Karen Horney – Theory of Neurosis
Horney’s theory is perhaps the best theory of neurosis we have (Obsessive-compulsive disorder, being a type of neurosis). First, she offered a different way of viewing neurosis. She saw it as much more continuous with normal life than previous theorists. Specifically, she saw neurosis as an attempt to make life bearable, as a way of “interpersonal control and coping.” (This leads to my hypothesis, that photography can be used, subconscously as a coping mechanism). This is, of course, what we all strive to do on a day-to-day basis, only most of us seem to be doing alright, while the neurotic seems to be sinking fast!
Horney’s theory is related to her personal life and how she was able to deal with her problems. Her idea of neurosis and psychoanalysis involving inner conflicts is regarded as one of the best theories in this area. Neurosis is how people cope and have control over interpersonal issues that happen day to day, according to Horney. Another theory she addresses is the idea of personality in conjunction with psychoanalysis. Below, her theories are examed in more depth by actually seeing how she disagrees with Freud and what her ideas are for neuroses and psychoanalysis.
Neurosis: Neurosis is a “psychic disturbance brought by fears and defenses against these fears, and by attempts to find compromise solutions for conflicting tendencies”
(The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time, 28-29).
This describes an individual having trouble with coping and handling certain psychosocial environmental stressors resulting in problems within their selves. Also, neurotics can not be diagnosed without looking at their cultural background. Neurotic feelings and attitudes are determined by the way they live, according to Horney.
Freud believes “instinctual drives or object relationships that are frequent in our culture are biologically determined”
(The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, 20).
Horney feels Freud ignores the cultural factors which consequently leads to false acquisitions. Also, it disrupts the understanding of what actually motivates our actions and attitudes. The neurotic shares their fears with other cultures. In a certain culture the fears are less when there are devices to protect them like rites or customs.
This fits into my theory, that as a British-born Jat Sikh my upbringing in relation to the cultural viewing of the relationship/marriage/family etiquette etc. is not quite understood by predominantly white western audiences.
Freud suggests that a neurotic’s real self is determined by his concept of ego. This concept of ego is without initiative or executive powers.
Horney thinks a neurotic is driven by these emotional forces that are involved in their lives. Also, Horney believes that Freudian’s theory about sexuality and continuous compulsives, is interfering with an individual, the family, and social factors where there is organization of values, and attitudes. Freud believes they are compulsive drives from nature, involving every human being.
This can not be valid according to Horney, if these “neuroses were an outgrowth of disturbed human relationships” (Inner Conflicts,12). She believes they are compulsive drives but become neurotic by a human feeling isolated, helpless, afraid, and hostile. They represent ways of coping with their life despite these problems called “neurotic trends”
Horney named ten patterns of neurotic needs. These ten needs are based upon things which she thought all humans require to succeed in life. (Classified according to her 4 so-called coping strategies)
The neurotic needs are as follows:
Moving Toward People
1. The neurotic need for affection and approval, the indiscriminate need to please others and be liked by them.
2. The neurotic need for a partner, for someone who will take over one’s life. This includes the idea that love will solve all of one’s problems. Again, we all would like a partner to share life with, but the neurotic goes a step or two too far.
Moving Against People
3. The neurotic need to restrict one’s life to narrow borders, to be undemanding, satisfied with little, to be inconspicuous. Even this has its normal counterpart. Who hasn’t felt the need to simplify life when it gets too stressful, to join a monastic order, disappear into routine, or to return to the womb?
4. The neurotic need for power, for control over others, for a facade of omnipotence. We all seek strength, but the neurotic may be desperate for it. This is dominance for its own sake, often accompanied by a contempt for the weak and a strong belief in one’s own rational powers.
5. The neurotic need to exploit others and get the better of them. In the ordinary person, this might be the need to have an effect, to have impact, to be heard. In the neurotic, it can become manipulation and the belief that people are there to be used. It may also involve a fear of being used, of looking stupid. You may have noticed that the people who love practical jokes more often than not cannot take being the butt of such a joke themselves!
6. The neurotic need for social recognition or prestige. We are social creatures, and sexual ones, and like to be appreciated. But these people are overwhelmingly concerned with appearances and popularity. They fear being ignored, be thought plain, “uncool,” or “out of it.”
7. The neurotic need for personal admiration. We need to be admired for inner qualities as well as outer ones. We need to feel important and valued. But some people are more desperate, and need to remind everyone of their importance – “Nobody recognizes genius,” “I’m the real power behind the scenes, you know,” and so on. Their fear is of being thought nobodies, unimportant and meaningless.
Moving Away from People
8. The neurotic need for personal achievement. Again, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with achievement – far from it! But some people are obsessed with it. They have to be number one at everything they do. Since this is, of course, quite a difficult task, you will find these people devaluing anything they cannot be number one in! If they are good runners, then the discus and the hammer are “side shows.” If academic abilities are their strength, physical abilities are of no importance, and so on.
9. The neurotic need for self-sufficiency and independence. We should all cultivate some autonomy, but some people feel that they shouldn’t ever need anybody. They tend to refuse help and are often reluctant to commit to a relationship.
10. The neurotic need for perfection and unassailability. To become better and better at life and our special interests is hardly neurotic, but some people are driven to be perfect and scared of being flawed. They can’t be caught making a mistake and need to be in control at all times.
Upon investigating the ten needs further, Horney found she was able to condense them into three broad categories:
Compliance, Aggression and Detachment.
Theory of the Self:
Through her views on the individual psyche, Horney postulated that the self is in fact the core of one’s own being and potential.
Horney believed that we have two views of ourselves. The “real self” and the “ideal self”. The real self is who and what we actually are. Self-actualization is something that individuals strive for. It is important to know the differences between your ideal and real self.
Since the neurotic person’s self is split between an idealized self and a corresponding despised self, individuals may feel that they somehow lack living up to the ideals. They feel that there is a flaw somewhere in comparison to what they “should” be. The goals set out by the neurotic are not realistic, or indeed possible. The despised self, on the other hand, has the feeling that it is despised by those around them, and assumes that this incarnation is its “true” self. Thus, the neurotic is like a clock’s pendulum, oscillating between a fallacious “perfection” and a manifestation of self-hate. Horney referred to this phenomenon as the “tyranny of the shoulds” and the neurotic’s hopeless “search for glory”. [Horney, K. (1950)]
She concluded that these ingrained traits of the psyche forever prevent an individual’s potential from being actualized unless the cycle of neurosis is somehow broken, through treatment or otherwise.
She strove to reformulate Freudian thought, presenting a holistic, humanistic view of the individual psyche which placed much emphasis on cultural and social differences worldwide.
Her theories questioned some traditional Freudian views, particularly his theory of sexuality, as well as the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis and its genetic psychology. (Freud’s notion of ‘penis envy’, men could have ‘womb envy’)
Together with fellow psychoanalyst Alfred Adler, she formed Neo-Freudian discipline.
[Horney, K. (1950).Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.]
[Horney, K. (1945). Our Inner Conflicts: A Constructive Theory Of Neurosis. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.]
[Horney, K. (1942). Self-Analysis. New York: W.W Norton and Company, Inc.]
[Horney, K. (1937).The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.]
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