The Self-Effacing Solution
Moving toward others
"Moving toward people involves as attempt to accommodate them, win their affection or approval and reduce any possibility of conflict. The primary ingredient here is compliance" (Cooper, pg. 119).
"The person in whom compliant trends are dominant tries to overcome his basic anxiety by gaining affection and approval and by controlling others through his need of them. He needs to feel himself part of something larger and more powerful than himself, a need which often manifests itself as religious devotion, identification with a group or cause, or morbid dependency in a love relationship" (Paris, 1974, pg. 57).
Of Horney's (1942, pp. 51-52) "Neurotic Needs"
1. The neurotic need for affection and approval:
- Indiscriminate need to please others and to be liked and approved of by others;
- Automatic living up to the expectations of others;
- Center of gravity in others and not in self, with their wishes and opinions the only thing that counts;
- Dread of self-assertion;
- Dread of hostility on the part of others or of hostile feelings within self.
2. The neurotic need for a "partner" who will take over one's life:
- Center of gravity entirely in the "partner," who is to fulfill all expectations of life and take responsibility for good and evil, his successful manipulation becoming the predominant task;
- Overvaluation of "love" because "love" is supposed to solve all problems;
- Dread of desertion;
- Dread of being alone.
3. The neurotic need to restrict one's life within narrow borders:
- Necessity to be undemanding and contented with little, and to restrict ambitions and wishes for material things;
- Necessity to remain inconspicuous and to take second place;
- Belittling of existing faculties and potentialities, with modesty the supreme value;
- Urge to save rather than to spend;
- Dread of making any demands;
- Dread of having or asserting expansive wishes.
"Goodness, love, and saintliness are often the driving images in this solution. Any form of self-assertion, pride, ambition or initiative is consciously prohibited. One must never, under any circumstances, feel superior to anyone" (Cooper, pg. 119).
"In the type veering in the direction of the self-effacing solution we find a reverse emphasis [from the expansive type] . He must not feel consciously superior to others or display any such feelings in his behavior. On the contrary he tends to subordinate himself to others, to be dependent upon them, to appease them. Most characteristic is the diametrically opposite attitude from that of the expansive type toward helplessness and suffering. Far from abhoring [sic] these conditions, he rather cultivates and unwittingly exaggerates them; accordingly anything in the attitude of others, like admiration or recognition, that puts him in a superior position makes him uneasy. What he longs for is help, protection, and surrendering love" (Horney, 1950, pg. 215).
"The neurotic trend of moving toward people involves a complex of strategies. It is 'a whole way of thinking, feeling, acting -- a whole way of life'. Horney also called it a philosophy of life. Neurotics who adopt this philosophy are likely to see themselves as loving, generous, unselfish, humble, and sensitive to other people's feelings. They are willing to subordinate themselves to others, to see others as more intelligent or attractive, and to rate themselves according to what others think of them" (Feist, pg. 250).
The neurotic pride of the self-effacing type is based on his arrogation of the attributes of goodness, sympathy, love, generosity, unselfishness, and humility, while he abhors egotism, ambition, callousness, unscrupulousness, and the wielding of power (Horney, 1945, pp. 54-55).
"The self-effacing solution may, on the surface, look like inordinate low self-esteem and a highly self-depreciating attitude. Yet below this layer is an unconscious pride system that insists that they 'not be like others'. After all, they have 'higher' standards. A rather grandiose image of radical selflessness and perfect self-sacrifice operates behind stage. It is precisely the pride behind their self-effacing attitude that often makes it hard to give up. Put another way, they are getting unconscious mileage out of it. The demanding selfless image insists that they eradicate self-concern, yet their unconscious need to maintain this image promotes self-concern. They are afraid of their pride, yet they run away from it in the name of a higher form of pride" (Cooper, pp. 123-24).
"These needs of the self-effacing individual quickly become claims to which he or she feels entitled: 'I am entitled to love, affection, understanding, sympathy. I am entitled to have things done for me. I am entitled not to the pursuit of happiness but to have happiness fall into my lap'" (Cooper, pp. 123).
"'You must love me, protect me, forgive me, not desert me, because I am so weak and helpless'" (Horney, 1945, pp. 53).
The self-effacing person believes that, in order to gain affection and approval, he should be good, loving and self-effacing.
He should, in order to meet the expectations and satisfy the wishes of others, be unselfish, self-sacrificing, considerate, appreciative, grateful, and generous.
He should have a "partner" who will take care of him.
He should be undemanding and contented with little, and restrict his ambitions and wishes for material things.
He should remain inconspicuous and take second place.
He should be self-depreciating and modest.
He should save rather than spend.
"The pride system tends to intensify the self-hate against which it is supposed to be a defense, since any failure to live up to one's tyrannical shoulds or of the world to honor one's claims leads to feelings of worthlessness" (Paris, IKHS).
The self-effacing solution, or neurotic trend, seems predominant in these neurotic solutions:
Karen Horney: Intrapsychic Strategies of Defense
Terry D. Cooper (2003). Sin, Pride & Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology & Psychology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Jess Feist (1994, c.1985). Theories of Personality. 3rd. ed. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.
Karen Horney (1942). Self-Analysis. New York: W. W. Norton.
___________ (1945). Our Inner Conflicts. New York: W. W. Norton.
___________ (1950). Neurosis and Human Growth. New York: W. W. Norton.
Bernard J. Paris (1974). A Psychological Approach to Fiction. Bloomington IN: Indiana UP.
____________. "Brief Account of Karen Horney." International Karen Horney Society. http://plaza.ufl.edu/bjparis/horney/intro.html
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