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Erich Fromm: biography of the father of humanistic psychoanalysis

Erich Fromm: biography of the father of humanistic psychoanalysis

November 27, 2021

Normally psychoanalysis has been associated with a pessimistic view of the human being, according to which our behavior and thoughts are directed by unconscious forces that we can not control and that anchor us to our past.

This idea has to do with the psychoanalytic conception of Sigmund Freud, but this is not the only one.

Once psychoanalysis had settled in Europe, other proposals of this psychologogical current were appearing, some of which emphasized our capacity to become free and decide our life trajectory. The humanistic psychoanalysis of Erich Fromm is an example of this . Today, in this biography, we will explain who this important psychoanalyst was.


Who was Erich Fromm? This is his biography

Erich Fromm was born in Frankfurt in the year 1900 . He belonged to a family related to Orthodox Judaism, which made him inclined to begin Talmudic studies during his youth, although he later preferred to train both in the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud and in the theoretical legacy of Karl Marx , which made him approach the ideas of socialism and doctorate in sociology.

During the 1930s, when the Nazis took control of Germany, Erich Fromm moved to New York, where he opened a clinical practice based on psychoanalysis and began teaching at Columbia University. From that moment he was popularizing a psychoanalysis with strong influences of humanistic philosophy, which emphasized the ability of the human being to become more free and autonomous through personal development.


Humanist psychoanalysis

When psychology was born in the second half of the 19th century, the first efforts of this first generation of researchers were aimed at understanding the basic functioning of mental processes. This involved asking about issues such as the origin of mental illness, the functioning of thresholds of consciousness, or learning processes.

Until the consolidation of psychoanalysis in Europe, psychologists left aside the problems related to the way in which we consider our life trajectory, our past and our possible future affect us emotionally and in our decision making.

Discovering the importance of the unconscious

Psychoanalysis, in a way, h had introduced a more metapsychological approach (or close to philosophy) in psychotherapeutic practice . However, the initial current of thought from which it started this underlined much the power of the unconscious on the individual, on the one hand, and was very focused on giving explanations about traumas and mental disorders, on the other.


Erich Fromm started from the focus of psychoanalysis to turn him towards a much more humanistic vision of the human being . For Fromm, the human psyche could not be explained simply by proposing ideas about how we do it to combine our unconscious desires with the pressure of the environment and culture, but to understand it we must also know how we do it to find the meaning of the life, as proposed by the existentialists.

Life is not made to suffer

Erich Fromm did not distance himself from the perspective focused on the illness of other psychoanalysts because he thought that life could be lived apart from discomfort and suffering. The optimism of his humanistic vision of things was not expressed through the denial of pain, but through a very powerful idea: that we can make it bearable by giving it meaning. This idea, by the way, he shared with other humanist psychologists of the time such as Viktor Frankl.

Life, said Fromm, is irremediably linked to moments of frustration, pain and discomfort, but we can decide how to make that affect us. The most important project of each person would be, according to this psychoanalyst, to make these moments of discomfort fit in the construction of ourselves, that is, personal development.

Erich Fromm, about the ability to love

Erich Fromm believed that the main source of human discomfort comes from the friction between the individual and others . This constant tension starts from an apparent contradiction: on the one hand we want to be free in a world where we live with many other agents, and on the other we want to draw emotional ties with others, be linked to them.

Expressed in its terms, it could be said that a part of our self is made to be in union with others.However, by our very nature as beings with a body different from others, we are separated from the rest and, to a certain extent, isolated.

Erich Fromm believed that This conflict can be addressed by developing our capacity to love . Love the same way to others and all those things that make us a unique person, with all its imperfections. These ambitious missions were, in fact, a single project, consisting of developing love towards life itself, and this was reflected in the famous work The art of love, published in 1956.

Psychoanalysis to explore human potential

In short, Fromm dedicated his work to examine the range of possibilities that the humanistic conception of life could provide not only to the techniques to reduce suffering in specific situations that generate discomfort, but also to the strategies to intervent these episodes of suffering in a vital project full of meaning .

His psychoanalytic proposals are thus far from the first psychoanalysis aimed at making people suffer as little as possible, and prefer to focus on the development of the maximum potential of people in a process that, in itself, we could call "happiness". That's why, even today, the reading of Erich Fromm's works are very popular because they are considered inspiring and with a rich philosophical background .


Audiobook Narrator Ed Waldorph BEYOND FREUD Eric Fromm (November 2021).


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