Externalization Projection of Inner Conflict

In the fourth major adjustment strategy, the neurotic projects inner conflicts onto the outside world, a process Horney called externalization. Externalization refers to "the tendency to experience internal processes as if they occurred outside oneself and, as a rule, to hold these external factors responsible for one's difficulties" (Horney, 1945, p. 115). It includes the defense mechanism of projection, as traditional psychoanalysis understands it, in which our own unacceptable tendencies (such as anger or sometimes ambition) are perceived as characteristic of other people but not ourselves. In one case study, for example, a woman was interpreted to have selected her ambitious but narcissistic husband because she could externalize onto him "power, competence, and a capacity for success" that she could not see in herself (Horwitz, 2001). This defensive choice by the self-effacing wife, combined with the husband's own expansive and narcissistic solution to conflict, led to considerable marital discord.

Externalization can also include our unrecognized feelings. Horney cited the example of a man unaware of his own feeling of oppression, who, through externalization, was "profoundly disturbed by the oppression of small countries" (1945, p. liĆ³). Neurotics often externalize feelings of self-contempt, either by thinking that others despise them (projection of the impulse) or by despising others (displacement of the object of contempt). Compliant types (those who move toward others) are likely to externalize in the first way, and aggressive types (those who move against others) in the second way. In either case, the neurotic is protected from becoming aware of deep self-contempt. Rage is also externalized in various ways: by irritation against other people, by fear that others will be irritated with us, and by converting the rage into bodily disorders.

These four attempts at solution occur in all neuroses, though not with equal strength. The neurotic attempts only "create an artificial harmony" (Horney, 1945, p. 16) rather than actually resolving the problem.

In addition to the major defensive strategies (eclipsing, detachment, the idealized self, and externalization), there are many auxiliary strategies for reducing anxiety. Horney believed these secondaiy adjustment techniques, like the major adjustment techniques, do not really solve the neurotic problem in any lasting way, as she made clear in the title by which she introduced the concepts: "Auxiliary Approaches to Artificial Harmony" (1945,

People are often unaware of aspects of their behavior that are blatantly incompatible with their idealized self-image. Horney (1945) cited the example of a patient who "had all the characteristics of the compliant type and thought of himself as Christlike" but who blindly failed to recognize the aggression expressed by his symbolic murders of coworkers. "At staff meetings he would often shoot one colleague after another with a little flick of his thumb" (p. 132). Such blind spots prevent conscious awareness of the conflict between the behavior and our self-image.

Another way to prevent the recognition of conflict is by compartmentalization, allowing the incompatible behaviors to be consciously recognized, but not at the same time. Each is allowed to be experienced in a separate "compartment" of life: family or outsiders, friends or enemies, work or personal life, and so forth. For example, a person may be loving within the family but a ruthless business competitor outside the family.

Horney (1945, p. 135) called rationalization "self-deception by reasoning." We explain our behaviors so that they seem consistent with what is socially acceptable and with our idealized self-image. Horney provided these examples: A compliant type who is helpful will rationalize this action as due to feelings of sympathy (ignoring a tendency to dominate, which may also be present); an aggressive type will explain his or her helpfulness as expedient behavior.

Excessive self-control prevents people from being overwhelmed by a variety of emotions, including "enthusiasm, sexual excitement, self-pity, or rage" (Horney, 1945, p. 136). When emotions threaten to break through, people may fear that they are going crazy. Rage is particularly dangerous and is most actively controlled. People using this defense mechanism typically avoid alcohol because it would be disinhibiting, and they have difficulty with free association in psychotherapy.

Arbitrary rightness "constitutes an attempt to settle conflicts once and for all by declaring arbitrarily and dogmatically that one is invariably right" (Horney, 1945, p. 138). Inner doubts are denied, and external challenges are discredited. The rigidity of these p. 131).

people makes them avoid psychoanalysis, which challenges a person's core defensive beliefs.

Elusiveness is quite the opposite of arbitrary lightness. These people do not commit themselves to any opinion or action because they "have established no definite idealized image" (Horney, 1945, p. 139) to avoid the experience of conflict. The person who is elusive does not stick with a conflict long enough to really work at resolution. "You can never pin them down to any statement; they deny having said it or assure you they did not mean it that way. They have a bewildering capacity to becloud issues" (p. 138). They are reminiscent of the joke about the neighbor who, asked to return a borrowed bucket, says he didn't borrow it, and besides it was leaking when he borrowed it, and besides he already returned it.

Cynicism avoids conflict by "denying and deriding . . . moral values" (Horney, 1945, p. 139). A Machiavellian-type person is consciously cynical, seeking to achieve his or her goals without moral qualms. Others use cynicism unconsciously; they consciously accept society's values but do not live by them.

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