Monday, January 21, 2013
Karen Horney's Psychoanalytic Theories of Neurosis and the Self
Karen Horney (born Danielsen; 1885 – 1952) was a German psychoanalyst. Her theories questioned some traditional Freudian views, particularly her theory of sexuality, as well as the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis and its genetic psychology. As such, she is often classified as Neo-Freudian.
Theory of Neurosis
(Added note: Neurosis is a class of functional mental disorders involving distress but neither delusions nor hallucinations, whereby behavior is not outside socially acceptable norms. It is also known as psychoneurosis or neurotic disorder, and thus those suffering from it are said to be neurotic. The term essentially describes an "invisible injury" and the resulting condition.
The American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has eliminated the category of "neurosis," reflecting a decision by the editors to provide descriptions of behavior as opposed to hidden psychological mechanisms as diagnostic criteria, and, according to The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, it is "no longer used in psychiatric diagnosis". Instead, the disorders once classified as neuroses are now considered anxiety disorders.)
Karen Horney looked at neurosis in a different light from other psychoanalysts of the time. Her expansive interest in the subject led her to compile a detailed theory of neurosis, with data from her patients.
Horney believed neurosis to be a continuous process—with neuroses commonly occurring sporadically in one's lifetime. This was in contrast to the opinions of her contemporaries who believed neurosis was, like more severe mental conditions, a negative malfunction of the mind in response to external stimuli, such as bereavement, divorce or negative experiences during childhood and adolescence.
Horney believed these assumptions to be less important, except for influences during childhood. Rather, she placed significant emphasis on parental indifference towards the child, believing that a child's perception of events, as opposed to the parent's intentions, is the key to understanding a person's neurosis. For instance, a child might feel a lack of warmth and affection should a parent make fun of the child's feelings. The parent may also casually neglect to fulfill promises, which in turn could have a detrimental effect on the child's mental state.
From her experiences as a psychiatrist, Karen Horney named ten patterns of neurotic needs.These ten needs are based upon things which she thought all humans require to succeed in life. Horney modified these needs somewhat to correspond with what she believed were individuals' neuroses. A neurotic person could theoretically exhibit all of these needs, though in practice much fewer than the ten here need to be present for a person to be considered a neurotic.
The ten needs, as set out by Horney, (classified according to her so-called coping strategies) are as follows:
Moving Toward People
1. The need for affection and approval; pleasing others and being liked by them.
2. The need for a partner; one whom they can love and who will solve all problems.
Moving Against People
3. The need for power; the ability to bend wills and achieve control over others—while most persons seek strength, the neurotic may be desperate for it.
4. The need to exploit others; to get the better of them. To become manipulative, fostering the belief that people are there simply to be used.
5. The need for social recognition; prestige and limelight.
6. The need for personal admiration; for both inner and outer qualities—to be valued.
7. The need for personal achievement; though virtually all persons wish to make achievements, as with No. 3, the neurotic may be desperate for achievement.
Moving Away from People
8. The need for self sufficiency and independence; while most desire some autonomy, the neurotic may simply wish to discard other individuals entirely.
9. The need for perfection; while many are driven to perfect their lives in the form of well being, the neurotic may display a fear of being slightly flawed.
10. Lastly, the need to restrict life practices to within narrow borders; to live as inconspicuous a life as possible.
Upon investigating the ten needs further, Horney found she was able to condense them into three broad categories:
Compliance: Needs one and two were assimilated into the "compliance" category. This category is seen as a process of "moving towards people", or self-effacement. Under Horney's theory children facing difficulties with parents often use this strategy. Fear of helplessness and abandonment occurs—phenomena Horney refers to as "basic anxiety". Those within the compliance category tend to exhibit a need for affection and approval on the part of their peers.
They may also seek out a partner, somebody to confide in, fostering the belief that, in turn, all of life's problems would be solved by the new cohort. A lack of demands and a desire for inconspicuousness both occur in these individuals.
Aggression: Needs three through seven were assimilated into the "aggression" category, also called the "moving against people", or the "expansive" solution. Neurotic children or adults within this category often exhibit anger or basic hostility to those around them. That is, there is a need for power, a need for control and exploitation, and a maintenance of a facade of omnipotence. Manipulative qualities aside, under Horney's assertions the aggressive individual may also wish for social recognition, not necessarily in terms of limelight, but in terms of simply being known (perhaps feared) by subordinates and peers alike. In addition, the individual has needs for a degree of personal admiration by those within this person's social circle and, lastly, for raw personal achievement. These characteristics comprise the "aggressive" neurotic type. Aggressive types also tend to keep people away from them. On the other hand, they only care about their wants and needs. They would do whatever they can to be happy and wouldn't desist from hurting anyone.
Detachment: Needs eight through ten were assimilated into the "detachment" category, also called the "moving-away-from" or "resigning" solution or a detached personality. As neither aggression nor compliance solve parental indifference, Horney recognized that children might simply try to become self-sufficient. The withdrawing neurotic may disregard others in a non-aggressive manner, regarding solitude and independence as the way forth. The stringent needs for perfection comprise another part of this category; those withdrawing may strive for perfection above all else, to the point where being flawed is utterly unacceptable. Everything the "detached" type does must be unassailable and refined. They suppress or deny all feelings towards others, particularly love and hate.
Theory of the Self
Horney also shared Abraham Maslow's view that self-actualization is something that all people strive for. By "self" she understood the core of one's own being and potential. Horney believed that if we have an accurate conception of our own self, then we are free to realize our potential and achieve what we wish, within reasonable boundaries. Thus, she believed that self-actualization is the healthy person's aim through life—as opposed to the neurotic's clinging to a set of key needs.
According to Horney we can have two views of our self: the "real self" and the "ideal self". The real self is who and what we actually are. The ideal self is the type of person we feel that we should be. The real self has the potential for growth, happiness, will power, realization of gifts, etc., but it also has deficiencies. The ideal self is used as a model to assist the real self in developing its potential and achieving self-actualization. (Engler 125) But it is important to know the differences between our ideal and real self.
The neurotic person's self is split between an idealized self and a real self. As a result, neurotic individuals feel that they somehow do not live up to the ideal self. They feel that there is a flaw somewhere in comparison to what they "should" be. The goals set out by the neurotic are not realistic, or indeed possible. The real self then degenerates into a "despised self", and the neurotic person assumes that this is the "true" self. Thus, the neurotic is like a clock's pendulum, oscillating between a fallacious "perfection" and a manifestation of self-hate.
Horney referred to this phenomenon as the "tyranny of the shoulds" and the neurotic's hopeless "search for glory." She concluded that these ingrained traits of the psyche forever prevent an individual's potential from being actualized unless the cycle of neurosis is somehow broken, through treatment or otherwise.