Karen Horney

(1885 - 1952)


Developed Psychoanalytic Social Theory


Emphasized culture over biology


Specilized in treating nuerotic patients


Developed extensive list of nuerotic sympotms

Developed self-analysis









Biographical Facts

Felt isolated during childhood

One of earliest woman to attend medical school in Germany. (Received M.D. in 1915)

Long history of stormy relationships

Frequently suffered from depression and fatigue

Underwent psychoanalysis at least twice without success

Came to America in 1932

Broke with Freued by the end of the 1930's.

Founded the Karen Horney Psychoanalytic Institute in 1941 and the Karen Horney Clinic in 1952

Published Neurosis and Human Growth in 1950



Comparing Horney and Freud

Disagreed with tightly controlling psychoanalytic theory.

Early childhood experiences important, but Horney

thought safety and security amore important than sex

Believed Freud's view was pessimistic and stagnation

By focusing on cultural forces, we can change the world












The importance of culture:


Horney, like Adler, believed that cultural forces were major determinants of human behavior.


Modern Culture is based on competition

"Everyone is the real or potential competitor of everyone else"

Competition results in basic hostility

Societies demands for success are infinite.

Basic hostility can lead to intense needs for affection.

The need for affection can result in overvaluing love. Neurotic individuals strive for love and affection




10 Categories of neurotic Needs (1942)

Moving Toward People

1. Need for affection and approval

2. The neurotic need for a partner

Moving Against People

3. The neurotic need to restrict life

4. The neurotic need for power

5. The neurotic need to exploit others

6. The neurotic need for social recognition

7. The neurotic need for personal admiration

8. The neurotic need for ambition

Moving Away from People

9. The neurotic need for self-sufficiency

10. The neurotic need for perfection



Early Childhood Development

Although people can become neurotic at any stage in life, most neurosis begin in childhood

Genuine love and healthy discipline is necessary to establish feelings of safety and satisfaction.

If these needs are not met, the child develops basic hostility toward the parents.

This repressed hostility leads to basic anxiety: a feeling of helplessness and isolation in a hostile world.

Basic Hostility and Basic Anxiety are combined in a endless circle.

Basic Anxiety can lead to neurosis, but not necessarily.

One difference between a neurotic individual and a healthy individual is that neurotics do not consciously choose their method of dealing with people.

Primary Attitudes and Neurotic Trends

All social behavior can be described in one of 3 ways:

Healthy Neurotic

Moving Toward People

Friendly and Loving Compliant or Submissive

Moving Against People

Surviving in a competitive society Aggressive Personality

Moving Away From People

Autonomous, Serene Socially detached


Healthy people change their attitudes with the situation

Neurotic Individuals primarily exhibit only one neurotic trend across all relationships.

Behavior is a compulsion, rather than a choice.

Neurotic Trends

Neurotic Trends develop from basic anxiety and feelings of isolation.

Moving Toward People: These neurotics see themselves as loving, generous, unselfish, and sensitive.

They often take a subordinate role, see others as more intelligent and capable, and their own self image is often only a reflection of how other people see them.

Moving Against People: These neurotic individuals want to be tough or ruthless. Seldom admit mistakes and see themselves as being powerful and superior. Seek to dominate others within relationships.

Moving Away Form People: These neurotics have a heightened need for privacy, independence, and self-sufficiency. Can often appear to be aloof and unapproachable, and feel discomfort in most social situations.

Intrapsychic Conflicts


The idealized self-image: The difference between who you are and who you think you are.

To protect ourselves from feelings of isolation and inferiority, we generate a favorable mental concept of who we are.

This idealized self image is dependent on the neurotic trend adapted by the individual

Compliant People (toward) : See themselves as good and saintly.

Aggressive People (against): See themselves as strong and heroic.

Detached People (away): See themselves as self-reliant and wise.





An Idealized Self-Image has three aspects:

Neurotic Claims : Neurotics believe they have special privileges in life and become extremely frustrated when their wishes are not granted.

Neurotic Pride: A false pride based upon your idealized self-image Neurotic individuals avoid people who don’t "recognize" the innate superiority of the Neurotic individual.

Neurotic Search for Glory :

Self-idealization: The drive to make the idealized self-image real

Need For Perfection: in order to achieve the idealized self-image, the neurotic falls prey to the Tyranny of the Should.

Neurotic Ambition: the compulsive drive toward superiority

Drive for Vindictive Triumph: Neurotics want to show their superiority over others, and prefer to do it in a way which can cause humiliation of others.


Intrapsychic Conflict of Self-hatred

Self-Hatred arises because the neurotic realizes who they should be is not who they are.

Self-Hatred is expressed in a variety of ways:

Relentless Demands on the Self: The continual search for perfection never ends.

Merciless Self-Accusation: Continually punishing yourself for not living up to your idealized image.

Self-Contempt: belittling, disparaging, and discrediting oneself.

Self-Frustration: The neurotic will deny themselves pleasure due to a need to protect the idealized image.

Self-torment (or self-torture): Anguishing over decisions, exaggerating the pain of a headache, starting a fight they can’t win.

Self-Destructive actions and impulses: overeating, overwork, drug/alcohol dependency, breaking off healthy relationships, promiscuous sexual activity.

Horney’s Views on Feminine Psychology

After coming to America, decided Oedipus Complex was not universal, but culturally dependent.

Introduced the idea of womb envy: male child's envy for a uterus

Horney agreed with Adlers conception of Masculine Protest

Stated that it was impossible to truly know if psychological differences did exist between men and women because cultural pressures which subordinate women are so pervasive.










Karen Horney’s Psychotherapy

Wanted to encourage self-realization, which is an innate human quality.

Specifically, the patient in therapy:

Must give up their idealized self-image

This is extremely difficult because neurotics will characterize their own personality in positive terms.

People must be taught to let go of their particular neurotic trend

Successful therapy is rooted in Self-Analysis

Through Self-Analysis, the patient develop the ability to be responsible for their own psychological growth

In therapy, she used both dream interpretation and free association.

She considered dreams as attempts to solve conflicts, but solutions provided by dreams may not be psychologically healthy solutions.


Modern Research into Horney’s Neurotic Trends

Lyon & Greenberg (1991): examined codependency (what Horney called morbid dependency) in Female COAs. Compared reactions of 24 Female COAs to

24 "normal" Females. (Examines trend of "compulsively moving toward people)

During an experiment, a confederate makes one of two statements to the woman, concerning the head male experimenter. The statement can be either :

Nurturing : Mentions Experimenter had dated her friend, and had been helpful with laundry and other chores.

Exploitative : Mentions Experimenter had dated her friend, but that he made the girlfriend do his laundry and other chores.

After the "experiment", the male experimenter asks the woman if she would like to volunteer from 0 - 3 hrs of time, to help with an additional experiment

The Female COA’s volunteered at double the rate to the "exploitive" experimenter, than to the "nurturing" experimenter.

Additionally, the female COA’s reported higher liking ratings for the "exploitive" experimenter, and found him "needing to be nurtured".

Richard Rykman and colleagues have done extensive research on hypercompetetiveness, and how people high in HCA think about other people.

Hypercompetitive People are seen as highly competitive, aggresive, hostile, and callous.

Findings from numerous studies :

Hypercompetetitive people often suffer from low self-esteem.

They compensate for low self0esteem by developing a narcissistic personality style.

Additionally, people high on HCA also tend to dislike other people, and commonly use manipulation and deceit in interpersonal communication.

Males high on HCA also showed more hostile attitudes toward rape victims.

These finding support Horney’s views that hypercompetitive men had hostile and callous attitudes toward women in general

Also, studies have shown higher HCA levels among American students, compared to Dutch students. This supports Horney’s views that the US is an especially competitive culture.


Tonights Video Segments, and how they relate to Horney


1st two segments Relate to the overvaluing of love, and is taken from "Women who love Killers" (HBO, 1998)


As you view these segments, think about :

Horney’s position on the overvaluing of love.

The neurotic trend of "moving toward people"

The Lyon & Greenberg experiment with female COAs

Alfred Adler's views on "personal" and "collective" intelligence : Are these criminals persuasive, likeable, people ?

Does having "special insight" into people’s motivations and other psychological knowledge serve as adequate protection against blindly following this compulsion "towards people" (2nd segment especially).

Are these women "bad" people ? "Confused" people ?

"Ignorant" people ?




 The Third video segment shows a college male with OCD,

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Alfred Adler thought that obsessions and compulsions were psychological distractions which prevent the natural strivings in Work, Love, and Friendship.

Does this student suffer from "Obsessions" (repetitive thoughts)

or "Compulsions" (Repetitive Behaviors)

What are his specific symptoms ?

Does this condition get in the way of his normal functioning ?

What major is this person studying ?

Is this choice of major a coincidence ?