Overview of Psychoanalytic Social Theory

The psychoanalytic social theory of Karen Horney (pronounced Horn-eye) was built on the assumption that social and cultural conditions, especially childhood experiences, are largely responsible for shaping personality. People who do not have their needs for love and affection satisfied dining childhood develop basic hostility toward then parents and, as a consequence, suffer from basic anxiety. Homey theorized that people combat basic anxiety by adopting one of tlnee fundamental styles of relating to others: (1) moving toward people, (2) moving against people, or (3) moving away from people. Normal individuals may use any of these modes of relating to other people, but neurotics are compelled to rigidly rely on only one. Then compulsive behavior generates a basic intrapsychic conflict that may take the form of either an idealized self-image or self-hatred. The idealized self-hnage is expressed as: (1) neurotic search for glory, (2) neurotic claims, or (3) neurotic pride. Self-hatred is expressed as either self-contempt or alienation from self.

Although Horney s writings are concerned mostly with the neurotic personality, many of her ideas can also be applied to normal individuals. This chapter looks at Horney s basic theory of neurosis, compares her ideas to those of Freud, examines her views on feminine psychology, and briefly discusses her ideas on psychotherapy.

As with other personality theorists, Horney s views on personality are a reflection of her life experiences. Bernard Paris (1994) wrote that "Horney s insights were derived from her efforts to relieve her own pam, as well as that of her patients. If her suffering had been less intense, her insights would have been less profound" (p. xxv). We look now at the life of this often-troubled woman.

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