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Karen Horney

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Karen Horney is one of the preeminent figures and founders of modern psychoanalysis. Although her ideas are not widely taught today or accepted as a basis of psychoanalysis in and of themselves, her ideas of social and environmental influences are “integrated into modern psychoanalysis therapies and personality development theory” (Quinn). She was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and was one of his early followers. Yet Horney joined the class of neo-Freudians after her research and writing led her to develop and establish psychoanalytical theories that ran counter to Freud's ideas. She objected to the Freudian psychology of women, which instigated the search for her own theories for the causes of neurosis. This in turn led to her personality development theory. Horney devoted her professional life to clinical studies and deriving therapies based upon her own observations, theories, and beliefs. “ The foundation of her study rested on the tenet that social, cultural, environmental, and parental factors, influences, and issues shape child development more so than do biological factors” (Hendricks).

In a further divergence from Freudian theories, Karen Horney believed gender based neurotical problems were reflections of other disturbances in the relationships within the child's life rather than integrated biological drives. She used the merging of cultural values into a person's personality as a measuring rod for normal personality adjustment or maladjustment. Her therapy goal was to re-unite the troubled individual with the person's real self, initiating an awareness of self-realization through long term therapy and increasing awareness pertaining to the real self. Using self-realization as the entire foundation of positive mental health and adjustment, she discarded all ideas and theories whereby instincts, biology, or instinctual behaviors played any significant part in mental balance. Horney omitted any other anxiety producing relationships as well. She believed the only relationships having an effect on personality development were between the parent and child, and she therefore, based her theory only on the parent/ child, anxiety/ hostility, and love/ competition relationships.

During the era in which Karen Horney's lived and worked, these were rather revolutionary beliefs for psychoanalysis; her work and writings were not widely acclaimed. As a member of the neo-Freudians, her theories and techniques are considered to lie within a humanistic approach to psychological study. At the outset of her work, Karen Horney "rewrote" some of Freud's theories, but eventually she developed her own theories in opposition to Freud's concerning the origins of unconscious motivations. Out of these ideas arose her psychodynamic theory of personality development. Her entire approach to psychoanalysis was based on her ideas of personality development and from that point she determined whether a person was normally adjusted or maladjusted.

The foundational basis for Horney's personality development theory concerns how a young child reacts to the interpersonal relationships established early in the child's life. Children react with a feeling of "basic anxiety" if they perceive themselves to neglected, rejected, or unloved by a parent or primary caregiver (Horney). This "basic anxiety" then initiates "basic hostility" directed toward the offending adult. This hostility is repressed, however, due to the dependency of the child upon the parent. In order to resolve the anxiety/ hostility/ dependence conflict, the child initiates different types of behavioral patterns or relationships with the offending adult. The child may "move towards people", "move against people", or "move away from people". Those who "move towards people" develop personality traits that emphasize helplessness and compliance. They look to others for their internal satisfaction and shy away from conflict and dissension. Those individuals who "move against people" feel helpless and vulnerable yet mask these inadequacies with a need to maintain the power position in relationships. They often show aggressive tendencies in order to maintain this need for power. Children who tend to "move away from people" in order to resolve the anxiety/ hostility dilemma become emotionally detached in relationships and can become very independent. The basic need for affection also affects personality development and is often manifested in a fear of success. Those who seek love are faced with a fear of lose of love if they seek success through the competition with the others from whom they seek affection. Horney used the needs of the neurotic to develop three coping strategies used by the individual based on the "moving . . . people" theories: compliance, aggression, withdrawal. The child who moves towards people is very compliant. The child who moves against people is aggressive, and the child who moves away from people becomes withdrawn.

Further motivating the child's response are cultural influences, parenting patterns, and social values. Horney's theory of personality development places the emphasis for maturation on the interrelationship of all these factors over biological factors such as genetics, subconscious drives, and libido. At the heart of Horney's approach to personality development was her "basic evil": parental indifference (as perceived by the child). Whatever the precise or varied hindrances are to normal personality development, Horney attributes all the unfavorable conditions to the people in the child's environment who are too burdened by their own neurotic needs and responses. They are therefore, unable to respond to the child, or love him in a positive, nurturing manner (Horney).

According to Karen Horney's theory of personality development, normal adjustment of an individual occurs when the child pursues all three of the interpersonal relationships at varying times and with different individuals. A normal, well-adjusted child will use all three types with different people or at different times upon the same person. Their subconscious desire for relief from the anxiety/ hostility dilemma will urge them to use the method perceived to be suitable at the time. If one method does not gain them the anxiety relief they desire, he may then shift to another approach. As in most aspects of mental health, the balance of factors and solution methods available provides mental resiliency. Normal personality adjustment is therefore, the end product of self-realization or the reality of the real self being expressed. Therefore, in Horney's analysis, self-realization is the primary dynamic determinant of mental health

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