Mechanisms of Escape

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Because basic anxiety produces a frightening sense of isolation and aloneness, people attempt to flee from freedom through a variety of escape mechanisms, hi Escape from Freedom, Fromm (1941) identified three primary mechanisms of escape—authoritarianism, destructiveness, and conformity. Unlike Horney's neurotic trends (see Chapter 6), Fromm's mechanisms of escape are the driving forces in normal people, both individually and collectively.

Authoritarianism

Fromm (1941) defined authoritarianism as the "tendency to give up the independence of one's own individual self and to fuse one's self with somebody or something outside oneself, in order to acquire the strength which the individual is lacking"

Chapter 7 Fromm: Humanistic Psychoanalysis 195

(p. 141). This need to unite with a powerful partner can take one of two forms— masochism and sadism. Masochism results from basic feelings of powerlessness, weakness, and inferiority and is aimed at joining the self to a more powerful person or institution. Masochistic strivings often are disguised as love or loyalty, but unlike love and loyalty, they can never contribute positively to independence and authenticity.

Compared with masochism, sadism is more neurotic and more socially harmful. Like masochism, sadism is aimed at reducing basic anxiety through achieving unity with another person or persons. Fromm (1941) identified tlnee kinds of sadistic tendencies, all more or less clustered together. The first is the need to make others dependent on oneself and to gain power over those who are weak. The second is the compulsion to exploit others, to take advantage of them, and to use them for ones benefit or pleasure. A third sadistic tendency is the desire to see others suffer, either physically or psychologically.

Destructiveness

Like authoritarianism, destructiveness is rooted in the feelings of aloneness, isolation, and powerlessness. Unlike sadism and masochism, however, destructiveness does not depend on a continuous relationship with another person; rather, it seeks to do away with other people.

Both individuals and nations can employ destructiveness as a mechanism of escape. By destroying people and objects, a person or a nation attempts to restore lost feelings of power. However, by destroying other persons or nations, destructive people eliminate much of the outside world and thus acquhe a type of perverted isolation.

Conformity

A third means of escape is conformity. People who conform try to escape from a sense of aloneness and isolation by giving up their individuality and becoming whatever other people desire them to be. Thus, they become like robots, reacting predictably and mechanically to the whims of others. They seldom express their own opinion, cling to expected standards of behavior, and often appear stiff and automated.

People in the modern world are free from many external bonds and are free to act according to then own will, but at the same time, they do not know what they want, think, or feel. They conform like automatons to an anonymous authority and adopt a self that is not authentic. The more they conform, the more powerless they feel; the more powerless they feel, the more they must conform. People can break this cycle of conformity and powerlessness only by achieving self-realization or positive freedom (Fromm, 1941).

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