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Horney, K. (1950). A Morality of Evolution. Am. J. Psychoanal., 10(1):3-4.

(1950). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 10(1):3-4

A Morality of Evolution

Karen Horney

The Neurotic Process is a special form of human development, and, because of the waste of constructive energies which it involves, is a particularly unfortunate one. It is not only different in quality from healthy human growth, but, to a greater extent than we have realized, antithetical to it in many ways. Under favorable conditions, man's energies are put into the realization of his own potentialities. Such a development is far from uniform. According to his particular temperament, faculties, propensities, and the conditions of his earlier and later life, he may become softer or harder; more cautious or more trusting; more or less self-reliant; more contemplative or more outgoing—and he may develop his special gifts. But wherever his course takes him, it will be his given potentialities which he develops.

Under inner stress, however, a person may become alienated from his real self. He will then shift the major part of his energies to the task of molding himself, by a rigid system of inner dictates, into a being of absolute perfection. For nothing short of godlike perfection can fulfill his idealized image of himself and satisfy his pride in the exalted attributes which (so he feels) he has, could have, or should have.

The trend in neurotic development (which is presented in detail in this book) engages our attention over and beyond the clinical or theoretical interest in pathological phenomena. For it involves a fundamental problem of morality: that of man's desire, drive or religious obligation to attain perfection.

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