A Critique Of Karen Horney's Psychoanalysis

I have a love-hate relationship with Karen Horney's Psychoanalysis. I pondered why this love-hate relationship with Horney's views, views that obviously contain a grain of truth. Now, I get it. 

Her view of neurosis is true but nevertheless superficial. Her causal explanation of neurosis is wrong.  This is why I never quite accepted her ideas.

She obviously described neurosis but she did not explain its causal factor. She attributed its cause to social dynamics and individual thinking. 

In the long run neurosis is caused by thinking but in the short run by biological factors. It is critical that this point be made and accepted for unless it is accepted we cannot help the neurotic; we cannot cure him if we look at the wrong places for the cause of neurosis and cure for it. Unless you understand what caused a problem you cannot cure it. If you keep harping on a wrong causal factor, you cannot understand its cure.

We are wasting the patient's time by misleading him into believing that his problem is caused only by social dynamics and his response to it.

Neurosis, as well as the human personality in general, is a product of the individual's inherited biological constitution.  I would say that personality, which neurosis is a subset of, is caused by, at least, ninety percent biological factor. (Biological constitution, itself is caused by thinking, giving neurosis a metaphysical causal dimension.)

Dr Horney is clearly correct in her description of neurosis. Neurosis is characterized by pursuit of ideal self, pursuit of a glorified self, pursuit of a godlike self. This pursuit is unrealistic and self defeating.

The neurotic rejected his real self (which is spirit and for our present purpose, is his body); in fact, he has contempt for his real self and posited an alternative ideal self, a purely imaginary self that he thinks is important a self that he believes that society would accept were he to become that self and wants to become it. He pursues the ideal self with obsessive-compulsion, as if pressured by an inner force that must be obeyed. He, as it were, lost the freedom to disobey that inner pressure and feels that he must become the idealized powerful self or else he feels anxious.

The ideal, glorified self is a product of imagination and thinking, it is a false self; yet the neurotic wants to become that false self because what he sees as his real self is not good enough.

It should be noted that Horney is not that much different from Alfred Adler. Both agree that the neurotic is pursuing a glorified self, a grandiose self, a fictional superior self, a fantasy self that he wants to become but is not who he is in actual fact. The neurotic posits an important ideal ego and pursues it and defends that self with the various ego defense mechanisms (such as repression, suppression, dissociation, denial, projection, displacement,  rationalization, reaction-formation, sublimation, fantasy, pride, shame, guilt, anxiety, etc). He is now a prisoner of the shoulds of his ideal, perfect glorified self. He is a slave to the person he wants to become and is no longer authentic, spontaneous and free to do as he likes; he must behave as the ideal self urges him to behave and in the process is inflexible and rigid. He is in bondage to the perfect self.

The neurotic wants to actualize the ideal self, to realize a fantasy self, an impossibility hence he is doomed to fail, yet he tries to do so and fear of not attaining it gives him anxiety, depression etc.

The normal person wants to realize his real self and, as such, does not pursue an unattainable self and does not suffer anxiety from not attaining the ideal impossible self. The normal person is happy in his skin hence has self confidence whereas the neurotic is not happy in his skin and for all his pursuit of ideal self and attainments does not have genuine self confidence. 

The neurotic is invariably judgmental.  He judges himself and all people and things with the ideal standards of his ideal, perfect self, and since neither he nor other people could attain an imaginary ideal standard no one ever attains his ideal standards and he is disappointed with himself and with all people. He is therefore an unhappy man, a man who lives in conflict, the conflict between his real self and ideal self. (As I pointed out in my metaphysics it is actually insane to judge ones self or other people or anything as either good or bad. Nothing is good or bad. The ego self, the physical self, the world of matter, time and space is a dream. The world does not exist or exists as in a dream. A dream is neither good nor bad though it can be pleasant or nightmarish. If one loves all dream objects one experiences the dream as pleasant but if one is hateful one experiences the dream as nightmarish and painful.)

In what Horney called the expansive neurotic, what we would now call narcissistic personality disorder, the neurotic actively pursues his ideal self and, more or less, seems to attain a semblance of it. He may become the president of his country and that sort of makes him seem very important. Alas, deep down he still does not like his real self; there is disconnection between his idealized self and real self.

In the avoidant solution, what we would now call dependent personality disorder, the neurotic avoids situations where he is likely not going to be seen as all important. If he feels that he is not going to do well in examination, school, work or any competitive situation he avoids that situation. If he is not going to be the best at any thing he is doing he avoids doing it and instead settles for a job that is grossly beneath his education level and talent so as to avoid rejection (such as a PhD doing a janitorial job).  If he is not going to do well in sports he avoids sports. If he is not going to be seen as the best lover he avoids relationships. He avoids situations where he is likely to make mistakes and or fail and be seen as not the best in the activity and stays in the background. In isolation he retains an imaginary sense of been important. His sense of glory is gratified in a passive manner.

The neurotic experiences anxiety, fear, shame and guilt from anticipation that his desired glorified self is not going to be seen as such. If he is not perceived as the godlike self he wants to be seen as he feels anxious or shamed or guilty.  His neurotic pride is affronted and he fears humiliation (this phenomenon is accentuated in what we now call paranoid personality disorder; the paranoid personality fears humiliation, belittlement, demeaning, degradation, criticism etc). 

All said Dr Horney described neurosis quite well. What is wrong is her causal explanation; she did not explain how neurosis came about. In her view, neurosis is caused by parents' lack of love. If a child is not loved in what Carl Rogers called unconditionally positive manner the child pursues neurotic glory. If a child is accepted only when he seems very good and rejected when he seems not good enough, as Horney sees it, he develops fear of rejection by what Harry Stack Sullivan called his significant others, with concomitant fear of failure, for failure makes them reject him.

The child seeks parental and society's acceptance. He figures that since they accept a successful person he posits an idealized perfect self that does not fail and attempts to become that self and fears not being it, for not becoming it risks society's rejection.

This is Horney's view in a nutshell. It seems very simple, is it not? The problem is that the same social situation that Dr Horney sees as disposing a child to pursue neurotic glory may not dispose another child to pursue similar goals. A child with a different body may not pursue neurotic glory if his parents or guardians do not accept him unconditionally in a positive manner.

Empirical evidence shows that a child develops neurosis, that is, pursues idealized glorified self image, because of inherited biological factors. A child must have a body that makes him or her feel inadequate for him to react at the mental level with desire for superiority.

Biology is the causal factor in neurosis; social factors like rejection are contributory but not causal in neurosis.

As Alfred Adler pointed out, all children feel inadequate, inferior and seek superiority. But this feeling of inferiority and compensatory superiority is magnified in the neurotic child, a child who inherited a problematic body that made him feel more inadequate than is found in normal folk.

METAPHYSICAL CAUSAL FACTOR IN NEUROSIS

All human beings are aware that as bodies and egos they are nothing important. As bodies people are no more than pieces of meat, meat that would sooner or later die and rot and smell to high heaven.

Something, life, in this piece of meat, this nothing called the human body, gives itself a sense of importance, worth and value and acts as if, in fact, it has worth and value.

All human behavior is make belief; acting as if the individual has worth. Human beings think, speak and behave as if they have worth. Their sense of worth flies in the face of the apparent worthlessness of their bodies. Their worth is made up, not real.

Because it is not real it has to be defended to seem real in their minds. The various ego defenses are used to defend the false worth people give to themselves.

Because the sense of worth is false and has to be defended people fear not seeming it. Failing in tasks where their worth is at state makes them anxious.

That is to say that the pursuit of glory, as Horney pointed out, breed anxiety in the people; failure makes people feel fear of not being important.

HAVING NO DESIRE FOR IMPORTANT SELF ELIMINATES ANXIETY FROM FEAR OF FAILURE

If the individual were to give up his desire for importance he would not fear failing in tasks; he would have no anxiety, shame, guilt or pride.

Giving up the human self concept, big or small, returns the individual to the unified spirit self. To give up his quest for importance, however, the individual must give up the wish for a separated ego self.

If you accept that in separation and body you are nothing important you feel peaceful, calm and happy. You do not pretend an ego importance that is not there.

Interestingly, when the individual accepts his and other egos and bodies as nothing, he experience real worth, real worth found in spirit.

What all these add up to is that Horney's psychoanalysis is at best superficially rational and not curative. It is like much of western psychology: it offers tendentious explanations but, in fact, do not heal the so-called neurotic or psychotic of his malady.

What heals all people is to first root their neurosis and psychosis in their inherited body and then proceed to a metaphysical understanding that though in this world body seems real that it actually does not exist.

We must first understand body (as neuroscience is currently doing; perhaps low GABA or more acetylcholine is implicated in the etiology of anxiety disorder… that subject is beyond the scope I set for this paper) as the causal factor in all mental illnesses. Thereafter we proceed to see body as non-existent.

If body is non-existent the separated self it houses is non-existent. If the separated ego self does not exist then it cannot be worthwhile, valuable or not.

Pursuit of the ego separated self concept housed in body is pursuit of nothing. Neurotic pursuit of glory is pursuit of non-existent glory.

From this understanding, one gives up the pursuit of glory for glory is a chimera.  One accepts that ones ego and body do not exist.

What exists is the unified spirit self, life itself. One life manifests in all creation. In spirit state life has worth.  In separated ego state spirit projects out dream selves and dream bodies that do not, in fact, exist hence have no worth. Human beings have worth in spirit and no worth in ego and bodies. (This does not mean not respecting peoples egos and bodies; as long as people identify with their egos and bodies we must treat them with respect, understanding that we are loving dream selves. Real love is in formless spirit selves.)

THE NEUROTIC PURSUIT OF IDEAL SELF IS DESIRE TO BE SUPERIOR TO GOD

The neurotic rejected his real self, a self he has contempt for, and posited an ideal godlike self, indeed a self better than God and wants to actualize this better than God self image.

In metaphysical terms, the neurotic (and psychotic) is trying to kill himself, kill God and become a better self, a better God. Obviously, this struggle to be a superior God is not going to succeed. All that it does is giving the neurotic anxiety, shame, guilt, depression, paranoia, mania, schizophrenia and lack of peace and unhappiness. All mental illness, be it anxiety disorder, personality disorder, depression, paranoia, mania, autism and schizophrenia is a struggle to become bigger than God.

The neurotic and psychotic has to give up his goal of actualizing a better than God self concept and self image and accept a less than God self. He is a part of God, a son of God, not all of God. All his tyranny of should to become God is not going to make him become God, for the part cannot be the whole or be bigger than the whole; the son cannot be superior to his father.

Neurosis/psychosis is a desire to be god, to be superior to God and that is not going to come into being. It is insanity for the son to wish to be his father's father, greater than his father, for the part to want to be larger than the whole. Neurotic god ideal cannot be actualized (except in dreams, in madness).

NEUROTIC QUEST FOR POWER AND CONTROL

When a neurotic is not consulted, such as when Johnson's (a client) younger brother's daughter got married or when Johnson's son, Eugene, built a house without consulting him he felt bypassed and angry and talked and talked about been bypassed in these folk's decision making process. Clearly, he would have loved to be consulted and his input taken into consideration in deciding what those folk's did. This shows that he had a neurotic quest for power and control. It is part of his pursuit of glory and power; such pursuit made him fear failing at school and led him to drop out of school. In drooping out he avoided failing hence saved face. Outside the competitive schooling arena he nursed his imaginary big self. The silly job he eventually settled for was also to avoid failing, and while doing it nursed his big self. The man had a wish to be all important and to avoid diminution of that imaginary importance he avoided overt competition where he could make mistakes and or fail.

Those with big egos of the active- expansive type (narcissists) go on to achieve a lot in society; those with big egos but of the passive-avoidant type that fear failure withdraw from competition and accomplish little and in social isolation nurse their big egos.

Neurotics must relinquish their big egos if they want to achieve anything worthwhile in life.  

Johnson was a passive pursuer of glory; his father was an active pursuer of glory, thus, in effect, father and son had similar personality structure, with one active and the other passive. Diagnostically both had features of paranoid-narcissistic-avoidant personality.

DISCUSSION

Metaphysics teaches that there is no space, time and matter. All are unified spirit. If there is no space, time and matter then there is no past, present and future. Everything is happening now, the eternal present of God. The dream of this world is tasking place now. One is now in spirit and sleeps and dreams this world. In ones dream one invents a past, a present and a future as one invents space, time and matter, none of which in fact exists in reality but only in a dream setting. One makes time seem to have lasted billions of years in one dream. In ones dream one makes people born, age and die, none of which is true.

In eternity there is no space, time and matter. This means that there is no such thing as forms. The individual as he sees himself now does not exist in fact but exists in form (body) only as in a dream.

In eternity, which is unified, there are no trees, animals, human beings (in forms); there are no particles, atoms, elements, planets, stars, galaxies and physical phenomena. The world we see with our physical eyes is non-existent, is a dream. This is literal not figurative.

Since we are dreaming, one might as well have a pleasant dream by loving all things in ones dream: all people, animals, trees, the planet etc.

Saying that in eternity body, ego, past, present and future do not exist does not mean that in our present world of space, time and matter that they do not exist. They obviously exist as apparent existent phenomena. It would be silly to deny that our world exists; that would amount to been asleep and dreaming and denying that one is sleeping and dreaming. Until one awakens from sleep and dreams one cannot really know that the world seen in dreams is not real.

In the here and now world ego misthinking makes the empirical world seem real and it is real for us. Until we correct our miscreations we cannot say that they are not real.

Nevertheless, ultimately, one must deny the reality of body, space, time, matter, past, present and future before one awakens to unified spirit. This is generally done in meditation.

In meditation one stops all ego based thinking and withdraws attachment to the ego and body and remain silent. In that silence, a mind swept clean of all ego process, a different world, the world of unified spirit dawns. That world has different parameters and cannot be transferred to our world. It is a world of union, a world where all are one, unified and there is no I and you, no seer and seen, no subject and object, just one unified self with one unified mind. Very few can attain this world and for all practical purposes we need not bother ourselves about it. What is doable is to love ones real self and other people and have a happy dream while one is in dreaming state

CONCLUSION

This essay explored the psychoanalysis of Karen Horney; it appreciates Horney's accurate description of neurosis. The paper points out that Horney did not provide a true causal explanation of neurosis. The essay says that neurosis and all mental disorders are initially the product of the individual's inherited body. In this light, biological issues caused mental illnesses. However, in the long run body and the self concept is a product of thinking. A self in us, spirit, and its mind thinks through our bodies and produces what we call our personalities. Thus, ultimately, mental illness is caused by thinking.

In metaphysical terms, God created people as the same, equal and unified with him. Somehow, folk did not like the self God created them as. They wanted to have different selves, one that is better than other selves. Each of them wants to have a superior self, a self that created itself, created other selves and, above all, created the creator, God. Unable to accomplish this impossible wish, folk willfully forget their true self, equal and joined self, and, as it were, went to sleep and in their sleep made themselves seem superior (and inferior). Thus, it seems that they came to this world without a self. Actually, they forgot their already existing equal, unified self. In this world they use their inherited bodies and social experiences, as George Kelly pointed out, to construct the type of self they wish to have:  a superior self.

Neurosis and psychosis (all mental illness, from personality disorder to  anxiety disorder, depression, delusion disorder, paranoia, mania, schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's disease etc)  lies in pursuit of a superior self, in a self construed as better than other selves and as better than God.

To heal mental illness, any and all of it, the individual must change his thinking, from wishing for a glorified, separated, superior self to willing for equal self, a self unified with all selves and with their creator, God.

Horney's Psychoanalysis did not include the biological and metaphysical aspects of neurosis, and mental disorders in general, hence is superficial and, alone, cannot heal any one of his mental disorder.

To heal any one of his mental disorder we must address the biological causal factors (and where medication is necessary give it to him), and the metaphysical factors. Secular and spiritual psychologies are necessary in healing mental disorders, not either or but both. Human beings are spiritual beings having separated existence in matter and must be addressed at their two levels, biological and spiritual, if they are to be healed.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

February 2, 2008

ozodiosuji@gmail.com

 




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Re: A Critique Of Karen Horney's Psychoanalysis
Denker posted on 02-03-2008, 05:50:31 AM
QUOTE:
Unless you understand what caused a problem you cannot cure it. If you keep harping on a wrong causal factor, you cannot understand its cure.


..dat exactly what DT is doing here!

..another good example is Naija: why electoral reform commission(whatever dat's), why not SNC(Sovereign National Conference)
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