Self Hatred

People with a neurotic search for glory can never be happy with themselves because when they realize that then real self does not match the insatiable demands of then idealized self, they will begin to hate and despise themselves:

The glorified self becomes not only a phantom to be pursued; it also becomes a measuring rod with which to measure his actual being. And this actual being is such an embarrassing sight when viewed from the perspective of a godlike perfection that he cannot but despise it. (Homey, 1950, p. 110)

Horney (1950) recognized six major ways hi which people express self-hatred. First, self-hatred may result hi relentless demands on the self, which are exemplified

176 Part II Psychodynamic Theories by the tyranny of the should. For example, some people make demands on themselves that don't stop even when they achieve a measure of success. These people continue to push themselves toward perfection because they believe they should be perfect.

The second mode of expressing self-hatred is merciless self-accusation. Neurotics constantly berate themselves. "If people only knew me, they would realize that I'm pretending to be knowledgeable, competent, and sincere. I'm really a fraud but no one knows it but me." Self-accusation may take a variety of forms—from obviously grandiose expressions, such as taking responsibility for natural disasters, to scrupulously questioning the virtue of then own motivations.

Third self-hatred may take the form of self-contempt, which might be expressed as belittling, disparaging, doubting, discrediting, and ridiculing oneself. Self-contempt prevents people from striving for improvement or achievement. A young man may say to himself, "You conceited idiot! What makes you think you can get a date with the best-looking woman in town?" A woman may attribute her successful career to "luck." Although these people may be aware of then behavior, they have no perception of the self-hatred that motivates it.

A fourth expression of self-hatred is self-frustration. Horney (1950) distinguished between healthy self-discipline and neurotic self-frustration. The former involves postponing or forgoing pleasurable activities hi order to achieve reasonable goals. Self-frustration stems from self-hatred and is designed to actualize an inflated self-hnage. Neurotics are frequently shackled by taboos agahist enjoyment. "I don't deserve a new car." "I must not wear nice clothes because many people around the world are in rags." "I must not strive for a better job because I'm not good enough for it."

Fifth, self-hatred may be manifested as self-torment, or self-torture. Although self-torment can exist in each of the other forms of self-hatred it becomes a separate category when people's main intention is to inflict harm or suffering on themselves. Some people attain masochistic satisfaction by anguishing over a decision, exaggerating the pain of a headache, cutting themselves with a knife, starting a fight that they are sure to lose, or inviting physical abuse.

The sixth and final form of self-hatred is self-destnictive actions and impulses, which may be either physical or psychological, conscious or unconscious, acute or chronic, carried out in action or enacted only hi the imagination. Overeating, abusing alcohol and other drugs, workhig too hard drivhig recklessly, and suicide are common expressions of physical self-destruction. Neurotics may also attack themselves psychologically, for example, quitting a job just when it beghis to be fulfilling, breakhig off a healthy relationship in favor of a neurotic one, or engaging in promiscuous sexual activities.

Homey (1950) summarized the neurotic search for glory and its attendant self-hatred with these descriptive words:

Surveying self-hate and its ravaging force, we cannot help but see in it a great tragedy, perhaps the greatest tragedy of the human mind. Man in reaching out for the Infinite and Absolute also starts destroying himself. When he makes a pact with the devil, who promises him glory, he has to go to hell—to the hell within himself, (p. 154)

Chapter 6 Horney: Psychoanalytic Social Theory 177

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