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Karen Horney – Life and Theory

karen horney: LIFE & PERSONALITY THEORY ___________________ A Paper Presented to Dr. Dickens Dallas Theological Seminary ___________________ In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Course BC 205 Personality Theory ___________________ by Ashley Keith May 2011 Box #759 karen horney: Life & Personality theory Karen Horney’s childhood and adult life have been reflected in much of her work; her personality theory is not separate from her own personal life experiences. The purpose of this study is to exemplify Karen’s personal life, and to demonstrate how her life influenced her personality theory and her profession.

Karen Horney was born on September 16th, 1885 to Clotilde and Berndt Wackels Danielson. Her parents were polar opposites. Horney’s father, Berndt, was known as a God-fearing fundamentalist who believed that women were inferior to men. He was an authoritarian, and was a harsh disciplinarian. It is common knowledge that he sometimes threw the Bible at his wife and kids in fits of anger. Horney developed a negative attitude towards religion, and a skepticism towards authority figures, that was to manifest itself later in life. Her mother, Clotilde, was considered to be ore polished and polite than her father, possibly more easy-going. Her mother was nineteen years younger than her father. Karen had a tender yet powerful emotional relationship with her brother. He was four years older, and she always believed her father favored him more than her. Karen was infatuated with her brother, and when her overwhelming attention began to bother him, he pushed her away. This rejection had a significant effect on young Karen’s emotional wellbeing, and it led to her becoming deeply depressed. She always felt that she was treated differently than her brother.

She wondered if it was because he was male gender and different physically or if people simply felt different about boys and girls. She also questioned if males had qualities that females lacked. There was further despair as she witnessed how her father allowed his son freedom, privilege and education, yet denied his wife and daughter these things. However, Horney’s mother disagreed with her husband, and she supported her daughter’s quest for education. This presence of a strong female role-model may have affected her later opinions about feminine psychology.

Horney felt rejected by her father, and became very competitive with her brother. Rebelling against the norm for her day, she used her intellect to surpass them both in social status and education. She first experienced depression around the age of nine. It’s reported that she battled depression throughout her entire lifetime. In 1904, her parents got divorced, and Karen’s mother left both children with their father. In 1906, at the age of 21, she entered medical school against not only her parents’ wishes, but the whole political society.

Women just were not to pursue such things during this period of time. While in medical school she met a law student by the name of Oskar Horney whom she married in 1909. One year after her marriage to Oskar (1910), Karen gave birth to their first child, the first of three girls. During 1911, the year after Karen gave birth to their first daughter, Karen’s mother passed away. It was during this time that she began her study of psychoanalysis. By 1912, she and Oskar had an open marriage. They were discreet in their affairs, and they upheld an image of a happy marriage for their children.

Image was something Horney was perpetually concerned with. She seemed to pride herself on not showing her feelings, and had a strong need to separate her private self from her public self. According to some reports, Karen’s husband was much like her father in that he was a strong disciplinarian. In the beginning, Karen did not dispute her husband’s authoritative ways, and she might have actually thought his discipline was good for their children. She rarely spoke up when her husband was disciplining them.

Horney had a natural tendency to avoid conflict this was illustrated in many areas of her life. Avoiding conflict carried over into her professional life because, though her ideas made her a symbol and an ideal of a liberated woman to many, active conflict was repugnant to her. She struggled to understand the strife between various analytic groups and between others in the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute and herself. She frequently commented, “Why can’t we be friends in spite of our differences? ” However, in later years, Karen’s views of conflict changed along with her perspective on childrearing.

While Horney was in medical school at the University of Berlin, she was trained in the Freudian tradition. She was also psychoanalyzed by Karl Abraham, one of Freud’s most passionate supporters. Horney’s uncertain feelings toward her father, dependence on her mother, resentment of playing a secondary role to her brother, and the conflict within herself between the roles of professional woman and homemaker were all confronted in this analysis. However, she was unhappy with the analysis because she wanted the childhood issues fixed, not just brought back up.

She was still troubled by depression and asked, “Does not the real work begin after the analysis? The analysis shows one her enemies but one must battle them afterwards, day by day”. This raised the question that prompted her search for a new form of psychoanalysis. Horney did not intend to build a new school of psychoanalysis, but wished to build on the foundation Freud had laid. She believed that “neither thorough recall of infantile experiences nor the explanation of one’s attitudes in terms of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories was sufficient to eliminate one’s distress”.

Karen Horney’s childhood experiences made an obvious impact on her psyche, and encouraged her to develop a new way to help people who were suffering from mental illnesses. In 1913 she received her MD from the University of Berlin. Life kept moving forward for Horney, but 1923 also proved to be another tough year for her. It was in this year that Oskar Horney lost his job and got meningitis. These turns of events lead him to become a broke, morose and argumentative individual. In the same year, Karen’s brother also passed away. With the death of her brother, and her usband’s failed business ventures, not to mention his meningitis, Karen began to develop an even darker state of emotional turmoil. “Karen became very depressed, to the point of swimming out to a sea piling during a vacation with thoughts of committing suicide. ” Karen eventually left Oskar and took her daughters to the U. S. sometime around 1930-1932. Karen and her children decided to call Brooklyn, New York their home which forever changed their lives. In the 1930’s, Brooklyn was notarized as being the intellectual capital of the world.

It was in Brooklyn that Horney became associated with scholarly minds like those of Harry S. Sullivan and Erich Fromm. With the profound exposure to such intellect, and her experience with psychotherapy, Karen began the development of her theories on neurosis. “Horney believed neurosis to be a continuous process — with neuroses commonly occurring sporadically in one’s lifetime. ” “Horney’s theory of neurosis is said to be the best explanation of this disorder to ever be written then and now…She looked at neurosis in a different light, saying that it was much more continuous with normal life than other theorists believed.

Furthermore, she saw neurosis as an attempt to make life bearable, as an interpersonal controlling and coping technique”. Horney believed in order to understand an individual’s neurosis, one needed to be able to understand how that individual as a child perceived the events and experiences in his or her life. For example, Horney believed that parental indifference toward a child could have harmful effects on his or her mental stability, and this would cause emotional damage to the child.

This discovery is directly related to the indifference she felt from her father, and the abandonment she experienced from her mother during her own childhood. Horney developed 10 patterns to explain her theories on neurotic behaviors: the need for affection and approval, the need for a partner, the need for power, the need to exploit others, the need for social recognition, the need for personal admiration, the need for personal achievement, the need for self-sufficiency and independence, the need for perfection, and the need for restriction.

After careful examination of these patterns, and re-evaluation of her theories, Horney divided the patterns into three distinct categories of behavior: compliance (Moving Toward People), aggression (Moving Against People), and detachment (Moving Away From People). She believed that conflict was rooted in basic anxiety, which is caused by childhood feelings of insecurity. Obviously, Horney’s own childhood had its ups and downs. These experiences shaped Horney into a woman of mental imbalance, amazing intellect, and they fueled her desire to find answers to human behaviors through her own self-analysis.

For instance, the category of aggression, or moving against people, was demonstrated by her father. Perhaps she saw detachment patterns (or moving away from people) in her mother later in life. She probably viewed herself as the complaint type (moving towards people) because of her relationship with her mother. She even referred to herself as her mother’s “little lamb”. Karen had a strong intrapersonal intelligence which allowed her to incorporate new ideas. Things she was exposed to in her life helped her develop her personal theories and innovative therapeutic methods that she truly believed in.

She was inspired and empowered by the fact that she herself suffered from recurrent depressive episodes throughout her life, along with her attempt of suicide after her brother’s death. These experiences helped her have more insight into the wants and needs of her patients, their hang-ups, and their desires for recovery. She was often described as intuitive, and she had a tendency toward self-analytic questioning. Horney was motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Her curious personality compelled her to ask questions and find answers, and her personality prompted her to want to help and nurture people.

Her experience also told her that if she had an idea that she thought would benefit society, she should not hide it for fear of criticism. Though she was strongly influenced by Freud, Horney disagreed with him about most of his conclusions on women. “Perhaps the most important contribution Karen Horney made to psychodynamic thought was her disagreements with Freud’s view of women. ” In regard to Freud’s theory of penis envy, Horney developed her own theory of how men suffered from womb envy. She felt womb envy caused men to strive harder to achieve success in other areas, because they were unable to bear children.

Horney believed the inability to give birth to a child caused men to feel somewhat inferior to women, hence the reason that women had few rights during this period of time. Horney also disagreed with Freud’s theories of gender personality indifference, stating that biology had nothing to do with these indifferences and in fact, culture and society were more likely the cause. She believed that societal and cultural perspectives placed heavy restrictions on women, and viewed men and women as being equal otherwise.

By this time in her life, Horney was not afraid to challenge popular Freudian theories privately or publicly, and believed that environmental factors were more substantial to an individual’s mental state than biological factors as presented by Freud himself. She was the first woman to present a paper on feminine psychology during an international meeting; an achievement not common during a time when women were not taken seriously. “These views, while not well accepted at the time, were used years after her death to help promote gender equality. As a child, Horney learned from her father just how devastating blind belief can be in an idea or concept. For instance, her father claimed to be a Christian man but he bullied (and possibly abused) his wife and children. She also saw his maintaining authority and supremacy in his own home didn’t work; the family fell apart. She overcame society’s blind belief that women could not achieve or obtain academic or professional success and notoriety. Her childhood experiences obviously shaped her personality, and later influenced her psychoanalytic theory.

In turn, her personality affected her relations with others in her domain, her family, her peers, her critics, and her supporters. It allowed her to obtain and hold prominent positions in the field of psychology and to help countless patients. Horney took much pride in her work; she refused to allow orthodox Freudian doctrine and its supporters to prevent her from voicing the theories that she carefully constructed from years of personal contemplation. This, combined with observations of societal impact, make her a true pioneer for women in her field.

All of these reasons directly correlate with why she refused to let Freud go unchallenged. In conclusion, though coming from a seemingly dysfunctional and neurotic family, Horney obtained the drive and experience she needed to explore neurosis through self-analysis, and eventually develop a theory all on her own. Horney had a firsthand experience of what it means to be neurotic and mentally unstable. Her bouts of depression did not stop her from achieving success; it actually molded her personality to form this theory.

And although she may not have had the support of society, Horney defied the odds of not only being a women of her generation but being a brilliant mind who managed to leave an everlasting impression on the field of psychology and the world. Bibliography Rubins, Jack L. Karen Horney: Gentle Rebel of Psychoanalysis, New York: The Dial Press, 1978. Boeree, Dr. C. George, Karen Horney, C. George Boeree, 2006, http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/horney. html, (Retrieved April 30th, 2011). Personality Synopsis: Psychodynamic and Neo-Freudian Theories, AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc. 003, http://allpsych. com/personaliysynopsis/horney. html, (Retrieved April 30th, 2011). ——————————————– [ 2 ]. Rubins, Jack L. Karen Horney: Gentle Rebel of Psychoanalysis, New York: The Dial Press, 1978, 10. [ 3 ]. Boeree, Dr. C. George, Karen Horney, C. George Boeree, 2006, http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/horney. html, (retrieved April 30th, 2001). [ 4 ]. Ibid. [ 5 ]. Ibid. [ 6 ]. Rubins, Jack L. Karen Horney: Gentle Rebel of Psychoanalysis, New York: The Dial Press, 1978, 172. [ 7 ]. Rubins, Jack L.

Karen Horney: Gentle Rebel of Psychoanalysis, New York: The Dial Press, 1978, 93. [ 8 ]. Ibid, 39. [ 9 ]. Ibid, 39. [ 10 ]. Boeree, Dr. C. George, Karen Horney, C. George Boeree, 2006, http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/horney. html, (retrieved April 30th, 2001). [ 11 ]. Ibid. [ 12 ]. Rubins, Jack L. Karen Horney: Gentle Rebel of Psychoanalysis, New York: The Dial Press, 1978, 190. [ 13 ]. Boeree, Dr. C. George, Karen Horney, C. George Boeree, 2006, http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/horney. html, (retrieved April 30th, 2001). [ 14 ]. Boeree, Dr. C. George, Karen Horney, C.

George Boeree, 2006, http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/horney. html, (retrieved April 30th, 2001). [ 15 ]. Rubins, Jack L. Karen Horney: Gentle Rebel of Psychoanalysis, New York: The Dial Press, 1978, 23. [ 16 ]. Personality Synopsis: Psychodynamic and Neo-Freudian Theories, AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc. 2003, http://allpsych. com/personalitysynopsis/horney. html, (retrieved April 30, 2011). [ 17 ]. Personality Synopsis: Psychodynamic and Neo-Freudian Theories, AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc. 2003, http://allpsych. com/personalitysynopsis/horney. html, (retrieved April 30, 2011).