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Horney, K. (1952). The Paucity of Inner Experiences. Am. J. Psychoanal., 12(1):3-9.

(1952). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 12(1):3-9

The Paucity of Inner Experiences

Karen Horney, M.D.

All or us have an interest in not being aware of certain feelings, drives, conflicts, qualities within ourselves. The particular content of such unconscious factors depends upon the whole personality structure. A person, for instance, who persistently keeps himself down is unconsciously interested in being unaware of his assets; a person who needs to keep others at a distance is unconsciously interested in being unaware of his need for affection. Briefly, this is one of the basic tenets with which we work in psychoanalytic therapy. The paucity of inner experiences to be discussed here is a more pervasive haziness of all, or most, inner experiences. The entire threshold of awareness is lowered.

Neither is the paucity of inner experiences restricted to the emotional life—feelings of pain, of joy, of hope, of disappointment, of likes or dislikes. It also includes thinking, willing, wishing, believing, doing. In short, it means living in a fog.

It is not identical with an alienation from the real self, but concerns the whole actual self: the awareness of pride and self-hate, triumph and defeat, hurts, illusions. Even anger, though unmistakably shown, may not be felt as such.

One last point to define the nature of the problem: the world of inner experiences is not shrivelled or extinct. Dreams that the memory retains are like the rumblings of distant volcanos or thunderstorms and reflect the depth and aliveness of inner battles, of destruction, of despair, of attempts at some solution.

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