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Vollmerhausen, J.W. (1961). Alienation in the Light of Karen Horney's Theory of Neurosis. Am. J. Psychoanal., 21(2):144-151.

(1961). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2):144-151

Alienation in the Light of Karen Horney's Theory of Neurosis

Joseph W. Vollmerhausen, M.D.

I am in some conflict with the main title of this symposium, “Alienation and the Search for Identity.” The subtler implications of this title are that one has lost oneself and is trying to find it, like a long-absent relative. I submit rather that it never came into existence and, therefore, that there is nothing to be found. I am much more in harmony with Glenn Gray when he writes: “Paradoxical as it sounds, a severe struggle is required for most of us to become what we truly are. Certain psychologists like to refer to this incapability of becoming ourselves as self-alienation, but whatever we designate it the fact itself is there.”1 The self is not there to be found through searching, but something to be realized through struggle. For him “this struggle is best expressed in terms of an awakening, of coming to oneself, of becoming conscious of one's role in life. To help young people break through the surface of themselves and of society is a large part of education's permanent task. To educate is to civilize in depth our own children and others, rather than in the veneer of civilization earlier generations have achieved. How to reach that level where feeling and reason are fused and how to awaken this disposition to its relation to the rest of creation—this is the ancient but urgent problem of educating.”1 Alienation from self and the world can only be decreased through struggle. Gray sees it mainly in terms of education; we as therapists would see it mainly in the process of therapy.

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