Final lectures. – book reviews
A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney Final Lectures
By the time Karen Horney died in 1952, she had earned a reputation as a renegade and iconoclast. Skeptical of dogma even as a child, she had infuriated a teacher once when she dared to challenge the story of Christ’s resurrection. As a psychoanalyst practicing in Berlin in the 1920s and later in the United States, she brought her skepticism to bear against some tenets of Freudianism that seemed to her unsupportable. Her feminist intrusion into the bastions of psychoanalysis brought her both notoriety and fame. Ousted from the said New York Psychoanalytic Institute, she went on to found a rival organization, only to see that group troubled by personal conflicts among its leadership. For most of her life, she stood alone.
What disturbed Horney as early as 1925, according to Susan Quinn’s A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney (Summit Books, $22.95), was Freud’s insistence that anatomical differences fostered women’s feelings of inferiority and drive for compensation. Instead, Horney believed that social context and cultural practices played a far greater role than penis envy in shaping a woman’s self-image. “Our culture,’ she wrote, “. . . is a male culture, and therefore by and large not favorable to the unfolding of woman and her individuality.’ Nor did she believe that infantile sexuality and isolated traumas played as decisive a role in personality disorders as Freud proposed. Consistent and genuine love, she said, would mitigate many traumatic childhood experiences.
Horney rooted her theories in her own reality and social context, preferring the anecdotal, conversational style that is apparent in her recently published Final Lectures (W. W. Norton, $14.95) and which so irritated Freudian psychoanalysts throughout her 30-year career. Her sociological perspective seemed trivial to many of her colleagues. And her own personality did not win her friends.
Horney, as Quinn amply demonstrates, was a willful, determined, indomitable woman. She could be warmhearted and playful (she took an impish delight in cheating at cards), but more often she was uncompromising both with herself and others. She scorned conventional morality, taking lovers during her marriage and after, including the philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm.
Quinn has written a detailed and authoritative biography, based upon Horney’s diaries and letters and interviews with many key figures in her life. She offers a helpful reading of Horney’s works, including The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, the book that established her reputation; New Ways in Psychoanalysis; and the controversial Self-Analysis, which stocked doctrinaire Freudians when it was published in 1942.
Horney’s Final Lectures provides as good an introduction to her thinking as any of her works. Addressed to psychoanalysts-in-training, the lectures focus on the patient-therapist relationship, on the process of psychoanalysis from the patient’s point of view, on the use of free association and on the problems of communication between physician and patient. Her clarity and concreteness will, no doubt, win her a new generation of readers. Horney, perhaps born too early, speaks to issues that still remain unresolved today.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sussex Publishers, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group