karen horney biography and impact

Karen Horney was a revolutionary theorist in personality, psychoanalysis, and feminine psychology.

Theories of hers questioned many traditional Freudian views, particularly his theory of sexuality and the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis. As such, she is often classified as one of the post-Freudian. Throughout the history of psychology, Karen Horney was undoubtedly a great influence to many self-psychologists, humanists, psychoanalysts, feminists, and cognitive therapists.BiographyKaren Horney was born September 16, 1885, to Clotilde and Berndt Wackels Danielson, in Eilbek, Germany (Quinn, 1987, p.

19). Her father was a ship’s captain, a religious man, and an authoritarian. Her mother was Berndt’s second wife, who was considerably more sophisticated than Bernt. Horney had an older brother, also named Berndt, for whom she cared profoundly, as well as four siblings from her father’s previous marriage (Rubins, 1978, p.

12-14).Growing up was not an easy process easy for Horney. Although her father often bought her gifts and took her on exciting trips, she felt deprived of her father’s affection. She always thought that he was.

a cruel disciplinarian figure who preferred her brother Berndt over her. Because of this, she became especially attached to her mother (Sayers. 1991, p. 85).

At the age of nine, she developed a crush on her own brother. As she felt rejected and pushed away by him, it led to her first short period of depression. It was during this time she changed her approach to life, and became ambitious and even rebellious (Quinn, 1987, p. 22-23).

In early adulthood came several years of stress. In 1904, her mother divorced her father and left him with Horney and young Berndt. In 1906, she entered medical school, not only against her parents’ wishes, but also against the opinions of polite society, which did not value academic achievements in women at that time (Quinn, 1987, p. 101).

While there, she met a law student named Oscar Horney, whom she married in 1909. Next year, Horney gave birth to Brigitte, the first of her three daughters. Like Horney’s father, Oscar was an authoritarian who was mean and harsh on his children (Rubins, 1978, p. 34-35).

Another year after Horney gave birth, her mother died. Horney then turned to Freudian analysis to help her through the hard time.In 1923, Oscar’s business was shut down and he became ill. In the same year, Horney’s brother died at the age of 40 of a pulmonary infection.

Her brother’s death, along with her husband’s behavior, contributed to Horney ‘s depression and suicidal thoughts (Sayers. 1991, p. 88). Eventually, Horney and her daughters moved out of Oscar’s house, and settled in Brooklyn in 1930.

While she was there, she developed her theories on neurosis, based on her experiences as a psychotherapist (Quinn, 1987, p. 190-191). By 1941, Horney established and became Dean of the American Institute for Psychoanalysis, a school for those interested in her own Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, a program founded because of her disappointment with the orthodox approach to psychoanalysis. She also established the American Journal of Psychoanalysis (Quinn, 1987, p.

353).Theory of neurosisAlthough debatable, many agree that Horney’s theory of neurosis is the best that exists today. She placed significant emphasis on parental indifference towards the child, stated that a child’s perception of events, not the parent’s intentions, is the key to explain a person’s neurosis (Quinn, 1987, p. 309-311).

Horney argued that, from childhood on, people have a sense of insecurity she called basic anxiety. This is a feeling of being abandoned, of being isolated and helpless in a cruel and hostile world. Basic anxiety can be minimized by being raised in a home where there’s love, warmth, security, trust, and tolerance provided by other members of the family. However, the sense of insecurity remains there for everyone.

She believed people develop strategies to cope with basic anxiety. A person may strike back against the people who’ve abandoned him or her, try to win back love by being submissive, or develop an inflated self-concept to compensate for insecurity. If the strategy is not successful in obtaing affection, it leads to a vicious cycle of incresed anxiety (Sayers. 1991, p.

123-125).From her experiences as a psychiatrist, Horney named ten patterns of neurotic needs. These ten needs are based upon things which she thought all humans require to succeed in life. They are the need for affection and approval, the need for a partner, the need to restrict life practices, the need for power, the need to exploit others, the need for social recognition, the need for persional admiration, the need for personal achievement, the need for self sufficiency and independence, and the need for perfection (Horney, 1948, p.

5-29). As she investigated them further, Horney found she was able to classify them into three catagories: compliance, aggression, and withdrawal (Quinn, 1987, p. 310-311).The need for affection and approval, the need for a partner, and the need to restrict life practices were assimilated into the compliance category.

This category is seen as a process of “moving towards people”. Horney believed that children facing difficulties with parents often practice this strategy. Fear of helplessness and abandonment occurs. Those within the compliance category tend to show a need for affection and approval on the part of their peers.

Because they believe that all of life’s problems would be solved by the new cohort, they may seek out a partner or find somebody to confide in (Horney, 1948, p. 60-65).Secondly, the aggression category, often labelled as the ” moving against people ” solution, encompasses the need for power, the need to exploit others, the need for social recognition, the need for persional admiration, the need for personal achievement comprise this category. Neurotic children or adults within this category often exhibit anger or basic hostility to those around them.

Lastly, neurotic persons may employ withdrawal, also called the “moving-away-from people” solution. The need for self sufficiency and independence, and the need for perfection, falls in this category (Horney, 1948, p. 71-74). Horney recognized that children might simply solve their problem by becoming self sufficient.

The withdrawing neurotic may discard others in a non-aggressive manner, regarding independence as the way forth.These needs are called neurotic needs because they are not effective solutions to the problem. She believed the strategies people use to battle basic anxiety can become a fixed part of personality if they are used too much. Well-adapted people usually take one style at a time and shift from one to another flexibly as needed (Quinn, 1987, p.

148). Horney’s ideas of neurotic needs mirrored those of fellow professional Alfred Adler in many ways. Together, Adler and Horney are often referred as post-Freudians or Social Psychologists.Post-Freudism and Feminine psychologyAlthough much of Horney’s work concerned such general themes as the role of basic anxiety in behaviour, she also had much to say regarding the psychoanalytic view of women.

While Horney acknowledged and agreed with Sigmund Freud on many issues, she was also critical of him on several key beliefs. According to Freud, a woman’s life is deeply affected by the fact that she has no penis. Women feel castrated and inferior, and they envy and resent men throughtout their lives because of it (Sayers. 1991, p.

93). Freud’s notion of penis envy in particular was subject to criticism by Horney. She accepted that penis envy might occur occasionally in neurotic women, but womb envy also occurs in men (Horney, 1973, p. 87).

Horney felt that because men play a minor role in bearing and nurturing children, it leads to a deep sense of inferiority. One result of men’s feelings of inferiority is an attempt to compensate through achievement. Besides achievement efforts, men try to hide their inferiorities by devaluing women and denying them equal rights. Horney argued that the tendency of women to feel inferior arises not from penis envy, but from the cultural context in which they live.

Thus, if women regard themselves as unworthy or useless, it’s only because men have treated them that way for a long time (Rubins, 1978, p. 145-156).Horney did not think it was necessary for psychologists to place much emphasis on male sexual organ. She reworked Freud’s Oedipal complex, declaring that the clinging to one parent and jealousy of the other was simply the result of anxiety caused by problem in the parent-child relationship (Horney, 1973, p.

65). In her personality theory, Horney reworked Freudian thought and presented a holistic, humanistic perspective that emphasized cultural and social influences.To date, Horney is the only female psychiatrist to have her views analyzed and placed in textbooks regarding human personality (Quinn, 1987, p. 217).

Horney developed her ideas to the extent to which she released one of the first self-help books in 1946, entitled “Are you considering psychoanalysis?” (Sayers. 1991, p. 141). Therefore, both male and female, with relatively minor neurotic problems could be their own psychiatrists.

Theory of the selfHorney believed that the self is in fact the center of one’s being and their potential. If one has a precise notion of oneself, he or she is free to realize their potential. Thus, the healthy person’s real self is aimed at accomplishing their self-actualization throughout life (Sayers. 1991, p.

130-131).The neurotic’s self is split into an ideal self and a despised self. One’s ideal self is formed when he or she feels that there is something missing in some area of life, and he or she is not living up to the ideals when they should be. However, this ideal self is not a positive goal, nor is it realistic or possible (Quinn, 1987, p.

328-329). The despised self, in contrast, is the feeling that it is despised by those around them, and one believes that this despised being is their actual self. The neurotics, therefore, move back and forth between pretending to be perfect and hating themselves. Horney called this inner psychological battle the “tyranny of the shoulds” and the neurotic’s hopelessness “striving for glory”.

These two impossible selves keep the neurotic away from ever reaching their potential (Sayers. 1991, p. 138-139).InfluencesAs a theorist, leader, teacher, and therapist, Horney made numerous contributions that have been influential and significant in determining and advancing psychological thinking.

She took many positions that anticipated later developments in psychological theory and in Western culture more broadly. Her feminist stance was no exception. She argued that a woman’s identity is not to be found in the mere reflection of her husband. Rather, women should seek their own identities by developing their abilities and pursuing careers.

Indeed, Horney was a woman ahead of her time. Her major works are still in print and continue to have a wide readership. The Karen Horney Clinic was opened on May 6, 1955 in honor of her significant achievements. The institution is a research, training, and inexpensive treatment center.

(Sayers. 1991, p. 140)             BibliographyHorney, K. (1948).

Our Inner Conflicts: A Constructive Theory of Neurosis. London: Kegan Paul.Horney, K. (1973).

Feminine Psychology. New York: W. W. Norton.

Quinn, S. (1987). A mind of her own: The life of Karen Horney. New York: Summit Books.

Rubins, J. L. (1978). Karen Horney: Gentle rebel of psychoanalysis.

New York: The Dial Press.Sayers, J. (1991). Mothers of psychoanalysis.

New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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