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...
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