The Neurotic Search for Glory

As neurotics come to believe hi the reality of then idealized self, they begin to incorporate it hito all aspects of their lives—then goals, their self-concept, and then relations with others. Horney (1950) referred to this comprehensive drive toward actualizing the ideal self as the neurotic search for glory.

In addition to self-idealization, the neurotic search for glory includes three other elements: the need for perfection, neurotic ambition, and the drive toward a vindictive triumph.

174 Part II Psychodynamic Theories

The need for perfection refers to the drive to mold the whole personality into the idealized self. Neurotics are not content to merely make a few alterations; nothing short of complete perfection is acceptable. They try to achieve perfection by erecting a complex set of "shoulds" and "should nots." Horney (1950) referred to this drive as the tyranny of the should. Striving toward an imaginary picture of perfection, neurotics unconsciously tell themselves: "Forget about the disgraceful creature you actually are\ this is how you should be" (p. 64).

A second key element in the neurotic search for glory is neurotic ambition, that is, the compulsive drive toward superiority. Although neurotics have an exaggerated need to excel in everything, they ordinarily channel then energies into those activities that are most likely to bring success. This drive, therefore, may take several different forms during a persons lifetime (Horney, 1950). For example, while still in school, a girl may direct her neurotic ambition toward being the best student hi school. Later, she may be driven to excel in business or to raise the very best show dogs. Neurotic ambition may also take a less materialistic form, such as being the most saintly or most charitable person hi the community.

The third aspect of the neurotic search for glory is the drive toward a vindictive triumph, the most destructive element of all. The need for a vindictive triumph may be disguised as a drive for achievement or success, but "its chief aim is to put others to shame or defeat them through ones very success; or to attain the power ... to inflict suffering on them—mostly of a humiliating kind" (Horney, 1950, p. 27). Interestingly, in Horney's personal relationship with men, she seemed to take pleasure hi causing them to feel ashamed and humiliated (Hornstein, 2000).

The drive for a vindictive triumph grows out of the childhood desire to take revenge for real or imagined humiliations. No matter how successful neurotics are in vindictively triumphing over others, they never lose then drive for a vindictive triumph—instead, they increase it with each victory. Every success raises their fear of defeat and increases their feelings of grandeur, thus solidifying then need for further vindictive triumphs.

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