According to Dr. George Boeree, Eric Fromm’s father was a business man and according to Erich himself, a rather moody individual.
His mother was frequently depressed and his childhood wasn't very happy.
Fromm was born in Frankfurt, in 1900 and like Jung, Fromm came from a very religious family, in his case orthodox Jews. He later styled himself as an atheistic mystic.
In his autobiography, ‘Beyond the Chains of Illusion’, Fromm talks about two events in his early adolescence that started him along his path. The first involved a family friend.
She was around 25 years of age; beautifully attractive, and in addition a painter, the first painter he ever knew.
He remembered having heard that she had had a broken engagement; he also remembered that she was almost invariably in the company of her widowed father.
“As I remember him, he was an old, uninteresting, and rather unattractive man, or so I thought…Then one day I heard the shocking news: her father had died, and immediately afterwards, she had killed herself and left a will which stipulated that she wanted to be buried with her father.
This news hit the 12 year old Erich hard, and he found himself asking: Why? why? why?
Later, he began seeking answers -- partial ones, admittedly -- in Freud.
The second event was even larger: World War I.
At the tender age of 14, he saw the extremes that nationalism could go to.
All around him, he heard the message:
We (Germans, or more precisely, Christian Germans) are great;
They (the English and their allies) are cheap mercenaries.
The hatred, the "war hysteria," frightened him, as well it should.
So again he wanted to understand something irrational -- the irrationality of mass behaviour -- and once again he found some answers, this time in the writings of Karl Marx.
To quickly finish Fromm's biography, he received his PhD from Heidelberg in 1922 and began a career as a psychotherapist.
He moved to the U.S. in 1934 -- a popular time for leaving Germany especially for people of Jewish background! -- and settled in New York City, where he met many of the other great refugee thinkers that gathered there, including Karen Horney, with whom he had an affair.
Toward the end of his career, he moved to Mexico City in order to teach.
He did considerable research into the relationship between economic class and personality while living there.
He died in Switzerland in 1980.
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