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Feminist and Other Psychoanalytic Trends Essay

The contributions of the socio-cultural approaches to personality, by theorists like Karen Horney, Nancy Chodorow and Margaret Mahler, focusing on social and cultural variables, are compared with that of biologically driven theories. “Freud had left psychoanalysis focused on the role played by biology in personality development. While biology is important to individual biography, so, too, are an individual’s life history and the presiding cultural and historical context…” (Kroger, 1996, p. 16).

Karen Horney departed from some of the basic principles of Sigmund Freud and suggested social and cultural factors for neuroses and personality disorders. She differed from Freud’s view of female psychology and his inferior portrayal of women. Horney’s realization that, “Freudian female psychology was only an offshoot of male psychology, to be expected in a male-oriented culture, came when she experienced childbirth” (Foty, 2008, para. 1). She gave the concept of womb envy, opposite to the theory of penis envy, given by Freud.

In her book, The Neurotic Personality of Our Time (1937), Horney phrased that “emphasis is put on the actually existing conflicts and the neurotic’s attempts to solve them”, in the treatment of neurosis. (p. vii). She did not discount the importance of childhood experiences, as theorized by Freud, but disliked the “one-sided fascination” that childhood held for psychoanalysts (p. vii). According to Freud the tussle between id, ego and superego lead to anxiety.

However, Karen Horney in her book, Self Analysis (1942), said that, “Freud’s disbelief in a wish for self development is linked up with his postulate that the ego is a weak agency tossed about among the claims of instinctual drives, of the outside world and of a forbidding conscience” (p. 23). She disagreed with this analysis and theorized that the infant’s anxiety is caused when the child feels isolated and alone in a hostile world. She argued that, “…Parental indifference, a lack of warmth and affection in childhood” causes anxiety (as cited in Boeree, 2006, Development section, para. 2).

According to Horney, children have two basic needs: need for affection and approval, and need for safety. These two needs are the most important amongst the ten needs that she gave for dealing with anxiety and they emerge due to indifference or lack of warmth from parents. She gave three coping strategies for dealing with these needs: moving-toward, which is compliant type, similar to Adler’s getting or leaning approach; moving-against, which is the hostile type, similar to Adler’s ruling or dominant type; moving-away, which is the detached type, similar to Adler’s avoiding type ( Boeree, 2006, Theory section).

“Freud brought forth the individual from the 19th-century family with his concept of the personal unconscious, reformulating ideas about gender and sexuality”. Thereafter feminism “gained support from psychoanalysis, which was itself transformed by war, revolution, socio-cultural change…”, and theories given by Horney and Melanie Klein (Lieberman, 2004). Melanie Klein’s Object Relations Theory emphasized the ego development of the children, during their early years, as being related to parts of objects rather than the whole.

“Margaret Mahler conducted extensive observations of healthy mother-infant and mother-toddler dyads in a naturalistic setting to delineate the process by which the child differentiates itself from its primary care-taker and becomes an autonomous person”(Kroger,1996, p. 51). According to Mahler, “separation and individuation” are the processes used by infants in the early years of life. Separation is the child’s “emergence from a symbiotic fusion with the mother”, whereas individuation is “those achievements marking the child’s assumption of his own individual characteristics” (p.

51). Mahler gave four stages of separation- individuation process: Differentiation (5 to 10 months), which is the beginning of the difference between self and the primary caregiver; Practicing (10 to 16 months), which marks the emergence of motor abilities; Rapprochement (16 to 24 months), during which, “children first get a real sense that they are individuals, separate from their mothers” (“Mahler”, 2007); Consolidation and object Constancy (24 to 36 months), in which the kids know that their mother will be back and are not anxious in their absence.

Two processes take place at this last phase: “The achievement of a definite… individuality”, and “the attainment of a certain degree of object constancy”(Kroger, 1996, p. 53). In her book The Reproduction of Mothering, Nancy Chodorow (1978), another Object Relations theorist, pointed out, “women experience a sense of self-in-relation that is in contrast to men’s creation of a self that wishes to deny relation and connection”(p. viii). Mother’s “by virtue of their gender, experience daughters like them and sons unlike”.

Consequently, girls and boys internalize these differences and “transform these unconscious maternal communications through their own intra-psychic capacities”. (p. viii). This leads to men being more independent and women more empathetic. The girls attachment to her mother is “preoedipal”…concerned with “early mother-infant relational issues” and “issues of dependence and individuation”. A Boy’s “attachment to his mother” is oedipal, expressing “his sense of difference and masculine oppositeness to her”. (p. 97).

Freud’s Oedipus complex was to explain sexual identity whereas the individuation process explains the child’s gender identity. Separation-individuation theory outlines the importance of “nurture in human development” (Edward, Ruskin & Turrini, 1991, p. 3). The relationship between mother and child during infancy plays an integral role in the child’s growth in later years. “…separation-individuation assumes different developmental pathways for men and women, with men cultivating a personality style that emphasizes autonomy and women cultivating one in which attachment needs take precedence”(Gnaulati & Heini, 2001).

References Boeree, C. G. (2006). Personality theories. In Shippensburg University my website. Retrieved March 10, 2008, from http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/perscontents. html. Chodorow, N. (1978). The reproduction of mothering: Psychoanalysis and the sociology of gender. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. Edward, J. , Ruskin, N. , Turrini, P. (1992). Separation/Individuation: Theory and application. (2nd ed. ). New York: Brunner-Routledge. Foty, G. R. (1988). A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney.

Smithsonian, 19, n5. p. 127(2). Retrieved March 15, 2008, from British Council Journals Database via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS Gnaulati, E. , & Heine, B. J. (2001). Separation-individuation in late adolescence: an investigation of gender and ethnic differences. The Journal of Psychology, 135, 1. p. 59(12). Retrieved March 15, 2008, from British Council Journals Database via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS Horney, K. (1942). Self analysis. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. Horney, K. (1937). The neurotic personality of our time.

London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. , Ltd. Kroger, J. (1996). Identity in adolescence: The balance between self and other. London: Routledge. Lieberman, E. J. (2004). Zaretsky, Eli. Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis. Library Journal, 129, 10. p. 162(1). Retrieved March 15, 2008, from British Council Journals Database via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS Mahler’s Theory of Development. (2007). KidsDevelopment. Retrieved March 15, 2008, from http://www. kidsdevelopment. co. uk/MahlersDevelopmentTheory. html


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