Erich Fromm adds another point of view to what is a meant by living a meaningful life. He speaks from his position as a psychologist and psychoanalysist but as well as a sociologist and philosopher. To the individual point of view towards happiness he adds the society in which an individual lives in. He is certainly doubting that our modern society or post-modern society provides us with the frame within we can live a meaningful life.
The Art of Loving
In his book „The Art of Loving“, which I think could also be called „The Art of Living“, he gives a portrait of what it means to live a happy and meaningful life. He provides us with an overview of the kinds of love we need to live a happy life. These are charity, motherly love, erotic love, self-love, and love for god. Love for Fromm is an ability and doesn’t depend on the object. This ability is what he calls „the art“. Everyone can learn this „art“ if she or he devotes enough of her or his time and effort. In his point of view, love is the answer to the problem of human existence (hence the answer to the question how to live a happy and meaningful life). To truly love, he says, it is necessary to become one with yourself and with the object of love, human or devine, work or hobby (in positive psychology they call it „flow“). As the ability to love is essential to live a happy life, in his sense and in parallel to positive psychology, relationships and the absence of social isolation are a pre-condition. If you live in isolation, it is not possible to use and develop the ability to love.
What qualities does a person need to truly unfold her or his ability to love? Fromm identifies the following qualities: discipline, concentration, and patience. These qualities must be practiced as often as possible in every life situation. To concentrate you need a sense for yourself, you need to live in the here and now, you need to focus, and you need to be attentive. While doing one thing, you should not think of another or doing two things at the same time. Focussing means being alive. Moreover, the art you want to learn must be of upmost important to yourself. Otherwise you will never learn it. To develop these qualitites you need to be objective. Objectivity can be trained, too. Furthermore, you need to possess the ability of rationality and devotion or humility. As sure as anything you need faith. That doesn’t necessarily mean faith in god, but faith in yourself, in others, having the certainty that what you are doing is the right thing. You need to have faith in your objectives.
At last, it is obvious that to you need courage. You need courage to start your transformation, you need to have courage to actually work on your objectives and dreams. You need to be courageous going other ways than you used to before – there will come paths you don’t know and maybe path ways that others might think of as crazy. There will always be challenges and you need courage to face and overcome them.
To Have or to Be?
Erich Fromm definitely opposites the view that an individual will gain happiness by simply fulfilling its basic desires. By doing so, an individual might cause severe harm to others, for instance, when it fulfills its desire for power or status without any limitations. In Reiss theory, for example, saving is an intrinsic desire. In Fromm’s piece of work „To have or to be?“ he sees this point in a totally different way. For him, „to have“, to safe (in an exaggerated meaning), to collect, to accumulate things and money is a lifestyle that leads to an alienation. People whos life is orientated at collecting and hoarding are alienated from themselves and from others. They are only concerned about their possession, their success and the next thing they can consume. They are not capable to devote, to have faith, and to build meaningful relationships.
This chapter is still under construction. To be continued…