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TitleThe clinical Erich Fromm : personal accounts and papers on therapeutic technique
LanguageEnglish
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Table of Contents
                            Contents
Foreword
Introduction
PART I ERICH FROMM ON THERAPEUTIC PRACTICE
	Being Centrally Related to the Patient
	Factors Leading to Patient’s Change in Analytic Treatment
PART II RELATIONSHIP AS DIRECT MEETING
	Direct Meeting
	From Couch to Chair
	Conveying Hope to the Patient
	Directness in Therapy
PART III ERICH FROMM’S THERAPEUTIC PRACTICE IN THE MIRROR OF SUPERVISION
	“There Is Nothing Polite in Anybody’s Unconscious”
	“What Have You Learned about Yourself from Your Patient?”
	“What Is this Patient Really After?”
	“Now, Look here...”
PART IV REMINISCENCES OF ERICH FROMM—PSYCHOANALYST AND PERSON
	Elation and Fortification
	Psychoanalysis: An Adventure in Learning to Think Critically
	Words are Ways
	His Main Interest: The Human Passions
	When You Hear the Word, the Reality Is Lost
	Fromm Didn’t Want to Be a Frommian
	His Way to Clarity and Humaneness
	His Deeply Inspirational Presence and Thoughtfulness
	A Crucial Encounter
	Fromm’s Genius Was in His Actual Presence
References
About the Contributors
Acknowledgements
Erich Fromm’s Writings on Psychoanalytic “Technique”
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 97

DIRECTNESS IN THERAPY 86

In class, he related a clinical example of a well-known Hollywood
writer who consulted him regarding his inability to write something sig-
nificant. Fromm asked him how he spent his days. The writer said he woke
up, sat by his pool, took a swim, had breakfast, relaxed, etc. Fromm re-
ported saying to him, “My God man, how do you expect to write anything
significant living that way?” He reported that the writer was energized and
quite taken by his comment, which Fromm felt, was a positive sign. This
challenge could be perceived both as a criticism of the writer’s life and a
challenge to a higher level of living. Whether it was a criticism depended
upon the relationship and the tone or manner in which it was stated.
Fromm was sensitive to his impact; he said that if he felt annoyed or angry
he wouldn’t say anything since it would not come out right. I understand
that a number of analysts who followed Fromm’s style of confrontation
found their patients stopping treatment, perhaps because the analysts were
not able to be direct in a non-critical way. Fromm may also have mini-
mized the transference his patients had to him so that a patient would hear
from him what he might not hear from another analyst. I have found that at
times, with certain patients, a simple direct statement that confronts the pa-
tient with his self-deception is a most powerful and meaningful analytic in-
tervention.

When I was a graduate student, I was asked to present a patient to
Fromm at a public forum. It was quite an experience. While some felt I
was being criticized and offered support, I felt in his directness he was
challenging not only me but also the approach which I was being taught in
Michigan at that time. I had experienced this type of challenge from He-
brew schoolteachers and from my father, who was born in the late 1880’s,
so it was not foreign to me. But an important lesson I learned from Fromm
was the way in which the interaction in the session expresses the transfer-
ence and the importance of not only what one says but also how one acts.
In presenting to him, I could not approach a clinical presentation from a
traditional viewpoint. So when I read from the file and included the word
“borderline,” he held me accountable for the use of the word, even if it was
not originally mine. In all probability the patient fit the diagnosis, but
Fromm’s challenge and opposition to this diagnostic term were instructive.
I should think of a person and not of a diagnosis and I should think for my-
self.

Fromm was aware that he was perceived as critical for being un-
sentimental. Fromm stated that one characteristic of an analyst was “…the
absence of sentimentality.” He went on to say:


“That may sound harsh to some, and I am sure that I will be
quoted for utter ruthlessness towards the patient, for lack of
compassion and authoritarianism and what not. Well, this may

Page 98

Harold B. Davis 87

be so. It’s not my own experience with a patient, because there
is something quite different from sentimentality, and that is
one of the essential conditions to analyze: to experience in
oneself what the patient is talking about. … And if I don’t
make that attempt [to experience in smaller doses the patient’s
psychological state], then I think I’m not in touch with the pa-
tient.” (1991c [1964], p. 38.)


The keywords here are, experience in oneself and touch i.e., to be in touch
with one’s own and the patient’s emotional state and experience. His di-
rectness was a means of being in touch with a person without physically
touching; the essence of empathy.

He told the story of a cancer patient who had an obsession that she
left the gas on when she left her house, and would return to find her house
on fire. She was compelled to return to her house and check that there was
no fire. Fromm said her anxiety was connected to her anxiety about her
cancer returning. However, he clearly stated that the patient had passed the
five-year period where a return of the cancer was unlikely. If she had only
been free of the cancer for two years, he would not have made the interpre-
tation since she needed the symptom. It would have been cruel to take it
away. (Cf. 1991d [1974], p. 66.)

I have selected these two examples because I believe they are
what remain with me clinically from my limited experience with Fromm.
They indicate that the essence of his approach was the relationship and the
analyst’s sensitivity as a rational authority. His approach has influenced
me ever since I gave a talk entitled, “Technique: A Questionable Concept”
that incorporated some of these ideas many years ago. While a technical
approach to a patient was foreign, if not an anathema to Fromm, he was
not insensitive to the self-esteem of the patient as the example with the
cancer patient indicates. Some of his manner was in keeping with other
European analysts of his generation with whom I have had contact.

Space does not permit me to indicate the many ways in which
Fromm’s writings and the many opportunities I had to hear him speak have
influenced my thinking. Briefly, Fromm’s analysis of social character and
its impact on individual development coincided with my background in po-
litical science. An example of his political perceptiveness: in The Sane So-
ciety (1955a), he decried the political process in an alienated society where
television was used to create political personalities that are sold to the pub-
lic. He referred to a statement by a Republican Party member who sug-
gested that they get a candidate who would represent the party, which for
Fromm was like selling soap. The personality, aided by television, would
be an endorsement of the party. The former president [George W. Bush]
was sold as “a compassionate conservative”. Another aspect of Fromm’s

Page 193

SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 182

Vol. 11 (1975), pp. 453-5.—Permission to reprint generously granted
by Contemporary Psychoanalysis, New York.

Lesser, Ruth M.: “There Is Nothing Polite in Anybody’s Unconscious” is a
reshaped and enlarged paper that was presented at a Workshop on
Frommian Therapeutic Practice, August 30 - September 1, 1991, in
Verbania-Pallanza. It was published under the title “Frommian Thera-
peutic Practice: ‘A Few Rich Hours,’” in: Contemporary Psycho-
analysis, New York (William Alanson White Psychoanalytic Society),
Vol. 28 (1992), pp. 483-494.—Permission to reprint generously
granted by Contemporary Psychoanalysis, New York.

Schecter, David E., “Awakening the Patient” is a compilation of two pa-
pers David Schecter has written. The first (“He was above all a truth-
seeker”) originally entitled “On Fromm” was written in 1980 after
Erich Fromm’s death and shortly before David Schecter’s own death.
The second paper is taken from a presentation to the Association of
Psychoanalytic Psychologists on February 13, 1958. With minor edit-
ing, it was published for the first time through the generosity of Mrs.
David Schecter under the title “Contributions of Erich Fromm,” in:
Contemporary Psychoanalysis, New York Vol. 17, No. 4 (1981), pp.
468-480.—Permission to reprint generously granted by Contemporary
Psychoanalysis, New York, and by Estelle Schecter.

Page 194

Erich Fromm’s Writings
on Psychoanalytic “Technique”



1955d: Remarks on the Problem of Free Association. In: Psychiatric Re-

search Reports 2 (December 1955).
1960a: The Nature of Consciousness, Repression and De-Repression.

Chapter 4 of: D. T. Suzuki, E. Fromm and R. de Martino, Zen Bud-
dhism and Psychoanalysis, New York (Harper and Brothers) 1960,
pp. 95-113.

1966f: Interviews with Richard I. Evans. Unpublished ad verbum tran-
script of the two Interviews with Richard I. Evans according to the
two 16-mm films taken in December 1963 in Cuernavaca/México.
Evans’ publication as a book entitled Dialogue With Erich Fromm
was never authorized by Fromm. Fromm tried to prevent further
publication of the book.

1966k: The Oedipus Complex: Comments on the “Case of Little Hans”. In:
E. Fromm, The Crisis of Psychoanalysis, New York: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, 1970, pp. 69-78.

1989a [1974-5]: Self-Analysis. In: E. Fromm, The Art of Being, New York
(Continuum) 1993, pp. 69-86.

1990f [1969]: The Revision of Psychoanalytic Therapy. In: E. Fromm, The
Revision of Psychoanalysis, Boulder (Westview Press) 1992, pp. 70-
81.

1991c [1964]: Factors Leading to Patient’s Change in Analytic Treatment.
In: E. Fromm, The Art of Listening, New York (The Continuum
Publishing Corporation) 1994, pp. 15-41. Reprint in Part One of this
volume.

1991d [1974]: About the Therapeutic Relationship (including: Christiane.
A case history with remarks on therapeutic method and on under-
standing dreams). In: E. Fromm, The Art of Listening, New York
(The Continuum Publishing Corporation) 1994, pp. 96-162 and pp.
192-193.

1992g [1959]: Dealing with the Unconscious in Psychotherapeutic Prac-
tice. In: International Forum of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 9 (No. 3-4,
October 2000) pp. 167-186. Reprint under the title “Being Centrally
Related to the Patient” in Part One of this volume.

1992h [1975]: Die Bedeutung der Psychoanalyse für die Zukunft. In: Erich
Fromm Gesamtausgabe in zwölf Bänden (GA), München (DVA and
dtv) 1999, GA XI, pp. 271-284.

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