Horney, Karen

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Horney, Karen,

1885–1952, American psychiatrist, b. Germany, M.D. Univ. of Berlin, 1913. She married Oscar Horney in 1909. Prior to her arrival (1932) in the United States, she was secretary of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, where she taught for 12 years. Associate director (1932–34) of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Horney then came to New York City, where she lectured at the New School for Social Research. She deviated from orthodox Freudian analysis by emphasizing environmental and cultural, rather than biological, factors in the genesis of neurosis. Anxiety, she held, is created by anything that jeopardizes a person's means of gaining security. The neurotic's rigid adherence to his safety devices protects him in some ways but renders him helpless toward other possible dangers. To further her work based on these beliefs, she founded (1941) and became dean of the American Institute of Psychoanalysis. Her works include The Neurotic Personality of Our Time (1937), Self-Analysis (1942), Our Inner Conflicts (1945), and Neurosis and Human Growth (1950).


See studies by S. Quinn (1988), M. Westkott (1988), and B. J. Paris (1994).

Horney, Karen


Karen Horney (1885–1952) was an American psychoanalyst and a leader in the neo-Freudian school of psychoanalysis. She was impressed by the role that culture played in psychological conflicts. This led her to deemphasize the central importance that Sigmund Freud had assigned to childhood sexuality in the formation of neurosis. Unlike Freud and like Alfred Adler, Horney gave central importance to insecurity and the drive for superiority as motivating factors in human psychodynamics. One of the key tenets of her personality theory was that human beings were motivated to grow, prompted by an overarching desire for self-realization (i.e., for self-understanding).

Dreams, Homey theorized, expressed a level of the human psyche that was closer to the real self. In dreams one is less defensive, and the part of the self that propels one to seek self-realization will sometimes express the truth more clearly in the dream state than in waking consciousness. For example, someone who always displays optimism and has a self-image of being positive and upbeat might have dreams characterized by sadness, indicating, in Horney’s theory, the possibility that the person is actually unhappy at a deep level.

Horney, Karen (b. Danielsen)

(1885–1952) psychiatrist, psychoanalyst; born near Hamburg, Germany. Raised by a strict Norwegian father and a more liberal Dutch mother, she lived out tensions in her youth that would provide many of the themes of her later work. While a medical student in Germany, she married a fellow student (1909) and they had three children. Her personal/emotional life was already under great strain by 1915 and she underwent Freudian analysis with Karl Abraham. She herself began to take on patients for analysis in 1919 and would be affiliated with the Berlin Psychoanalytic Clinic and Institute until 1932, when she was invited to the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis; separated from her husband, feeling the Berlin psychoanalytic atmosphere too oppressive, fearing the threat of Nazism, she went to Chicago. Meanwhile, during the 1920s she had already begun to publish a series of papers that would take issue with some of the major tenets of orthodox Freudianism and she would continue her often lonely fight, in particular to have women's distinctive psychosexual issues considered. During the 1930s she would also develop theories about the importance of sociocultural factors in human development, as opposed to purely intrapsychic ones, theories since incorporated into contemporary psychology but which at the time were considered heretical by many Freudians. After two years in Chicago (1932–34), she moved to New York City, where she built up a private practice while teaching at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and the New School for Social Research. She soon fell out with the orthodox Freudians there, and with Clara Thompson, Erich Fromm, and other prominent psychoanalysts, she founded the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (1941), which also established its own training institute and professional journal, the American Journal of Psychoanalysis, of which she served as an editor (1941–55). These institutions became the base of her influence, in turn communicated by her magnetic lectures and such books as Our Inner Conflicts (1945) and Neurosis and Human Growth (1950). A difficult woman to get close to—usually reserved but occasionally insensitive to others—she remained at the center of the storm in New York and international psychoanalytical circles, but in the years following her death she has been recognized as a major figure in the psychoanalytical movement.