Karen Horney was born September 16, 1885, to Clotilde and Berndt Wackels Danielson. Her father was a ship's captain, a religious man, and an authoritarian. His children called him "the Bible thrower," because, according to Horney, he did! Her mother, who was known as Sonni, was a very different person -- Berndt's second wife, 19 years his junior, and considerably more urbane. Karen also had an older brother, also named Berndt, for whom she cared deeply, as well as four older siblings from her father's previous marriage.
Karen Horney's childhood seems to have been one of misperceptions: For example, while she paints a picture of her father as a harsh disciplinarian who preferred her brother Berndt over her, he apparently brought her gifts from all over the world and even took her on three long sea voyages with him -- a very unusual thing for sea captains to do in those days! Nevertheless, she felt deprived of her father's affections, and so became especially attached to her mother, becoming, as she put it, "her little lamb."
At the age of nine, she changed her approach to life, and became ambitious and even rebellious. She said "If I couldn't be pretty, I decided I would be smart," which is only unusual in that she actually was pretty! Also during this time, she developed something of a crush on her own brother. Embarrassed by her attentions, as you might expect of a young teenage boy, he pushed her away. This led to her first bout with depression -- a problem that would plague her the rest of her life.
In early adulthood came several years of stress. In 1904, her mother divorced her father and left him with Karen and young Berndt. In 1906, she entered medical school, against her parents' wishes and, in fact, against the opinions of polite society of the time. While there, she met a law student named Oscar Horney, whom she married in 1909. In 1910, Karen gave birth to Brigitte, the first of her three daughters. In 1911, her mother Sonni died. The... [continues]
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