PERSONALITY THEORY PSYC2021 2018 Karen Horney Personality Psychology Biography • 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 free-thinking. • 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. Contribution • 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 envy. • 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 development. • 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) personality. • 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 behaviour. • 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: 1) 2) 3) 4) Securing affection and love Being submissive Attaining power Withdrawing 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 needs. The Three Neurotic Trends • Neurotic trends evolve from and elaborate on the selfprotective mechanisms. • The neurotic trends are compulsive attitudes and behaviours. • Three neurotic trends: 1) Movement toward other people (the compliant personality) 2) Movement against other people (the aggressive personality) 3) Movement away from other people (the detached personality) The Compliant Personality • Displays attitudes and behaviours that reflect a desire to move toward people. • 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 demanding. • 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 people. • This image supplies a sense of unity and integration to our personality. • 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 childhood. • Her theory does not delve deeper into the social and cultural forces of personality development.