The Neurotic Self

The idea of the Neurotic Self was introduced by psychoanalyst Karen Horney (1885-1952). She put forth the theory that the neurotic self is split between an “idealized self” and a “real self,” and that unhealthy or “toxic,” social environments are likely to create unhealthy belief systems – hindering people from realizing their highest potential. As an early associate of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), she authored Neurosis and Human Growth in 1950.

Three Personality Styles

She described three personality styles or neurotic trends that develop in order to cope with self-alienation and the fear, helplessness and isolation in childhood. Underneath these are feelings of anxiety, hostility and unworthiness that are repressed to varying degrees.

The first group of individuals believe they can only feel loved and secure if they are passive and comply. The second group includes those who view life as a struggle and they conclude they must be aggressive and in control. The third group keeps safe by withdrawing emotionally from interactions.

Ten Neurotic Trends

She also identified ten neurotic trends or needs that underlie these three styles. Although the needs may overlap and remind you of normal needs, they are neurotic because they are compulsive, driven by anxiety and out of proportion to reality. Several of these trends describe codependence.

Personality Style #1

The first style is referred to as neurotic compliance. Its trends include: The need for affection and approval; the need for a partner, believing that love will make them happy and that their partner will fulfill their expectations and responsibilities; and the need to restrict their behavior and expectations within narrow borders, underestimating their potential and living an inconspicuous life.

Personality Style #2

The second style is referred to as neurotic aggression, Its trends include: the need for power and domination over others, having contempt for weakness; the need to exploit and manipulate others, where others are merely there to be used; the need for prestige or respect; the need for admiration of your “ideal self;” the need for personal achievement combined with resentment when others don’t recognize you.

Personality Style #3

The third style is referred to as neurotic withdrawal. Its trends include: The need for self-sufficiency and independence to the extent that they avoid close relationships; the need for perfection, worrying about possible errors and defects, and feeling superior to others; and borrowed from the first style – the need to restrict their behavior and expectations with narrow borders, under-estimating their potential and living an inconspicuous life.

After struggling with differences with Sigmund Freud’s theories, Horney went on to establish the American Institute for Psychoanalysis in 1941. 

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

Review our Knowledge Base or the links displayed on this page for similar and related topics.