Wow, what a great week it has been since my last entry.
As I was studying for my Personality Theories paper, I came across a lady called Karen Horney (pronounced Horn-ey). She is the one who came up with a theory of neurotics-among others; but I felt that her version was so incredible-I had to share.
So, this ongoing journey to self acceptance for me actually started earlier this year. It came about as the first thought in my head one morning. “Reality!” That was all I got, thereafter I began to think about what that meant, am I not living in reality? Yes, I do tend to daydream quite alot but no more than the average person I guess. So why reality?
Several days later, after much thinking and asking for elaboration from God, I came to a realization-revelation. I, as a person was not functioning in reality; in other words, my version of reality is not actually reality. How many people out there can say amen to that! But on a serious note, that revelation ties in so brilliantly with what Karen Horney wrote that I finally understand what God wanted me to learn.
Here’s a summary of her theory in my own words. There are two basic types of people: healthy or neurotic. The neurotic person is not someone with alot of qerks or weird habits, rather they have a real personality problem. A child/young person that has not received adequate love and attention from one or both parents, and/or has been negatively impacted by their immediate society will develop deep anxiety and a sense of inferiority; in order to manage their anxiety and still engage with their society they need to form some sort of ‘front’ that will do that for them.
And so, the person develops an image of a better, stronger, smarter, richer, etc version of themselves (depending on what made them feel anxious and inferior). They then begin to live their lives according to this image (which is seldom realistic in the standards it holds-leaning towards perfection), for example, someone who has grown up in poverty seeing themselves as being very high class and having a high social standing will start to behave as if they have been like this all their lives and will never want to be perceived as otherwise.
However, she emphasized the fact that this way of living is not sustainable; one can only pretend for so long, therefore the neurotic (what a person who has formed this idealized self is called) has to develop certain strategies-defense mechanisms- in order to maintain their idealized self. Such things as having ‘blind spots’ that people around them can see but they cannot (the example above where the person with an image of high class and social standing will in reality behave contrarily and not be popular at all), they can rationalize (a form of self deception) they compartmentalize (separate contradicting beliefs and actions into categories so they don’t clash with each other), have excessive self-control, arbitrary rightness (they are always right regardless of the situation)elusiveness (can never be pinned down to anything-lest it gives away their real image), and cynicism. All this is done on an unconscious level, so the person is not actively constructing an ideal self-no, that would be psychosis.
Sadly, the result of this alienation from self (rejection of the real self) and idealization is either self hatred- or aggression and hatred of others. One can turn hatred on themselves once they discover that they cannot live upto their own expectations-standards, often because those standards are unrealistic and not authentic to the real/actual person inside them-often resulting in depression. Or they turn that hatred outwards (externalization), and blame those around them as well as outward circumstances for them not being able to be what their ideal image is. And since all this is unconscious, most people go around and around in a cycle of depression, disillusionment, isolation and anger problems without knowing the root cause. These people are ‘driven’ by the need to live up to their ideal image, and this drive is ultimately their own poison.
This is both a liberating and challenging revelation for me. I read Horney’s article to my mom and she said ‘hmm that sounds familiar, like someone I know actually.’ Yes, I admit this sounds alot like me, especially the defenses part; I can see why I got a sense of that word ‘reality’. One thing I have often felt is the questions “who’s standards am I living upto? who’s rules am I following?’ I mean, how can we really live a fulfilled and wholesome life when we are not even being our real selves? And how can we accept our flawed, imperfect personalities when we refuse to look at them and reject them for a pretend version?
I need to think about this some more, I don’t find it easy to work out. As I read more I will post about how Karen’s theory looks at deconstructing the idealized self. I hope this resonates with someone out there.