Karen Horney Basic Anxiety Basic Anxiety Neurotic

On September 1885, there was born in Eilbeck, Germany, a girl who had a very interesting and academic future ahead of her. Her parents, Berndt(Wackels) Danielsen, a sea captain, and Clothilda van Ranzelon Danielsen 18 years younger than her husband, had other children besides Horney, and it is believed that they were from the husband’s previous marriage. Horney did not get along too well with her siblings; it is also recorded that the older half siblings have turned Horney’s father against her mother and that he was also a religious hypocrite.

As Horney transcended into womanhood, she noticed that she had hateful feelings towards her father, yet she had respect for her mother. Her father, wanted her to stay home and do “women’s” work, but unlike most women of that time, Horney wanted to pursue graduate school, even though no German universities admitted women at that time. Given those circumstance, Horney become morbid, maybe even had such low self esteem ,she would attach herself to many men, fearful of rejection. This would lead into her research on basic anxiety.

Basic anxiety is the feeling of being helpless, small and insignificant in a world that is out to abuse and attack (Feist, 2009). Horney also pointed out that basic hostility may lead to basic anxiety, and vice versa. According to Horney, people deal with basic anxiety in three ways: moving away from people, moving toward people, and moving against people.


Moving away from people is characterized by people who behave in a detached manner. These are people who adopt a neurotic trend of purposely wanting to be left out.


Moving toward people does not mean that the person wants to love or care for another by moving in close proximity. Moving toward people to combat basic anxiety means the need for one to protect themselves from feelings of hopelessness. They desperately strive for affection from others and may be willing to subject themselves to people for whatever reason.


This is the opposite of someone thinking everyone is nice. This person trusts no one and takes for granted that everyone is hostile. These people appear to be bullies, very tough, and are motivated by a strong need to exploit others.

Just like there are negative impulses like those mentioned above, there are normal impulses that every human has encountered, for instance, there are positive responses for basic anxiety in the same vein.


*Moving toward people- in a friendly, loving way

*Moving Against People-in a survival way to compete in this very competitive society

*Moving Away from People-autonomy, a calm personality

Basic anxiety is a concept Horney learned out of school. She has experienced most of these feelings to some degree, and so her research is very important, even for today. Bullies in school use the moving against people tactic; they exploit others and portray the tough guy mode. Whereas those who are just feeling despondent most of the time or unpretty, move away from people, they become the social outcasts in society. Finally, there are men and women who are very needy for affection and they care not where they get it. So in turn they link up with someone who they feel will protect them. Horney dated men of prestige and power because of her own insecurities.