The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.
In The Fear of Freedom , Erich Fromm warns that the price of community is indeed high, and it is the individual who pays. He leaves a vastly increased understanding of the human character in relation to society.
Is freedom a psychological problem?
These are the outstanding questions that arise when we look at the human aspect of freedom, the longing for submission, and the lust for power:
What is freedom as a human experience? Is the desire for freedom something inherent in human nature? Is it an identical experience regardless of what kind of culture a person lives in, or is it something different according to the degree of individualism reached in a particular society? Is freedom only the absence of external pressure or is it also the presence of something–and if so, of what? What are the social and economic factors in society that make for the striving for freedom? Can freedom become a burden, too heavy for man to bear, something he tries to escape from? Why then is it that freedom is for many a cherished goal and for others a thread?
Is there not also, perhaps, besides an innate desire for freedom, an instinctive wish for submission? If there is not, how can we account for the attraction which submission to a leader has for so many to-day? Is submission always to an overt authority, or is there also submission to internalized authorities, such as duty or conscience, to inner compulsions or to anonymous authorities like public opinion? Is there a hidden satisfaction in submitting, and what is the essence?
What is it that creates in men an insatiable lust for power? Is it the strength of their vital energy–or is it a fundamental weakness and inability to experience life spontaneously and lovingly? What are the psychological conditions that make for the strength of these strivings? What are the social conditions upon which such psychological conditions in turn are based?
Existentialist Jen Paul Sartre claimed that because there is no God, we are condemned to be free. But such freedom can be quite daunting, and leads to feelings of abandonment, despair, and forlorness. How can the frightned individual escape?
Erich Fromm presents the mechanisms of escape, which result from the insecurity of the isolated individual
Once the primary bonds which gave security to the individual are severed, once the individual faces the world outside himself as a completely separate entity, two courses are open to him since he has to overcome the unbearable state of powerlessness and aloneness.
By one course he can progress to ‘positive freedom’; he can relate himself spontaneously to the world in love and work, in the genuine expression of his emotional, sensuous, and intellectual capacities; he can thus become one again with man, nature and himself, without giving up the independence and integrity of his individual self.
The other course open to him is to fall back, to give up his freedom, and to try to overcome his aloneness by eliminating the gap that has arisen between his individual self and the world. This second course never reunites him with the world in the way he has related to it before he merged as an ‘individual’, for the fact of his separateness cannot be reversed; it is an escape from an unbearable situation which would make life impossible if it were prolonged. This course of escape, therefore, is characterized by its compulsive character, like every escape from threatening panic; it is also characterized by the more or less complete surrender of individuality and the integrity of the self. Thus it is not a solution which leads to happiness and positive freedom; it is, in principle, a solution which is to be found in all neurotic phenomena. I assuages an unbearable anxiety and makes life possible by avoiding panic; yet it does not solve the underlying problem and is paid for by a kind of life that often consists only of automatic or compulsive activities.
Complement it with Erich Fromm On The Art Of Loving. It’s about his most famous book The Art of Loving, which recapitulated and complemented the theoretical principles of human nature found in Escape from Freedom and Man for Himself