Karen Horney's Psychological Theory

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Karen Horney (1885-1952) Karen Danielsen was born on September 16, 1885 near Hamburg, Germany to Clotilde and Berndt Danielsen. Her father was a ship captain, who was very conservative in his outlook, while her mother was a much more liberal. She had a troubled childhood and after a brief spell of over attachment to her mother, she devoted all her energy towards intellectual pursuits. She believed that her father was fonder of her brother Berndt. His reproachful attitude towards her and strictness didn’t help either. Another event that left a permanent mark on her was her infatuation with her brother, which led to her first bout of depression. Some critics view her childhood as the formative influence behind her theories. She sought to understand…show more content…
She regards the cultural differences in the upbringing of women and men as the origin of many psychological disturbances that Freud had described in his patients. Horney rejects the concept of penis envy as the woman’s envy of the power that a man possesses, and not the actual organ itself. It is a concept of social origin, and not biological. Horney distinguishes between the cultural and social forces that shapes the formative years of a male and female child. A girl child often grows up envying her brother because of the freedom of movement and decision making that comes with his gender. Her envy of her brother comes from his fluidity of existence that has been denied to her. Hence, she often comes to associate femininity with weakness and strives to achieve the superior status of men. This, Horney called the masculinity complex. The girl wishes for the qualities or privileges that the society attributes to men and despises women, including her own self. Generally, masculinity complex is not a reaction to biological “inferiority” or organ inferiority, rather it reacts to cultural and social inferiority forced upon women. However, some women see the femininity attached with pregnancy as undesirable and unconsciously rejects desire and potential to be a mother. She called this trend the flight from motherhood. One among the curious terms that Horney has put forward is what is called “womb envy”. This term is a counterpart to the Freudian penis envy. She expounded that men are driven towards success because of their compulsion to be productive, while women can do this just by being. Because of this creative potential, there is an innate superiority in women. And the womb envy in men strives to emerge as superior by controlling and manipulating

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