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Horney, K. (1947). Maturity and the Individual. Am. J. Psychoanal., 7(1):85-87.

(1947). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 7(1):85-87

Maturity and the Individual

Karen Horney

As an analyst, I shall speak of the individual, the individual who is influenced by world changes and who in turn can influence them. He can influence them for the better, the more mature he is.

Maturity is no faculty which we have or have not but it is rather a goal toward which we strive. It is not well-defined at that. It is a kind of receptacle into which everybody puts his personal ideals.

However, you would hardly disagree with me if I emphasize as essential two ingredients of maturity. One is the ability to see the stark reality of persons or situations outside ourselves and to base our judgments and observations on the factors actually operating.

This is part of wisdom, a wisdom which everybody could approximate given sufficient insight. I gather that in certain so-called primitive tribes—who know much more about the art of living than we do—the old man or old woman not only is regarded as wise but actually is so. In our civilization, getting older is by no means identical with getting wiser. Why not? I would say simply that we do not get wiser because we do not learn from our experiences; and we do not learn from our experiences because we are too neurotic, too rigid. More specifically, we are too confined by the misty and narrow horizon of our subjectivity. That is part of what neurosis does to us. It makes us too preoccupied with ourselves, whether we are aware of it or not, whether we want it or not. On top of our insecurity, we build a lofty edifice of arrogance which makes us believe that we are the only ones to be fair, intelligent, to understand and solve absolutely everything.

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