The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm – 60 Years on, Still a Game Changer

I was lucky enough to come across Erich Fromm’s “The Art of Loving” when I was 17, and I dare say, this book has shaped my entire life. To me, it’s the ultimate must-read, and that’s why I’m reviewing it here.

Why the Book Is Such an Eye-Opener

Most of us grow up thinking that loving someone is just something you do, without even thinking about it. Most of the time, you love your family members and friends, and as you progress through your life, you meet and come to love other people too. It just happens, right?

Wrong. According to this amazing book, loving is an art form, a skill we have to acquire. For us to have enduring relationships, we have to master the art of loving. This takes time, effort, and patience as well as a whole load of self-examination.

The Author – Erich Fromm

Born in 1900, Fromm had a difficult childhood as his mother was prone to depression and his father to volatility. His parents were orthodox Jews, however, as a young adult, Fromm came to reject all religion and decided to become an artist. Initially, he studied legal sciences, before eventually pursuing his deep interest in the human psyche and studying psychology. The horrors of World War I had a major impact on him, leaving him at somewhat of a loss as to why people could wage wars.

Forced to flee during the Nazi regime, Fromm took a post at Columbia University and later lectured at Yale. He quickly became a prolific figure in academic circles and found himself at odds with Freud and his followers. Fromm argued that Freud’s theories were inconsistent which earned him a lot of criticism from proponents of Freudian psychology.

One of his most dominant influencers was Karl Marx whose communist ideas he largely supported. However, in his 1952 book “The Sane Society”, Fromm rejected both Soviet communism as well as Western capitalism.

His most renowned books include:

  • The Art of Loving (1956)
  • Marx’s Concept of Man (1961)
  • Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud (1962)
  • The Dogma of Christ, and Other Essays on Religion, Psychology and Culture (1963)
  • The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1963)
  • The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973)
  • To Have or To Be (1976)

Fromm died of a heart attack in Switzerland in 1980.


The Art of Loving

The book is divided into two sections, the theory of love and love in practice. In the theory section, Fromm examines the different types of love including, self-love, love of God, love of your neighbour, erotic love, and love between parents and children. He outlines the differences as well as how each type of love distinguishes itself. As you read, aspects of love become apparent that you may never have considered before. Love truly becomes an art form worth mastering.

Fromm also writes an entire chapter on how Western societies have distorted the idea and practice of love. In his opinion, our concept of love is all but too fluffy and lacks real depth and commitment.

By the end of the theory section, you will have grasped that there is so much more to loving than that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you think of a loved one.

Fromm then continues to outline how we can master the art of love. For Fromm, one can only truly love someone by embracing the following active forms of love:

  • Knowing
  • Responding
  • Respecting
  • Caring

So to love someone you need to know them, be prepared to respond to them and their needs, respect them as individuals, and be willing to actively care for them.


Love as The Only Answer to Humanity’s Feeling of Separateness

Fromm sees the prime issue facing humanity as a sense of separateness each an every individual experiences. Because people yearn to overcome this separation, we engage in relationships, at times constructive and sometimes destructive.

Essentially, Fromm considers true love, the art of loving in its real sense, to provide the only meaningful answer to this often painful sense of separateness.

Living the Art of Loving

If you were to take on board the message of this book, you’d make a conscious decision to prioritise love and make it your life’s predominant foundation. By making a true commitment to practising the skill of loving and choosing love as a road map, life takes on an entirely different dynamic.

Relationships become the central focus along with all the individuals you get to encounter throughout your life.

This book is well worth reading. If you’ve read it, let me know whether it has changed your life as it did mine.

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