The Heart of Man: the School of Neo-Freudianism

The Aptitude Complex

The Heart of Man attempts to develop further an idea, especially about the school of Neo-Freudianism, presented in Erich Fromm’s previous books. In Escape from Freedom, he deals with sadism, corruption, and masochism. Theoretical speculation led him to something that was a deeper understanding of freedom. Apart from leading him to destruction and violence, he distinguishes various kinds of violence in the service of life. Either the form is the evil of corruption, it is the true love of death that is the opposite of biophilia. It is the love of life, in addition to necrophilia.

In Man for Himself, he discusses ethical issues based on people’s knowledge of human nature. Apart from being based on inspiration or artificial laws, the book pursues the matter further and discusses the origins of evil and the choice between good and evil. In a sense, the book represents the ability to destroy and fix its instincts.

The Wolf and the Sheep

In the first chapter of The Heart of Man, Fromm describes how humans are sheep and wolves in the school of Neo-Freudianism. The sheep must show that dominance is very easy to influence humans to do something, even if it is dangerous. In essence, anyone easily persuades most humans and is willing to give their will to those who speak in a threatening or moderately sweet voice. With such presuppositions, dictators build their systems and believe that humans are sheep. Therefore, they need leaders to make decisions for them.

However, if most humans are sheep, why is human life so different from the life of sheep. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were not the only ones who burned down millions of Jews and millions of political opponents. They were accompanied by thousands of others willing to kill for their sake. The facts have led to that humans are wolves to other humans. It has also led many people in society to believe that humans have a nature that tends to destroy. It is a killer where its past can restrain the killer only with the fear of a more sadistic killer.

The Cruelty of Sheep and the Tenderness of Wolf

The arguments on both sides confused the public. People indeed know Stalin and Hitler as sadistic and ruthless killers. However, both of them are the exception rather than the rule. The average human is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Although it is hard to deny, wolves want to kill. The sheep followed the wolves and ordered the sheep to kill, slaughter and torture. Just submit not because they enjoy the work but want to follow; the killers feel compelled to create glory stories in the murder.

The presumption about wolves and sheep is untenable. In the end, wolves represent an essential quality of human nature, which is more overt than the false nature exhibited by most people. On the other hand, the whole alternative is wrong because humans are both wolves and sheep or not wolves or sheep. Suppose humans believe that their nature is imbued with destructive tendencies and that their resistance to ever-increasing brutalization will become weaker. Why fight wolves if they are all wolves?

The Disobedience of Adam and Eve

A simple example of how humans become sheep and wolves is Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. In The Heart of Man and the school of Neo-Freudianism, Adam and Eve’s disobedience is not a sin, and nowhere is there any indication that disobedience has corrupted man. On the other hand, disobedience is the self-conscious state of man for his capacity to choose. Therefore, the first act of disobedience is man’s first step towards freedom. Adam and Eve’s disobedience was embodied in God’s plan. According to prophetic thought, only by God expelling man from heaven can make its history, develop human strength, and reach between man and nature.

Instead of the previous harmony, the silence is not the individual. Its nature is full development. Although the prophetic messianic concept implies that humans are not fundamentally corrupt, it does not mean that the potential for good must prevail. If humans do evil, they will become even eviler. The reason why Pharaoh’s heart became hard was that he continued to do evil to the point it was no longer possible to repent. In essence, God does not interfere in people’s choices, helping by sending messengers to teach them the norms that lead to awareness of good, recognizing evil, warning, and protesting. God left the man alone with warn, namely, to do good or evil.

The Basis of Evil

For Fromm, an ordinary person with extraordinary strength is a dangerous leader for humankind. However, one also needs the passion of fear, destruction, desire, anger, and hatred to make millions of people risk their lives and become murderers. Such passions are necessary conditions for a war to take place, not causes, as is the case with guns and bombs. Nuclear war and traditional warfare are not much different. People who push the button to send a missile with a nuclear payload will hardly experience the kills a soldier does when they wield a machine gun. He issues three phenomena that form the basis for man’s evil and vicious orientation.

Love of death, violent narcissism, and symbiotic incest fixation. The three form a decay syndrome that drives to destroy for the sake of destruction itself and to hate for the sake of hatred itself. However, he also describes a growth syndrome consisting of a love of life as opposed to a love of death, a love of humans as opposed to narcissism, and independence as opposed to a symbiotic instinctive fixation. It is undeniable that either one or more of the syndromes, a man advances in the direction he has chosen, which is life or death.

The Manifestation of Cruelty

In the second chapter of The Heart of Man, Fromm discusses the various school of Neo-Freudianism because it helps understand the forms of violent destructiveness and severe pathology. The first form is violent play, practiced to show off skill and not for destruction. Although encouraged is not a destruction, fighting is not to kill. Even if, in the end, an opponent dies, then it is, as it were, the result of the opponent’s fault for standing at the wrong point. When talking about the lack of will to destroy a violent game, it simply refers to the ideal game type.

Even with that, the main goal of violent play is to show off skill and not damage. The far greater practical significance of violent games is reactive violence, violence committed in defense of property rights, dignity, freedom, and life. It serves life and not death, aiming for preservation and not destruction. However, most of those who hold firmly to the belief admit that violence for the sake of survival comes from a different nature from the violence that aims to destroy for its own sake.

The Agressive Retaliation

In The Heart of Man, Fromm explains two things about the tendency to pretend to defend oneself in the school of Neo-Freudianism. First, immigrants or lighters cannot persuade most people in the most civilized nations to kill and die unless they are first convinced that they are doing so in self-defense and freedom. Second, it shows that it is not difficult to convince millions of people that they are in danger. Therefore, they feel called to defend themselves. The persuasion relies primarily on a lack of freedom in thinking and feeling. It is also on the emotional dependence of the majority of people on their political leaders.

As long as there is dependence, people will accept anything by force and persuasion as authentic. Another type of violence associated with reactive violence is retaliatory violence. The motive for retaliation is a return proportional to the strength and productivity of an individual. If injuries occur to humans, the process of productive life makes a person forget the wounds that occurred in the past. The aggressive behavior evokes efforts to achieve what they want by using violence. They are violent for the service of life and not for destruction.


The final violence that Fromm describes is basic bloodlust, the brutality of a man covering up his attachment to nature. It is a man’s passion for killing and his aim as a way beyond life, insofar as he is afraid to progress and become fully human. In one who seeks answers to life by retreating to a pre-individual state of existence, the blood becomes the essence of life by becoming like an animal. One has to shed blood to feel alive, to be strong, to be unique, and to be above all else.

Killing becomes a great hangover. On the other hand, killing is the only logical alternative to killing. People could observe the nature of bloodlust in the individual. Sometimes, in fantasies or dreams and severe mental illness, people can observe it in a minority group in times of war, be it international war or civil war. When usual social barriers have been removed, one can observe it in ancient societies, where killing or being killed was the polarizing rule of life.

The Love of Death and Life

In the third chapter of The Heart of Man, Fromm confronts the tendencies directed against life, which form the core of severe mental illness, the essence of true evil, and the school of Neo-Freudianism. He said there are three orientations, namely necrophilia, narcissism, and symbiotic fixation of the mother. The first is necrophilia, which means love of death, and biophilia, which means love of life. Sexual perversion usually uses such terms, namely the desire to have a corpse in sexual intercourse. As a general orientation, philosophers and psychologists have never described necrophilia in psychoanalytic literature.

Regardless of which, it is related to Freud’s anal-sadistic disposition as well as his death instinct. According to Fromm, necrophiles are people who like to talk about illness, funerals, and death. Necrophilists feel alive in the past, never feel alive in the future. Their feelings are sentimental, i.e., they maintain the memory of the feelings they had yesterday. They are cold, distant, and worshipers of law and order. It is death that pleases and satisfies them.


Necrophilia fell in love with killers. Not infrequently, falling in love with killers must be literal. They are objects for his sexual attraction and fantasies. However, it is less drastic than aberrant necrophagia, a desire that is not uncommon in the dreams of necrophilic people. The influence of people like Hitler or Stalin lies in their limitless capacity and will to kill. Therefore, they are loved by necrophiles. The rest, many are afraid and prefer to admire them.

Instead of being wary of fear, many others are unaware of the necrophilic nature of leaders. If the necrophilic leaders did not pretend to be protectors and builders, the number of people attracted to them would barely be enough to help them seize power. Essentially, necrophilia is oriented to the past. Life is never sure, never predictable, and never in control. To make life controlled, they must be transformed into death, the only certainty in life.

The Social Narcissism

In The Heart of Man, Freud began with his concern for understanding schizophrenia in terms of libido theory and the school of Neo-Freudianism. Initially, libido is stored in the ego, like something in a large reservoir, extended into objects but quickly withdrawn from them, then back into the ego. He has never changed the basic idea that the original state of man, in the early childhood years, is narcissism in which there is no connection to the outside world. In the case of normal development, humans come to a certain extent that is still narcissistic. One of the most basic examples of narcissism is the average person’s behavior towards his own body. Most people like their own body, face, figure, and when they are asked if they want to switch bodies with someone more handsome, of course, they say no.

More accurately, it is the fact that most people have no problem seeing or smelling their stool. That way, there is no aesthetics or other judgment involved. In a less severe form, one can see a narcissistic orientation in everyday life. Narcissists are a special kind of person who is self-absorbed. They also pay little attention to other people, except as their echoes. Often, if they are kind and helpful, they do such things because they want to see themselves taking on such a role. In essence, they spend more energy admiring themselves than realizing things from the point of view of the person they are helping.


The difficulty in finding a satisfactory definition of the nature of human origin lies in the following dilemma. If one assumes a particular substance that constitutes the essence of man, one is forced into a non-evolutionary and ahistorical position, resulting in that there has been no fundamental change in man since the first time it appeared. On the other hand, if one accepts evolutionary concepts and therefore believes that humans are constantly changing, what remains of the content of man’s “essence” or “original nature” of man?

Fromm believed that the dilemma could be solved by defining human essence not as a given quality or substance but as a contradiction inherent in human existence. This contradiction is found in two sets of facts. First, humans are animals. Second, humans have the intelligence to use thought processes to achieve practical goals. Man transcends all other forms of life because man lives self-consciously for the first time. However, humans transcend nature, faced with a terrible conflict, namely being a prisoner of nature but free in his mind.

The Will Power

If the essence of man is neither good nor evil, neither love nor hate, but a contradiction that demands the search for new solutions, which, in turn, creates several new contradictions, then surely a man can answer his dilemma, either in a regressive or progressive way. History has given humanity many examples where the German people, especially the lower middle class, who had lost social status and money, recovered under Hitler’s leadership. The average of the primary forms of experience is always a real possibility, can arise, but it is necessary to distinguish between the two forms that arise. The first form is when the underlying drives remain strong.

They are suppressed because they go against the cultural patterns of civilization. The second form is when the progressive stage has hardened and been reached in the development of a person or a group member. In the same way, some people have destroyed all possibilities for developing a progressive orientation until they too have lost the freedom to make choices about progress. Fromm could have concluded that humans are neither good nor evil, and if one believed in human goodness as one is only potential, one would be forced to confront the falsification of facts or end up in bitter disappointment.

The Relief

Most people who end up being bad people, hard-hearted people, even the officials of Hitler or Stalin, start their lives with great opportunities to be good people. Was Hitler’s victory necessary? At any point, did the Germans have the freedom to overthrow him? The position of determinism claims that there is only one real possibility in every situation. According to Hegel, the free person acts in the consciousness of one possibility, namely certainty. On the other hand, a person who is not free is blind to such a possibility, and therefore, is forced to act in a certain way without knowing that he is the agent of certainty, namely reason. From an indeterminist point of view, there are many possibilities, and humans are free to choose those possibilities. However, often there is not one simple real possibility, but two or even more.

The real possibility is the possibility that can materialize by considering the whole structure of the interacting forces within the individual or society. Simply put, humans are a constellation of forces that are structured in a specific and predictable way. In Hitler’s case, he had a real possibility of winning the battle, or, at least, not losing by enduring disaster. However, there are no real possibilities beyond these alternatives. Perhaps, freedom lies in recognizing the real possibilities between what man can choose and the unreal possibilities. They are the imaginary mind of man that man tries to set aside for himself an unpleasant task. If it had to happen to the entire human race, human life could be annihilated when they vowed great domination.


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