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Horney, K. (1951). The Individual and Therapy. Am. J. Psychoanal., 11(1):54-55.

(1951). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 11(1):54-55

The Individual and Therapy

Karen Horney

We believe in the inner dignity and freedom of man and in the constructiveness of the evolutionary forces inherent in man. The main question I am raising is, “How do we, as psychoanalysts, come to work with the concept of constructive inner forces moving us towards self-realization?” We presuppose the existence of these forces in every human being, although they may not be visible and although there exist elsewhere many beliefs concerning the destructiveness of man. There are not only wars, but the process of the dehumanization of man, such as exists in a police state where a human being is a number and not an individual. The subordination of the individual man and his dignity to an abstract idea, whether this goes on in a police state or elsewhere in the world, is a real danger.

In view of all the destructive greed and corruption going on around us, we have to ask ourselves whether it is Pollyanna-ish for us to believe in, and to base our therapy on, the concept of constructive inner forces. Is the individual inherently destructive, as the Freudians claim?

We are not denying the existence of destructive trends in patients as evidenced in hostility, vindictiveness and selfishness. But we deny that their presence means that man is innately destructive. They are reactions to distress beginning in childhood. Observation and study of the growth of children gives us plenty of evidence that children brought up in a favorable environment grow in a wholesome way to become responsible, mature adults whereas those raised in an unfavorable milieu show describable developmental patterns of hostility, suspiciousness, isolation, pessimism and illusions.

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