Psychology Karen Horney: Tale of Term Paper

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The second major category of neurosis consisted of the need to control those very desires, and so remain independent and even assert control over other people. This she called Moving Against People (Horney, 2003, p. 116). Horney had, from the beginning struck out on her path independent of her mentor, Abraham, and her indirect mentors Freud and Adler. Lastly, there was the desire to abandon the world altogether, or Moving Away From People (Horney, 2003, p. 117) Karen Horney had left her home in Europe behind, sundering close ties. America represented a new beginning.

Among those who embraced Karen Horney's ideas was the industrial psychologist Abraham Maslow. He was particularly attracted by Horney's point that human beings must be understood within the context of their culture and society (Maslow, 2000, p. 284).

Maslow was primarily concerned with the workings of organizations. Horney had thought much, in her own life, and in her research and practice, about the impact of society and its expectations, as well on the relationships between different individuals, especially as those relationships were conditioned by cultural constructs. Sydney Jourard, too, derived inspiration from Horney's work. His demonstration of the extent of dissembling and concealment in society, and even in the family, could easily be related to Horney's theories and experiences (Moss, 1999, p. 70). Jourard pointed up the self-alienation that frequently results from social alienation. (Moss, 1999, p. 70) Karen Horney had experienced alienation from her father, husband, and later from various colleagues.

Critiques of Horney's Ideas

Karen Horney's ideas, as shown by the incident at the New York Psychoanalytical Institute when her ideas were not yet fully developed, suffered for unorthodox theories. Karen Horney wrote in Self-Analysis that,

Most of us want and appreciate affection, self-control, modesty, consideration of others. To expect fulfillment of one's life from another person is regarded, at least for a woman, as "normal" or even virtuous. Among the strivings are some that we would not hesitate to estimate highly. Self-sufficiency, independence, and guidance through reason are generally regarded as valuable goals. (Horney, 1968, p. 60)

Her own life and work seemed a fulfillment of these thoughts. Franz Alexander, while approving of many aspects of her work, attacked her for her "excessively anti-biological" attitude (Buhle, 1998, p. 119). Helene Deutsch, a confirmed feminist, and follower of Horney in so many ways, also attacked the anti-biological thrust of her mentor's work (Buhle, 1998, p. 139). The psychological community did not appear ready to accept Karen Horney's radical notion that biology was not the all-powerful determinant of human action. Karen Horney had begun her studies with a fascination with Freud's theories about libido and sexuality, yet had moved far from his original ideas about the Castration Complex and the Oedipus Complex, among others. Freud's theories had created a universal human psychology out of essentially biological drama. Apparently, these would unfold regardless of cultural, social, or familial circumstances. Perhaps the strongest criticism of Horney, however, has been that her emphasis on neuroses works against the use of her theories as ways of looking at normal psychological behavior (Horney, 2003, p. 124).

Some of her ideas, such as externalization, are considered virtually indistinguishable from standard Freudian concepts, like projection, thus diminishing, in the eyes of some, the originality of her thought.

Karen Horney and Women Psychologists

Karen Horney entered the field of psychology and psychoanalysis at a time when women were seen in that or most other professions. The fact that she succeeded at all was a major achievement. Horney made her profession aware, early in the Twentieth Century, of something that Wisstein was still able to observe in the 1970s - that psychology pretends to have knowledge of a subject it knows nothing about i.e. The inner lives of women (Bohan, 1992, p. 55). From the beginning, Freud's theories appeared to stigmatize women, to relegate half the human population to an inherently inferior position. Worse still, women were supposed to envy the natural biological endowments of the other sex; to wish that they were indeed men. Yet, Karen Horney's contribution to women psychologists actually came on two fronts. Her shift to a more social emphasis as opposed to the male-centered biological foundation of Freudian psychology opened up a whole new world in which psychologists - women psychologists especially - became active in major social causes. Women psychologists became active in the fight for the improvement of living conditions, the welfare of children, civil rights, and later still, even anti-war activities (Kemp & Anderson, 1999, p. 127). The acknowledgement of the inherent worth of women, which was established by Karen Horney, also became the basis for much feminist theory, and for the feminist movement (Kemp & Anderson, 1999, p. 128) Without the pioneering work of Karen Horney, psychology might still be dominated by a male-centric Freudian model, with all its attendant consequences for women.
The fact that Karen could stand up to a colossus like Freud and go on to establish her own school of psychology and psychoanalysis was, in and of itself, a monumental achievement, and an inspiration to all women in the profession.


Karen Horney was a German-born psychologist who used the lessons of her own life, and of her mentors, to move her profession in new directions. Coming from a home with a distant, and often difficult, but inspiring father, she early learned to pursue her lust for learning. The new theories of libido and human sexuality attracted her attention while still in school. Intrigued, she determined to spend her life learning about the human psyche. After conquering the opposition of her father, she undertook a course of higher education, and became a physician at a time when that was an exceedingly rare thing for a woman to do. She imbibed the theories of Freud, then completely dominant in the field of psychology, and quickly realized the problems inherent in the great man's theories. She noted that women were accorded second place, and biology - particularly male biology - was given emphasis over all else. Taking some ideas from others, but mostly thinking for herself, she soon came to emphasize the social aspects of human behavior. This brought her into conflict with established practice, and led to her going off on her own to ultimately establish her own school of psychoanalysis. Neurosis was seen as the key problem by Horney, and consisted of three major factors: Moving Toward People, Moving Against People, and Moving Away from People. These primal causes of neurosis paralleled conditions in her own life. Horney was criticized by some for relying too much on these social factors, and for ignoring or altering many of the ideas of Freud. Horney served as an inspiration to women psychologists everywhere as she achieved what few had been able to achieve in her day. She opened up the way for other women to be taken seriously in this and other professions. Her ideas too, showed that women had a life of their own, that they were not just a lesser breed of men. Horney and her work can be seen as forerunners of modern concepts of women and women's place in human society.

Conclusion believe that Karen Horney is a major figure in psychology and psychoanalysis. Her work has not received the full attention it deserves. In recognizing that women had dreams of self-actualization, just like men, she showed the world that women could also achieve and be fulfilled. Her attention to neuroses, as societally and culturally derived problems, as opposed to aspects of biology, was a fascinating contribution to the field. Human beings are more than just collections of cells; thought and emotion more than the firing of neurons. Women and men exist in families, groups, tribes, and nations. We are part of a society and are, in one way, or another conditioned by its norms. Society's demands may uplift some, and oppress others, and how an individual reacts to these demands can have a great effect on her or his psychological well-being. Karen Horney should be studied more than she is, because she has much to contribute.


Bohan, J.S. (Ed.). (1992). Seldom Seen, Rarely Heard: Women's Place in Psychology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.


Buhle, M.J. (1998). Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Horney, K. (1968). Self-Analysis. New York W.W. Norton.


Horney, K. (1980). The Adolescent Diaries of Karen Horney. New York: Basic Books.


Horney, K. (1999). 6 the Flight from Womanhood: The Masculinity-Complex in Women, as Viewed by Men and Women. In Female Sexuality: The Early Psychoanalytic Controversies, Grigg, R., Hecq, D., & Smith, C. (Eds.) (pp. 107-120). New York: Other Press.


Horney, K. (2003). Chapter 5 Neurosis and Human Growth. In an Introduction to Theories of Personality (pp. 115-128). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


Kemp, H.V., & Anderson, T.L. (1999). 9 Feminist Psychology and Humanistic Psychology. In Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology a Historical….....

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