About Karen Horney

With her work, Karen Horney (*1985 † 1952 in New York) substantially contributed to the development of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. With her last and most important work, “Neurosis and human growth - the struggle of Self-actualization" (1950) she succeeded in creating a brilliant and practical analysis of human neurosis which was adopted by many theoreticians and practitioners of psychoanalysis as well as early humanistic psychotherapy. An excellent representation of her life and work is to be found in: Bernhard J. Paris: Bernhard J. Paris: Karen Horney: A Psychoanalyst's Search for Self-Understanding. Yale University Press 1994.
See also the web page of the International Karen Horney Society (IKHS):


  • Fritz Perls learned much from Karen Horney, as he had expressly stated. He was a long time with her in supervision and went, on her advice, into further training analysis with Wilhelm Reich. She was also responsible for bringing Fritz Perls from South Africa to New York and thus into the USA. Perls and Gestalt therapy took over the theoretical and methodical work of Karen Horney. For example, the meaning of the ‘here and now’ and the priority given to the work with present neurotic structures  in relation to the analysis of the past, the true self versus the alienated self, and much more. She was thus a co-founder of humanistic psychotherapy.
  • Abraham Maslow, who is called, by some, the father of the Transpersonal Psychology, was a student of Karen Horney. While he created a theory about the holistic development of human beings and their self-realisation, Karen Horney analyzed exactly those structures which stand in the way of self-realisation, as is expressed in the sub-title of their work "The Struggle Toward Self-Realisation ". Karen Horney and Abraham Maslow had thus each created complementary foundations for the development of Transpersonal Psychology.
  • The terms „true and false selves“ have played an important role in the development of  psychoanalysis since the fifties: in the context of the object relations theory, the theory of narcissistic disturbance and Ego-Psychology. Karen Horney was probably first to define these important terms.
  • The entire Enneagram work, in its presently differentiated form, which has had an extraordinarily powerful influence as a means to self-experience and self-realization since beginning of the 1990's, would be not conceivable without Karen Horney’s work. Enneagram work represents a differentiated and effective tool for working with the deeper character structures of human beings. Claudio Naranjo, a student of Karen Horney, created with his Enneagram work a synthesis of old and new knowledge: He integrated the old, existing knowledge about the personality and character structures together with the analysis and therapy of neurotic structures as identified and developed by Karen Horney. The individual neurotic structures identified by Karen Horney and the character fixation in the language of the Enneagram are divergent in some details. The three-part-division of the fundamental neurotic structures of the tendencies (i.e. 1. against the other, 2. away from the other, 3. toward the other) from Karen Horney were taken over by Claudio Naranjo and all other Enneagram experts – and also the analysis of the personality and the therapeutic work with these character fixations or structures of neurosis.
  • Karen Horney gave substantial impulses for the development of a female perspective of psychoanalysis. This created reconciliation with a hitherto predominantly patriarchal- oriented psychoanalysis.
  • With her intention to unite psychoanalytical work with Zen Buddhism, Karen Horney, similar to C.G. Jung, made an important contribution to the integration of psychotherapy and spirituality - even before this topic was taken up by psychoanalysts and founders of humanistic psychotherapy.