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

Furthermore the withdrawal results in the development of intense anxiety, a feeling of not being firmly grounded in the world, and often leads to masochistic tendencies as the only way to experience intense excitement. Often such women would prefer having the husband make a scene and shout, to his maintaining a more normal and sensible behavior, because at least it would take away the burden of tension and fear from them; not so rarely they unconsciously provoke such behavior, in order to end the tormenting suspense of affective neutrality.

Other frequent forms of irrational love are described in the following paragraphs, without going into an analysis of the specific factors in childhood development which are at their roots:

A form of pseudo-love which is not infrequent and is often experienced (and more often described in moving pictures and novels) as the “great love” is idolatrous love. If a person has not reached the level where he has a sense of identity, of I-ness, rooted in the productive unfolding of his own powers, he tends to “idolize” the loved person. He is alienated from his own powers and projects them into the loved person, who is worshiped as the summum bonum, the bearer of all love, all light, all bliss. In this process he deprives himself of all sense of strength, loses himself in the loved one instead of finding himself. Since usually no person can, in the long run, live up to the expectations of her (or his) idolatrous worshiper, disappointment is bound to occur, and as a remedy a new idol is sought for, sometimes in an unending circle. What is characteristic for this type of idolatrous love is, at the beginning, the intensity and suddenness of the love experience. This idolatrous love is often described as the true, great love; but while it is meant to portray the intensity and depth of love, it only demonstrates the hunger and despair of the idolator. Needless to say it is not rare that two persons find each other in a mutual idolatry which, sometimes, in extreme cases, represents the picture of a folie à deux.

Another form of pseudo-love is what may be called “sentimental love.” Its essence lies in the fact that love is experienced only in phantasy and not in the here—and—now relationship to another person who is real. The most widespread form of this type of love is that to be found in the vicarious love satisfaction experienced by the consumer of screen pictures, magazine love stories and love songs. All the unfulfilled desires for love, union, and closeness find their satisfaction in the consumption of these products. A man and a woman who in relation to their spouses are incapable of ever penetrating the wall of separateness, are moved to tears when they participate in the happy or unhappy love story of the couple on the screen. For many couples, seeing these stories on the screen is the only occasion on which they experience love—not for each other, but together, as spectators of other people’s “love.” As long as love is a daydream, they can participate; as soon as it comes down to the reality of the relationship between two real people—they are frozen.