Karen Horney’s theories – some Enneagram perspectives

Above: the diagram (speculative) shows a distribution of factors in personality as defined by Horney, allocated between points. At a higher level this is suggesting alienation from self is a core process, with idealized image and anxiety (=3,6: image, fear) as basic forces that enter at the ‘shock points’. 2,5,8 would be the ‘poster’ children for the main ‘trends’ – 5 (detachment) is closely related to questions of basic anxiety (adjacent 6). 2/3 align around an idealized image being adopted to justify a moving-towards approach, while 3/4 align around the split between idealized image and discontent due to being unable to realize it.


For a long time I’ve found various psychological systems interesting in their differences – one might emphasize self-esteem, another anxiety, a third childhood programming, another sexual instincts, etc. For the most part, I’d considered this represented psychological theories being drafted by different ‘types’ – each building a theory around their type’s passions and mental blueprint without quite understanding the diversity possible.
Leaving that question aside, in this model I will take one particular model – that of Karen Horney – and think somewhat about how it relates to the enneagram. An area of interest here is how some of her ideas compare to some of the “Fourth Way” ideas (cf. last post).


Karen Horney’s theories are generally fairly well-known to enneagram enthusiasts, as they include a division of people into ‘Going Towards’ (Compliant), ‘Going Away’ (Withdrawn) and ‘Going Against (Aggressive), which is partly borrrowed and modified in construction of the ‘Horneyvian groups’ – 126 compliant, 378 aggressive and 459 withdrawn – used by e.g. Riso-Hudson and Hurley-Donson.
Horney herself started with Freudian analysis, but disagreed with Freud’s ‘libido’ theory and formed her own theory. Her work was inspired significantly by her own work with patients, with her ideas being published in ‘Self-Analysis’ (the patient ‘Claire’ in that, a ‘compliant type’, is IIRC reputed to be based on her own self-analytic work), and more fully in ‘Our Inner Conflicts’ and ‘Neurosis and Human Growth’.
Our Inner Conflicts is publicly available here: https://archive.org/details/OurInnerConflicts
Her theory deals with ‘neurotic’ patients but she would adds that this means ‘the patient to the extent they are neurotic’ – even normal people can have some degree of neurotic tendencies, making her ideas partly applicable to them, as well as it being applicable to ‘severe’ cases.
In outline, she believed that people grow in an environment of anxiety which leads them to form coping strategies – Towards, Away or Against others. Despite there being a primary approach, other approaches are also present, generating ‘conflicts’ between different desires. An idealized image forms which substitutes for real self-esteem and also helps to reconcile different aspects of the self – showing them as facets of a complex personality rather than contradictions. The idealized image however causes a degree of detachment from the ‘real self’, as well as self-hatred when its ideals can’t be reached (“the idealized image and self-hatred are inseparable..they are two aspects of one process”).
Her work on the ‘compliant type’ is particularly good (she identifies with this as her primary orientation, as is perhaps evident in her Adolescent Diaries – though I have only seen part of these – she deals somewhat with the difficulty that is seen around realizing what one genuinely feels vs. what is needed to gain approval, e.g. in Self-Analysis). This occasionally may differ somewhat from what we’d expect for a Two (?) – where she discusses feminist psychology e.g. in ‘The Distrust Between the Sexes’ this seems to be quite cynical and so perhaps with some intuitive focus on ‘hidden intentions’ – or could just be a result of her relationship troubles up until this point. She has some flair for discerning motivations, doing dream analysis, etc. She notes that the compliant type ‘lives in dread of desertion’ [matching 6 reputed ‘basic fear’ of abandonment], and her description of the compliant type does emphasize that in contrast with the aggressive types, compliant types are likely to feel inferior or guilty, which again might match 6 better than 2, ‘pride’ – although this is debateable. She does explicitly mentions ‘freedom’ – a Two concept – though e.g. in reference to the ‘withdrawn’ type.

Types in her model

As discussed by Riso, her basic Toward/Away/Against model was something she broke down into more specific types e.g. aggressive into the aggressive-vindictive type [8], the aggressive-narcisstic type [3], the aggressive-perfectionist [1] type; or withdrawn as the withdrawn – detached [5], and withdrawn – shallow living [9?] types [detailed in Neurosis and Human Growth]. She also discusses an “elusive type” [7??] which has failed to form an idealized image [“vicious one moment, sympathetic the next…you can never pin them down to any statement, they deny having said it or assure you they did not mean it that way..nothing is quite real to them”].
Note that Riso had moved the ‘perfectionistic’ type to be a compliant type to mesh with his overall structure. Her discussion of the types is interesting. Note that she seems to particularly highlight the lack of trust of the aggressive-vindictive type as a core problem for it. The ‘aggressive’ types have particular themes around the idealized image – e.g. the narcissistic type taking the view it is its idealized image, while the ‘perfectionistic’ type is almost there and thus trying to whip itself toward it. Compliant types in her view instead identified with the ‘despised’ image (IIRC).
Hurley-Dobson’s model, which builds on Riso’s, assigns a ‘repressed centre’ to each – aggressive – repressed feeling centre, withdrawn – repressed instinctive centre, compliant  – repressed intellectual centre; in contrast to this, Horney particular emphasizes the ‘withdrawn’ type as having alienation from feeling:

“There is a general tendency to suppress all feeling, even to deny its existence….The rejection of feeling pertains primarily to feelings toward other people and applies to both love and hate. It is a logical consequence of the need to keep at an emotional distance from others, in that strong love or hate, consciously experienced, would bring one either close to others or into conflict with them. “.

Her description matches Five as seen through the Narrative approach (i.e. Palmer + Daniels, Condon) fairly well, however.
While Horney’s system is typological to an extent, it also very much emphasizes that people use a mix of approaches, with problems resulting due to ‘inner conflict’ between those. She briefly lists a number of case studies of neurotic patients [of which, tentatively, we could say “X” is perhaps most likely a 2w3, “Y” a 5w6, and “Z” an 8w9]

Horney vs. Jung

Given MBTI and related ideas’ use around typology, its interesting that Horney is specifically critical of Jung:

Jung also placed considerable emphasis on the op­posing tendencies in human beings. Indeed he was so impressed with the contradictions at work in the in­dividual that he took it to be a general law that the presence of any element would of necessity indicate the presence also of its opposite. An outward femininity implied an inward masculinity; a surface extraversion, a concealed introversion; an outward preponderance of thinking and reasoning, an inner preponderance of feel­ing, and so on. Up to this point it would appear that Jung regarded conflicts as an essential feature of neurosis. However, he goes on to say that these opposites are not conflicting but complementary—the goal is to accept both and thereby approximate the ideal of whole­ness. To him the neurotic is a person who has been stranded in a one-sided development. Jung formulated these concepts in what he called the law of comple­ments. Now I, too, recognize that the opposing tend­encies contain complementary elements neither of which can be dispensed with in an integrated personality. But in my opinion these are already outgrowths of neurotic conflicts and are so tenaciously adhered to because they represent attempts at solution. If, for instance, we re­gard a tendency toward being introspective, withdrawn, more concerned with one’s own feelings, thoughts, or imagination than with other persons’ as an authentic inclination—that is, constitutionally established and re­inforced by experience—then Jung’s reasoning would be correct. The effective therapeutic procedure would be to show the person his hidden “extravert” tendencies, to point out the dangers of one-sidedness in either direc­tion, and encourage him to accept and live out both tendencies. If, however, we look upon introversion (or, as I prefer to call it, neurotic detachment) as a means of evading conflicts that arise in close contact with others, the task is not to encourage more extraversion but to analyze the underlying conflicts. The goal of wholeheartedness can be approximated only after these have been resolved.

Her three-fold model perhaps comes closer to explaining relatively rareness of ‘introverts’ (1/3 population based on whether people are withdrawn, against, or toward, vs. the 1/4 of the population for MBTI), although perhaps shouldn’t be extrapolated down to the function level (e.g. to suggest two forms of each ‘extraverted’ function).

Typing Horney?

Horney’s own type is unfortunately unclear… I’d love to know. Riso as far as I know does not speculate on this, although he talks at length in the ‘Loyalist’ [Six] description about Sixes’ as having inner conflict between compliant and aggressive traits in their personality, that might suggest he would think 6 for her. I am not entirely certain of her type – wavering at times between 2w3, 6 or 9. She discusses ‘Externalization’ as a defense mechanism (perhaps suggesting its hers), but this is not a known mechanism mapped by Naranjo. Arguably her system is based around “Pride” (the key trait of Two) and perhaps Vanity (=2w3), but she does mention ‘basic anxiety’. In addition, she also emphasizes alienation from self and inner conflicts, which seem like potentially Nine concepts: she would see procrastination, lack of enthusiasm, indeciseness as due to conflict between the various personality aspects, generating a lack of movement because competing priorities are in 180-degree conflict such that ‘no solution is feasible’; a worse position that Freud’s in that wishes are not just frustrated but not able to wish for anything to begin with, barring a miracle capable of resolving all competing priorities. “A spurious tranquilly rooted in inner dullness is anything but enviable”.

Literature Analysis Notes (from elsewhere on this blog)

Examining other literature to search for types with similar structures to what she predicts (to guess her type) is also tricky. In terms of comparative cases found in literature, Ende (3w4, I believe) showed some of the same sort of psychic structures as she predicts – hopelessness, idealized image important, and overt mentions of the three main drives – with Bastian wanting supremacy, to be loved, and also wishing for wisdom/detachment; interestingly Ende as a German from the same era perhaps comes from a similar cultural background.
An idealized image similar to what she suggests has also been seen in probable 9s as well – Clifford D. Simak’s “Werewolf Principle” has a man who also contains an alien computer (withdrawn) and a werewolf-like alien (aggressive), or Watt-Evans’ “Cyborg and the Sorcerors ” has a man with a computer controlling him, and a ‘combat persona’ that kills when attacked. (Note both Ende and Simak have case studies on the blog here). Louise Cooper, also case studied (2w3) could be argued to have strong ‘compliant type’ tendencies and some sense of self-alienation coming through in her work.

Comparisons with Gurdjieff’s ideas

There are some definite parallels between Gurdjieff’s ideas of ‘considering’ (see last post) and the Horneyvian ‘compliant type’; he talks about considering as being based on ‘requirements’, whereas she talks about expectations being set or justified by the idealized image.
While Gurdjieff discusses the idea of ‘conscience’ as being repressed in people, as a result of ‘buffers’ which attempt to stem inner conflicts [“if a man realized he loved what he hated and hated what he loved, that he lies when he tells the truth and tells the truth when he lies, then that would be conscience”]. Comparatively, Horney discusses neurotic ‘blind spots’ about obvious inner conflicts. Whereas he says people are ‘asleep’, she likewise suggests that people have a tendency to ‘drift’ along without making clear decisions, avoiding choices that are too difficult. Both (in common with many other systems), take the ‘real self’ as a sort of living core present in people; her work  seems to imply therefore that conversely there is a ‘surface’ layer that’s not as real, though she doesn’t overtly name this outer layer of being (what Gurdjieff would call “personality”).


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