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Horney and Adler on Personality

Horney and Adler on Personality

Author: Erick Taggart

Identify the main psychological concepts associated with Neo-Freudians Karen Horney and Alfred Adler.

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Hello, class. While Freud's theories on psychoanalytic theory are not considered to be as scientific or widely accepted today, a lot of his ideas were very influential. And they caused a series of psychologists, both during his time and afterwards, to help to expand on his ideas of psychodynamic theory. And these are the people that we call the neo-Freudians. So we're going to take a look at two of those figures today.

So if you recall, psychodynamic theory is a theory in psychology that emphasizes the importance of unconscious and its affect on our personalities and temperaments. So the first figure we're going to look at today is Karen Horney. And Horney was a German psychologist in the early 1900s who eventually moved to America and completed her studies. And she disagreed with Freud, particularly on the male-centeredness of his theories.

For example, Freud said in one of his psychosexual stages of development that girls develop a certain penis envy at that time. And that leads to a feeling of inferiority within all girls that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. Now, Horney said that this isn't the case. And this is particularly the result of Freud's male point of view.

Horney's other large contribution to the field of psychodynamic theory is her development of a theory of neurosis. Neuroses are any kind of mental disorders that are related to anxiety. And Freud said that neurosis developed as a result of conflict with unconscious forces and forbidden desires within our unconscious.

Horney said it's not necessarily this, but rather neurosis develops as a result of basic anxiety. Basic anxiety are general feelings of isolation and helplessness within the world. And basic anxiety is especially the result of our different childhood relationships that we have, so the way that we relate to people, either friends or family, when we're very young.

And as a result of these kinds of relationships, and the development of basic anxiety, Horney said that we develop, we can develop different kinds of neurotic needs. And she created a list of 10 of them, which are divided into three basic categories. So the first one is different kinds of needs that move a person towards others, which is to say that they're not normally as close to other people, unnaturally so. So for example, a person might depend on others overly, or they want the approval of others more than they really should.

The second neurotic need is needs that move a person away from others. In other words, their relationships cause them to not want to be as close to other people. This means withdrawing or being cold or aloof towards others. And a third category of neurotic needs are needs that move a person against others, which is to say that they're hostile or difficult or they attempt to dominate other kinds of people.

The second neo-Freudian we'll discuss today is Alfred Adler. And Adler was an Austrian psychologist in the early 1900s. He was a student of Freud's. But he also disagreed with some of his ideas and his theories, particularly on Freud's emphasis on the biological and instinctual urges that people have.

Adler said that, on the other hand, humans are more social creatures, which is to say that they develop personalities as a result of interactions with others, as well as on the individual development that Freud talked about. And so Adler developed these social theories of psychodynamic theory and of personality. Particularly, he talked about an important unconscious force that affects our social interactions. And that's striving for superiority, which is this desire to want to overcome our individual limitations and inadequacies, or in other words, our feelings of inferiority. So we want to feel like we're better than we might necessarily be, especially in relation to others.

So according to Adler, people try to compensate or try to overcome these feelings of inferiority in different kinds of ways. And this results in the creation of our personalities. This is something that's normal in the process.

But Adler said that we can also over-compensate for feelings of inferiority. And this can lead to the creation of an inferiority complex, which is an unnaturally self-centered feeling, which can result in anger and aggression towards others, so we're unnecessarily dwelling on our own inadequacies. And as a result, we might be aggressive towards other people. And this is also what we call a Napoleon complex. So these attempts to compensate for inferiority and strive for superiority lead to our individual personalities.

Terms to Know
Basic Anxiety

General feelings of isolation and helplessness from the world.

Striving for Superiority

Wanting to overcome our own limitations and inadequacies, or feelings of inferiority.