penetrate into the very essence.
There are several types of love that Fromm calls “objects”: brotherly love, motherly love, erotic love, love of self, and love of God.
Under fraternal love Fromm understands love between equals, which is based on the feeling that we are all one. “Love begins to manifest itself only when we love those whom we cannot use for our own purposes,” the author writes. Maternal love, which I would call parental love, without dividing it into the feelings of a father and mother, according to Fromm, is an attachment to a helpless being. The philosopher speaks of self-love as a feeling, without experiencing which, it is not possible to love someone else.
For both sexual and erotic feelings, Fromm uses one term – “erotic love”. As its main principle, the author identifies the merger, both in the physical and in the spiritual sense. However, when a philosopher begins to describe specific manifestations of erotic love, he discovers that the physical aspect of closeness without spiritual unity is not capable of satisfying it.
“If the perception of another person went deep into it, if the infinity of his personality was comprehended, then the other person could never be fully known – and the miracle of overcoming barriers could be repeated every day anew. But for most people acquaintance with their own person, and even more so with others too hastily, is exhausted too quickly. For them, affinity is affirmed primarily through sexual contact. Since they perceive the alienation of another person first of all as physical alienation, they take physical unity as a feeling of intimacy. ”
In this passage, it is important for us to distinguish two aspects in the understanding of erotic love Fromm. First, it is the achievement of unity with another through physical intimacy, and, secondly, it is the achievement of unity with another in the infinite cognition of another through physical intimacy.
In the first case, all experiences focus on the fact of physical proximity itself. In the second – on the other, which is comprehended through this proximity. It is quite possible to agree with Fromm when he emphasizes the non-self-sufficiency of the purely sexual aspect in love: “For a brief moment, sexual desire creates the illusion of unity, but without love it leaves people as alien to each other as they were before. Sometimes it makes them ashamed afterwards and even hate each other, because when the illusion disappears, they feel alienated even more than before. ”
Later in this chapter comes a description of the love of God that I would prefer to get around with my attention.
The third section of the book is called “Love and its disintegration in modern society”. Many thoughts and ideas are closely intertwined or have even been mentioned in previous chapters. But here I would like to quote one paragraph, which seems to me the most correct. That is, delusion, the illusion that “love necessarily means the absence of conflict, is very common. Also, people are accustomed to thinking that pain and sadness should be avoided under any circumstances … And they find the right arguments in favor of this idea that the collisions they see around turn out to be just a destructive reciprocal exchange, which does not bring any good to any of parties.
In fact, for most people quarrels are attempts to avoid actual conflicts. It is rather a disagreement on insignificant and superficial issues that by their very nature are not amenable to clarification or resolution. The actual conflicts between two people are not to hide something or to blame on another person, but are experienced on a deep level of inner reality from which they emanate. Such conflicts are not destructive. They lead to clarification, they give rise to catharsis, from which both people come out enriched with knowledge and power. ”
And the last chapter, the smallest, “The Practice of Love”, where Fromm immediately warns those who are waiting for any prescriptions like “do-it-yourself” that this will not happen. The author only highlights the general requirements and character traits necessary in any art, be it music, medicine and, of course, love.
First of all, the philosopher singles out discipline as a criterion, but precisely the discipline of his whole life. The second aspect – concentration, that is, the mastery of any art should be the subject of the highest concentration, there should not be anything more important than this occupation. The third factor is patience. The last condition is the highest interest in gaining mastery in this matter. “If art is not a subject of supreme importance to him, the student will never learn it. He will remain, at best, a good amateur, but he will never become a master. This condition is as necessary in the art of love as it is in any other. ”
Next, Fromm considers the qualities necessary for the ability to love: overcoming his own narcissism, reason, humility. The author reduces all these three traits to one definition: “love, being dependent on the relative absence of narcissism, requires the development of humility, objectivity and reason. All life should be dedicated to this goal. ”
In general, I would like to say that this is a wonderful book that allowed me to understand a lot, but at the same time I made me think about other things, not only about love. And I would like to finish with Erich Fromm’s quotation that “love is a character trait, it must be present not only in relations with your family and friends, but also with those with whom a person comes into contact at work, in affairs, in their professional activities. There is no “division of labor” between the love of one’s own and the love of others. On the contrary, the condition for the existence of the first is the existence of the second. ”