Basic Hostility and Basic Anxiety

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Horney (1950) believed that each person begins life with the potential for healthy development, but like other living organisms, people need favorable conditions for growth. These conditions must include a warm and loving environment yet one that is not overly permissive. Children need to experience both genuine love and healthy discipline. Such conditions provide them with feelings of safety and satisfaction and permit them to grow hi accordance with then real self.

Unfortunately, a multitude of adverse influences may interfere with these favorable conditions. Primary among these is the parents' inability or unwillingness to love their child. Because of their own neurotic needs, parents often dominate, neglect, overprotect, reject, or overindulge. If parents do not satisfy the child's needs for safety and satisfaction, the child develops feelings of basic hostility toward the parents. However, children seldom overtly express this hostility as rage; instead they repress their hostility toward their parents and have no awareness of it. Repressed hostility then leads to profound feelings of insecurity and a vague sense of apprehension. This condition is called basic anxiety, which Homey (1950) defined as "a feeling of being isolated and helpless hi a world conceived as potentially hostile" (p. 18). Earlier, she gave a more graphic description, calling basic anxiety "a feeling of behig small, insignificant, helpless, deserted endangered in a world that is out to abuse, cheat, attack, humiliate, betray, envy" (Horney, 1937, p. 92).

Homey (1937, p. 75) believed that basic hostility and basic anxiety are "inextricably interwoven." Hostile hnpulses are the principal source of basic anxiety, but basic anxiety can also contribute to feelings of hostility. As an example of how basic hostility can lead to anxiety, Homey (1937) wrote about a young man with repressed hostility who went on a hiking trip in the mountains with a young woman with whom he was deeply hi love. His repressed hostility, however, also led him to become jealous of the woman. While walking on a dangerous mountain pass, the young man suddenly suffered a severe "anxiety attack" in the form of rapid heart rate and heavy breathing. The anxiety resulted from a seemingly hiappropriate but conscious impulse to push the young woman over the edge of the mountain pass.

In this case, basic hostility led to severe anxiety, but anxiety and fear can also lead to strong feelings of hostility. Children who feel threatened by their parents develop a reactive hostility in defense of that tlneat. Tins reactive hostility, hi turn, may create additional anxiety, thus completing the hiteractive circle between hostility and anxiety. Homey (1937) contended that "it does not matter whether anxiety or hostility lias been the primary factor" (p. 74). The important point is that then reciprocal influence may intensify a neurosis without a person's experiencing any additional outside conflict.

Basic anxiety itself is not a neurosis, but "it is the nutritive soil out of winch a definite neurosis may develop at any time" (Horney, 1937, p. 89). Basic anxiety is constant and unrelenting, needing no particular stimulus such as taking a test in school or givhig a speech. It permeates all relationships with others and leads to unhealthy ways of trying to cope with people.

Although she later amended her list of defenses against basic anxiety, Homey (1937) originally identified four general ways that people protect themselves agahist this feeling of being alone in a potentially hostile world. The first is affection, a strategy that does not always lead to authentic love. In their search for affection, some people may try to purchase love with self-effacing compliance, material goods, or sexual favors.

The second protective device is submissiveness. Neurotics may submit themselves either to people or to institutions such as an organization or a religion. Neurotics who submit to another person often do so in order to gam affection.

Chapter 6 Horney: Psychoanalytic Social Theory 167

Neurotics may also try to protect themselves by striving for power, prestige, or possession. Power is a defense against the real or imagined hostility of others and takes the form of a tendency to dominate others; prestige is a protection against humiliation and is expressed as a tendency to humiliate others; possession acts as a buffer against destitution and poverty and manifests itself as a tendency to deprive others.

The fourth protective mechanism is withdrawal. Neurotics frequently protect themselves against basic anxiety either by developing an independence from others or by becoming emotionally detached from them. By psychologically withdrawing, neurotics feel that they cannot be hurt by other people.

These protective devices did not necessarily indicate a neurosis, and Horney believed that all people use them to some extent. They become unhealthy when people feel compelled to rely on them and are thus unable to employ a variety of interpersonal strategies. Compulsion, then, is the salient characteristic of all neurotic drives.

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