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's and a much broader
theory than Horney's.
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 Ph.D., Fromm began studying
psychoanalysis and became an analyst by 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,
whom he had known in Germany. 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
According to Fromm, 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,
and (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
V. The Burden of Freedom
As the only animal possessing self-awareness, humans are what Fromm called 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
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
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, and reasoning. 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,
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,
a frame of orientation. The therapist tries to accomplish this through shared
communication in which the therapist is simply a human being rather than
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 a 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 the study of 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
Fromm's theory ranks near the bottom of personality theories with regard to
stimulating research. Recently, Shaun Saunders and Don Munro have developed
the Saunders Consumer Orientation Index (SCOI) to measure Fromm's marketing
character. To date, much of their work has consisted in establishing the validity
of this instrument. In general, Saunders has found that people with a strong
consumer orientation tend to place low value on freedom, inner harmony, equality,
self-respect, and community.
XI. Critique of Fromm
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
XII. Concept of Humanity
Fromm believed that humans were "freaks of the universe" because they
lacked 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.