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Why Your Material Possessions Don't Define Your Identity

If we spend out life from the place of “I am what I have”, when I die, all that I have will disperse including my body, mind, family, and possessions. So, the question arises- who am I?


Erich Fromm, a renowned German Psychologist, explores this topic in his books “To Have or to Be? The Nature of the Psyche” – If I am what I have and if what I have is lost, who then am I? Nobody but a defeated, deflated, pathetic testimony to a wrong way of living.


In his book called “Man for Himself”, he describes two ways an individual relates to the world by: 1) Assimilation – acquiring and assimilating things; 2) Socialization - Reacting to people. These learned behaviors to circumstances of our lives lead to certain character orientations. He breaks down human character orientations into non-productive and productive.


Non-Productive character orientations are: a. receptive and exploitive character orientation – this is how we may relate to other people; b. hoarding character orientation is acquiring material goods; c. marketing character orientation arises from how market determine value.


Productive character orientation (Positive character orientation) is that despite struggles, each human has the potential to love, reason, and do productive work in life.


Fromm describes that human paradox is that how does a human being seek oneness with others while seeking independence and uniqueness.


What I gather from reflecting on these topics is that we must choose to spend our short life working on developing the Productive character which is based on Love (To Be) instead of Non-Productive character which is based on developing “To Have”.


At the end of my life, I do not want to discover that I had become a “Nobody but a defeated, deflated, pathetic testimony to a wrong way of living”.


So, Who Am I?

I am a loving soul.

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