This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 13 table of contents.

Karen Horney and Self-Analysis

So far we have discussed the therapy techniques of three personality theorists whose theories were discussed in Chapter 11 (Personality Theories): Freud, Jung, and Adler. The next theorist described in that chapter, Karen Horney, also had a distinct approach to therapy. She was the only one in the group who advocated self-analysis.

How did Horney differ from Freud's view about the possibilities for self-analysis?

Horney believed that, in some respects, we can understand our inner worlds better than anyone else. Horney disagreed with Freud's belief that self-analysis could be dangerous. . She thought there were some built-in protections that made self-analysis safe. Horney said if a patient had something in the past that was so painful, so traumatic, that it could traumatize the patient if introduced to consciousness, the patient was unlikely to come upon it in self-analysis anyway.

What were the goals of self-analysis? What techniques could be used?

Horney saw three goals in self-analysis.

1. To be completely frank and honest with oneself.

2. To become aware of unconscious driving forces and motivations.

3. To develop a capacity for changing, especially in relationships with others.

Horney advocated such techniques as free association and dream analysis. Free association, when self-administered, meant giving totally free range to thoughts. Odd associations could be analyzed for meaning, especially if they evoked emotion.

Another technique was looking for contradictions and exaggerations in reactions to everyday events. A dramatic overreaction to some event could provide a valuable clue about psychic conflicts. Horney said to pay attention to feelings we might prefer to ignore (in dreams, for example). However, people should avoid blame when doing a self-analysis, Horney believed. The effort should be to understand, not to blame.

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