The unproductive personality: The 5 types of Erich Fromm

The unproductive personality: The 5 types of Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm He was a renowned Neofreudian psychoanalyst who suggested a theory of personality based on two main needs: the need for freedom and the need for belonging. He suggested that people develop certain personality styles or strategies in order to cope with the anxiety created by feelings of isolation. Of these types of characters, he suggested that four of them are unproductive orientations, while one is a productive orientation.

Fromm believed that character is something that derives from both our genetic heritage and our experiences and learning. Some aspects of our character are hereditary. Other aspects derive from what is learned in the home, school and society. And, of course, it is the interaction between the two influences that make up our personality.

Fromm He also believed that character is something deeply rooted and difficult to change. However, being aware of our trends and being committed to change can help inspire it.

The different features that emerge from each of the five types of characters They have positive and negative aspects. However, Fromm describes the first four orientations as unproductive.

As Fromm hypothesized, people can exhibit the characteristics of more than one type of character, and personalities can be formed by a combination of different orientations.


  • 1 Type of receptive character
  • 2 Type of exploitative character
  • 3 Type of cumulative character
  • 4 Type of commercial character
  • 5 Type of productive character

Type of receptive character

The receptive type is characterized by needing constant support from others.

They tend to be passive, needy and totally dependent on others. These people require constant support from family, friends and others. They believe that the only way to get what they want is to receive it from others.

Receptive types also tend to lack confidence in their own abilities and have difficulty making their own decisions. When they must make decisions or assume responsibilities, they find it tremendously complicated and therefore ask for advice and help constantly. In parallel, they are usually people who easily eat and drink excessively, to try to calm their anxiety.

People who grow up in homes that are very dominant and controlling often tend to have this type of personality.

Type of exploitative character

The exploiting type is characterized by being willing to lie, cheat and manipulate others in order to get what you need. In order to cover their need to belong, they usually look for people who have a low self-esteem and even if they are with someone, they don't really care about the other person. These guys take what they need, either by force or deception, and exploit other people to meet their own selfish needs. They tend to think that everything they can get by stealing is better than anything they can do for themselves. An extreme example of this personality is the kleptomaniac.

Type of cumulative character

The type of cumulative he faces his insecurity by not letting go of anything. They are very accumulative and thrifty people, for them any expense can come to represent a real threat. They often accumulate a lot of possessions and seem to care more about their material possessions than people.

Some people also show traits or cleaning compulsions, meticulousness and great conservatism rigidity of thought. They tend to believe that any past tense was better.

Type of commercial character

Type of marketing see relationships in terms of what they can earn with change. Your personal success depends on your ability to “sell yourself” to others. They try to give a popular personality image rather than trying to develop their own personality.

They can focus on marrying someone for money or social status and tend to have shallow and anxious personalities.

These guys tend to be opportunistic and change their beliefs and values ​​based on what they think they will get that later.

Type of productive character

The last type, the only one that Fromm describes as productive type, is typical of those people who use their energy and feelings to perform truly productive vital work.

They focus on building love, nurturing and meaningful relationships with other people.. This applies not only to romantic relationships, but also to other relationships such as family, friendship and social relationships. They are often described as good husbands, fathers, mothers, friends and co-workers.

Of the five types of characters described by Fromm, the productive type is the only one healthy approach to cope with anxiety resulting from the conflict between the need for freedom and the need for belonging.