Monday, January 6, 2014

What Erich Fromm Would Think of Please Love Me

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
Erich Fromm

Guest blogger, Lisa Bonet, whose focus is mental health, compares the psychological aspects of my book, Please Love Me, with Erich Fromm's classic, international bestseller, The Art of Loving. The Art of Loving launched a movement with its powerful insight. Per Lisa, "If you are begging for reality in reading, read these two together for balancing opinions."

A Combination to Shatter Your Heart

“Please Love Me” by Penelope Przekop is a tale of overcoming child abuse to continue into rocky relationships. It is not a happy tale, rather, it is realistic in its message; not every victim comes out happy and fulfilled. It’s simply a fact of life that most victims don’t find their happiness, and remain somehow broken, as Peyton is in her inability to form substantial relationships. This story can be hailed as raw, honest, and completely straightforward. It is refreshing to hold a piece of work which reflects the true end to a path of abuse, rather than the flowery happy endings which aren’t always believable.

The book could walk hand in hand with Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving, written in 1956. Dr. Fromm was a psychologist who believed love can be a learned behavior, developed as one would develop a skill for writing or mathematical equations. He threw out the magic associated with love and chalked it up to something that must be practiced to be sustained. Much like riding a bike, once it’s learned it cannot be unlearned, but it does need consistent practice if it is to stay relevant. Dr. Fromm believes that the most important element of love is self-love. He discusses how people cannot love another if they do not first love themselves. Different types of love are explored, including love for parents and a deity. He does not claim that he is going to teach anyone to love themselves or someone else; he only aims to discuss the fact that, for love to exist, it must be practiced first on the self and second as a skill.

Peyton Should Read It

Dr. Fromm’s book begins comparing to Ms. Przekop’s story as a parallel tale of love and how it can go wrong when practiced incorrectly. Dr. Fromm would most likely assume that Peyton’s mother did not actually love Peyton because she could not love herself. Mother was searching consistently for love outside of herself, which led her to the church and the extreme exorcism group. The group was an addiction for Peyton's mother, similar to drugs or alcoholism. Pulling away from this church group was akin to recovery from alcoholism; Peyton's mother would have suffered withdrawal symptoms and probably would not have been able to love Peyton anyway. A love of God, lack of love of self and non-existing love for her daughter are all points brought up in Dr. Fromm’s book. The extreme need to force love and caring onto others forced Mother to exorcise even those who didn’t need it. She was trying to cling to some sort of love, but she was using the wrong methods to practice. Mother was a classic example of what Dr. Fromm was talking about when he said that love needed to be practiced with ourselves first, then it could be given to others. Mother never loved Peyton’s father, she never loved Peyton and she never truly loved the church to which she clung so tight because she never loved herself.

Is it any wonder Peyton never holds a relationship? She can’t begin to love herself because the practice of love was never demonstrated to her. Dr. Fromm would agree that Peyton needs to expose herself to those who truly love to learn how the craft works. She needs to practice love and perhaps return love from those who give it to her to learn how it’s done. As Dr. Fromm’s book is self-proclaimed to not be a how-to on this, however, Peyton would need to learn how to complete these steps on her own. Dr. Fromm’s work would help her realize the beginning of love comes from within herself; practicing to love means letting go of things that you hate about yourself and appreciating the things that work for you.

Healing Begins At Home

After Peyton were to realize she needs to love herself through Dr. Fromm’s book, she would need to begin cleaning out the negative energy from her life. She would need to appreciate her strengths and even seek out those who would support her best efforts. She needs to turn off her inner voice and realize she is worthy of love, even if her mother never believed it. She will have to find friends before she finds other types of love, because the steps to a full relationship need to be small for her. She needs to build her fortress from the outside in, starting with a pass through of Dr. Fromm’s book.

Dr. Fromm’s book parallels Ms. Przekop’s book because they both discuss love in different perspectives – one from a lack of love and one discussing from where love comes. Dr. Fromm reviews the fact that love must be practiced while Ms. Przekop reviews what happens when it’s not practiced. Reading these books together is almost heartbreaking because the reader realizes what Peyton should do and what she is not doing. This reader almost wants to throw Dr. Fromm’s book at Peyton in a desperate attempt to force the poor girl to make a change for her life. If you are begging for reality in reading, read these two together for balancing opinions.

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