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Rudolphson, S. (1961). A Critique of Horney's Theory of Anxiety. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(1):27-33.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(1):27-33

Karen Horney Award

A Critique of Horney's Theory of Anxiety

S. Rudolphson, M.D.

Deep-seated anxiety causes constant suffering to modern man, who lives in a world of perpetual crisis. Great men, particularly Albert Einstein, have urged us for many years to re-orient our thinking in order to save ourselves from the chaos into which humanity seems to be plunging. Yet all these appeals have found no response. The problem of anxiety, which is the nucleus of all neuroses and psychoses, continues to remain unsolved. This fact is expressed by Basowitz in his book, Anxiety and Stress: “Although the central position of anxiety in psychological dysfunction has long been recognized, our present understanding of the problem is not much more complete than Freud's final sentence on the subject, ‘non liquet’ (it is not cleared up).”1 In psychoanalysis and psychotherapy we can only hope to reach further progess after the cause of anxiety has been found. Consequently, this is the most urgent and important task.

To reach a basis for our inquiry let us see what Horney thinks about neurosis: “A neurosis is a psychic disturbance brought about by fears and defenses against these fears and by attempts to find compromise solutions for conflicting tendencies.”2

She considers what she calls “basic anxiety” the cause of these fear reactions. What does she mean by this? “The condition that is fostered or brought about by the factors I have mentioned, or by similar factors, is an insidiously increasing, all-pervading feeling of being lonely and helpless in a hostile world.

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