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2019 - Psyc 2020 Week 5 Karen Horney lectures

Karen Horney
Personality Psychology
• Born in Hamberg, Germany, 1885.
• The second born child, she envied her brother at an early age.
• Her brother was the blue eyed boy, the first-born son, adored by his
parents, described as attractive and charming.
• Horney, however, was smarter than he was, and vivacious.
• At the time of her birth, her father was 50 – religious, domineering,
imperious and morose; her mother was 30 – attractive, spirited and
• Father was a sea-captain – spent lengthy periods at sea.
• Parent’s relationship fraught with conflict.
• Mother made it no secret that she wanted her husband to die.
• Mother revealed to Horney that she did not marry for love but from
the fear of becoming a spinster.
• Craved her father’s attention, equally intimated by and feared him.
• Throughout her life, she felt unloved by her parents.
• Her personality theory describes how a lack of love in childhood fosters
anxiety and hostility.
She differed with Freud primarily on his portrayal of women.
• Considered an early feminist within psychoanalysis.
• To counter Freud’s argument that women are driven by penis envy, she
proposed that men are envious of women for their ability to give birth.
• Men suffer from ‘womb envy’ as much as women may suffer from penis
• Unlike Freud, she argued that human beings are not motivated by sexual or
aggressive forces but by needs for love and security.
The Childhood Need for Safety
• In agreement with Freud that the early years of
childhood shape our adult personality.
• However, Horney believed that social forces in
childhood, and not biological forces, influence
personality development.
• According to Horney, there are neither
developmental stages nor childhood conflicts, but
rather the social relationship between the child
and her/his caregiver that is a key factor.
The Childhood Need for Safety
• Horney argues, the child is dominated by the safety
need = a need for security and freedom from fear.
• The extent to which an infant experiences a feeling of
security and an absence of fear is decisive in
determining the normality of her/his personality
• In Horney’s case, her parents provided her with little
warmth and affection, which effected how she
continuously sought relationships with men that
provided her with the illusion of love and security.
The Childhood Need for Safety
• Horney believed that infants and children could withstand
traumatic experiences like abrupt weaning, occasional
beatings, or even premature sexual experiences, as long as
they feel wanted and loved, which leads to a secure (enough)
• Parents can act in various ways to undermine their child’s
security and thereby induce hostility through favouring a
sibling, unfair punishment, erratic behaviour, promises not
kept, ridicule, humiliation, and isolating the child from peers.
• Horney suggested that children know and can sense when
their parents love, care and concern is genuine; false and
insincere expressions of affection do not easily fool the child.
The Childhood Need for Safety
• Horney argues that when children’s sense of
helplessness is aggravated, this can lead to neurotic
• Children’s sense of helplessness is depends on their
parents behaviour.
• If children are kept in an excessively dependent state,
then their feelings of helplessness will be encouraged.
• So feelings of helplessness surface when children
depend too much on their parents.
The Childhood Need for Safety
• Horney argues that the more helpless a child feels the
less they dare to rebel or oppose their parents.
• Horney’s logic is that: helplessness leads to the child
feeling frightened or fearful of their parents, which
causes them to repress their hostility.
• In this instance, the child is saying: “I must repress my
hostility because I am afraid of you.”
• It is important to mention that a variety of parental
behaviours cause repressed hostility in the child.
Basic Anxiety: The Foundation of Neurosis
• Repressed hostility undermines the child’s need for
safety, and manifests in the condition that Horney
called ‘basic anxiety’.
• According to Horney (1937:89), basic anxiety is an
“insidiously increasing, all-pervasive feeling of being
lonely and helpless in a hostile world”.
• Basic anxiety is the foundation upon which neurosis
develops later in life, and it is tied to inseparable
feelings of hostility, helplessness, and fear.
Basic Anxiety: The Foundation of Neurosis
• Horney argues that in childhood we try to protect
ourselves against basic anxiety in four ways:
Securing affection and love
Being submissive
Attaining power
These are four self-protecting mechanisms, that
people use to defend against anxiety and pain, and
not the pursuit of well-being.
Neurotic Needs
• Horney argues that neurotic needs develop when
people constantly defend against anxiety i.e. a person
uses one or more of the self-protective mechanisms.
• Neurotic needs are irrational solutions to one’s
problems or irrational defences against anxiety that
become a permanent part of one’s personality and that
affect behaviour.
• Horney identifies ten neurotic needs: (1) affection and
approval, (2) a dominant partner, (3) power, (4)
exploitation, (5) prestige, (6) admiration, (7)
achievement or ambition, (8) self-sufficiency, (9)
perfection and (10) narrow limits to life.
Neurotic Trends
• She later discovered that her patients presented
with neurotic needs that could be categorised into
three main groups.
• This led her to reformulate the ten neurotic needs
into three neurotic trends = three categories of
behaviours and attitudes towards oneself and
others that express a person’s needs.
• Again, the neurotic trends are a revision of neurotic
The Three Neurotic Trends
• Neurotic trends evolve from and elaborate on the selfprotective mechanisms.
• The neurotic trends are compulsive attitudes and
• Three neurotic trends:
1) Movement toward other people (the compliant
2) Movement against other people (the aggressive
3) Movement away from other people (the detached
The Compliant Personality
• Displays attitudes and behaviours that reflect a desire to move toward
• Such people have an intense and continuous need for affection and
approval, an urge to be loved, wanted and protected.
• We often see that compliant personalities manipulate other people,
particularly their partners, to achieve their goals.
• For example, they present as unusually considerate, appreciative,
responsive, understanding and sensitive to the needs of others.
• They subordinate their personal desires to those of other people, willing to
assume blame, overly submissive, they do whatever the situation requires
of them.
• They have a strong desire to manipulate, control and exploit others, which
is the opposite of what their behaviours and attitudes express.
The Aggressive Personality
• Aggressive personalities move against people.
• This personality views everyone as hostile; only the fittest and
cunning survive.
• Although their motivation is the same as that of the compliant
personality i.e. to alleviate basic anxiety, aggressive personalities
never display fear of rejection.
• They put on a tough and domineering act; disregard for others,
control and superiority is vital to their lives, constantly striving for
excellence and recognition, judgmental, critical, insensitive and
• They appear confident of their abilities and uninhibited in
asserting and defending themselves, however they are driven by
insecurity, anxiety and hostility.
The Detached Personality
• Detached personalities are driven to move away from other people and to
maintain an emotional distance.
• They must not love, hate, or cooperate with others or become involved in
any way.
• To achieve total detachment, they strive to become self-sufficient.
• A desperate desire for privacy and solitude.
• Their need for independence makes them sensitive to any attempt to
influence, coerce or obligate them.
• They avoid all constraints such as timetables, schedules, long term
commitments like marriage, intimacy, conflict.
• They believe that their greatness or sense of superiority should be
automatically or magically recognized.
The Three Neurotic Trends
• Horney found that in a neurotic person, one of
these three trends is dominant whilst the other
two are present to a lesser extent.
• Horney argues that in a healthy personality, all
three of these neurotic trends must coexist with
one another.
• However, in a neurotic personality, one trend
dominates more than the other two, thus a
conflict arises.
The Idealized Self-Image
• In normal persons, the self image is built on a realistic appraisal of
our abilities, potentials, weaknesses, goals, and relations with other
• This image supplies a sense of unity and integration to our
• Neurotic persons, however, construct an idealized self image for the
same purposes as normal people do i.e. to unify the personality.
• The neurotic person’s attempt to fulfil this image is doomed to fail
because their self image is not based on a realistic appraisal of
personal strengths and weaknesses.
• Neurotic people engage in what Horney calls a tyranny of the
shoulds: they tell themselves they should be instead of simply being
A Feminine Psychology
• Includes a revision of psychoanalysis to encompass the
psychological conflicts inherent in the traditional idea of
womanhood and women’s roles.
• Her notion of “womb envy” = men envied women because of their
capacity for motherhood.
• She argued that man have such a small part to play in the act of
creating new life that they must sublimate their womb envy and
overcompensate for it by seeking achievement in their work.
• Womb envy and the resentment that accompany it result in
behaviours designed to disparage and belittle women, by denying
women equal rights, minimizing their opportunities to contribute
to society and downgrading their efforts to achieve.
Pros and Cons
• Her theory has common sense appeal for everyone, and for many
people her theory seems to be applicable to their own personality.
• Horney’s work on neurotic trends are useful for understanding
deviant behaviour and personality disorders.
• Her work on the importance of the idealized self-image had a
significant influence on the personality theories of Erik Erikson and
Abraham Maslow.
• Horney did not elaborate much on unconscious processes that
underpin neurotic trends, in terms of how they originate in
• Her theory does not delve deeper into the social and cultural
forces of personality development.
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