Find Life Purpose

Be More Spontaneous

Erich Fromm
1900 - 1980

Hello there!

My name is Erich Fromm, and I'm a German social psychologist.

In the previous lesson, Viktor Frankl talked about how crucial meaning is for a fulfilled life. Today, I want to discuss how to start creating your purpose by executing your freedom through spontaneity.

In the course of time, we have been liberated from external circumstances, like a political dictatorship or religious institutions. Yet, even though we are much freer these days, we cannot forget about our internal restraints.

Think about what are you NOT free from at the moment (internally)?

Examples: anxiety, worrying thoughts, caring too much about others' opinion.

One of the reasons people have these internal constraints is that they are not used to fully embracing their freedom.

Before a child grows up, he has very strong primary ties with his parents. Those ties restrict freedom but also give a great sense of security.

When the kid starts distinguishing himself as a separate individual, the ties loosen up.

While he becomes more free, he also experiences anxiety as the feeling of security decreases. He now has to decide for himself.

A similar thing happened to our society overall. Even though we liberated ourselves from tyrannies, the anxiety and uncertainty are flourishing, as no one tells us what to do.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, 1560

Pure freedom brings a huge responsibility for your own life. Therefore, it might feel like a heavy burden. In order to escape from it, people create chains themselves.

There are several ways to escape from freedom.

The first one is authoritarian. It is when we constantly look for someone who would control us and take on responsibility—for example, a sadistic partner or a strict boss at work.

The second one is destructive. By being cynical and proclaiming the powerlessness of the individual, we give up on our freedom.

The third, and most common one, is an automaton. We simply stop thinking for ourselves and conform to whatever society expects from us. We transform ourselves into a small cog in the machine.

The problem lies when we only concentrate on what I call "negative freedom." Negative freedom is mainly the freedom from something, an absence of restraints.

But there also is positive freedom: freedom to. It means the ability to do something.

In order to obtain our freedom and not get lost in the self-made artificial restraints, we have to, first of all, think about why we need that freedom. Namely, we must reframe it to positive liberty.

Think about how you could use your freedom in the best possible way?

Examples: self-actualize, help your community, create art.

The key to this positive freedom is in spontaneous activities.

We tend to always overthink and analyze the potential outcomes of our actions.

The thing is that the more time we spend in doubts, the more both societal expectations and our internal constraints emerge and blur out the fundamental desire of our liberty.

The path towards the realization of the self lies in actively expressing our own emotional and intellectual potentialities.

For self is as strong as it is active.

To use freedom, we have to let ourselves be more spontaneous.

In what situations could you spend less time overthinking but go more with the flow?

Examples: start a blog, sign up for that yoga class, call an old friend, reveal your true feelings and thoughts.

Act according to your desires, and remember that positive freedom consists of the spontaneous activity of the total, integrated personality.

Erich Fromm
1900 - 1980

German-born American psychoanalyst and social philosopher who explored the interaction between psychology and society. By applying psychoanalytic principles to the remedy of cultural ills, Fromm believed, mankind could develop a psychologically balanced “sane society.”

Source: Britannica

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