Karen Horney's Theories on Psychoanalysis

Discover Karen Horney’s theories on psychoanalysis in this article!
Karen Horney's Theories on Psychoanalysis

Last update: 18 August, 2019

Karen Horney’s theories on psychoanalysis directly challenged Freud’s work. She was a notable figure and one of the few female psychoanalysts of the 20th century.

Horney didn’t agree with Freud’s theory of sex being decisive to mental development, instead believing that culture had a huge role in shaping a person’s personality.

Her theories on psychoanalysis state that the feeling of abandonment during childhood can affect mental development.

Some of Horney’s most notable works include The Neurotic Personality of Our Time and Neurosis and Human Growth.

“Fortunately analysis is not the only way to resolve inner conflicts. Life itself still remains a very effective therapist.”

-Karen Horney-

Karen Horney at college.

Karen Horney’s early life

This psychoanalyst was born Karen Danielson on September 16th, 1885, in Hamburg, Germany. Her dad was a Navy captain and her mother was a housewife. She had five siblings.

Karen’s mother didn’t love her husband and this really impacted young Karen. Her mother encouraged her to study medicine to break gender roles.

While working at the Free University of Berlin, she met Karl Abraham and he introduced her to psychoanalysis.

A change of concepts

Karen married Oskar Horney. However, her marriage wasn’t sexually satisfying and this depressed her. Abraham thought her issues revolved around an incestuous desire for her father, which is something she denied. This made her change her views on psychoanalysis.

When World War II started, she moved to the United States.

Karen Horney smiling.

Karen Horney’s theories on psychoanalysis

She completely rebuffed Freud’s penis envy theory. First of all, she thought women’s inferiority complex and sexual inhibitions didn’t stem from anatomical dispositions. They were, most certainly, the result of restrictive education that denied their femininity.

Horney agreed that childhood is decisive to the manifestation of neurosis. In this regard, she also believed that parental affection or lack of it determines mental health.

Above all, she stated that if parents don’t meet their children’s affective needs, frustration and shyness may arise due to the hostility this makes the child feel. Hostility leads to self-destructive tendencies and makes it hard to make friends. And all of this can lead to anxiety.

Karen Horney and friends.

From psychoanalysis to humanism

She founded the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis in the United States. Figures such as Erich Fromm, Harry Sullivan, and Margaret Mead were regular visitors.

Erich Fromm and his humanist philosophy had a great impression on Horney. However, their relationship was characterized by jealousy and disputes, which is why they stopped working together.

Karen Horney is recognized as one of the founders of humanism.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.