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Who Was Karen Horney?: Page 2 of 3

Who Was Karen Horney?: Page 2 of 3

These moves are interpersonal as well as intrapsychic. The intrapsychic correlates (which encompass the traditional concept of transference) of what begin as interpersonal moves account for a rich understanding of psychic process. When the child suffers from excessive insecurity, these moves—toward, against, and away—become increasingly fixed and rigid. Generally, one move is elevated above the others. The entire spectrum of attitudes, beliefs, needs, qualities, and sensitivities that is consistent with the strategy selected becomes rigidly organized and excessively valued.

The person who learns that security is achieved and basic anxiety allayed by moving toward others comes to overvalue love, charity, kindness, self-sacrifice, and intimacy. He may show kindness even when it is evident that the object of kindness sees generosity as a clear sign of weakness and stupidity. The person who feels secure only when in overt control may come to value strength, power, money, and prestige. Such a person sulks or rages when he fails to win yet another award or when a spouse does not jump to his every wish, even those unspoken. The person who feels safe when detached comes to value freedom and serenity. He may care about a certain issue but does not want to “get involved.”

When the neurotic process is under way, restrictions are imposed. Ways of feeling, thinking, and acting that are experienced as at odds with the primary solution are automatically and unconsciously rejected, but they do not disappear. They remain alive in the unconscious and constantly struggle for expression against the primary move.

The pressure created by these 3 orientations provides the dynamics that is so crucial to understanding the person in clinical context and making sense of inconsistencies. Hence, for example, the person who rigidly moves against others and endorses strength is likely to experience softer feelings as threatening. The person rejects such feelings and is alienated from them. Yet they continue to operate unconsciously and result in behaviors, dreams, and errors in daily living that seem very much at odds with the person’s preference.

These opposing strivings generate much of the inner unconscious conflict that surfaces as the basis for psychopathology. The self-effacing person, for example, may unknowingly exert considerable control by inducing guilt in others. Or, the person seeking to control his or her feelings may be alarmed by their sporadic eruption. The internal conflict generated by these opposing strivings that have become not only rigid and fixed but also insatiable, compulsive, and indiscriminate is what Horney called basic conflict. In addition to the defensive operations, such as projection, denial, rationalization, and dissociation, Horney added idealization.


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