The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm Read Online (FREE)
When the child grows and develops, he becomes capable of perceiving things as they are; the satisfaction in being fed becomes differentiated from the nipple, the breast from the mother. Eventually the child experiences his thirst, the satisfying milk, the breast and the mother, as different entities. He learns to perceive many other things as being different, as having an existence of their own. At this point he learns to give them names. At the same time he learns to handle them; learns that fire is hot and painful, that mother’s body is warm and pleasureful, that wood is hard and heavy, that paper is light and can be torn. He learns how to handle people; that mother will smile when I eat; that she will take me in her arms when I cry; that she will praise me when I have a bowel movement. All these experiences become crystallized and integrated in the experience: I am loved. I am loved because I am mother’s child. I am loved because I am helpless. I am loved because I am beautiful, admirable. I am loved because mother needs me. To put it in a more general formula: I am loved for what I am, or perhaps more accurately, I am loved because I am. This experience of being loved by mother is a passive one. There is nothing I have to do in order to be loved—mother’s love is unconditional. All I have to do is to be—to be her child. Mother’s love is bliss, is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. But there is a negative side, too, to the unconditional quality of mother’s love. Not only does it not need to be deserved—it also cannot be acquired, produced, controlled. If it is there, it is like a blessing; if it is not there, it is as if all beauty had gone out of life—and there is nothing I can do to create it.
For most children before the age from eight and a half to ten, the problem is almost exclusively that of being loved—of being loved for what one is. The child up to this age does not yet love; he responds gratefully, joyfully to being loved. At this point of the child’s development a new factor enters into the picture: that of a new feeling of producing love by one’s own activity. For the first time, the child thinks of giving something to mother (or to father), of producing something—a poem, a drawing, or whatever it may be. For the first time in the child’s life the idea of love is transformed from being loved into loving; into creating love. It takes many years from this first beginning to the maturing of love. Eventually the child, who may now be an adolescent, has overcome his egocentricity; the other person is not any more primarily a means to the satisfaction of his own needs. The needs of the other person are as important as his own—in fact, they have become more important. To give has become more satisfactory, more joyous, than to receive; to love, more important even than being loved. By loving, he has left the prison cell of aloneness and isolation which was constituted by the state of narcissism and self-centeredness. He feels a sense of new union, of sharing, of oneness. More than that, he feels the potency of producing love by loving—rather than the dependence of receiving by being loved—and for that reason having to be small, helpless, sick—or “good.” Infantile love follows the principle: “I love because I am loved.” Mature love follows the principle: “I am loved because I love.” Immature love says: “I love you because I need you.” Mature love says: “I need you because I love you.”