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How do we understand identity, motivation, and the human order when defining personality disorders?



Human existence | dialectical structure | defining neurotic behavior | therapies | context is crucial

Horney's dialectic of behaviors and personality disorders

"I first saw the core of neurosis in human relations . . . . I pointed out, these were brought about by cultural conditions; specifically through environmental factors which obstructed the child's unhampered psychic growth. Instead of developing a basic confidence in self and others the child developed a basic anxiety, . . . defined as a feeling of being isolated and helpless toward a world potentially hostile."

p. 366.

"And his very best energies go into these strivings. By dint of his intellect and the power of his imagination, man can visualize things not yet existing."

• "The most significant interrelation is that between the search for unlimited perfection and powers, and self-hate. The realization that they are in separable is an ancient one."

• "Usually he lags behind what he wants to achieve within or outside himself.

• "Ours [philosophy], with all its cognizance of the tragic element in neurosis, is an optimistic one."

pp. 375, 377-378, Neurosis and Human Growth.

Her psychoanalytical dialectic:

Human potential is seen as a dichotomy.

Anxiety versus confident engagement

neurotic defense vs. healthy inner conflict

insatiable needs vs. inevitable growth

compulsive demands vs. sensibilities

leads to leads

rigid neurotic pride as opposed to a spontaneity of liberation.

Dr. Karen Horney



Human existence | dialectical structure | defining neurotic behavior | therapies | context is crucial


CORE, acronym standing for a means to clarify, organize, reflect, and evaluate ideas.

morality | neurotic claims | origins of self-estrangement | tyranny of | therapy | contents


"the needs for the absolute and the ultimate are so stringent . . ."

"Self-knowledge, then, is not an aim in itself, but a means to liberating the forces of spontaneous growth."

"In order to keep this basic anxiety at a minimum the spontaneous moves toward, against, and away from others became compulsive."


"the origins of the neurotic personality"

    • impulsively disturbed need for affection
    • compulsive need for control of others
    • inveterate quest for perfection

"The neurotic process is a special form of human development," potentially necessary for growth and open to analytical therapy.

She is optimistic about the outcomes.


"Psycho-analytic Therapy "

"But we cannot cure the wrong course which the development of a person has taken."

"concept of the idealized image"

"I now saw gradually that the neurotic's idealized image did not merely constitute a false belief in his value and significance; it was rather like the creation of a Frankenstein monster which in time usurped his best energies . . . . eventually usurped his drive to grow, to realize his given potentialities."

pp. 367-368.

Human existence | dialectical structure | defining neurotic behavior | therapies | context is crucial





What is Horney's stature given William James, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Eric Fromm, Abraham Maslow, and Viktor Frankl among the many psychoanalysts of this formative era in psychology?

"Monumental contribution both to psychoanalytic thought and to thought about the human condition."

p. 1, Forward.


What is the context of Horney's ideas in the light of the period in which she lived, from 1885-1952?

A methodology:

The state of nature [ status naturae ] influences the definition of the human condition.

  • Despite the social milieu, authentic human personality development demands responsibility.
  • Intra-psychic conflict is thus an inevitable consequence of human existence.
  • Honest self analysis and personal reflection is challenging but necessary for a morality of evolution.

"The body of knowledge also grew as we worked from general to more specific questions. My interest shifted to the variations in different 'kind' of neurosis or of neurotic personalities."

"At first these appeared as differences in awareness or in accessibility of one or another aspect of the inner processes."

"Gradually, I realized that they resulted from various pseudosolutions of the intrapsychic conflicts. These solutions offered a new –tentative–basis for establishing types of neurotic personalities."

"Moreover, from a philosophic; point of view, it is not permissible to tear isolated concepts out of context and then compare them."

" . . . the differences are particularly startling."

When I review the factors involved in the search for glory I have the same experience. . . I am struck with admiration for Freud's power of observation. It is all the more impressive since he did pioneer work in scientifically unexplored territory and did it against the odds of cramping theoretical premises."

p. 369.

"One of these concerns what I have described as neurotic claims. Freud saw of course the fact that many neurotic patients were liable to expect an unreasonable amount from others. He also saw that these expectations could be urgent. But, regarding them as an expression of oral libido, he did not realize that they could assume the specific character of 'claims,' i.e. of demands to the fulfillment of which one feels entitled. Nor did he consequently realize the key role they play in neurosis."

". . .Freud was not cognizant of the specific properties and implications of neurotic pride. But Freud did observe belief in magical powers and fantasies of omnipotence; infatuation with oneself or with one's 'ego ideal '–self aggrandizement, glorification of inhibitions, etc.; compulsive competitiveness and ambition; the need for power, perfection, admiration, recognition."

p. 369-370.

"remained for him diverse and unrelated phenomenon"

"Three main reasons combined to prevent Freud from recognizing the impact of the drive for glory and its significance for the neurotic process.

1. ". . . he was not cognizant of the power of cultural conditions to mold human character – a lack of knowledge which he shared with most European scholars of his time."

"Freud mistook the craving for prestige and success. . . for a universal human propensity …"

2. "Freud's tendency to describe neurotic drives as libidinal phenomena

p. 370-371.

3. "The third reason lies in Freud's evolutionistic-mechanistic thinking."

nothing new is posited by the personality, it merely repackages and then delivers up the original urges in masked forms

"Fantasies of omnipotence are regarded as a fixation on, or a retrogression to, the infantile level of 'primary narcissism,' etc."

p. 371.

"Therapy has thus made use of the patient's pride, instead of working against it."

"His way of thinking prevented him from appreciating the expansive drives as forces carrying their own weight and having their own consequences."

"We are struck offhand by much greater similarities between my concept of self-hate and Freud's postulation of a self-destructive instinct, the death instinct."

p. 372.

Thus Freud's way of treating self-hate as instinctual makes it virtually impossible to therapeutically work with a patient to overcome an inevitable "regression to an anal-sadistic phase of infantile libido."

p. 373-74.

"The most significant interrelation is that between the search for unlimited perfection and powers, and self hate. The realization that they are inseparable is an ancient one."

p. 375.

"The neurotic process . . . is a problem of the self. It is a process of abandonment of the real self for an idealized one, of trying to actualize this pseudoself instead of our given human potentials; of a destructive warfare between the two selves."

". . . Having our constructive forces mobilized by life or by therapy, of finding our real selves.

p. 376.

There are constructive creative strivings

"We see tragic waste in human experience . . . . Ours with all its cognizance of the tragic element in neurosis, is an optimistic one."

World and life-affirmation of Albert Schweitzer influenced her.

p. 378.

Human existence | dialectical structure | defining neurotic behavior | therapies | context is crucial



Others who discarded Freud's theory of instincts [infantile sexuality] were with Horney:
Eric Fromm, Adolph Mayer, James S. Plant, Henry S. Sullivan.

morality | neurotic claims | origins of self-estrangement | tyranny of | therapy.


Modernity, or the modern era--1520-1980--as a series of challenging obstacle.

SourcesThe collective delusions and insanity of the last century.



Neurosis and Human Growth.

reading guide

Feynman | To Mayr | On to Einstein | Horney: personal growth | unseen genome | Gell-Mann | Uncertainty as a guide

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Writing | writing from texts | how to approach writing | writing papers | writing & world views

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Date: 3-27- 2008 \ 3-31-2012 \ 4-10-2015