Horney's Theory

Karen Horney's theory is a unique synthesis of Freud's and Adler's ideas. K. Horney emphasizes the importance of powerful unconscious intrapsychic conflicts. It deviates significantly from Orthodox psychoanalysis in several aspects:

  • it rejects the libido construct,
  • rejects the assumption that the behavior of all people is conditioned by innate forbidden instincts, such as incest and destructiveness,
  • emphasizes social rather than biological determinants of personality.

Causes of neurosis

Each person has the ability and desire to creatively develop their potential and take their rightful place among their own kind. Psychopathology occurs only if this innate desire for positive growth and self-realization is blocked by external social influences.

While a healthy child develops a sense of belonging to a safe and nutritious family, a child raised by neurotic parents experiences deep doubts, strong fears, and perceives the world around them as hostile and frightening. Reducing this intense basic anxiety now becomes the primary goal of the child, dominating his innate healthy desires and needs. Because of this, he rejects warm and spontaneous relationships with other people and manipulates them for his own benefit. So a healthy search for self — realization is replaced by a General desire for security and safety-a sign of neurosis.

Movement to..., against and away from people

The neurotic desire for security is realized by exaggerating one of the three main characteristics of basic anxiety: helplessness, aggressiveness, and detachment.

With neurotic helplessness, a person feels an excessively strong desire to be under someone's protection and exaggeratedly, hypocritically gives in to the desires of other people (movement to people).

With neurotic aggressiveness, a person is sure that life is a Darwinian jungle in which only the fittest survive (movement against people). To people with neurotic aggressiveness, most people around them seem hostile and hypocritical; they believe that true feelings are unattainable or do not even exist.

With neurotic detachment, a person avoids close or even casual contact with others (moving away from people).

While a healthy person is free to move towards, against, or away from people as the case may be, the three neurotic decisions are involuntary and rigid. They are not, however, mutually exclusive. In each case, the two orientations that are deliberately downplayed remain active on an unconscious level and conflict with the dominant orientation.

Idealized image

Those who suffer from neurosis repress not only their internal painful conflicts, but also the shortcomings and weaknesses that they see in themselves and despise. Instead, they create a conscious Self-image that is exaggeratedly positive and reinforces the Central neurotic orientation.

This grandiose idealized image seems to its Creator quite normal and realistic. The result is a vicious circle. The idealized image encourages the individual to set unattainable standards and goals, including the certainty of ultimate victory, which in turn increases the sufferer's self-contempt, internal conflict between the doubtful true Self and the idealized image, increases dependence on the idealized image, and prolongs the compulsive and unsaturated desire to strengthen this unrealistic image by achieving a resounding triumph.

The tyranny of the "shoulds»

The constant internal demands for updating an idealized image resemble the politics of a totalitarian police state — a quality that Horney characterizes as "the tyranny of duty." This "ought" so takes possession of conscious thinking and hides repressed innate healthy impulses that the sufferer is no longer able to recognize what he needs and what he really wants. To release the desire for self-realization that is so thoroughly blocked, and to help a person replace the compulsive and painful pursuit of unattainable goals with pleasant and rewarding activity, formal psychotherapy is usually required.