Incestuous Symbiosis

A third pathological orientation is incestuous symbiosis, or an extreme dependence on the mother or mother surrogate. Incestuous symbiosis is an exaggerated form of the more common and more benign mother fixation. Men with a mother fixation need a woman to care for them, dote on them, and admire them; they feel somewhat anxious and depressed when their needs are not fulfilled. This condition is relatively normal and does not greatly hiterfere with then daily life.

With incestuous symbiosis, however, people are inseparable from the host person; their personalities are blended with the other person and their individual

200 Part II Psychodynamic Theories identities are lost. Incestuous symbiosis originates in infancy as a natural attachment to the mothering one. The attachment is more crucial and fundamental than any sexual interest that may develop dining the Oedipal period. Fromm agreed more with Harry Stack Sullivan (see Chapter 8) than with Freud hi suggesting that attachment to the mother rests on the need for security and not for sex. "Sexual strivings are not the cause of the fixation to mother, but the result" (Fromm, 1964, p. 99).

People living in hicestuous symbiotic relationships feel extremely anxious and frightened if that relationship is threatened. They believe that they cannot live without then mother substitute. (The host need not be another human—it can be a family, a business, a church, or a nation.) The hicestuous orientation distorts reasoning powers, destroys the capacity for authentic love, and prevents people from achieving independence and integrity.

Some pathology individuals possess all tlnee personality disorders; that is, they are attracted to death (necrophilia), take pleasure in destroyhig those whom they regard as hiferiors (malignant narcissism), and possess a neurotic symbiotic relationship with then mother or mother substitute (hicestuous symbiosis). Such people formed what Fromm called the syndrome of decay. He contrasted these pathological people with those who are marked by the syndrome of growth, which is made up of the opposite qualities: namely, biophilia, love, and positive freedom. As shown in Figure 7.1, both the syndrome of decay and the syndrome of growth are extreme forms of development; most people have average psychological health.

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