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Major Contributions of Karen Horney in Psychology

Categories: Psychology

Karen Horney was a German psychologist who made major contributions in psychology. Some of these contributions include things like in feminine psychology, theory of self, and self-psychology. It is stated that “Her refutation of Freud’s theories about women generated more interest in the psychology of women.” (Cherry, 2013) Although Karen Horney did follow a great deal of Sigmund Freud’s theory, she did not have the same opinion with his beliefs on female psychology. She didn’t accept his concept of male envy, saying it was both incorrect and humiliating to women.

Horney proposed, instead, the concept of womb envy, where men experience feelings of lowliness because they could not give birth to children. “Is not the tremendous strength in men of the impulse to creative work in every field precisely due to their feeling of playing a relatively small part in the creation of living beings, which constantly impels them to an over-compensation in achievement?”

Horney suggested. (Cherry, 2013) Karen Horney’s theory of self was a very important contribution to psychology in showing how the way a neurotic person views themselves is different than the way that a healthy person views themselves.

She believed that neurosis was a constant process, with neuroses occurring commonly at irregular intervals in a person’s lifetime. The neurotic’s identity is more or less split into a loathed self and a perfect self. Other theorists hypothesize a “looking-glass”(Boeree, 2007) self, the you that you think others see. If you look around and see, whether accurately or not, others despising you, then you receive that within you as what you presume to be the real you.

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Neurotic persons create an ideal self out of should and expectations they believe they should be living up to.

The ideal self is not a constructive goal. It is unrealistic and, in the end, unattainable. So, in turn, a neurotic person bounces back and forth between hating themselves and pretending to be perfect. (Boeree, 2007). Horney also encouraged self-analysis and self-help which still gets little respect in the psychological community. Karen supposed that people were able to act as their own therapists, emphasizing the personal role each person has in their own mental health. Karen wrote one of the earliest self-help books, and supposed that (with rather minor neurotic troubles) we may well be our own psychiatrists. (Boeree, 2007). One weakness in all of her work is that her theory is limited to neurotic persons. in addition to leaving out psychotics and other problems, she also leaves out the healthy person. However, given that she does put neurosis as well as health on a single scale, she does speak out to the neurotic in all humans.

It is through Karen Horney’s major contributions and work in feminine psychology, theory of self, self analysis and self help that the world of psychology is the way it is today.


  1. Cherry, K.(2013). Karen Horney Biography. Psychology – Complete Guide to Psychology for Students, Educators & Enthusiasts. Retrieved January 8, 2013, from ofmajorthinkers/p/bio_karenhorney.
  2. Boeree, C. (2007) Karen Horney. My Webspace files. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from http://webspa
  3. Langenderfer, G. (1999) Karen Horney. Psychology History. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from
  4. Theory Karen Horney – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved January 9, 2013, from

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Major Contributions of Karen Horney in Psychology
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