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Theories Developed by Karen Horney - Psychology Essay Sample

Date:  2021-06-17 14:43:28
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Karen Danielsen as her parents named her, was born in Blankenese, Germany on 16th September 1985. She studied medicine and married a lawyer, Oscar Horney whom she later divorced. She attended the University of Berlin, University of Gottingen and the University of Freiburg earning her medical degree in 1911. Her interest in the medical field began very early in her medical career. She left her mark on the psychiatric field and wrote two books which are New Ways in Psychoanalysis in 1939 and The Neurotic Personality of Our Time in 1937. She moved to the United States and carried on her work where she developed few ideologies that were in conflict with the beliefs that were prevalent at the time. She died in New York on 4th December 1952 (Paris, 188).

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Theories developed by Karen Horney.

Karen Horney developed her theories from her personal experiences and how she dealt with her problems. She developed the ideologies of neurosis and psychoanalysis with regards to internal conflicts. These theories were later regarded as among the best theories in the field. Her theories are namely neurosis, psychoanalysis, female psychology, psychotherapy and inner conflict.

Neurosis. Horney developed a list of ten neurotic needs that enable an individual to cope with anxiety. She categorized these needs into three categories namely compliance, aggression and detachment. These are needs that move you towards others, away from others and against others respectively. Horney emphasized on the fact that to understand the various neuroses one had to understand the cultural orientation of an individual and not just their biological disposition. Freud Sigmund had laid a lot of emphasis on ones biological character determining these neuroses and had developed the theory of penis envy. Karen opposed this theory and came up with the womb theory. In her explanation, men were envious of the role women played in giving life. Women were capable of getting pregnant, having babies and raising children and hence the men retaliated by seeking qualifications and success. She greatly objected Freuds views on female psychology and thought that his views were demeaning to the women. She, therefore came up with other ideologies that explained self-psychology and female psychology. This greatly sparked an interest in the public on the psychology of women.

Inner conflict is a concept Karen stated that resulted from ones social and cultural experiences as a child and many people are likely to undergo. Another crucial factor is the failure of parents in showing love and affection to a child. These makes the child grow up into a self-loathing individual and these individuals are likely to self-harm or self-torture. They possess an idealized self-image. This is also referred to as the tyranny of should. This image that neurotics possess is a perfect image of themselves that they seek to achieve. They do this to attain a sense of distinctiveness (Schultz & Schultz, 139).

Horneys theories on female psychology greatly contradicted Feuds theories. She explained that the differences observed between men and women are not attributed to physical or anatomical differences but rather a result of the cultural and social orientation of ones gender (Schultz & Schultz, 140)). Growing up females are taught to expect love and protection from their male counterparts. On the other hand, males are taught dominance and dependability. They are taught how to fend for themselves and succeed in order to become providers. This shapes the futures and expectations that both parties possess and greatly influences the shape their lives take.

The other concept developed by Karen Horney was psychotherapy that embraced self-realization and actualization. She believed that by self-examination and analysis and acceptance these individual were likely to succeed. She employed the tactics of helping her patients give up their self-idealized images and changing their self-loathe to self-acceptance to achieve self-realization (Schultz & Schultz, 155).

The Impact of these Theories on Field of Psychology.

Karen made great strides in the discovery and critical analysis of neurotics. She evaluated the situations that led to individuals becoming neurotic and explained the ten needs that are developed by neurotics as coping strategies. She veered into the male-dominated field of psychology and even challenged the prevalent theories by the then psychiatrists. The most visible stunt was challenging Freuds ideologies especially his theory of penis envy even coming up with her own theory of womb envy. This phenomenon explained that men were jealous of womens ability to bear children. This phenomenon was meant to counter Freud Sigmunds penis envy. Karen focused the publics attention on female psychology and this led to a number of developments in the field of studying womens psychology. Her ideologies and revolutionary views on feminist psychology, psychoanalysis and neurotics remain phenomenal to date (Heiser, pars 2 & 3).


Karen Horney had great achievements. From being among the pioneering women in her field to coming up with theories that challenged the theories of various practitioners in psychiatry among them Freud Sigmund. In her theories, she adopted an approach that was flexible and that is relatable with very many individuals. Her contribution to psychiatry is of great value and with further research, her ideas can be developed to explain many behaviors and mental disorders in our society. Her work made a significant impact and will remain a point of reference among many practitioners practicing in her field. References. Editors. (2014). Karen Horney Biography. Biography. Retrieved from accessed on 8th April 2017.

Duane P. Schultz. Sydney E. Schultz. (2015). Theories of Personality Chapter 5. Cengage

Learning. 135-157.

Makaylaheiser. (2014). Karen Horneys Influence on Psychology, June 8th 2014. Origins of Psychology. Retrieved from Accessed on 8th April 2017.

Paris, B. (1994). Karen Horney: a psychoanalyst's search for self-understanding., New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press. 184-190.

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