Neurotic individuals have the same problems that affect normal people, except neurotics experience them to a greater degree. Everyone uses the various protective devices to guard against the rejection, hostility, and competitiveness of others. But whereas normal individuals are able to use a variety of defensive maneuvers in a somewhat useful way, neurotics compulsively repeat the same strategy in an essentially unproductive maimer.
Horney (1942) insisted that neurotics do not enjoy misery and suffering. They cannot change their behavior by free will but must continually and compulsively protect themselves against basic anxiety. This defensive strategy traps them in a vicious circle in which their compulsive needs to reduce basic anxiety lead to behaviors that perpetuate low self-esteem, generalized hostility, inappropriate striving for power, inflated feelings of superiority, and persistent apprehension, all of which result in more basic anxiety.
At the beginning of this chapter, we asked you to select either "True" or "False" for each of 10 items that might suggest a neurotic need. For each item except number 8, a "True" response parallels one of Horney s neurotic needs. For number 8, a "False" answer is consistent with the neurotic need for self-centeredness. Remember that endorsing most or even all of these statements in the "neurotic" direction is no indication of emotional instability, but these items may give you a better understanding of what Homey meant by neurotic needs.
Horney tentatively identified 10 categories of neurotic needs that characterize neurotics in their attempts to combat basic anxiety. These needs were more specific than the four protective devices discussed earlier, but they describe the same basic defensive strategies. The 10 categories of neurotic needs overlapped one another, and a single person might employ more than one. Each of the following neurotic needs relates in some way or another to other people.
1. The neurotic need for affection and approval. Ill their quest for affection and approval, neurotics attempt indiscriminately to please others. They try to live up to the expectations of others, tend to dread self-assertion, and are quite uncomfortable with the hostility of others as well as the hostile feelings within themselves.
2. The neurotic need for a powerful partner. Lacking self-confidence, neurotics try to attach themselves to a powerful partner. This need includes an overvaluation of love and a dread of being alone or deserted. Horney s own life story reveals a strong need to relate to a great man, and she had a series of such relationships during her adult life.
3. The neurotic need to restrict one s life within narrow borders. Neurotics frequently strive to remain inconspicuous, to take second place, and to be content with very little. They downgrade their own abilities and dread making demands on others.
4. The neurotic need for power. Power and affection are perhaps the two greatest neurotic needs. The need for power is usually combined with the needs for prestige and possession and manifests itself as the need to control others and to avoid feelings of weakness or stupidity.
5. The neurotic need to exploit others. Neurotics frequently evaluate others on the basis of how they can be used or exploited but at the same time, they fear being exploited by others.
6. The neurotic need for social recognition or prestige. Some people combat basic anxiety by trying to be first, to be important, or to attract attention to themselves.
7. The neurotic need for personal admiration. Neurotics have a need to be admired for what they are rather than for what they possess. Then inflated self-esteem must be continually fed by the admiration and approval of others.
8. The neurotic need for ambition and personal achievement. Neurotics often have a strong drive to be the best—the best salesperson, the best bowler, the best lover. They must defeat other people hi order to confirm their superiority.
9. The neurotic need for self-sufficiency and independence. Many neurotics have a strong need to move away from people, thereby proving that they can get along without others. The playboy who cannot be tied down by any woman exemplifies this neurotic need.
10. The neurotic need for perfection and unassailability. By striving relentlessly for perfection, neurotics receive "proof" of then self-esteem and personal superiority. They dread making mistakes and having personal flaws, and they desperately attempt to hide their weaknesses from others.
Was this article helpful?