Karen Horney

(1885 - 1952)

Compiled by Gretchen Langenderfer (May 1999)

Horney Biography
Time Line

Karen Horney was born September 16, 1885 near Hamburg, Germany. Her parents were Clotilde and Berndt Danielson. Her father was a ship's captain and she was able to explore many things on three long voyages. Horney's mom Clotilde had four children and then her father remarried to a women named Sonni. From this marriage, they had a child named Berndt. Horney became really close to her mother because she was deprived from her father's affection. Her father preferred her brother Brendt over her. At age nine, she developed a crush on her brother and he turned her away. This led to Horney's depression which would effect the rest of her life.

In 1904, her stepmother divorced her father and left Brendt and Karen to the father. In 1906, Horney entered medical school against her parent's wishes. At medical school, she met Oscar Horney and married him in 1909. In 1910, she gave birrth to Brigitte, the first of three daughters. Like her father, her husband disciplined his children harshly. She thought this was good, since it encouraged her children's independence. Her stepmother, Sonni, died in 1911 and this brought more difficulties in her life. This is when she decided to explore psychoanalysis. In 1915, she followed Freudian analysis with Karl Abraham. She began to take patients for analysis in 1919 and worked at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Clinic and Institute until 1932. During this year she joined Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. She published papers in the 1920s which described the topic of orthodox Freudians, especially with psychosexuality.

In 1923, her husband Oscar, developed meningitis and his business shut down. Also, during this year, Horney's brother died at age forty of pulmonary infection. This is when she became really depressed and developed thoughts of committing suicide. Then Horney and her daughters moved out of her husband's house in 1976 and moved to the U.S. She developed theories in 1930 about the importance of sociocultural factors in human development and moved to New York City in 1934. She wrote a book called The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time (1937) and focus on the ideas of neuroses, brought about by cultural factors. Also, how neuroses was based on the disturbances in human relationships. After this, she went away from the orthodox Freudians views and established ideas with other prominent psychoanalysts in 1941 which was the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. She wrote a book, Self-Analysis (1942). These ideas relate to her own personal experiences. Also, how she came to grips with her own problems. She discusses ideas about pride and defense strategies expressed in these two books Our Inner Conflicts (1945), and Neurosis and Human Growth (1950). She practiced, taught, and wrote until her death at age 67 in 1952.

Horney's theory is related to her personal life and how she was able to deal with her problems. Her idea of neurosis and psychoanalysis involving inner conflicts is regarded as one of the best theories in this area. Neurosis is how people cope and have control over interpersonal issues that happen day to day, according to Horney. Another theory she addresses is the idea of personality in conjunction with psychoanalysis. Below, her theories are examed in more depth by actually seeing how she disagrees with Freud and what her ideas are for neuroses and psychoanalysis.

Horney vs Freud Neurosis: Neurosis is a "psychic disturbance brought by fears and defenses against these fears, and by attempts to find compromise solutions for conflicting tendencies" (The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time, 28-29). This describes an individual having trouble with coping and handling certain psychosocial environmental stressors resulting in problems within their selves. Also, neurotic can not be diagnosed without looking at their culture background. Neurotic feelings and attitudes are determined by the way they live, according to Horney. However, Freud believes "instinctual drives or object relationships that are frequent in our culture are biologically determined" (The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, 20). Horney feels Freud ignores the culture factors which consequently leads to false acquisitions. Also, it disrupts the understanding of what actually motivates our actions and attitudes. The neurotic shares their fears with other cultures. In a certain culture the fears are less when there are devices to protect them like rites or customs. Freud suggests that a neurotic's real self is determined by his concept of ego. This concept of ego is without initiative or executive powers. However, Horney thinks a neurotic is driven by these emotional forces that are involved in their lives. Also, Horney believes that Freudian's theory about sexuality and continuous compulsives, is interfering with an individual, the family, and social factors where there is organization of values, and attitudes. Freud believes they are compulsive drives from nature, involving every human being. This can not be valid according to Horney, if these "neuroses were an outgrowth of disturbed human relationships" (Inner Conflicts,12). She believes they are compulsive drives but become neurotic by a human feeling isolated, helpless, afraid, and hostile. They represent ways of coping with their life despite these problems called "neurotic trends" (Self-Analysis, 40).

Neurotic Needs
1.) The neurotic has a desperate need for acceptance and affection. Anxiety will occur without these. Neurotics see life as if everything is reasonable and suitable to fit their needs but in reality it is impossible.
2.) The neurotic has a need for love when in an intimate relationship and expect their partners to take over their lives by solving their problems.
3.) The neurotic need to make things more simpler by having no routine or rules. Also, when at the point of stress, they want to be unnoticeable and avoid confrontation that may add to their frustration.
4.) The neurotic needs to have control and power over others.
5.) The neurotic has a need to manipulate others. They have this need because of their concern of being used or looking stupid. Practical jokes that may be funny to others are often not funny to the neurotic.
6.) The neurotic has a need to be recognized socially. They are extremely concerned with appearance and popularity. So, they strive to be outgoing.
7.) The neurotic has a need for others to admire their inner qualities. They are desperate perfectionists, fearing being unimportant or meaningless to others.
8.) Neurotics need personal accomplishment. They are obsessed with it. They want to be leader of everyone, being top of the world and number one at everything.
9.) Neurotics need independence. They refuse help from others, thinking they can accomplish things by themselves. Also, if they did receive assistance than it would not be just themselves recognized but the other person as well. They rather have all the attention focused on them individually.
10.) Neurotics need perfection, hoping that everything in life is just going to get better and better. They fear failure and people finding out that they make mistakes. They feel it is important to be in charge of the all situations.
A neurotic person will go to the extremes for their devices because "an impairment of his capacities for achievement and enjoyment" (The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, 26). A suffering neurotic is unaware and tries to solve it by these certain solutions or needs which are unrealistic.

Psychoanalysis: Her theoretical approach to this is describing it towards people's personalities. The personality she gave is an example of children and how parents as well as other socializing factors influence their personality. For instance, a normal child goes through life having certain characteristics of themselves when relating experiences with school, hobbies, and home. However, when looking at a child that is neurotic the environmental factors isolates their true self. Also, older people can be described as neurotic, characterized by no self-worth, loss of decision making or interest, afraid or obsessive-compulsive, anxiety, and depressed. The goal of this analysis is to basically change the person's opinions and perception of life by seeking a person's potential of self-realization. This emphasizes that the neurotic should be aware of their environmental factors that surround them and their inner-self, knowing who they are. This means "striving toward a clearer and deeper experiencing" (Neurosis And Human Growth, 364) with the direction of their lives. This analysis "cannot solve the ills of the world" (Self-Analysis, 10) but it can explain the neurotic's problems and try to help them. Psychoanalysis therapy is "helping people toward their best possible further development" (Self-Analysis, 37). Freud suggests that this therapy involves the neurotic developing love for the analyst in addition to seeking help. However, Horney feels this is "not prompted by love for the analyst" (Self-Analysis, 20) but is the patients fear of people and their way of coping with life. The patient would feel helpless otherwise. Freud suggests that in order for people to overcome their resistance they need to deny them. Horney suggests differently. She thinks "the strength of the resisting forces and the strength of the self to deal with them" (Self-Analysis, 269).

Inner Conflicts : Freud was aware of the inner conflicts, but saw them as repressed or repressing. Freud's regards to man's inner self with a "disbelief in human goodness and growth" (Inner Conflicts, 19). He mentioned man was condemned to destroy and suffer. She saw these conflicts in a different way. The conflicts were between contradictory neurotic trends and the attitudes toward self, qualities, and set of values. Horney believed that each of us has the capability and potential to become a decent person. This comes from the relationship with ourselves as well as with others which is disturbed with problems. However, "man can change and go on changing as long as he lives" (Inner Conflicts, 19). So, Horney disagrees with Freud and establishes her own perception on these ideas when looking at psychoanalysis and neuroses that involve inner conflicts.

Time Line
1885- Born near Hamburg, Germany
1904- Stepmother Sonni, divorced Horney's father
1906- Entered medical school
1909- Married Oscar Horney
1910- Horney gave birth to Brigitte, the first out of three daughters
1911- Her stepmother died
1915- Followed Freudian analysis with Karl Abraham to explore psychoanalysis
1919- Worked at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Clinic and analyzed patients
1920- Published papers about the topic of orthodox Freudians, psychosexuality
1923- Husband's (Oscar) business shut down and he developed meningitis
1926- Moved out of Oscar's house with her three daughters and moved to the U.S.
1930- Theories were established, focused on sociocultural factors of human development
1932- Stopped work at Berlin Psychoanalytic Clinic and Institute
1934- Moved to New York
1937- Published The Neurotic personality Of Our Time
1941- Developed different views with other psychoanalysts, the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis which was driven away from Freud's assumptions
1942- Published Self-Analysis
1945- Published Our Inner Conflicts
1950- Published Neurosis and Human Growth
1952- Horney died

Horney, Karen. Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1950.
Horney, Karen. Our Inner Conflicts: A Constructive Theory Of Neurosis. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1945.
Horney, Karen. Self-Analysis. New York: W.W Norton and Company, Inc, 1942.
Horney, Karen. The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1937.

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