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Ivimey, M. (1946). Basic Anxiety. Am. J. Psychoanal., 6(1):3-11.

(1946). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 6(1):3-11

Basic Anxiety

Muriel Ivimey

The Theory of neurosis formulated by Horney presents us with a view of neurotic development which is highly complex and intricate. As we familiarize ourselves with it, we are likely to find that our understanding of some of its concepts is not sufficiently clear. In this paper, I want to turn to the beginning of neurotic development and make a higher magnification of this aspect of our theory. A substantial grasp of the concept of basic anxiety is essential to an understanding of the enormously complex elaborations in the character structure that develop as a consequence of basic anxiety.

When we consider the beginning of neurotic development, we say that, under unfavorable conditions, the child experiences basic anxiety. In response to this basic anxiety, he has to devise ways of coping with his environment and with his inner insecurity. We say what we mean by “unfavorable conditions,” and we specify various unhealthy attitudes toward the child and adverse treatments of him which anyone would recognize as prejudicial to his feeling of security, and which justify the means he contrives to insure his safety. For instance, such attitudes and treatments would be: “Direct or indirect domination, indifference, erratic behavior, lack of respect for the child's individual needs, lack of real guidance, disparaging attitudes, too much admiration, or absence of it, lack of reliable warmth, having to take sides in parental disagreements, too much or too little responsibility, over-protection, isolation from other children, injustice, discrimination, unkept promises, hostile atmosphere, and so on and so on.

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