New Approach to Women and Relationships

Horney's theories opened the door for new ways of understanding women's personalities and relationships. In a 1984 study of women's reactions to separation and loss, psychotherapist Alexandra Symonds found Horney's theories to be relevant to what she encountered in her woman patients. Writing in the American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Symonds reported female reactions to separation and loss to be a frequent motivation for women to enter therapy. In contrast, she found that men come into therapy in these circumstances mainly because of pressure from a wife or girlfriend. According to Symonds, women are more eager than men to create relationships, and women express more feeling when the relationships end.

Symonds considered these behaviors from the viewpoint of the three basic patterns of behavior described by Horney: moving toward, moving away from, and moving against. Symonds viewed the moving-toward, self-effacing type of behavior as love oriented, or dependent; the moving-away-from, detached type as freedom oriented; and the moving-against, expansive type as power oriented. According to Symonds's views, society assigns the love-oriented, dependent pattern to women, while men are encouraged to develop power- or freedom-oriented patterns. She described a frequent combination in a couple to be a detached, expansive, power-oriented male married to a dependent, self-effacing, love-oriented female. Relationships often develop between the silent, withdrawn, noncommunicative male and the loving, dependent woman who always wants to talk about feelings.

As people develop character patterns, such as love-oriented and dependent, they suppress feelings that cause inner conflicts, such as aggressiveness, according to Symonds. By contrast, power-oriented people suppress dependent feelings. People idealize their self-values and feel contempt for what is suppressed; thus, the power-oriented person views dependency and need as contemptible weaknesses. This contempt is conveyed to those who are aware of their dependency needs. Women then add self-hate for needing others to the anxiety they feel when a relationship ends.

Extremely dependent, self-effacing women often stay in poor and even abusive relationships rather than separate, according to Symonds. They are victims of a culture that considers a woman nothing unless attached to a man. Symonds found these women to be coming from two different backgrounds: either having been held close by mother or father during childhood and adolescence, thus having no opportunity for healthy growth; or having separated prematurely from parents in childhood in an effort to become self-sufficient at an early age, often having developed a facade of self-sufficiency with deep, unresolved dependency needs.

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Anxiety and Depression 101

Anxiety and Depression 101

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