7. Evaluate Karen Horney’s theory of self.Karen Horney placed emphasis on the inner conflicts that both normal and neurotic individuals experience. Intra-psychic processes originate from interpersonal experiences; but as they become part of a person’s belief system, they develop a life of their own—an existence separate from the interpersonal conflicts that gave them life.
There are two important intra-psychic conflicts:
1. Idealized self-image: an attempt to solve conflicts by painting a godlike picture of oneself.
2. Self-hatred: an interrelated yet equally irrational and powerful tendency to despise one’s real self.
Horney believed that human beings, if given an environment of discipline and warmth, will develop feelings of security and self-confidence and a tendency to move toward self-realization. Unfortunately, early negative influences often impede people’s natural tendency toward self-realization, a situation that leaves them with feelings of isolation and inferiority. Added to this failure is a growing sense of alienation from themselves.
Feeling alienated from themselves, people need desperately to acquire a stable sense of identity. This dilemma can be solved only by creating an idealized self-image, an extravagantly positive view of themselves that exists only in their personal belief system. These people endow themselves with infinite powers and unlimited capabilities; they see themselves as “a hero, a genius, a supreme lover, a saint, a god” (Horney, 1950, p. 22).
· Compliant people see themselves as good and saintly
· aggressive people build an idealized image of themselves as strong, heroic, and omnipotent
· detached neurotics paint their self-portraits as wise, self-sufficient, and independent
As the idealized self-image becomes solidified, neurotics begin to believe in the reality of that image. They lose touch with their real self and use the idealized self as the standard for self-evaluation. Rather than growing toward self-realization, they move toward actualizing their idealized self. The glorified self becomes not only a phantom to be pursued; it also becomes a measuring rod with which to measure his actual being. And this actual being is such an embarrassing sight when viewed from the perspective of a godlike perfection that he cannot but despise it. (Horney, 1950, p. 110)
As people build an idealized image of their self, their real self lags farther and farther behind. This gap creates a growing alienation between the real self and the idealized self and leads neurotics to hate and despise their actual self because it falls so short in matching the glorified self-image (Horney, 1950). The self is thus "split" into a despised self and an ideal self.
Theories of Personality, Jess Feist and Gregory Feist