An Overview of Karen Horney Psychoanalysis

Karen Horney is a psychoanalyst who like Sigmung Freud believed that the unconscious is a major factor of the personality of humans. She disagreed, however, with him about the determinants or faces which are responsible for the existence of conflicts in the individual’s personality.

Freud believed that the conflict was a result of a struggle about libidinal energy expression which is mostly sexual in nature. Based on Karen Horney the conflict is a result of interpersonal relations that have unresolved issues.

She agreed with Freud, however, that the conflict which the individual has has its origin back in childhood time. She also asserted that these conflicts originated from the parents-child interaction.

She also believed that cultural and social factors are very important in designing the personality of children. She also asserted that men and women difference is due to social forces.

In this respect she differed from Freud who looked at the difference between women and men from an anatomical point of view. He said that women believed they are inferior to men and have a penis envy. Small children are dependent on their parents for nutrition as well as for have a feeling of security.

If the parents fail to provide the children with good upbringing in the form of unproviding them with a sense of security, this gives the child or produces in him a sense of tension that she called basic anxiety.

In the same time the child has hostile feeling toward the parents for neglecting him. This thing creates a sense of anger in the child against the parents. She called this anger towards the parents basic hostility.

This anxiety in the child can be faced by one of three different mechanisms. By moving toward people, or by moving against people, or by moving away from people. Two other mechanisms that the individual can use to face the anxiety are by making an idealized self for him and neglecting his real self. The other mechanism that the individual can use is called externalization.

Some people with unresolved childhood conflicts go toward other people in order to get affection and protection that were not available for them in childhood time by their parents. This is the basic mechanism in going toward people.

People who choose this type of defense mechanism are highly dependent. They have a need for a partner in the form of a friend or a lover or a spouce. They feel weak and helpless.

They assume that they are inferior and that other people are superior to them. They tend to sacrifice and suffer for other people. In addition they are in need for love an seek ways to feel worthy through making relations with other people. This approach is called the compliant personality which appeal for loving.

The other approach that the individual can take to face his anxiety is moving against people. In this approach the individual uses aggressive behaviour in order to overcome his anxiety.

This type of approach to resolving the conflict that the person has could have some advantages if it does not change to hostility. Aggressivenes is needed sometime in a competitive society. Other word for mild aggressiveness is assertiveness.

This type of people are in love with their idealized self concept. Namely they like their self image or are in love with it. This type of people tend to be perfectionists with high standard requirements. They are usually arrogants with pride and strength. In addition they have a need to be admired by other people.

The third mechanism that the individual can adopt to face his anxiety is to move away from other people. This type of people are detached type. People that use this approach are highly independent. Creative people are usually creative people.

Another mechanism of defense that the individual can adopt to face his anxiety is by abandoning his real self and adopting a better idealized self image. This is an imaginary self that the person adopts and which gives him a false sense of well being.

The real self is repressed and the idealized self is manifested as reality. Everyone finds ways to strengthen his idealized self. Horney called these ways the Tyranny of the shoulds. For example, a person may say I should do the work better than everyone else.

Externalization is another mechanism of defense that is used by an individual to overcome his anxiety. It is actually a projection defense mechanism which is manifested as projecting the inner conflict of the individual to the external world.