Biography of Karen Horney

The biography of Karen Horney has several parallels with the life of Melanie Klein (see Chapter 5). Each was bom during the 1880s, the youngest child of a 50-year-old father and his second wife. Each had older siblings who were favored by the parents, and each felt unwanted and unloved. Also, each had wanted to become a physician, but only Horney fulfilled that ambition. Finally, both Horney and Klein engaged hi an extended self-analysis—Horney's, beginning with her diaries from age 13 to 26, continuing with her analysis by Karl Abraham, and culminating with her book Self-Analysis (Quimi, 1987).

Karen Danielsen Homey was bom in Eilbek, a small town near Hamburg, Germany, on September 15, 1885. She was the only daughter of Berndt (Wackels) Danielsen, a sea captain, and Clothilda van Ronzelen Danielsen, a woman nearly 18 years younger than her husband. The only other child of this marriage was a son, about 4 years older than Karen. However, the old sea captahi had been married earlier and had four other children, most of whom were adults by the thne Horney was born. The Danielsen family was an unhappy one, in part because Karen's older half-siblings turned then father agahist his second wife. Karen felt great hostility toward her stem, devoutly religious father and regarded him as a religious hypocrite. However, she idolized her mother, who both supported and protected her against the stern old sea captahi. Nevertheless, Karen was not a happy child. She resented the favored treatment given to her older brother, and hi addition, she worried about the bitterness and discord between her parents.

When she was 13, Horney decided to become a physician, but at that thne no university in Germany admitted women. By the time she was 16, this situation had changed. So Horney—over the objections of her father who wanted her to stay home and take care of the household—entered the gymnasium, a school that would lead to a university and then to medical school. On her own for the first time, Karen was to remain independent for the rest of her life. According to Paris (1994), however, Horney s independence was mostly superficial. On a deeper level, she retahied a compulsive need to merge with a great man. This morbid dependency, which typically included idealization and fear of inciting angry rejection, haunted Homey during her relationships with a series of men.

In 1906, she entered the University of Freiburg, becoming one of the first women hi Germany to study medicine. There she met Oskar Homey, a political science student. Their relationship began as a friendship, but it eventually became a romantic one. After their marriage in 1909, the couple settled hi Berlin, where Oskar, now with a PhD, worked for a coal company and Karen, not yet with an MD, specialized hi psychiatry.

By this time, Freudian psychoanalysis was becoming well established and Karen Horney became familiar with Freud's writings. Early hi 1910, she began an analysis with Karl Abraham, one of Freud's close associates and a man who later analyzed Melanie Klein. After Horney's analysis was terminated she attended Abraham's evening seminars, where she became acquahited with other psychoanalysts. By 1917, she had written her first paper on psychoanalysis, "The Technique of Psychoanalytic Therapy" (Horney, 1917/1968), which reflected the orthodox Freudian view and gave little indication of Homey's subsequent independent thinking.

Chapter 6 Horney: Psychoanalytic Social Theory 163

The early years of her marriage were filled with many notable personal experiences for Horney. Her father and mother, who were now separated, died within less than a year of each other; she gave birth to tlnee daughters in 5 years; she received her MD degree in 1915 after 5 years of psychoanalysis; and, in her quest for the right man, she had several love affairs (Paris, 1994; Quinn, 1987).

After World War I, the Horneys lived a prosperous, suburban lifestyle with several servants and a chauffeur. Oskar did well financially while Karen enjoyed a thriving psychiatric practice. This idyllic scene, however, soon ended. The inflation and economic disorder of 1923 cost Oskar his job, and the family was forced to move back to an apartment in Berlin. In 1926, Karen and Oskar separated but did not officially divorce until 1938 (Paris, 1994).

The early years following her separation from Oskar were the most productive of Horney s life. In addition to seeing patients and caring for her three daughters, she became more involved with writing, teaching, traveling, and lecturing. Her papers now showed important differences with Freudian theory. She believed that culture, not anatomy, was responsible for psychic differences between men and women. When Freud reacted negatively to Horney s position, she became even more outspoken in her opposition.

In 1932, Horney left Germany for a position as associate director of the newly established Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute. Several factors contributed to her decision to immigrate—the anti-Jewish political climate in Germany (although Horney was not Jewish), increasing opposition to her unorthodox views, and an opportunity to extend her influence beyond Berlin. During the 2 years she spent in Chicago, she met Margaret Mead, John Dollard, and many of the same scholars who had influenced Harry Stack Sullivan (see Chapter 8). In addition, she renewed acquaintances with Erich Fromm and his wife Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, whom she had known in Berlin. During the next 10 years, Horney and Fromm were close friends, greatly influencing one another and eventually becoming lovers (Hornstein, 2000).

After 2 years in Chicago, Horney moved to New York, where she taught at the New School for Social Research. While in New York, she became a member of the Zodiac group that included Fromm, Fromm-Reichmann, Sullivan, and others. Although Horney was a member of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, she seldom agreed with the established members. Moreover, her book New Ways in Psychoanalysis (1939) made her the leader of an opposition group. In this book, Horney called for abandoning the instinct theory and placing more emphasis on ego and social influences. In 1941, she resigned from the institute over issues of dogma and orthodoxy and helped form a rival organization—the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (AAP). This new group, however, also quickly suffered from internal strife. In 1943, Fromm (whose intimate relationship with Horney had recently ended) and several others resigned from the AAP, leaving that organization without its strongest members. Despite this rift, the association continued, but under a new name—the Karen Homey Psychoanalytic Institute, hi 1952, Horney established the Karen Horney Clinic.

In 1950, Horney published her most important work, Neurosis and Human Growth. This book sets forth theories that were no longer merely a reaction to Freud but rather were an expression of her own creative and independent thinking. After a short illness, Horney died of cancer on December 4, 1952. She was 65 years old.

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