Human Existential Needs individual response 1 - Essay Example

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Of Erich Fromm’s eight universal human needs, one that holds great emotional appeal to modern westerners is identity. In its positive formation this quality leads to responsibility and self esteem. When pushed too far, however, it can drive one to isolation from family and friends and into narcissism…
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Download file to see previous pages In those, the person is seen as but one unit in a greater whole, be that a familial institution, a cultural group, or a religious entity. Self identity gives the person freedom from having to conform to an external norm, and from being obligated to sacrifice their desires, interests and gifts to the will of others. It dissolves the notion that children are the property of their parents, freeing them to pursue their own goals. It destroys the ability of controlling authority figures to use guilt to manipulate individuals into surrendering their autonomy and individuality for a so-called “greater good.” It also centers responsibility on the individual for their choices and their consequences, as they alone decided on them. One can no longer say “I was just following orders” or “it’s what mother or father demanded of me.” Like all of Fromm’s eight values, though, this one is not without its negative side. Humans are not simply individuals wandering through life with no need of others. We all must depend on others for some things, including items we cannot make ourselves. We are also social creatures by nature, and find fulfillment in joining with relatives, business partners, adherents of the same belief system, and those with similar interests. Families, churches and other religious institutions, office parties and fan or hobby clubs help the individual to express themselves within a context of shared affection and responsibilities. Extreme forms of individualism deny these truths, but they fail as workable models, simply because they deny these all too human traits. A healthy person will find a balance between their self identity and their role in cooperative efforts. By so doing they will experience the benefits of relatedness, rootedness and unity, three other existential needs Fromm cites. I saw a positive example of the quest for identity express itself in a female friend who was in an abusive relationship. Her boyfriend verbally belittled her and on occasion struck her. When I spoke with her about this she admitted that she was terrified to leave him because she felt she had no sense of self outside of a relationship. As time went on, however, she embraced her own identity apart from her abuser, took responsibility for her allowing him to mistreat her, and ended the relationship. She is now happily married to a wonderful man who treats her with great respect. She is also employed as a social worker and counselor, a position which empowers her to help others is dysfunctional relationships. This nourishes her desire for effectiveness.. The need for effectiveness is drawn from the desire to believe that one’s life has meaning and purpose, that it in some way makes the world a better place than it was before one was born. It’s what inspires people to work for more than monetary reward; for example, in volunteer positions. Effectiveness is directly related to identity, in that it facilitates the idea that one is a unique actor in the play of life, with a role that makes a substantive difference in the plot. That difference need not be momentous. For example, a person may simply try to brighten other’s days in small ways, with a smile or small gift. Others who believe they have unusually high levels of personal potential may strive to affect the world in larger ways. They may work to achieve business success, run for a political office or strive for ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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