Karen Horney (pronounced “horn-eye”) was a German psychodynamic psychologist of Norwegian and Dutch descent. Her theories questioned traditional Freudian views as well as the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis and its genetic psychology.

From roughly the age of nine Horney changed her perspective on life, becoming ambitious and somewhat rebellious. She felt that she could not become pretty and instead decided to vest her energies into her intellectual qualities. At this time she developed a crush on her older brother, who became embarrassed by her attentions. It was here Horney suffered her first of several bouts of depression that would plague her for the rest of her life.

Horney looked at neurosis in a different light from other psychoanalysts of the time. Horney believed neurosis to be a continuous process, with neuroses commonly occurring sporadically in one’s lifetime. This was in contrast to the opinions of her contemporaries who believed neurosis was a negative malfunction of the mind in response to external stimuli, such as bereavement, divorce or negative experiences during childhood and adolescence.

From her experiences as a psychiatrist, Horney named ten patterns of neurotic needs. These ten needs are based upon things which she thought all humans require to succeed in life. A neurotic person could theoretically exhibit all of these needs, though in practice much fewer than ten need be present to constitute a person having a neurosis. The ten needs, as set out by Horney, are as follows:

Moving Toward People

1. The need for affection and approval. Pleasing others and being liked by them.

2. The need for a partner. One whom they can love and who will solve all problems.

Moving Against People

3. The need for power. The ability to bend wills and achieve control over others. While most persons seek strength, the neurotic may be desperate for it.

4. The need to exploit others, to get the better of them. To become manipulative, fostering the belief that people are there simply to be used.

5. The need for social recognition, prestige and limelight.

6. The need for personal admiration, for both inner and outer qualities. To be valued.

7. The need for personal achievement. Though virtually all persons wish to make achievements, the neurotic may be desperate for achievement.

Moving Away from People

8. The need for self sufficiency and independence. While most desire some autonomy, the neurotic may simply wish to discard other individuals entirely.

9. The need for perfection. While many are driven to perfect their lives in the form of well being, the neurotic may display a fear of being slightly flawed.

10. Lastly, the need to restrict life practices to within narrow borders. To live as inconspicuous a life as possible.

As implied, while non-neurotic individuals may strive for these needs, neurotics exhibit a much deeper, more willful and concentrated desire to fulfill the said needs. Horney, together with fellow psychoanalyst Alfred Adler, formed the Neo-Freudian discipline.

Through her views on the individual psyche, Horney postulated that the self is in fact the core of one’s own being and potential. Horney believed that if one has an accurate conception of oneself, then one is free to realize one’s potential and achieve what one wishes. Thus, she believed that self-actualization is the healthy person’s aim through life, as opposed to the neurotic’s clinging to a set of key needs.


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