Karen Horney: Her Life and Work Essay

Karen Horney: Her Life and Work Essay

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Karen Horney: Her Life and Work

Karen Horney, a psychoanalyst perhaps best known for her ideas regarding feminine psychology, faced much criticism from orthodox Freudian psychoanalysts during her time. Robert Sternberg said that creativity is always a “person-system interaction” because many highly creative individuals produce products that are good, but that are not exactly what others expect or desire. Thus, creativity is only meaningful in the context of the system that judges it. If this is true, I believe that Karen Horney made truly creative contributions to the field of psychology, and particularly to the domain of psychoanalysis. She broke rules in a domain that was itself fairly new, and in doing so presented ideas that have been in use to this day. She did so in a system that bombarded her with a fair amount of criticism because her ideas were different from those that Freud and his disciples supported. However, she made her mark as a master in her domain and has managed to have a number of her ideas incorporated into ego psychology, systems- theory, and a number of self-actualizing schools of psychotherapy.

Howard Gardner has studied many creative masters within the context of his theory of the three core elements of creativity. These include the relation between the child and the adult creator, the relation between the creator and others, and the relation between the creator and his or her work. Karen Horney’s childhood and adult life have been reflected in much of her work. She was born in 1885, the end of the Victorian era. Horney’s father was a “God-fearing fundamentalist who strongly believed that women were inferior to men and were the source of all evil in the world” (Hergenhahn & Olson...

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...usly shaped her personality and later influenced her psychoanalytic theory. In turn, her personality affected her relations with others in her domain, her family, her peers, her critics, and her supporters. It allowed her to obtain and hold prominent positions in psychology and to help countless patients. Horney took much pride in her work; she refused to allow orthodox Freudian doctrine and its supporters to prevent her from voicing the theories that she carefully constructed from years of personal introspection integrated with observations of societal influence.


Gardner, Howard (1993). Creating Minds. New York: Basic Books.

Hergehhahn, B. R. and Olson, M. H. (1999). An Introduction to Theories of Personality. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Rubins, Jack L. (1978). Karen Horney: Gentle Rebel of Psychoanalysis. New York: The Dial Press.

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