History of Therapy: Karen Horney

History of Therapy: Karen Horney

History of Therapy: Karen Horney

Karen Horney was a German psychoanalyst who made significant contributions to humanism, self-psychology, psychoanalysis, and feminine psychology. Her refutation of Freud’s theories about women generated more interest in the psychology of women among experts in the psychological community. Horney also believed that people were able to act as their own therapists, emphasizing the personal role each person has in their own mental health.

History of Therapy: Karen Horney: Biography

Karen Horney was born in Germany on September 16, 2885 near Hamburg, Germany.  Her father was a ship’s captain and was very traditional and religious. According to Horney’s adolescent diaries, she felt neglected by her father and believed he preferred her brother. As a result, she became very attached to her mother. At around age nine, Karen developed a crush on her older brother. When he pushed her away, she became depressed. Bouts of depression would continue to plague her for the rest of her life.

Horney devoted herself to school. She began medical school in 1906 and married a law student Oskar Horney in 1909. In 1926, Horney left her husband. Four years later, she moved to the US with her three daughters. Once in the US, she befriended other prominent intellectuals and developed her theories.

History of Therapy: Karen Horney: Theory

Karen Horney developed theories based on her personal life and how she was able to deal with her problems. Her theory on neurosis is still widely used. Neurosis is a “psychic disturbance brought by fears and defenses against these fears, and by attempts to find compromise solutions for conflicting tendencies” (The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, 28-29). Horney believed that neurotic feelings and attitudes are determined by the way a person lives, and cannot be diagnosed without looking at cultural background. In contrast, Freud believed that instinctual drives that are frequent in culture are biologically determined.

Karen Horney’s theoretical approach to psychoanalysis is describing it towards people’s personalities. The goal of analysis is to change the person’s opinions and perception of life by seeking self-realization. It helps people towards their best further development.

Basically, Karen Horney viewed neuroses as coping mechanisms that are a large part of normal life. She identified ten neuroses. These include the need for power, the need for affection, the need for social prestige, the need to exploit others, the need for personal admiration, and the need for independence.

While Karen Horney followed much of Sigmund Freud’s theory she disagreed in one major area: his views on the psychology of women. She rejected the concept of “penis envy,” that women in essence, are envious of men. She thought it was both inaccurate and demeaning. Instead, Karen Horney proposed the concept of “womb envy.” This theory supposes that men experience feelings of inferiority because they are unable to give birth to children. She thinks that the impulse of men to engage in creative work in every field is borne from overcompensating from their lack of power in the creation of a human being.