Horney-Danielson, Karen (1885-1952) (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Karen Horney, physician and psychoanalyst, was born Karen Danielson in a suburb of Hamburg, on September 15, 1885, and died December 4, 1952, in New York.
Her father was a sea captain of Norwegian origin, her mother of Dutch-German extraction. She studied medicine at the Universities of Freiburg, Göttingen, and Berlin, and married Oskar Horney in 1909. She entered analysis with Karl Abraham in 1910, and became a founding member of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute in 1920.
Having separated from her husband in 1926, Horney emigrated to the United States in 1932, when Franz Alexander invited her to become associate director of the newly formed Chicago Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She moved to New York in 1934 and became a member of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. In 1941, she organized the American Institute for Psychoanalysis, of which she was dean until her death in 1952. She was founding editor of The American Journal of Psychoanalysis.
Horney's thought went through three phases: in the 1920s and early 1930s, she wrote a series of essays in which she tried to modify orthodox ideas about feminine psychology while staying within the framework of Freudian theory. In 1930s, she tried to redefine psychoanalysis by replacing Freud's biological orientation with an emphasis on culture and interpersonal relationships. In the 1940s, she developed her mature theory in which individuals cope with the anxiety produced by feeling unsafe, unloved, and unvalued by disowning their spontaneous feelings and developing elaborate strategies of defense.
Disagreeing with Freud about penis envy, female masochism, and feminine development, Horney's early essays were largely ignored until they were published in Feminine Psychology in 1967. Since then, there has been a growing recognition that Karen Horney was the first great psychoanalytic feminist.
As the author of The Neurotic Personality of Our Time (1937) and New Ways in Psychoanalysis (1939), Horney is often thought of as a neo-Freudian member of "the cultural school," a group that also included Erich Fromm, Harry Stack Sullivan, Clara Thompson, and Abram Kardiner. These two books proposed a model for the structure of neurosis in which adverse conditions in the environment as a whole, and especially in the family, create a "basic anxiety" against which the child defends itself by developing strategies of defense that are self-alienating, self-defeating, and in conflict with each other. In a striking departure from Freud, Horney advocated focusing on the current constellation of defenses and inner conflicts rather than with infantile origins.
In her next book, Self-Analysis (1942), Horney presented her fullest account of how the psychoanalytic process works in terms of her structural paradigm. The object of therapy for Horney is to help people relinquish their defenses, which alienate them from their real selves, so that they can get in touch with their true likes and dislikes, hopes, fears, and desires.
In her mature theory, developed in her last two books, Horney argued that people defend themselves against their anxieties by developing both interpersonal and intrapsychic strategies of defense. She described the interpersonal strategies most fully in Our Inner Conflicts (1945). They involve moving toward, against, or away from other people and adopting a compliant, aggressive, or detached solution. Since people tend to employ more than one of these strategies, they are beset by inner conflicts. In order to avoid being torn apart or paralyzed, they adopt a strategy consistent with their culture, temperament, and circumstances; but the repressed tendencies persist, generating inconsistencies and rising to the surface if the predominant solution fails.
Karen Horney emphasized intrapsychic strategies in Neurosis and Human Growth (1950). To compensate for feelings of weakness, inadequacy, and low self-esteem, people develop an idealized image of themselves that they seek to actualize by embarking on a search for glory. The idealized image generates a pride system, which consists of neurotic pride, neurotic claims, and tyrannical shoulds, all of which instensify the self-hate against which they are intended to be a defense. The idealized image is inwardly divided, since it reflects not only the predominant interpersonal strategy but also the conflict between it and the subordinate tendencies.
Horney's mature theory helped to inspire the interpersonal school of psychoanalysis, provided a model for therapies that focus on the current situation, and influenced some of the descriptions of personality disorders in the DSM-III and -IV. It has made an important contribution to the study of literature, biography, gender, and culture. Because of her emphasis on self-realization as the goal of life and the source of healthy values, Karen Horney was recognized by Abraham Maslow as one of the founders of humanistic psychology. Her theory has most in common, perhaps, with the work of Erich Fromm, Ernest Schachtel, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow. Many of Horney's ideas have made their way, often unacknowledged, into the array of concepts and techniques that are currently employed in clinical practice.
Work discussed: Neurosis and Human Growth
See also: Allgemeineztliche Gesellschaft für Psychotherapie; American Academy of Psychoanalysis; Dark continent; Feminine sexuality; Femininity; Feminism and psychoanalysis; Germany; Memory; Second World War: The effect on the development of psychoanalysis; Splits in psychoanalysis; United States.
Horney, Karen. (1922). Feminine psychology. New York, W.W. Norton.
. (1937). The neurotic personality of our time. New York: W. W. Norton.
. (1939). New ways in psychoanalysis. New York, W.W. Norton.
. (1942). Self-analysis. New York: W.W. Norton.
. (1950). Neurosis and human growth: The Struggle toward self-realization. New York, W.W. Norton.
Paris, Bernard. (1994). Karen Horney : A psychoanalyst's search for self-understanding. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Quinn, Susan. (1987). A mind of her own: The life of Karen Horney. New York: Summit Books.
Westkott, Marcia. (1986). The feminist legacy of Karen Horney. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.