True Individualism

In the twenty-first century, change is more constant than Democrats and Republicans disagreeing. Fads and trends are set, followed, and disappear as soon as they come. As a teenager, finding out who you are is difficult enough without the media pushing you to have this product, wear this brand, or groups in society persuading you that they have the best ideas and will do something great.

Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm was known for his ideas of being a true individual. As his works and ideas are further investigated, the question arises: can this be done? Can we, by Fromm's standards, become a true individual or are these just dream-like ideas? As compared to a work on government suggestions by Lao-Tzu, Erich Fromm's ideas are sustainable by a load of hard dedication to his words and ideas. Becoming a true individual is possible with tremendous amounts of studying Fromm's works to understand what he perceives as a true individual with humanistic freedom. 

In Fromm's work Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud the German born man gives his audience a bit of background. He writes about a beautiful female painter that had committed suicide to be with her own father in death. This incident struck the question which would haunt him on more than one occasion: "How is it possible?"

He goes on about his finding the truth of the First World War, in which originated most of his questions and curiosities. In The Individual in the Chains of Illusion, he addresses how the war provoked nationalism and "Nationalism killed humanism. The nation and its sovereignty became the new idols to which the individual succumbed." (Fromm/Jacobus 335) After the war, Fromm joined the American Socialist Party because, "I felt it to be my duty not to remain passive in a world which seems to be moving toward a self-chosen catastrophe.

I hasten to add that there was more to it than a sense of obligation. The more insane and dehumanized this world of ours seems to become, the more may an individual feel the need of being together and of working together with men and women who share one's human concerns. I certainly felt that need and have been grateful for the stimulating and encouraging companionship of those with whom I have had the good fortune of working." (Fromm 10) Fromm felt the need to work together with others to help delay the world from its 'self-chosen catastrophe.' 

Fromm believes in the 'One Man' "who transcends the narrow limits of his nation and who experiences every human being as a neighbor, rather than as a barbarian; a man who feels at home in the world." (Fromm/Jacobus 335) He explains how strangers are the outsiders of the neighbors in a group. He continues on the stranger, saying they are considered inhuman and barbarian-like. He refers to Buddha in A World of Ideas when he talks about the one man: "The Buddha thought of man as man, as men having the same structure, the same problems, and the same answers, without regard to culture and race." (333)

Fromm also writes about disobedience being "the first act of freedom." He views Adam and Eve's disobedience breaking their bond with nature, which made them individuals and giving them freedom. He says that if the world self-destructs, it will be because a man obeyed orders to destroy the world. This is in regards to his belief that if human history began with disobedience, obedience will cause the end of human history. (332-333) It seems as if Fromm sees an individual as one who accepts everyone as equally as himself and one who is not afraid to disobey laws.

With Fromm's beliefs concerning disobedience, it seems as if he thinks obedience is one of the reasons we do not have the freedom to be our individual self. Obedience and the act of forming groups and treating non-members like strangers. He begins explaining strangers as "the one who is not familiar through bonds of blood, customs, food, language," and is seen as dangerous. From the beginning of our lives as babies, we identify certain people or groups as strangers because we are attached to our mothers. In short, we can not help but be prejudice about people we are not familiar with. (Fromm/Jacobus 335)

Fromm also believes that we escape the freedom, or avoid the responsibility, that is required to be an individual (briefly mentioned earlier) because it is difficult and we are not used to being totally free. According to the Personality Theories website, Fromm believed we escaped the freedom by becoming a leader/follower or teacher/student, mentally blocking ourselves from the world or blocking the world from us, and by blending in with the crowd and society, referred to as a "social chameleon." (Boeree)