Influence of Sigmund Freud
Fromm's post-doctoral education was primarily in psychoanalysis at both the University of Munich and the Psychoanalytic Institute of Berlin. Psychoanalysis is a process of thoroughly examining how the events in a person's life have influenced that person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Psychoanalysis was first developed by Sigmund Freud.
At first, Fromm strongly adhered to Freud's theories, but over time he began to disagree with some tenets. For example, Fromm felt that personality was affected more by social and economic factors and less by unconscious desires. By the time Fromm relocated to America in 1934, his ideas were considered by Freudians to be controversial.
The Five Basic Needs
One of Fromm's theories, called the five basic needs, likely surfaced from the uniqueness of his environment at the time. The theory relates to the development of each person's responsibility to promote the common good rather than comply passively to societal expectations. Fromm identified the five basic needs of every individual as follows:
- People need to feel connected.
- People need to transcend their haphazard lives, either through love or hate.
- People need to feel as though they belong someplace in the world.
- People need to develop a sense of self.
- People need orientation, either through assimilation or socialization. Assimilation relates to things such as a career path or a religion, while socialization relates to personal relationships with others.
Fromm also identified typical patterns of behavior that develop as people choose their direction in life. According to Fromm, people generally fall into one of the six character orientations:
- The receptive character lacks generosity. This kind of person is a taker.
- The hoarding character feels vulnerable to others, and therefore tries to keep things for himself.
- An exploitative character takes advantage of other people.
- A marketing character has little self-worth and views themselves as mere possessions.
- The productive character fully develops as a person who can love and give back to society.
- A necrophilous character is obsessed with death.
- A biophilous character is concerned with the growth and development of themselves and others.
Influence of Marxism
Through his analysis of capitalism and class relations, Karl Marx developed Marxism, the principles behind socialism and communism. These ideas greatly influenced Erich Fromm. Fromm believed that socioeconomic status has an effect on personality development, which is necessary for maintaining a static, or unchanging, economic and social order.
His 1941 book, Escape from Freedom analyzes the individual's need to escape the isolation and fear that come with becoming an adult. In the book, Fromm writes that people are drawn to totalitarian leaders as a relief from the excessive freedom that is thrust upon them in adulthood. People seek comfort and relief from the burden of decision-making power, which explains the appeal of succumbing to totalitarian leadership.
Fromm was also greatly concerned about the lack of connectedness in capitalistic societies. He wrote that this isolation creates mental health problems that must then be addressed as a community.
Erich Fromm was a 20th century German psychoanalyst who began his career by studying Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis, developed by Freud, is a process of thoroughly examining how the events in a person's life have influenced that person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Soon, however, the influence of Marxism on his Freudian beliefs resulted in a departure of thought. Marxism describes the ideas of Karl Marx, which formed the basis of socialism and communism. While Freud stressed the power of unconscious desires, Fromm felt that personality development was more directly affected by socioeconomic status.
One of Fromm's theories, called the five basic needs, relates to the development of each person's responsibility to promote the common good rather than comply passively to societal expectations. As he wrote in his 1941 book, Escape from Freedom, Fromm believed that people are drawn to totalitarian leaders as a relief from the excessive freedom that is thrust upon them in adulthood. He also believed that capitalism causes a lack of connectedness between people, which causes the people in capitalistic societies to suffer mental health problems.