Karen Horney (1885 – 1952) was a German psychoanalyst who practiced in the United States during her later career.
Near the end of her career, Horney summarized her ideas in Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization, her major work published in 1950.
It is in this book that she summarizes her ideas regarding neurosis, clarifying her three neurotic „solutions“ to the stresses of life.
According to Horney we can have two views of our self: the „real self“ and the „ideal self“. The real self is who and what we actually are. The ideal self is the type of person we feel that we should be.
The real self has the potential for growth, happiness, will power, realization of gifts, etc., but it also has deficiencies. The ideal self is used as a model to assist the real self in developing its potential and achieving self-actualization. But it is important to know the differences between our ideal and real self.
The neurotic person’s self is split between an idealized self and a real self. As a result, neurotic individuals feel that they somehow do not live up to the ideal self.
They feel that there is a flaw somewhere in comparison to what they „should“ be. The goals set out by the neurotic are not realistic, or indeed possible. The real self then degenerates into a „despised self“, and the neurotic person assumes that this is the „true“ self.
Thus, the neurotic is like a clock’s pendulum, oscillating between a fallacious „perfection“ and a manifestation of self-hate.
Horney referred to this phenomenon as the „tyranny of the shoulds“ and the neurotic’s hopeless „search for glory“.
She concluded that these ingrained traits of the psyche forever prevent an individual’s potential from being actualized unless the cycle of neurosis is somehow broken, through treatment or, in less severe cases, life lessons.
Man, by his very nature and of his own accord, strives toward self-realization, and that his set of values evolves from such striving. Apparently he cannot, for example, develop his full human potentialities unless he is truthful to himself; unless he is active and productive; unless he relates himself to others in the spirit of mutuality. Apparently he cannot grow if he indulges in a „dark idolatry of self“ and consistently attributes all his own shortcomings to the deficiencies of others. He can grow, in the true sense, only if he assumes responsibility for himself.
If you want to be proud of yourself, then do things in which you can take pride.
To find a mountain path all by oneself gives a greater feeling of strength than to take a path that is shown.
Rationalization may be defined as self-deception by reasoning.
Concern should drive us into action, not into a depression.
If a person has had sufficient courage to discover an unpleasant truth about himself, one may safely trust his courage to be strong enough to carry him through.
There is no good reason why we should not develop and change until the last day we live.
Because it corresponds to a vital need, love is overvalued in our culture. It becomes a phantom – like success – carrying with it the illusion that it is a solution for all problems.
That many-faceted thing called love succeeds in building bridges from the loneliness on this shore to the loneliness on the other one. These bridges can be of great beauty, but they are rarely built for eternity, and frequently they cannot tolerate too heavy a burden without collapsing.
Pride and self-hate belong inseparably together; they are two expressions of one process.
The pride in intellect, or rather in the supremacy of the mind, is not restricted to those engaged in intellectual pursuits but is a regular occurrence in all neurosis.
An existing repressed antagonism may be covered up by disinterestedness; a repressed craving for affection, by an „I don’t care“ attitude.
A person so shut out from every possibility of happiness would have to be a veritable angel if he did not feel hatred toward a world he cannot belong to.
To experience conflicts knowingly, though it may be distressing, can be an invaluable asset. The more we face our own conflicts and seek out our own solutions, the more inner freedom and strength we will gain. Only when we are willing to bear the brunt can we approximate the ideal of being the captain of our ship. Spurious tranquility rooted in inner dullness is anything but enviable. It is bound to make us weak and an easy prey to any kind of influence.
Let me say to begin with: It is not neurotic to have conflict … Conflicts within ourselves are an integral part of human life.
A normal human being… does not exist.
Life itself still remains a very effective therapist.
Life as a therapist is ruthless; circumstances that are helpful to one neurotic may crush another.