Assignment: Horney’s primary concept

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Assignment: Horney’s primary concept

Assignment: Horney’s primary concept


Assignment: Horney’s primary concept is that of basic anxiety, which is de- fined as

182 Theories of Personality

. . . the feeling a child has of being isolated and helpless in a poten- tially hostile world. A wide range of adverse factors in the environment can produce this insecurity in a child: direct or indirect domination, in- difference, erratic behavior, lack of respect for the child’s individual needs, lack of real guidance, disparaging attitudes, too much admira- tion or the absence of it, lack of reliable warmth, having to take sides in parental disagreements, too much or too little responsibility, overpro- tection, isolation from other children, injustice, discrimination, unkept promises, hostile atmosphere, and so on and so on (1945, p. 41).

In general, anything that disturbs the security of the child in relation to his parents produces basic anxiety.

The insecure, anxious child develops various strategies by which to cope with his feelings of isolation and helplessness (1937). He may become hostile and seek to avenge himself against those who have re- jected or mistreated him. Or he may become overly submissive in order to win back the love that he feels he has lost. He may develop an unrealistic, idealized picture of himself in order to compensate for his feelings of inferiority (1950). He may try to bribe others into loving him, or he may use threats to force people to like him. He may wallow in self-pity in order to gain people’s sympathy.

If he cannot get love he may seek to obtain power over others. In that way, he compensates for his sense of helplessness, finds an outlet for hostility, and is able to exploit people. Or he becomes highly com- petitive, in which the winning is far more important than the achieve- ment. He may turn his aggression inward and belittle himself.

Any one of these strategies may become a more or less permanent fixture in the personality; a particular strategy may, in other words, assume the character of a drive or need in the personality dynamics. Homey presents a list of ten needs which are acquired as a conse- quence of trying to find solutions for the problem of disturbed human relationships (1942). She calls these needs “neurotic” because they are irrational solutions to the problem.

1. The neurotic need for affection and approval. This need is char- acterized by an indiscriminate wish to please others and to live up to their expectations. The person lives for the good opinion of others and is extremely sensitive to any sign of rejection or unfriendliness.

2. The neurotic need for a “partner” who will take over one’s life. The person with this need is a parasite. He overvalues love, and is extremely afraid of being deserted and left alone.

3. The neurotic need to restrict one’s life within narrow borders. Such a person is undemanding, content with little, prefers to remain inconspicuous, and values modesty above all else.

Social Psychological Theories 133

4. The neurotic need for power. This need expresses itself in craving power for its own sake, in an essential disrespect for others, and in an indiscriminate glorification of strength and a contempt for weakness. People who are afraid to exert power openly may try to control others through intellectual exploitation and superiority. An- other variety of the power drive is the need to believe in the omnipo- tence of will. Such people feel they can accomplish anything simply by exerting will power.

5. The neurotic need to exploit others. 6. The neurotic need for prestige. One’s self-evaluation is deter-

mined by the amount of public recognition received. 7. The neurotic need for personal admiration. A person with this

need has an inflated picture of himself and wishes to be admired on this basis, not for what he really is.

8. The neurotic ambition for personal achievement. Such a person wants to be the very best and drives himself to greater and greater achievements as a result of his basic insecurity.

Assignment: Horney’s primary concept

9. The neurotic need for self-sufficiency and independence. Having been disappointed in his attempts to find warm, satisfying relationships with people, the person sets himself apart from others and refuses to be tied down to anyone or anything. He becomes a lone wolf.

10. The neurotic need for perfection and unassailability. Fearful of making mistakes and of being criticized, the person who has this need tries to make himself impregnable and infallible. He is constantly searching for flaws in himself so that they may be covered up before they become obvious to others.

These ten needs are the sources from which inner conflicts develop. The neurotic’s need for love, for example, is insatiable; the more he gets the more he wants. Consequently, he is never satisfied. Like- wise, his need for independence can never be fully satisfied because another part of his personality wants to be loved and admired. The search for perfection is a lost cause from the beginning. All of the foregoing needs are unrealistic.

In a later publication (1945), Horney classifies these ten needs under three headings: (1) moving toward people, for example, need for love, (2) moving away from people, for instance, need for inde- pendence, and (3) moving against people, for example, need for power. Each of these rubrics represents a basic orientation toward others and oneself. Horney finds in these different orientations the basis for inner conflict. The essential difference between a normal and a neurotic conflict is one of degree. “. . . the disparity between

134 Theories of Personality

the conflicting issues is much less great for the normal person than for the neurotic” (1945, p. 31). In other words, everyone has these conflicts but some people, primarily because of early experiences with rejection, neglect, overprotection, and other kinds of unfortunate parental treatment, possess them in an aggravated form.

While the normal person can resolve these conflicts by integrating the three orientations, since they are not mutually exclusive, the neurotic person, because of his greater basic anxiety, must utilize irra- tional and artificial solutions. He consciously recognizes only one of the trends and denies or represses the other two. Or he creates an idealized image of himself in which the contradictory trends presum- ably disappear, although actually they do not. In a later book (1950), Horney has a great deal more to say about the unfortunate conse- quences that flow from the development of an unrealistic conception of the self and from attempts to live up to this idealized picture. The search for glory, feelings of self-contempt, morbid dependency upon other people, and self-abasement are some of the unhealthy and de- structive results that grow out of an idealized self. A third solution employed by the neurotic person for his inner conflicts is to externalize them. He says, in effect, “I don’t want to exploit other people, they want to exploit me.” This solution creates conflicts between the person and the outside world.

All of these conflicts are avoidable or resolvable if the child is raised in a home where there is security, trust, love, respect, tolerance, and warmth. That is, Horney, unlike Freud and Jung, does not feel that conflict is built into the nature of man and is therefore inevitable. Conflict arises out of social conditions. “The person who is likely to become neurotic is one who has experienced the culturally deter- mined difficulties in an accentuated form, mostly through the medium of childhood experience” (1937, p. 290).

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