KAREN HORNEY: A Psychoanalyst's Search for Self-Understanding by Bernard J. Paris

KAREN HORNEY: A Psychoanalyst's Search for Self-Understanding

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Eminently useful, although somewhat contradictory, this admiring intellectual biography of an iconoclastic psychoanalyst recapitulates the strengths and weaknesses of its subject's thought. Karen Homey (1885-1952) played a key role in the development of psychoanalysis between the wars and transcended her discipline as a feminist thinker. Homey scholar Paris (English/Univ. of Florida) surveys the psychoanalyst's ideas while locating their sources in her personal experiences. He builds on the work of previous biographers Jack Rubins (Karen Homey, 1978) and Susan Quinn (A Mind of Her Oven, not reviewed), who brought messy details of Horney's life to light without, he contends, fully relating them to her mature theory. For Paris, Horney's ideas represent her effort to come to grips with her own problems -- to perform, as her best-known title has it, a ""self-analysis."" After a lucid account of Horney's youth in Germany, Paris treats her early, relatively orthodox essays and her subsequent development of a theory of feminine psychology. He shows how pondering social concerns led Horney to consider the cultural dimensions of neurosis and eventually to develop a new paradigm of psychological structure as a complete, ongoing system, rather than an individual story only understandable through recourse to its occluded origins. Her adult life was thorny: Paris discusses her ""female Don Juanism,"" her battles in the bitter psychoanalytic arena, and her difficult affairs with famed rivals like Erich Fromm. Extensive commentaries on Horney's late thought tie these strands together, focusing on ideas about pride and defense strategies expressed in Our Inner Conflicts and Neurosis and Human Growth. Throughout, Paris maintains allegiance to Horney's conviction that we each have a true inner self, even while he depicts stark discontinuities among the facets of her own personality. It will take a grander synthesis than his, one that incorporates wider historical and cultural context, to really resolve this tension between Horney's thought and life. In the interim, however, this serves as a fine introduction to a stimulating thinker whose influence continues to rise as therapy becomes more pragmatic and less dogmatic.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0300068603
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.