Erich Fromm es muy conocido por sus escritos de divulgación interdisciplinaria que tienen origen en su formación como sociólogo, pero fusionando ideas de la filosofía, psicología y económicas (“Psychology cannot be divorced from philosophy and ethics nor from sociology and economics”). Además, Fromm fue un psicoanalista que desde el contexto de la Escuela de Frankfurt y luego a caballo entre USA y México relanzó el psicoanálisis más allá del determinismo intrapsíquico freudiano hacia un ámbito interpersonal y relacional:
The fundamental approach to human personality is the understanding of man’s relation to the world, to others, to nature, and to himself. We believe that man is primarily a social being, and not, as Freud assumes, primarily self-sufficient and only secondarily in need of others in order to satisfy his instinctual needs. In this sense, we believe that individual psychology is fundamentally social psychology, or in Sullivan’s terms, the psychology of interpersonal relationships.
I believe, indeed, that we have everything inside us, not only in the sense that we are all human and that there is nothing human which is alien to us, because there is nothing human which is not in us, from the child, to the criminal, to the insane person, to the saint, to the average person. I would say, we are also aware of all that, but at the same time we are not aware; we sense it. This one of the reasons why pointing to reality—which, in my way of thinking means the same—has such a peculiar effect on people. Because the truth touches only upon something one knows, and once this chord is touched one almost cannot help responding.
[...] There is a very interesting Jewish Talmudic myth about this, which says that before the child is born, it knows everything, but to be born with this knowledge would be so painful that out of mercy an angel touches the child and does away with all his knowledge. What I say here corresponds pretty much to this myth. Unconsciously we know everything and yet we do not, because it is indeed very painful to know and at the same time there is nothing more exhilarating, which do not even exclude pain, than to know, than to be in touch with reality.
[...] You do not understand a person unless you know that life is paradoxical, and therefore that you have to think paradoxically in order to understand it. A few examples: I can make the statement: “I am unique. I am as unique as my fingerprints are unique. There is no other human being, nor has there ever been or will be anyone like me”. I can make the statement: “I am you, I am everything, there is no individuality, no uniqueness in me at all”. If you would make these statements by saying: in some respects I am unique and in others I am not, then of course you have no truly paradoxical statement. This statement fits very well, with Aristotelian
logic, because you do not really contradict yourself. You say: “Here I am unique, here I am not”. The statement which I am making here is meant in a paradoxical sense. It is not so much a matter of statement, but of experience. Do I experience myself, at the same time, (and the same subject, I,) as completely unique, and as completely not unique—as completely as “I” and as completely as that which I share with every human being and to some extent with any living being: with a fly, or with a flower; namely, the quality of life in me? Do I experience both aspects of my life, or don’t I?
Our consciousness, our awareness, is greatly influenced by Aristotelian logic. It is very difficult to experience a reality which can be experienced only in paradoxical terms. What we tend to do is to separate the two poles of the paradox, and then to feel either one. We are either completely unique; or we feel like the Christian mystics often felt, I am nobody, I have no individuality, I do not exist and I am completely dissolved in God or in mankind; or as a profoundly masochistic or submissive person may feel, who has no sense of individuality. As soon as in any polarity we separate
the two poles, the same thing happens—if I may use a simple analogy—as when you have a positive and negative pole of electricity. If they are at a certain distance, you will have a spark. If you separate them completely, there is no spark, and if there is no distance at all there is no spark either, the current will just flow through.
I do believe that with regard to the basic facts of life, we have to live in the paradox, and we have to think in the paradox, if we want to understand life.
Another example where we deal with a paradox is the factor of time in analysis. Actually, you or I can wake up, can break through the defenses, any minute, right now, and it may take years. Experientially, there is a paradoxical attitude, i.e. I expect that it may happen right now, and I expect it will take years. But if you separate the two poles, if you assume logically that it will take many years, then you will not expect it to happen right now. If on the other hand, you are convinced it will happen right now, you will be terribly disappointed tomorrow if it has not happened.
The question is of inner experience: of being able to feel both attitudes at the same time in spite of the fact that they are contradictory. Also the next example has to do with the attitude toward the patient: For any person whom one really understands or tries to understand, one has a feeling of responsibility. I am responsible for you, because once I get close enough to you, you might say: “You are my brother”, and I am indeed my brother’s keeper. But, at the same time, with equal truth I have to say: “I am not responsible for you at all. You are responsible for yourself; God may be responsible for you, your genes may be responsible for you, the whole universe may be responsible for you, but not me”. But, again, this is a paradox, which one has to experience, because if you tear the two sides apart, then you either feel guilty and you feel an unrealistic responsibility, or you feel irresponsible. In fact you can hardly help anybody; you will only harm him if you only feel responsibility. If you feel only irresponsibility, then you are indifferent and cannot help either. The attitude I am
talking about is again to live in the paradox that both statements—I am responsible, I am not responsible—are equally true, and I live in this, and with this contradiction.
I could give many more examples of such paradoxes, but I will not do that. All I want to do really is to make this point clear, which in our Western thinking is very difficult to grasp fully. This is so strange to us: the true experience of two contradictory facts, two contradictory statements, and the capacity or the willingness to live with these contradictions, and not to think that because they are contradictions, they cannot be true, or cannot be real.
De BEING CENTRALLY RELATED TO THE PATIENT