wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Erich Fromm - Psychology, Love and LifeErich Fromm - Psychology, Love and Life


Erich Fromm (1900 -1980)

German-born American psychiatrist and philosopher (poictured right).


His most famous book is...

The Art of Loving (1956) that emphasizes love and individual freedom.


What did he teach us about love and life?


1. Human needs

People have five needs:Erich Fromm - Psychology, Love and Life

  • relatedness (to love yourself, other people and nature).
  • transcendence (to be creative and fulfilled).
  • rootedness (to have values and customs from your past and a belief in a better future).
  • identity  (to have respect as a person).
  • orientation  (to give your life purpose).


Erich Fromm - Psychology, Love and Life

2. The courage to be human

You must:

  • fight to be a good and kind person with a “humanistic conscience” that tells you to help others.
  • do something worthwhile (what Fromm called “productive work”).
  • have a “democratic conscience” i.e. decide what’s right for yourself.

Fromm rejected an “autocratic conscience”, where somebody else tells you what’s right (as in religion).

The problem is that “man is dead”, he says, because people’s lives are so meaningless.


3. Love

Love (or “mature love”) is an attitude, not an emotion and involves:

  • care (doing things for others with patient self-sacrifice).
  • responsibility (for others). Erich Fromm - Psychology, Love and Life
  • knowledge (of what others truly want and need).
  • respect (for others' opinions, beliefs and preferences).

So mature love isn’t falling in love but involves:

  • self-sacrifice and hard work.
  • self-respect and listening (to others and your inner self).
  • courage (to take risks and avoid painful disappointment)
  • equal partnership (not domination).
  • long-term commitment and patience.

You must give time to yourself as well as other people.

“If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too”, Fromm said.


4. Develop the positive side of your character

Every trait of your character has a positive and negative side.

You are a better person, if you concentrate on the positive. For example:Erich Fromm - Psychology, Love and Life

 Positive   Negative
 Devoted  Submissive
 Open-minded  Unprincipled
 Idealistic  Unrealistic
 Trusting  Gullible
 Self-confident  Arrogant
 Initiative taking  Aggressive
 Cautious  Anxious
 Tenacious  Stubborn
 Tolerant  Indifferent


5. FreedomErich Fromm - Psychology, Love and Life

You must:

  • be your own person - do what you want, not what other people tell you. 
  • question everything.
  • be ruled by your conscience - conscience and loving others are the only restrictions on your freedom.


6. Concentrate on “being” not “having”

In his 1976 book, To Have or To Be?, Fromm says that what we are within ourselves and how we love others (being) is much more important than the things we possess (having).

If you concentrate on money and possessions, you will be continually worried about holding on to them and this will ruin your relationships.

So:Erich Fromm - Psychology, Love and Life

  • live simply (with modest needs).
  • put love before money.

If your possessions are your life, you’ll be nothing if you lose them.


7. Control your own destiny

You, and nobody else, are responsible for your life.


  • work hard to make the most of your potential - find better ways of living.
  • be creative - don't imitate others.
  • stretch yourself - have the courage to leave your comfort zone. 


8. Make the world a better place

People’s needs should be put first, so they must be spiritually fulfilled in a “sane society” through:Erich Fromm - Psychology, Love and Life

  • a good education.
  • meaningful work.
  • participation in politics.
  • a sense of community.
  • “healthy consumption” (with less greed and materialism and more concern for the environment).



Key quotes on relationships

Love is an attitude.

Immature love says ‘I love you because I need you’. Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you’.

If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too.

Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either.



Key quotes on management

Respect...implies the absence of exploitation.

To respect a person is not possible without knowing him.


Key quote on peace of mind

Busyness is the means to protect one from the torture of being in the land of  shadows


Key quote on creativity

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.


Key quotes on happiness

If I am what I have and what I have is lost, who am I?

Man always dies before he is fully born.


Key quote on objectives and vision

Man’s main task is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.


Key quote on ethics

Our moral problem is man’s indifference to himself.


Key quote on society

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.


Key quote on assertiveness

Live by yes and no - yes to everything good, no to everything bad. 


Key quote on marketing

Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want.


Key quote on learning and wisdom

The truth of a thing or idea is its meaning.


Key quote on success

The great use of a life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.

Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books