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The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm Read Online (FREE)

In this development from mother-centered to father-centered attachment, and their eventual synthesis, lies the basis for mental health and the achievement of maturity. In the failure of this development lies the basic cause for neurosis. While it is beyond the scope of this book to develop this trend of thought more fully, some brief remarks may serve to clarify this statement.

One cause for neurotic development can lie in the fact that a boy has a loving, but overindulgent or domineering mother, and a weak and uninterested father. In this case he may remain fixed at an early mother attachment, and develop into a person who is dependent on mother, feels helpless, has the strivings characteristic of the receptive person, that is, to receive, to be protected, to be taken care of, and who has a lack of fatherly qualities—discipline, independence, an ability to master life by himself. He may try to find “mothers” in everybody, sometimes in women and sometimes in men in a position of authority and power. If, on the other hand, the mother is cold, unresponsive and domineering, he may either transfer the need for motherly protection to his father, and subsequent father figures—in which case the end result is similar to the former case—or he will develop into a one-sidedly father-oriented person, completely given to the principles of law, order and authority, and lacking in the ability to expect or to receive unconditional love. This development is further intensified if the father is authoritarian and at the same time strongly attached to the son. What is characteristic of all these neurotic developments is the fact that one principle, the fatherly or the motherly, fails to develop or—and this is the case in the more severe neurotic development—that the roles of mother and father become confused both with regard to persons outside and with regard to these roles within the person. Further examination may show that certain types of neurosis, like obsessional neurosis, develop more on the basis of a one-sided {046} father attachment, while others, like hysteria, alcoholism, inability to assert oneself and to cope with life realistically, and depressions, result from mother-centeredness.

3. The Objects of Love
Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism. Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty. In fact, they even believe that it is a proof of the intensity of their love when they do not love anybody except the “loved” person. This is the same fallacy which we have already mentioned above. Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object—and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to that of a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object, and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it. If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say, “I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself.”