The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

The Art of Loving

The fiftieth Anniversary Edition of the groundbreaking international bestseller that has shown millions of readers how to achieve rich, productive lives by developing their hidden capacities for loveMost people are unable to love on the only level that truly matters: love that is compounded of maturity, self-knowledge, and courage. As with every art, love demands practice...

Title:The Art of Loving
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0061129739
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:192 pages

The Art of Loving Reviews

  • Trevor

    If my mate George hadn’t recommended this book there is no chance at all that I would have read it. I’ve a strange relationship with LOVE – in that I think it is grossly overrated by our society. You could get away with thinking that if you were not ‘in love’ in our society then there is something terribly wrong with you. Never mind that the notion of being constantly ‘in love’ – in a world where this is all too frequently confused with being infatuated – would be a nightmare not worth living.

    As

    If my mate George hadn’t recommended this book there is no chance at all that I would have read it. I’ve a strange relationship with LOVE – in that I think it is grossly overrated by our society. You could get away with thinking that if you were not ‘in love’ in our society then there is something terribly wrong with you. Never mind that the notion of being constantly ‘in love’ – in a world where this is all too frequently confused with being infatuated – would be a nightmare not worth living.

    As I said to George – I can see why people settle for sex, rather than love. Fromm’s idea of love sounds far too hard.

    This is what I would generally call a ‘white-board’ book. A book in which someone has picked a term rich in meaning – in this case love, but other’s I’ve read have been on Lust or the parts of the human body - and run with it. Germaine Greer has one out at the moment called

    I believe, although she could just as easily have written one called mock-outrage.

    All sorts of love are covered, Brotherly Love, Romantic Love, Religious Love, Motherly Love… Like I said, a white-board book where a huge mind-map has been padded out into continuous prose.

    This all makes the book sound much less interesting than I actually found it – but I want to give you an idea of some of my dissatisfactions too. I mentioned that I was reading Fromm to someone at work and he asked who is Fromm. I said, “I guess he is a bit of a Freudian–Marxist with an interest in Buddhism.” My friend looked at me quizzically for a moment and said, “Well, it isn’t exactly saying, ‘pick me up and read me’ just yet.” I didn’t dare tell him what the book was called.

    When I was separating from my wife a very dear friend of mine suggested that I read a book called,

    . I worked at the City Council and had the luxury of being able to turn to the computer on my desk, order a book from the city library and have it appear on my desk the very next day. There are few nicer pleasures in life. Anyway, the book appeared and it had a rainbow in the cover… I told her that I didn’t think I could read this book. The problem being that I would need to read it mostly on public transport – and a rainbow, I mean, Jesus. I said to her, “Look, the title is bad enough, but at least I can pretend that I thought it was about masturbation, but a rainbow…there is no excuse for a rainbow unless the book is called something like,

    .”

    There is a very similar problem with a book called,

    . One expects it to be written by Hugh Heffner or Dr Shagalot.

    The question is what is love? Is it a rather pleasant sensation or an art and therefore something one learns and gets better at over time? Fromm points out that mostly we act as if love were a sensation – something that happens to us and we have mostly no control over. We believe that love is something that just is. We can’t help who we fall in love with, we can’t help who we fall out of love with and we fundamentally believe that there is someone out there that is just right for us. There is no effort involved in loving – in fact, effort implies the two people weren’t really ‘made for each other’ and that effortless love is the only ‘real’ love. We look down on other cultures where marriages are ‘arranged’ and although I won’t be arranging my daughters’ marriages, I’m not quite so smug about the ‘self-evident’ superiority of marrying for ‘love’.

    The main problem with arranged marriages, for me, is not the impossibility of love in these types of marriage – the arranged marriages I’ve witnessed in my life have involved much more ‘choice’ than we generally consider possible in our standard Western interpretation or plots for dozens of Disney cartoons. The real problem is how women in such marriages tend to be traded like chattel. It is hard to see how this could possibly be avoided in ‘arranged marriages’ – although, in the large grey area between the black of arranged marriages and the white of marrying for love there are ‘blind dates organised by friends’ and ‘marry anyone you can get your hands on so as not to end up on the shelf’ and other such shades.

    One of the things I found most interesting, and perhaps one of the most illuminating ideas in the book, was his talk about the love of God. Quite early on he says, “In conventional Western theology the attempt is made to know God by thought, to make statements

    God. It is assumed that I can know God in my thought. In mysticism, which is the consequent outcome of monotheism … the attempt is given up to know God by thought, and it is replaced by the experience of union with God in which there is no more room – and no need – for knowledge

    God.”

    Love for another person – particularly love for a life-partner (as I guess it would be called today) – is fairly similar to this love of God, love as atonement with God. Fromm repeatedly says that our highest desire (whether we recognise it or not) is unity with another. For Fromm this is the ground of love of all people and true love of another is premised on our being able to love everyone. There are all manner of qualifications for this unity – not unlike the line from

    :

    The big downer – to use an Americanism – is that Fromm barely feels that

    is possible in Western Capitalist societies. Our obsession with consumerism; our ideas that love is a sensation, rather than an art; our alienation from our essential selves; our inability to concentrate and focus – all of these work against us truly ‘being’ in love.

    This, then, is the Buddhist aspect of Fromm. The point is to learn how to be in the present – and being in the present implies truly being ‘with’ your partner. I think I finally got the point of sex once I realised it wasn’t about what I was feeling, but about understanding and anticipating the feelings of the person I was with. When I was too young to understand I heard Dave Allen tell a joke on TV about a newly married couple who rolled over to go to sleep rather than finish having sex after one of them asked, “Can’t you think of anyone else either?” I’d have preferred to have never been old enough to understand that joke. Shakespeare makes a similar point when he has Edmund (why do his ‘bad-guys’ so often get the best lines?) say in King Lear about the lecherous begetters of bastard children when compared to most ‘married sexual partners’, “Who, in the lusty stealth of Nature, take more composition and fierce quality than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed, go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fobs got ‘tween a sleep and wake?”

    Gods, stand up for bastards indeed.

    Or as Fromm himself would have it: “The main condition for the achievement of love is the

    of one’s

    ”.

    But it is not just about being present in bed for Fromm. Loving is about being alive – and being alive is about being truly conscious. Fromm is concerned that many of us think life is somehow supposed to be about ‘relaxing’ – to Fromm the only time one should relax is when one is asleep. He is a man well aware that time, and therefore life itself, is not to be wasted – that we are better to wear out than to rust.

    More than once I experienced a ‘shock of recognition’ in reading this book, particularly towards the end when he was discussing dysfunctions based on experiences of parental role models. Although I found his division between maternal and paternal love all a little simplistic, some of this did make me question my relationships and how they may have been based on my own experiences and learnings from my parents and also to wonder about the examples I’ve given my daughters. Never pleasant thoughts.

    I didn’t enjoy this book nearly as much as

    , but there are more ‘thoughts per page’ here than in your typical book on this subject and if it is a ‘whiteboard book’ it is a particularly full and rewarding one.

  • John Kulm

    I went through this book again partly because it has so much to say, and partly because I wanted to re-read Erich Fromm's instructions on how to meditate. I like the way he puts it, on pages 101 - 102:

    “If I am attached to another person because I cannot stand on my own feet, he or she may be a lifesaver, but the relationship is not one of love. Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love. Anyone who tries to be alone with himself will discover how difficult i

    I went through this book again partly because it has so much to say, and partly because I wanted to re-read Erich Fromm's instructions on how to meditate. I like the way he puts it, on pages 101 - 102:

    “If I am attached to another person because I cannot stand on my own feet, he or she may be a lifesaver, but the relationship is not one of love. Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love. Anyone who tries to be alone with himself will discover how difficult it is. He will begin to feel restless, fidgety, or even to sense considerable anxiety. He will be prone to rationalize his unwillingness to go on with this practice by thinking that it has no value, is just silly, that it takes too much time, and so on, and so on. He will also observe that all sorts of thoughts come to mind which take possession of him. He will find himself thinking about his plans for later in the day, or about some difficulty in a job he has to do, or where to go in the evening, or about any number of things that fill his mind – rather than permitting it to empty itself. It would be helpful to practice a few very simple exercises, as for instance, to sit in a relaxed position (neither slouching, nor rigid), to close one’s eyes, and to try to see a white screen in front of one’s eyes, and to try to remove all interfering pictures and thoughts, then to try to follow one’s breathing; not to think about it, nor force it, but to follow it – and in doing so to sense it; furthermore to try to have a sense of 'I'; I = myself, as the center of my powers, as the creator of my world. One should, at least, do such a concentration exercise every morning for twenty minutes (and if possible longer) and every evening before going to bed.”

  • Jeruen

    My goodness, what is this dude smoking?

    Someone close to me made me aware that this book existed, and so out of curiosity, I decided to borrow the book from the library and read it. It took me 2 days, and really, I hated every bit of this book, for several reasons that I will delineate below. But first, let me tell you what this book is about.

    Obviously, this is non-fiction. This is written by Erich Fromm, a prominent German social psychologist who happens to belong to the Frankfurt School, also k

    My goodness, what is this dude smoking?

    Someone close to me made me aware that this book existed, and so out of curiosity, I decided to borrow the book from the library and read it. It took me 2 days, and really, I hated every bit of this book, for several reasons that I will delineate below. But first, let me tell you what this book is about.

    Obviously, this is non-fiction. This is written by Erich Fromm, a prominent German social psychologist who happens to belong to the Frankfurt School, also known as the proponents of Critical Theory. And in this book, Fromm outlines his theory of love, and how it is an art. As with other arts, such as painting and sculpture, he claims that love has two parts: theory and practice. The book is divided accordingly.

    In the theory section, he goes over five different types of love: brotherly love, motherly love, erotic love, self-love, and love of God. He explains the different functions of these different types, and its various characteristics. And in the practice section, he basically gives various factors that affect and influence the practice of love.

    So, where do I begin criticizing this work? First of all, I deeply hated the fact that his arguments are all along the lines of speculation. I am all for empiricism, and he has all these grandiose claims that were never proven with evidence, all throughout the book. He has claims for example about the difference between motherly and fatherly love, about the importance of the male-female divide, about mothers and instinct, but all of his arguments are conjecture, and not actually supported by empirical evidence. I being a scientist have big problems with that.

    I also think that he suffers from a cultural bias, in that in Eurocentric cultures, at least, love as a concept actually refers to various different things, which roughly corresponds to the different "types" of love. However, I think that it is just an accident of language that English has one word to refer to all of those, which gives the illusion that all of these concepts are inter-related and compose a superset of human emotions. However, one simply has to look to other cultures, and one will realize that there are actually different words that refer to these "types" of love. Greek for example has four different words for what the English language refers to as "love". C. S. Lewis actually has a book discussing the Four Loves as seen in Christianity. Thus, I fear that this book, which is in a way a typology of "love" may actually be resting on the false premise that there is something in common will all manifestations of love, and that Fromm is just undergoing an endeavor that is ontologically faulty. This can be seen by the various differing assumptions that he makes regarding the different types of love.

    Speaking of assumptions, this is another part in which I have problems with. He makes all these assumptions about the various characteristics of various "loves" but I can think of so many counter-examples to prove him wrong.

    One assumption he has is the instinct of the mother to her offspring, and how that is the defining factor in motherly love. He claims that mothers by virtue of giving birth of her child, are predisposed to love her child unconditionally. I believe the contrary. I think I can re-explain every phenomenon he tackles with a simpler rule, without resorting to various other assumptions, and that is by claiming that "love" as we know it is simply a matter of constraint satisfaction and selfishness. We show love to a target because we need something from the target: whether it be one's child, one's brother, one's sexual partner, or one's God. If the need goes away, then we stop showing love. Thus, in the case of motherly love, when there is another need that is present in the mother, that runs counter to the need pertaining to the infant, then the mother will sooner or later give up the child for adoption, abandoning the infant in one way or another. If motherly love were instinctive, then we won't actually be witness to the grave number of orphanages around the world.

    Another assumption he makes is the centrality of the male-female opposition. He claims that these two poles are necessary for real erotic love to happen. By implication, he explicitly claims that homosexuals are incapable of love. I tend to disagree. Personally, I believe that humans can be post-gendered and has the ability to be attracted to another person, regardless of the other person's gender, if one's constraints are set up that way. Thus, gender variation for me is just a matter of constraint setting. I do not like the fact that Fromm categorically eliminates the ability to love from non-heterosexual people. Perhaps it is just the sign of the times he was living in (the book was published in 1956), and important studies by Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker were not around yet. As of 1956, homosexuality was still listed as a mental illness according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and wasn't removed from the list until 1974. Alfred Kinsey published two seminal volumes on sexual behavior of the human male and female, and Evelyn Hooker did several series of experiments providing evidence that self-identified homosexuals were no worse in social adjustment than the general population. I actually found her experiments rather neat, where she took two groups of samples: homosexuals and heterosexuals. She conducted three tests across the two groups: the Thematic Apperception Test; the Make-a-Picture-Story Test; and the Rorschach Inkblot Test. She then asked other specialists to determine whether there is a significant difference between the two samples based on their test performance. In all tests, the specialists' ability to differentiate was no better than chance, suggesting that there are no significant differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals when it comes to social performance.

    Fromm also has a section on love of God. Again, I can explain this by selfishness. Love of God for me is simply another term for therapeutic delusion. Humans sometimes need to feel that they are not in total control of their lives, to the point that they construct an entity "higher" than them. This in effect removes the blame from themselves, whenever there is a tragic event that has happened. Things that are seemingly beyond their control are given an explanation by invoking the notion of God. This for me is a selfish act, because it's basically a form of a survival mechanism. The human basically victimizes oneself and removes the responsibility and reassigns it to God. Having belief in God also has a second function, and that is to give hope, hoping that the afterlife is better than the present, which again is a survival mechanism, because otherwise, people may not be able to survive the present.

    Now, I have tried to explain the concept of love by recasting it in terms of selfishness. I do believe that human behavior can be reduced to two terms: selfishness and curiosity. Love is never self-sacrificing. Someone told me that we only continue to love if we are loved in return: we love our mates as long as our mates love us. If not, then the relationship breaks down.

    So the question is, do I believe in love? I guess the answer depends on what that question actually means. If by believing in love, it refers to the act of immediately finding oneself attracted to some other person, with no rhyme or reason, then I have to answer no. However, if by believing in love, it refers to the act of ascertaining whether an individual is beneficial for oneself, that even though one can survive by its own, one has determined that the system can be improved by factoring in the other person, and therefore pursuing that person, then my answer is yes. Love for me is a selfish act: it's an act of system improvement. It is an economic act, getting something from someone else in exchange for something else. Thus, a successful relationship occurs whenever there are two people who mutually satisfies the needs of each other.

    So, I have offered here a counter explanation to the phenomenon of love. I believe that it is a simpler explanation, satisfying Occam's Razor. I have fewer assumptions: constraint satisfaction and selfishness. I only assume that those are the two big factors, and the variation on human behavior can be explained by modulating the various constraints that are different across the board. I believe that my thesis here is also testable: I could easily imagine a way to sample this, and one can run a regression model and see whether the factors really are significant or not. Needless to say, I belong more to the experimental psychology camp, than the Frankfurt School.

    And needless to say, I was dissatisfied with this book. I am giving it 0.5 out of 5 stars.

  • Hoda Elsayed

  • Mohammadreza

    این کتاب برخلاف اسمِ زرد و طراحی جلد مزخرفِ انتشارات مرواید، به هیچ وجه کتابِ زردی نیست و برخلاف تصور اولیه، دستورالعملی برای عاشق شدن و نحوه¬ی عشق¬ورزی، نیست. پس برای کسی که دنبال چند دستورِ ساده و عملی جهت عشق¬ورزی (مخ¬زنی) می¬گردد، ناامیدکننده خواهد بود.

    تنها ده سال پس از پایان جنگ جهانی دوم، یعنی بعد از فروریختن تمام آرمان¬ها و امیدها به نیک¬اندیشی و نیک¬کرداریِ بشر، یک روانکاوِ چپ¬گرا، کتابی با موضوع عشق می¬نویسد که در آن با امید و مثبت-اندیشی، بشر را به عشق¬ورزیدن نسبت به تمام

    این کتاب برخلاف اسمِ زرد و طراحی جلد مزخرفِ انتشارات مرواید، به هیچ وجه کتابِ زردی نیست و برخلاف تصور اولیه، دستورالعملی برای عاشق شدن و نحوه¬ی عشق¬ورزی، نیست. پس برای کسی که دنبال چند دستورِ ساده و عملی جهت عشق¬ورزی (مخ¬زنی) می¬گردد، ناامیدکننده خواهد بود.

    تنها ده سال پس از پایان جنگ جهانی دوم، یعنی بعد از فروریختن تمام آرمان¬ها و امیدها به نیک¬اندیشی و نیک¬کرداریِ بشر، یک روانکاوِ چپ¬گرا، کتابی با موضوع عشق می¬نویسد که در آن با امید و مثبت-اندیشی، بشر را به عشق¬ورزیدن نسبت به تمام ابناء بشر فرا می¬خواند.

    این کار، عمقِ نگاه انسانی (اومانیستی) و آرمانیِ اریک فروم را بازمی¬تابد. فروم هنوز به ارزش¬های کلاسیکی چون خودشناسی، نوع¬دوستی، ایثار و پرورش استعدادهای درونی اعتقاد دارد و به طرزی کاملن انسانی و دلنشین هنوز خوش¬بین است که انسان روزی به مفهومِ حقیقیِ عشق، عاشق باشد و عشق بورزد. خوش¬بینی¬ای که با پشتوانه¬ی شناخت علمی و دقیق او از سرشت بشر و انتقادهای تند و سازش-ناپذیرش با نظام سرمایه¬داری همراه است. آیا فروم اشتباه می¬کرد؟ آیا او صرفن یک انقلابی¬ی کله¬شقِ آرمان¬گراست؟

    اندیشمندان مکتب فرانکفورت (از جمله والتر بنیامین، هورکهایمر و تئودور آدورنو) همواره دشمن خونیِ نظام سرمایه-داری بودند. مصرف¬گرایی، مدگرایی و هدایت شدن سلیقه¬ها توسط شرکت¬های چندملیتی، نظام مبادله¬ای کالا، کالایی شدن و حاکمیت عرضه و تقاضا در تمام شئون زندگی بشر چیزی بود که هرگز تو کَتشان نمی¬رفت. اریک فروم نیز در این کتاب از کالایی و قراردادی شدن مفهوم عشق و در نتیجه انحطاط و سطحی شدن آن در جامعه¬ی غرب انتقاد می¬کند. انحطاطی که از آغاز قرن بیستم، با اشائه¬ی نظریه¬ی روانکاوی فروید توسط نظام سرمایه¬داری آغاز شده ( تقلیل مفهوم عشق به رابطه¬ی جنسی) و توسط همکاران روانشناسِ وی تقویت می¬شود، تا جایی که به ارائه¬ی الگوها و باید و نبایدها برای زندگی زناشویی پیش می¬رود. یعنی چارچوب گذاشتن برای رفتار بشر، یعنی پیش¬بینی پذیر کردنِ او، همان خواست نظام سرمایه¬داری که بتواند به راحتی برای مصرفِ هرچه بیشترِ محصولات خود به راحتی برنامه بریزد. زن و شوهری که عاشق همدیگر نیستند مجبورند با رعایتِ قوانین و رسوماتی که برای آنها تعریف شده، زندگیِ خود را تحمل¬پذیر سازند.

    فروم تصورِ عمومی نسبت به عشق، که آن را امری «غیرارادی» و ناگهانی و قدرتمند می¬داند که آدمی را «درگیر» خود می¬کند و او را به «انفعال» می¬کشاند، نمی¬پذیرد و معتقد است عشق یک امر کاملن «آگاهانه»، «ارادی» و «با تصمیم» است که برای حصول به آن و رسیدن به معشوق نیاز به «تلاش»، «تمرین» و «استعداد عشق¬ورزی» دارد. از نظر او کسی که می¬خواهد عشق بورزد باید آمادگی و قدرت این را داشته باشد که همه¬ی وجود خود را با رضایت و شادمانی، در اختیارِ طرف مقابلِ خود، بگذارد و طرف مقابلش نیز همین‌طور کار را کند.

    انسان باید خود را دوست داشته باشد تا بتواند همه¬ی جهان و معشوق خود را نیز دوست داشته باشد. او باید استعداد و توانایی عشق ورزی را همانند تمام هنرهای دیگر بیاموزد و در خود پرورش دهد. تنها انسانی که به بلوغِ کامل رسیده است و دیدی انسان¬دوستانه دارد و از خودخواهی¬ها و احساس نیازمندیِ خود رها شده باشد، می¬تواند عشق بورزد.

    از قسمت¬های جذاب کتاب که روانکاوانه¬تر است و عشق را به انواع مختلف تقسیم می¬کند: عشق مادرانه، عشق پدرانه، عشق جنسی، عشق به خود و عشق به خدا.

    این کتابو بخونید. خیلی راحت مفاهیم رو بیان کرده و بسیار روونه. جامعه¬ی ما خیلی از ایده¬آل¬ها و ارزش¬هاش رو داره از دست می¬ده و عشق¬های حالا هرچیزی هستند به جز عشق. همیشه هم سنتها و ارزش¬های قدیمی بد نیستند و این کتاب یه جورایی پاسدارِ ارزش¬هایی یه که ممکنه قدیمی به نظر برسن اما آرامش¬بخشن و ضروری برای جامعه¬ی سرعت¬زده، مضطرب، سطحی و مصرف¬گرای ما. با وجودِ فاصله¬ی پنجاه ساله¬ی فروم با ما، انگار این کتاب برای ما نوشته شده که داریم تو مناسبات سرمایه¬داری خفه میشیم.


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