Neurosis and Human Growth
In the study of human development, there are several key texts that stand out, including Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization by Karen Horney. Her core argument in this book is that neurosis stands as the primary obstacle towards a person developing into their full potential, a concept she dubs self-realization. When a person lives with a sense of spontaneity, when they are able to take action based on the variety of emotions they are experiencing at any given time, they are said to have reached a level of self-realization. However, if the individual’s actions are guided not by their emotions but instead by anxiety, their development will be stunted in a variety of ways.
When a child matures, they need to see the world as full of potential; they need to understand that there are countless pathways available for them to choose from. However, if their worldview is one of hostility and anxiety as they mature, their actions in adulthood will reflect this. Their true self gets hidden, replaced by a reactive version of themselves; their actions are no longer motivated by their full range of emotions, but are instead motivated by compulsions designed to limit exposure to various dangers. This state, dubbed neurosis by the author, is indicative of unhealthy growth and should be avoided at all costs. The bulk of Horney’s text is dedicated to outlining the various forms neurosis can take and how it develops in a child’s formative years; the understanding, then, is that those pitfalls should be avoided. Only one chapter of the text addresses how neurosis can be addressed after it has manifested in adulthood via therapeutic interventions. If there is any aspect of this theory of development that needs further review and development, it is this.