Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: erich fromm

The Freedom to Say No

How to do I put this? Hmm…

I loved and hated this book at the same time? No, that’s not right. I agreed with some, disagreed with other parts, sure. I agree on the problem, but not the solution, maybe.

freedom to say no
Photo by Kristina V on Unsplash

While reading the essay Disobedience as a…Problem, I kept thinking about how we raised our sons. The answer “no” was always an option. When I tell people that, their response is usually, “Sure but there are consequences, right?”

Depends on what you mean. Punitive ones? Like, “You have said no, so now you’ll be ostracized or punished?” No. I wouldn’t have asked if you weren’t allowed to say no.

I don’t ask you not to hurt me. I tell you not to and I enforce that. If there is no other option at the moment, like I must stop at the post office and you cannot stay in the car, I don’t ask if you want to come inside with me. Those commands are few and far between.

Just about everything was optional in our family, negotiable. We worked together as much as possible toward a common goal, living in the same house and being happy and comfortable. And they learned to be more and more reasonable as they grew up into adults.

In most families, this isn’t so. Everything is a command from above, in every situation. We raise children as slaves to adult lives, until they are “of age” and then kick them out into the world and expect them to act as reasonable adults without any practice. Like putting a person in jail for 18 years, dictating every move, and then setting them free and saying, “Now continue on your own.”

And most of us do. What we need is to act like independent, reasoning, masters of our own lives, but we don’t have those skills. We only have slave skills, and they don’t serve us well at all. When things aren’t working, we look to government to solve the problems for us, just like our parents and teachers taught us to do.

Seems like a job security thing for politicians and other so-called “leaders.” Independent humans aren’t easily controlled.

In my experience, acting as an adult human is frowned upon. You’re a fool and treated as such, especially if you encourage others to take the reins of their own lives.

Disobedience is the answer, not the problem. We shouldn’t be “obeying” anyone.

I haven’t even quoted this book or presented his ideas to you. I’m not sure how. The book is so short, 91 pages. If I pull any one line out, I’d have to pull the whole page, and then…why not read the book?

There were four essays in this book, all of which I agreed with the premises of, except the last on “Humanist Socialism.” Why? Because I love the goals and principles of socialism, but I don’t see it working well anywhere in the world. And I don’t even have the words to describe why. That’s one of the reasons I keep studying it.

When my first reaction is, “Wonderful fantasy, but how do you get there from here?” I’m reminded of the reactions to my family’s choice of lifestyle and education. They can’t see what we are doing from their vantage point. Is that my problem when I look at socialism? Maybe.

My thoughts always go back to, “If this is so wonderful and perfect, and able to be done without the use of force and coercion, then why doesn’t someone build a working community like this on their own? Why do we have to have it as a form of government?”

Start with your own family, your own community. “If you build it, they will come.” If a socialist utopia works, more people will want to be in it, and it will spread. Right?

I’m not sure, only because of my experience with my sons. Sitting in a karate class, the teacher tells me, “Your sons are focused and dedicated. I can tell you strict with them, no backtalk and video games.” When I told him that our lives are quite the opposite, that we live without rules and they are treated as equals, play video games all they want, and are quite adept at “backtalk,” he just scoffed and walked away.

It feels insane, like everyone around me is seeing the world they want to see, not reality. Am I any different? I don’t believe I am.

To me it seems the best thing any of us can do is live our own lives and leave everyone else alone to do the same. That’s crazy talk to everyone else. When I started this book, I thought the author was headed down that road, but then the last chapter is how we can start a socialist utopia by taking all the power away from whoever has it now and redistributing it.

Whoa…it’s Tolkien’s Rings of Power. I’ll take this power to set things right and then give it back. But no one ever wants to give it back. The power corrupts, always. There is no utopia, socialist, capitalist, industrial, agrarian, or otherwise.

A side note: If you’re curious about the concept of unschooling (life without school instead of school at home), I highly recommend checking out Pam Laricchia’s work. And I’m always open to conversations about our experience, through email or over the phone.

On Disobedience: New Read

On Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying “No” to Power is the book I started reading on this very blustery Saturday morning. The subtitle says it all. I read Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving back in November of 2020 and loved just about every page of it, so when I saw this small collection of essays written in the early 1960’s, I immediately had it sent to my house.

on disobedience

Disobedience is a major sin in our culture and I’ve railing against that idea for most of my adult life. I am not one with a “rebellious” nature. I do not feel like I must take the opposite stance of whatever authority figure presents as “the rules.” I want to work together and get along. BUT…again with the but…

I do not obey anyone blindly. In fact, I don’t believe I wish to obey anyone at all. What kind of a world could we live in if establishing an authority meant that your reasoning and argument were solid enough to convince others to agree with you, compromise with you, and work toward voluntary common goals?

“If the capacity for disobedience constituted the beginning of human history, obedience might very well, as I have said, cause the end of human history. I am not speaking symbolically or poetically. There is the possibility, or even the probability, that the human race will destroy civilization and even all life upon earth within the next five to ten years. There is no rationality or sense in it. But the fact is that, while we are living technically in the Atomic Age, the majority of men – including most of those who are in power – still live emotionally in the Stone Age; that while our mathematics, astronomy, and the natural sciences are of the twentieth century, most of our ideas about politics, the state, and society lag far behind the age of science. If mankind commits suicide it will be because people will obey those who command them to push the deadly buttons; because they will obey the archaic passions of fear, hate, and greed; because they will obey obsolete cliches of State sovereignty and national honor. The Soviet leaders talk much about revolutions, and we in the ‘free world’ talk much about freedom. Yet they and we discourage disobedience – in the Soviet Union explicitly and by force, in the free world implicitly and by the more subtle method of persuasion.”

Disobedience as a psychological and moral problem by erich fromm

Oh, so dire. Right? Makes one want to give up and run into the forest. End it all.

Or does it?

To me, it’s hopeful. Once again, nothing really changes, so why get worked up about it? Why should I ruin my beautiful day because tomorrow may never come? There’s work to do, there always is, but I’ll do what I can cheerfully and with hope that little individual changes make big progress down the road of time. And leave others to do the same in their own lives.

This book is short, only four essays in about 100 small pages, but it’s chock full of some amazing words, almost every one of which applies to everything we are experiencing now. That is the glory of well thought out work, words that aren’t simply rhetoric glorifying one side of an issue or another.

I’m sure I’ll be finishing the book today, so I’ll have some more words of my own to share tomorrow. See you then!

Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

faith in yourself quote with background image

“Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same at a future time as he is today and, therefore, that he will feel and act as he now expects to.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Find the book on Amazon, HERE!

Loving others starts with having faith in yourself.

We simply lived without school. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t learn. The outcome proves that.

My sons are both out on their own, living productive lives. One traveled Europe, and now has a good job with potential for growth, along with his own car and apartment. He’s 20 years old. The other has been at community college here in town for two years, working, and has his own car. He’s transferring to university next semester and will be leaving the state to live in the dorm and focus on his studies for the next couple of years.

What did we do instead of school?

Our faith in our own drive to learn led me to believe my children had that same drive.

We lived and learned together. We read books, watched movies, built things, went places. We talked and laughed and loved together. We cried and fought, worked things out as best we could so that everyone had their space and got as much as they wanted without stepping on anyone else’s toes. I rarely said no to things they wanted to try out. I spent a lot of time searching for new experiences, and then making it possible to do them. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

I had faith in them from the moment they were born. I knew myself and so did their father. We didn’t need an authority to guide, protect, and direct our lives. What we wanted more of growing up was less direction and more support, so that’s what we gave our kids. We knew they would find their own unique way to adulthood if we gave them a loving and supportive home, if we led by example and followed our own interests, served our own needs, without sacrificing anyone else’s lives in the process.

I had faith in them because I had faith in myself.

And I have faith in others because I have that faith in myself. I know that others can take responsibility for themselves and their families if they want to. I’m not special. My family is not special. We are not more intelligent or lucky than anyone else. The only thing that is different is that, for some reason, we have faith in ourselves.

Real love starts with you loving yourself, believing in yourself, and taking responsibility for your own life. And no one can give that to you. I believe all of us have the ability, but somewhere along the line we have lost the knowledge of it.

I’m telling you that you have it. Start using it.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words For Love Go?
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

How to Parent by Respecting the Individual

“How many parents experience the child’s reactions in terms of his being obedient, of giving them pleasure, of being a credit to them, and so forth, instead of perceiving or even being interested in what the child feels for and by himself?”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Parenting Needs Respect

I hear and see parents do this constantly, everywhere I go. A baby cries and it’s a sign of “neediness” or the baby is already trying to exert control over the parent. A toddler throws a fit over something and they are called “strong-willed.” A school child interrupts a LONG adult conversation, and they are scolded and pushed away.

It couldn’t possibly be that the baby’s only way of communication a basic need is to cry out, the toddler wanted something that was important to him but couldn’t communicate it in time, or that the school child had a limited amount of patience to wait for a break in adult conversation.

Contrary to popular belief, your children are not actually a piece of you walking around outside your body.

That is supposed to be a metaphor for how you feel, but it doesn’t really help you treat them as the whole individual human they were born to be.

We all are born with our own innate wants and needs. Our first communication tool is noise and as we grow and learn to control our muscles, we learn to communicate better and more precisely. Our job as parents is to help our children learn to use these tools. It takes a lot of time and patience because not only do our children have limited communication skills, but they also have a limited attention span and patience as well. And the only way to expand those is by giving them the time and space to practice using them.

Parenting Needs Patience

Poor communication skills and a lack of patience in adults, in my opinion, comes from lacking in practice while a person is growing up. Children that are set aside, ignored, or not treated as relevant human beings with independent wants and needs, grow up to be adults that insist on centering the world on themselves and treating others as NPC’s. That’s “non-playing characters,” people that have no active narrative, space filler for the game, for those who are not gamers.

Recently, within the last few years, my brother opened a car repair shop and has been complaining about people making appointments and not showing up, requesting things be done without regard for his time and effort, and things of that nature. I had the same experience working at a pregnancy clinic in the past. People would make appointments and not show, complain about how the place was run and what they received (for free, from volunteers and donations) when they were asked to complete tasks to qualify.

How do we, as adults, “reparent” ourselves so that we learn to treat others with the respect we wish to be given? How do we make it clear to those that treat us as NPC’s that we are not? Yelling and cursing at each other isn’t working. Calling people out for bad behavior, punishing people for having little patience, poor communication skills, or no respect for us, doesn’t seem to help either.

When a baby cries out, we look to see what the problem is and attempt to fix it quietly and calmly. When a toddler pitches a fit over the wrong color cup at lunch, we lovingly give him the one he wants when we can and when he’s happy again, explain how it might be easier for both of us to get what we want next time. And when the school child interrupts us with his antics, we hold his hand or let him join in our conversation for a moment and then shift the attention to him so that he’s shown he is respected and how adults give others a chance to speak. We don’t hold grudges against them, yell, or punish.

Could that work with the adults around us? Loving space, respect for individuals exactly where they are, and sympathetic consolation for the natural consequences of their actions would go a lot farther than pushing people into a corner until they behaved according to our own wishes.

Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone

learning to concentrate quote from book on a desert background

“The most important step in learning to concentrate is to learn to be alone with oneself without reading, listening to the radio, smoking or drinking.
Besides such exercises (meditation), one must learn to be concentrated in everything one does, in listening to music, in reading a book, in talking to a person, in seeing a view.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

In writing a blog post.

Learning to concentrate and focus.

That’s my trouble right now as I write this. I have too much to do today and the thought of that list of things to do is keeping me from getting anything done. I’m unfocused, so everything I do is taking longer to get done AND not getting done well.

I’m certainly not very good at being alone with myself. It’s something I have been actively attempting to cultivate. Living in a small house, married with children, and sharing space with my mother-in-law, hasn’t led to much time to practice in the past, that’s for sure. These days, things are different. Life is getting quieter, which has led to some fairly serious panic attacks.

In my search for peace and focus, I’ve learned to meditate and make space for these feelings.

It’s strange, really. All these years of having so much to do with the family, just wanting a few hours of quiet to myself, and here I am panicking the moment I start to gain that time. What happened?

If I could start my life over, I’d learn to be alone with myself, and be happy about it, before I moved in with a partner or got married and had kids. I don’t think that was ever presented as an option when I was growing up. Every fairy tale, book, movie, and song was about finding your person, your people, being part of a whole group. I think it would have been easier if I had built up a better sense of who I was as an individual before I voluntarily became part of a community of any kind.

I think, I hope, I gave that to my children. In choosing to home educate and keep our children outside of any school system as small children, it was my intention to allow them to develop themselves as individuals. The point wasn’t to create self-centered monsters, as many assumed would be the outcome, but to give them the space to know themselves before they voluntarily chose a community. And it seems to be working so far.

For myself, I believe doing that for them also did the same for me. I learned a lot raising them with my husband, and I’m learning even more as I watch them go off into the world to continue to follow their own path.

It’s my turn to focus on myself more, to pursue my passions and interests.

It started with mediation and continues with yoga, walking, reading, and writing here. It grows every day in ways I never expected, in ways that delight and inspire me to do more. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and worried about where the path will lead to. It feels futile and excruciatingly slow paced. “What is the point of any of this?!” I frequently scream to myself and scribble in my notebook.

There is no point. It just is. I refocus on the task at hand, do what I can, and see what happens. I’m learning to enjoy the process itself, not reach for an outcome.

My next project? Learn to listen better and react less. There’s room for everyone.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words For Love Go?
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have

“Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending, alive, hence joyous.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

When we give, we do not deprive ourselves of anything, we enhance our lives from our abundance, and it comes back to us as joy.

Most importantly, we cannot give what we do not have.

That’s something to remember when you love someone, but they don’t seem to be loving you back the way you wish they would. Everyone loves in the way that they can, unconsciously. They give from what they have. If they feel they have little, they give little. It’s up to you whether you accept their offering of love and continue the relationship, or not.

Love is not a tit-for-tat thing.

We give of our time, our energy, our love, and our finances, voluntarily. When our cup is full and we know it, we feel it, we can’t help but share of it. It cannot be forced or coerced, and it never needs to be.

One little thing that I have to say, though, is that making a law, enacting a tax, using the force of government to make other people share what they have is not love. It’s a lack of faith in humanity, and it spreads that lack of faith. Ultimately, nothing good comes of it. It creates animosity and forces people to take sides against each other.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words for Love Go?
Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Where Did Our Words for Love Go?

words for love quote from book on a desert background

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Let me start by saying, as I did in my monthly “What in the World is She Reading” newsletter, that I got so much out of this little book and I’m still processing it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Some of it was a bit to “far out” for me. But, wow, there was a lot of usable material here. I know…I promised only to post a few pieces per book but this one is going to be hard to narrow down. I took so many notes!

Do you consider love something you work at doing well?

Or is it something that you “fall into” and passionately experience?

Fromm believes they are two different things and I think I agree. There is that immediate attraction to another human that is based on hormones, pheromones, and instinct. And then there is the higher cerebral order that humans are capable of, that of actively loving people. I think we confuse the two, and debase or idolize one or the other, on a regular basis.

Like Fromm, I believe we should be putting more of our energy into cultivating the art of love.

What’s crazy is that we have to define what we mean by “love” since we don’t have separate words for different kinds. Why is that? Why do we lump so many different ideas into one word and then expect everyone around us to know what we’re talking about? Doesn’t that create chaos?

I say to my children, my husband, by friend, the kid that makes my sandwich just right, “I love you!” That’s crazy. What happened? Where did our words go?

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

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