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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/10/10

The Time Has Come to Resurrect Karen Horney's Way of Thinking About Neurotics

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Duluth, MN (OpEdNews) May 10, 2010 -- Last week the natural disaster of the flood in Nashville took third place in media attention behind two man-made disasters: (1) BP's man-made disaster with its oil spill, and (2) the disaster on the stock market, which in any event was not a natural disaster, as the flood in Nashville was.

Because of the frequency of man-made disasters, I say that the time has come to resurrect the work of Karen Horney, M.D. (1885-1952). She was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and gifted writer (even though English was not her native language; German was her native language). Everything by Horney is still worth reading, even though some of her ways of thinking can be and have been qualified in different ways by subsequent insights, as I will explain below.

Horney works with a twofold sense of the divided human self: (1) the neurotic self and (2) the real self. The religious writer Thomas Merton (1915-1968) also worked with a comparable sense of the divided self, which he termed (1) the false self and (2) the true self.

In Horney's view, all of us are neurotic, so all of us should invest time and effort in undertaking psychoanalysis, so that we can make certain headway in outgrowing our neurotic solutions to our inner conflicts and thereby grow into our real self. Self-realization is the goal toward which we should strive.

In her summative book NEUROSIS AND HUMAN GROWTH: THE STRUGGLE TOWARD SELF-REALIZATION (1950), Horney works with eight neurotic solutions to our inner conflicts, three of which she groups under the broader category of the expansive neurotic solutions. According to her way of thinking, all of us usually have at least three of the eight neurotic solutions working in us, usually with one of the three dominating over the other two. However, we can have more than three different neurotic solutions operating in us to one degree or another.

Now, most man-made disasters are the work of the three expansive types. I'll return to the expansive types momentarily.

Unfortunately, according to Horney's way of thinking, the other five neurotic solutions that she discusses lead to tendencies whereby we step aside and allow the three expansive types to run amok unregulated.

Yes, I am suggesting that the three kinds of neurotic solutions that produce the three expansive types produce people whose activities should be carefully regulated.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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