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Essay Paper on Two Theories Comparison

For many years, personality development has puzzled man. Why do people do what they do? Where does personality come from and how does it grow? There are some well-known theories that explain where personality comes from, and why we act the way we do. There are two very famous theories which were developed by great psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm.

Fromm’s theory of character starts with a definition of personality, which is “the totality of inherited and acquired psychic qualities which are characteristic of one individual and which make the individual unique.” In the main, inherited or constitutional qualities are synonymous with temperament, and acquired qualities are synonymous with character. Following Hippocrates, Fromm distinguishes four temperaments: choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic.

If we know a man’s temperament we can say in general how he will react, but we cannot say what he will react to. To know that, we must know something about his character as well, for while temperament determines how one reacts, character determines both the kinds of persons, events, and situations he reacts to and the general content of his reaction. Character, unlike temperament, is a social product. It is formed primarily by one’s early experiences, though it can be changed to some extent by new insights and new experiences.

Fromm’s conception of character differs from the Freudian conceptions. Freud developed a penetrating theory of character as a system of strivings which underlie, but are not identical with, behavior. He appreciated the decisive point, which is that character traits underlie behavior and give behavior its real meaning. He also understood that the basic entity in character is not the single trait but the total character organization or orientation from which the single traits follow. Further, Freud recognized the conative and dynamic nature of character traits. He knew that a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are in great measure determined by the structure of his passions and are not merely the results of rational responses to realistic situations: “man’s fate is his character.” Finally, with the insight of genius, Freud found that the seething energies which form the core of character inhabit a realm of psychic life which lies far below the rind of consciousness.

Fromm follows Freud on all these points–and disagrees on the fundamentals. In his view, Freud’s basic error was to conceive of man as a closed system of biological forces rather than as a being who is fundamentally socially conditioned. This means that while Freud’s clinical observations were strikingly keen and of great importance, his explanations and interpretations were profoundly wrong.

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