150 Quotes by Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm, a German-American psychoanalyst and social psychologist, is known for his contributions to the field of human psychology and his exploration of the relationship between individuals and society. Fromm's writings often centered on themes of human freedom, identity, and the effects of consumer culture on psychological well-being. His book "Escape from Freedom" examined the psychological factors that contribute to conformity, authoritarianism, and the need for social connection.

Fromm's humanistic approach to psychology emphasized the importance of personal growth, self-awareness, and the pursuit of meaningful connections with others. His work continues to influence discussions on the intersection of psychology, philosophy, and sociology, providing valuable insights into the complexities of the human experience.

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Erich Fromm Quotes


I need you because I love you. (Meaning)

Creativity is the ability to see and to respond. (Quote Meaning)

Education is helping the child realise his potentialities. (Meaning)

I have learnt to appreciate the clarity of English language. (Quote Meaning)

If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I? (Meaning)

To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable. (Quote Meaning)

Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.' Mature love says 'I need you because I love you.' (Meaning)

Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.

Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.

Many psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of 'unadjusted' individuals, and not of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself.

It takes a moment to tell someone you love them, but it takes a lifetime to prove it.

Respect is not fear and awe; it is the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality. Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me.

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Love isn't something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn't a feeling, it is a practice.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. (Quote Meaning)

Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality. (Meaning)

The lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness.

Well-being is possible to the degree to which one has overcome one's narcissism; to the degree to which one is open, responsive, sensitive, awake, empty.... Well-being means, finally, to drop one's Ego, to give up greed, to cease chasing after preservation and the aggrandizement of the Ego, to be and to experience one's self in the act of being, not in having, preserving, coveting, using.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane. (Quote Meaning)

The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity. (Meaning)

If other people do not understand our behavior-so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being 'asocial' or 'irrational' in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them.

The scars left from the child's defeat in the fight against irrational authority are to be found at the bottom of every neurosis.

Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be. Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.

Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. (Quote Meaning)

The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother's side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.

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To love somebody is not just a strong feeling - it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.

Alienation as we find it in modern society is almost total… Man has created a world of man-made things as it never existed before. He has constructed a complicated social machine to administer the technical machine he built. The more powerful and gigantic the forces are which he unleashes, the more powerless he feels himself as a human being. He is owned by his creations, and has lost ownership of himself.

True love is like a pair of socks: you gotta have two and they've gotta match.

The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers. (Meaning)

To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.

Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either.

When people can't handle God any more, they turn to religion.

Most people die before they are fully born. Creativeness means to be born before one dies. (Quote Meaning)

Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.

Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies. (Meaning)

The affirmation of one's own life, happiness, growth and freedom, is rooted in one's capacity to love.

People do not see that the main question is not : "Am I loved?" which is to a large extent the question : "Am I approved of? Am I protected? Am I admired?" The main question is: "Can I love?

Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one's capacity to love. Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable.

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots. (Quote Meaning)

As long as anyone believes that his ideal and purpose is outside him, that it is above the clouds, in the past or in the future, he will go outside himself and seek fulfillment where it cannot be found. He will look for solutions and answers at every point except where they can be found- in himself.

Happiness does not exclude sadness - if a person responds to life, he's sometimes happy and sometimes sad. What matters is he responds.

To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness. (Meaning)

A society whose principles are acquisition, profit, and property produces a social character oriented around having, and once the dominant pattern is established, nobody wants to be an outsider, or indeed an outcast; in order to avoid this risk everybody adapts to the majority, who have in common only their mutual antagonism.

If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to all others, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.

As we ascend the social ladder, viciousness wears a thicker mask.

There is nothing of which we are more ashamed than of not being ourselves. And there is nothing which brings us greater joy and happiness than to think, feel, and say what is ours.

I believe that love is the main key to open the doors to the "growth" of man. Love and union with someone or something outside of oneself, union that allows one to put oneself into relationship with others, to feel one with others, without limiting the sense of integrity and independence. Love is a productive orientation for which it is essential that there be present at the same time: concern, responsibility, and respect for and knowledge of the object of the union.

Giving is the highest expression of potency.

Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.

Hate is a product of the unfulfilled life.

The deepest need of the human being is to overcome our separateness, to leave the prison of our loneliness.

The whole life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself; indeed, we should be fully born when we die.

The aim of life is to be fully born, though its tragedy is that most of us die before we are thus born.

An illusion shared by everyone becomes a reality.

Every act of irreverence for life, every act which neglects life, which is indifferent to and wastes life, is a step towards the love of death. This choice man must make at every minute. Never were the consequences of the wrong choice as total and as irreversible as they are today. Never was the warning of the Bible so urgent: 'I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life, that you and your children may live.'

The hoarders, who are anxiously worried about losing something, are, psychologically speaking, the poor impoverished people, regardless of how much they have. Whoever is capable of giving of themselves is rich.

Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love. (Quote Meaning)

We are not on the way to greater individualism, but are becoming an increasingly manipulated mass civilization.

Care and responsibility are constituent elements of love, but without respect for and knowledge of the beloved person, love deteriorates into domination and possessiveness.

One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often. (Meaning)

We try to evade the question of existence with property, prestige, power, possession, production, fun, and, ultimately, by trying to forget that we- that I- exist. No matter how much he thinks of God or goes to church, or how much he believes in religious ideas , if he, the whole man, is deaf to the question of existence, if he does not have an answer to it, he is marking time, and he lives and dies like one of the million things he produces. He thinks of God, instead of experiencing God.

You have to stop in order to change direction.

Modern capitalism needs men who cooperate smoothly and in large numbers; who want to consume more and more; and whose tastes are standardized and can be easily influenced and anticipated ... what is the outcome? Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow man and from nature.

What are the conditions of the creative attitude, of seeing and responding, of being aware and being sensitive to what one is aware of? First of all it requires the capacity to be puzzled. Children still have the capacity to be puzzled. (Quote Meaning)

Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others.

Organized religion is in substance a mystification, a means of hiding the wickedness of the social system. If the Christian principles of love, equality, and freedom were really practiced instead of only preached, there would be no need for a special institution(the church) to take care of those principles.

Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?

Love is an act of faith. (Meaning)

The successful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal. (Quote Meaning)

There is undoubtedly a difference between people who manipulate other people and people who create things.

Education is identical with helping the child realize his potentialities. The opposite of education is manipulation, which is based on the absence of faith in the growth of potentialities and the connection that a child will be right only if the adults put into him what is desirable and suppress what seems to be undesirable.

Intellectuals are hindered on the way to being, by their narcissism.

To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.

Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar, and you'll live as you've never lived before.

The real opposition is that between the ego-bound man, whose existence is structured by the principle of having, and the free man, who has overcome his egocentricity.

Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want.

There can be no real freedom without the freedom to fail.

Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled; to concentrate; to accept conflict and tension; to be born everyday; to feel a sense of self.

A dream is a microscope through which we look at the hidden occurrences in our soul.

The duty to be alive is the same as the duty to become oneself, to develop into the individual one potentially is.

Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.

Freedom is the fundamental condition for any growth.

We are a society of notoriously unhappy people: lonely, anxious, depressed, destructive, dependent - people who are glad when we have killed the time we are trying so hard to save.

Mother's love is bliss, is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. If it is there, it is like a blessing; if it is not there it is as if all the beauty had gone out of life.

Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve. (Meaning)

The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one's narcissism. The narcissistic orientation is one in which one experiences as real only that which exists within oneself, while the phenomena in the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one. The opposite pole to narcissism is objectivity; it is the faculty to see other people and things as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one's desires and fears.

Man is the only animal that can be bored.

Our conscious motivations, ideas, and beliefs are a blend of false information, biases, irrational passions, rationalizations, prejudices, in which morsels of truth swim around and give the reassurance albeit false, that the whole mixture is real and true. The thinking processes attempt to organize this whole cesspool of illusions according to the laws of plausibility. This level of consciousness is supposed to reflect reality; it is the map we use for organizing our life.

Integrity simply means not violating one's own identity.

In times of change, learners inherit the earth

We talk a great deal about Russia today, and I'm afraid that in twenty years, we and Russia will be more similar than different.

While every human being has a capacity for love, its realization is one of the most difficult achievements.

Man does not only sell commodities, he sells himself and feels himself to be a commodity.

The only truly affluent are those who do not want more than they have. (Quote Meaning)

To live is to be born every minute. Death occurs when birth stops.

We live in a world of things, and our only connection with them is that we know how to manipulate or to consume them. (Meaning)

But not only medicine, engineering, and painting are arts; living itself is an art in fact, the most important and at the same time the most difficult and complex art to be practiced by man.

Integrity simply means a willingness not to violate one's identity, in the many ways in which such violation is possible.

The experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is, indeed, the source of all anxiety.

That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one's country which is not part of one's love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.

Independent of others and in concert with others, your main task in life is to do what you can best do and become what you can potentially be.

Equality today means ‘sameness’, rather than ‘oneness’.

Love is the only way of knowledge, which in the act of union answers my quest. In the act of loving, of giving myself, in the act of penetrating the other person, I find myself, I discover myself, I discover us both, I discover man.

In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two. (Quote Meaning)

There is only one meaning of life: the act of living itself.

Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.

Human history began as an act of disobedience, and it is not unlikely that it will be terminated by an act of obedience. At this point in history the capacity to doubt, to criticize and to disobey may be all that stands between a future for mankind and the end of civilization.

Love of others and love of ourselves are not alternatives. On the contrary, an attitude of love towards themselves will be found in all those who are capable of loving others.

Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much. (Meaning)

If it is a virtue to love my neighbor as a human being, it must be a virtue - and not a vice - to love myself, since I am a human being too.

Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.

The human passions transform man from a mere thing into a hero, into a being that in spite of tremendous handicaps tries to make sense of life.

Modern man thinks he loses something - time - when he does not do things quickly. Yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains, except kill it. (Meaning)

There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his powers. (Quote Meaning)

A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet 'for sale', who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence - briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing - cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society.

Love is the child of freedom, never that of domination.

Understanding a person does not mean condoning; it only means that one does not accuse him as if one were God or a judge placed above him.

People think that to love is simple, but that to find the right object to love - or to be loved by - is difficult.

Destructiveness is the outcome of an unlived life. (Meaning)

Power on the one side, fear on the other, are always the buttresses on which irrational authority is built.

The right to express our thoughts means something only if we are able to have thoughts of our own

Education makes machines which act like men and produces men who act like machines.

Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one's own self.

To be loved because of one's merit, because one deserves it, always leaves doubt; maybe I did not please the person whom I want to love me, maybe this, or that - there is always a fear that love could disappear.

If an individual is not on the path to transcending his society and seeing in what way it furthers or impedes the development of human potential, he cannot enter into intimate contact with his humanity.

Optimism is an alienated form of faith, pessimism an alienated form of despair.

A vast sector of modern advertising... does not appeal to reason but to emotion; like any other kind of hypnoid suggestion, it tries to impress its objects emotionally and then make them submit intellectually.

Boredom is nothing but the experience of a paralysis of our productive powers.

Freedom does not mean license. (Quote Meaning)

If I love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need him to be as an object for my use. Respect thus implies the absence of exploitation: it allows the other to be, to change and to develop 'in his own ways.' This requires a commitment to know the other as a separate being, and not merely as a reflection of my own ego. According to Velleman this loving willingness and ability to see the other as they really are is foregrounded in our willingness to risk self-exposure.

Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.

A new question has arisen in modern man's mind, the question, namely, whether life is worth living...No sensible answer can be given to the question...because the question does not make any sense.

Ideas become powerful only if they appear in the flesh; an idea which does not lead to action by the individual and by groups remains at best a paragraph or a footnote in a book.

The person who gives up his individual self and becomes an automaton, identical with millions of other automatons around him, need not feel alone and anxious any more. But the price he pays, however, is high; it is the loss of his self.

"Envy, jealousy, ambition, any kind of greed are passions; love is an action, the practice of human power, which can be practiced only in freedom and never as a result of compulsion.

Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a ""standing in,"" not a ""falling for."" In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving."

Man unites himself with the world in the process of creation.

One cannot fall in love, really; one has to be in love. (Meaning)

Happiness is a man's greatest achievement; it is the response of his total personality to a productive orientation toward himself and the world outside.

Is love an art? Then it requires knowledge and effort. (Quote Meaning)

The criterion of mental health is not one of individual adjustment to a given social order, but a universal one, valid for all men, of giving a satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.

Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions.

There is only one reality: the act of feeling ourselves in the process of making choices.

The most important influence on a child is the character of its parents, rather than this or that single event.

Love is the productive form of relatedness to others and to oneself. It implies responsibility, care, respect. If it isn't productive and respectful, it isn't love, but only fear masquerading as love.

I think our danger is that we talk one thing, and we feel and act another thing.

Exploitation and manipulation produce boredom and triviality; they cripple man, and all factors that make man into a psychic cripple turn him also into a sadist or a destroyer.

Love is a power which produces love.

Man is born as a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it. He has to find principles of action and decision-making which replace the principles of instincts.

I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself.

― Erich Fromm Quotes

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