HABITUS Volume 22
2018-03-20 発行


Interpersonal Relationships, Loneliness, and "Amae"
Huang, Ping
Psychologists have proposed that loneliness stems from a lack of interpersonal relationships, which can be quantitative in some cases and qualitative in others. In the current study, loneliness is proposed to be fundamentally caused by the deviation between the ideal and the reality of interpersonal relationships. Therefore, it may be more appropriate to describe loneliness as a result of failing to obtain "intimate and satisfactory relationships".
Takeo Doi defines "amae" as the time at which an infant's thought processes have developed to a certain stage involving the pursuit of a mother's mental activity (emotion), based on the understanding that the mother and the self exist independently. In previous studies, the author found that the pursuit of mothers by infants typically evolves into the pursuit of intimacy with others outside the mother-child relationship. The phenomenon of distorted amae (negative amae) develops when the desired intimacy is not available. Thus, the author proposes that loneliness is linked with amae, particularly the failure to obtain sufficiently intimate relationships.
Fromm has proposed a different interpretation of loneliness, referring to the process of a baby leaving their mother as a form of loneliness. In Fromm's interpretation, there are two contradictory sides to this process: "the growing personality" and "the growing loneliness". Fromm proposes that the unbalanced development of these two sides results in uneasiness, which manifests as loneliness. To dispel this "uneasiness", the child may search again for the "original connection" that once made them feel relieved. However, at the moment they were separated from their mothers, it became impossible to return to the original state. In Fromm's conception, people can only establish a close connection with the world through "positive relations" such as "love" and "work". In the author's opinion, Fromm's "original connection" is roughly equivalent to Doi's "intimate mother-child relationship". Doi's amae and Fromm's loneliness are connected in two important ways. First, both are premised on mother-child relations, in which the child ultimately seeks to recover the "original connection". Second, in both conceptions, the child seeks to resolve "uneasiness" by seeking intimate connections with others (connection with the world).
Overall, the author believes that loneliness, whether it is caused by a lack of intimate or satisfactory relationships, or as the result of personality development, is closely associated with amae. Thus, loneliness is premised on amae, and can be resolved by dispelling amae.