📙 The Art of Loving
Author: Erich Fromm
Full Title: The Art of Loving
The experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is, indeed, the source of all anxiety.
The deepest need of man, then, is the need to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness.
This Desire for interpersonal fusion is the most powerful striving in man. It is the most fundamental passion, it is the force which keeps the human race together, the clan, the Family, society.
In contrast to symbiotic union, mature love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. Love is an active power in man; 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.
One of the most significant expressions of Love, and especially of marriage with this alienated structure, is the idea of the “team.” In any number of articles on happy marriage, the ideal described is that of the smoothly functioning team.
All this kind of relationship amounts to is the well‑oiled relationship between two persons who remain strangers all their lives, who never arrive at a “central relationship,” but who treat each other with courtesy and who attempt to make each other feel better.
In this concept of Love and marriage the main emphasis is on finding a refuge from an otherwise unbearable sense of aloneness. In “love” one has found, at last, a haven from aloneness. One forms an alliance of two against the world, and this egoism à deux is mistaken for love and intimacy.
Just as it is customary for people to believe that pain and sadness should be avoided under all circumstances, they believe that Love means the absence of any conflict.
Real conflicts between two people, those which do not serve to cover up or to project, but which are experienced on the deep level of inner reality to which they belong, are not destructive. They lead to clarification, they produce a catharsis from which both persons emerge with more knowledge and more strength.
Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence, hence if each one of them experiences himself from the center of his existence.
Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together; even whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than by fleeing from themselves.
Erich Fromm's 1956 book 📙 The Art of Loving starts with the basic impulse to join together as fundamental to human life.