Erich Fromm & Love
Many couples are doing well in most aspects. They have a home, a family and a career and on the surface (and Social Media) they live the happy life.
How come that the number of couples seeking counselling is increasing?
In the first place it might be because seeking help is less daunting as counselling has become a sound alternative to going to the family doctor and because “medicine” has recognised the benefits of therapy as an add on or as the more effective approach depending on the issues for which people seek help. Secondly, it might be related to partners knowing that something is missing and they feel that they can do better together.
In general, couples struggle with good and effective communication. Therefore, this will be a priority in couple sessions. Once partners listen to each other and understand each other better, other issues can be addressed. Most couples struggle with emotional as well as physical intimacy.
Intimacy is more than sex. Intimacy includes feeling close, safe, understood, belonging and connected. It is for that reason that many therapists talk about emotional as well as physical intimacy.
The first time I read the book “the art of loving” by Erich Fromm, I was completely taken aback by the depth of insight and the timelessness of these insights. Fromm wrote this booklet long before the internet and the apps that on the surface meet a need, but often create loneliness and emptiness.
Please read and enjoy…
Fromm and Love
“Love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. Love is an active power in man [sic]; a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet it permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity. In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two…Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a ‘standing in’; not a ‘falling for’. In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving not receiving…Giving fills those who love with joy” (Fromm, 1956, pp 21-22).
“…in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered more important than love: success, gesture, money, power-almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.” (p. 5).
Mind you Fromm wrote this in the 1950s!
“the awareness of human separation [isolation], without reunion of love -is the source of shame. It is at the same time the source of guilt and anxiety.” (p. 9). To escape this sense of isolation [and anxiety] [people] desperately seek to fill the void. The void is superficially filled by an “orgiastic” experience….a sexual experience that brings immediate, but only short lasting relief…and it is followed by shame and guilt, followed by a repetition of finding the relief…and here we have what is known as obsessive compulsive behaviour. It is an escape….with no ending and no solace.
The confusion between self-love and selfishness: Self-love is rooted in the capacity to love, selfishness is an interest in oneself and does not include giving. “…the main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism…”(p. 109).
Fromm writes that people are starved for love and do anything to obtain it, but they lack the knowledge what love is and rely upon false conceptions. “[It is not found in] films about happy and unhappy love stories, trashy songs about love…” The main problem is that people want to be loved and forget about the capacity to love….” (p. 1).
The ability to love is “compounded of maturity, self-knowledge, and courage. Learning to love demands practice and concentration…it demands genuine insight and understanding.”
Fromm writes that “sexual desire can be present without love and “love [as in erotic/romantic love however], can inspire the wish for sexual union”; in the latter the physical relationship is lacking in “greediness, the wish to conquer or to be conquered, and is blended with tenderness and the joy of giving [love making versus sex] (p. 51-52).
Fromm, E. (1956). The Art of Loving. New York: Harper and Row