Sense of Identity

The fourth human need is for a sense of identity, or the capacity to be aware of ourselves as a separate entity. Because we have been torn away from nature, we need to form a concept of our self, to be able to say, "I am I", or "I am the subject of my actions." Fromm (1981) believed that primitive people identified more closely with then clan and did not see themselves as individuals existing apart from their group. Even during medieval thnes, people were identified largely by then social role in the feudal hierarchy. In agreement with Marx, Fromm believed that the rise of capitalism has given people more economic and political freedom. However, this freedom has given only a minority of people a true sense of "I." The identity of most people still resides in their attachment to others or to institutions such as nation, religion, occupation, or social group.

Instead of the pre-individnalistic clan identity, a new herd identity develops in which the sense of identity rests on the sense of an unquestionable belonging to the crowd. That this uniformity and conformity are often not recognized as such, and are covered by the illusion of individuality, does not alter the facts, (p. 9)

Without a sense of identity, people could not retahi then sanity, and this tlneat provides a powerful motivation to do almost anything to acquire a sense of identity. Neurotics try to attach themselves to powerful people or to social or political institutions. Healthy people, however, have less need to conform to the herd, less

Chapter 7 Fromm: Humanistic Psychoanalysis 193

need to give up their sense of self. They do not have to surrender then freedom and individuality in order to fit into society because they possess an authentic sense of identity.

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