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Explain the basic concepts of Karen Homey’s theory of personality.

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Karen Homey argued that “Penis envy” was not a normal development in females but rather an unusual and pathological occurrence. She also countered that some of her male patients envied women their capacity for pregnancy, child birth, motherhood, breast development and suckling. Two major components of her person psychology were the notion of basic anxiety and basic hostility.

Basic Anxiety : It is what arises in childhood when the child feels helpless in a threatening world. Children leam that they are relatively weak and powerless, dependent on their parents for safety and satisfaction. Having and reliable parents can create a feeling of security and erratic indifferent or rejecting parents may sharpens the child’s sense of helplessness and vulnerability. 

Basic hostility : It is what usually accompanies basic anxiety and grows out of resentment over the parental behavior that leads to anxiety in the first place. Because hostility cannot be expressed directly to parents, it is typically repressed, which only increases the child’s anxiety. Children dependent on their parents, anxious because their parents and unable to express their true feelings directly depend on the three modes of social behavior. 

First mode: Moving towards others, involves excessive compliance/ passive. 

Second mode : Moving against others, involves pursuit of satisfaction through ascendance and domination of others/ aggression. 

Third mode : Moving away from others – is self-protection by withdrawal. 

Homey believed that normal people use all three modes of social interaction at times but in a relatively balanced and flexible manner, adjusting their approach to situational demands. Neurotic people, she urged, allow one approach to dominate their social interactions and thus rigidly gets them into trouble.

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