The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

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Title The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
Publication Type Book
Pub Year 1973
Authors Fromm, E.
Publisher Penguin Books, London
Keywords control, false self, group narcissism, humiliation, power, psychic vampirism
Notes power, control"Power can mean power over people, or it can mean power to do things...Many writers, unfortunately, make use of this ambiguous meaning of the words 'power' and 'control', and in order to smuggle in the praise of 'power over' they identify it with 'power to'. Moreover, lack of control does not mean lack of any kind of organization, but only of those kinds in which the control is exploitative and the controlled cannot control the controllers." (p. 394) "Being powerless and hence in danger of being enslaved, or having power and hence in danger of becoming dehumanized, are two evils. Which is to be shunned the most is a matter of religious and moral or political conviction." (p. 395) group narcissism"Those whose narcissism refers to their group rather than to themselves as individuals are as sensitive as the individual narcissist, and they react with rage to any wound, real or imaginary, inflicted upon their group. If anything, they react more intensely and certainly more consciously. An individual, unless he is mentally very sick, may have at least some doubts about his personal narcissistic image. The member of the group has none, since his narcissism is shared by the majority." (p. 231) false self"The individual loses his active, responsible role in the social process; he becomes completely 'adjusted' and learns that any behavior, act, thought, or feeling which does not fit into the general scheme puts him at a severe disadvantage; in fact he is what is is supposed to be. If he insists on being himself, he risks, in police states, his freedom or even his life; in some democracies, he risks not being promoted, or more rarely, he risks even his job, and perhaps most importantly, he risks feeling isolated, without communication with anybody." (p. 53) humiliation, psychic vampirism"On the other hand, the psychic pain can be as intense or even more so than the physical. I do not need to give examples for this mental sadism. Parents inflict it on their children, professors on their students, superiors on their inferiors--in other words, it is employed in any situation where there is someone who cannot defend himself against the sadist. (If the teacher is helpless, the students often turn into sadists.) Mental sadism may be disguised in many seemingly harmless ways: a question, a smile, a confusing remark. Who does not know an 'artist' in this kind of sadism, the one who finds just the right word or the right gesture to embarass or humiliate another in this innocent way. Naturally, this kind of sadism is often all the more effective if the humiliation is inflicted in front of others." (p. 318)
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