Unconscious

Karen Horney (1885-1952) considered people to be products of their environment as well as of biology. She stressed the ways in which cultural influences affect women's personality development. These cultural influences include interpersonal relationships and society's attitudes about women.

Cultural influences are overlooked by classical psychoanalysis—a system of psychology based on Freudian doctrine and procedure that seeks the root of human behavior in the unconscious, a region of the mind that is the seat of repressed impulses and experiences of which the conscious mind is unaware. Unconscious motivation and conflict, particularly sexual conflict, according to Horney, play an important role in women's development. She viewed women as living in a male-oriented world in which they are judged by men according to male standards. Women have come to believe that these male-based standards represent their true nature. As a result, according to Horney, women live with the dilemma of having to choose between fulfilling their ambitions and meeting their needs for love by adhering to the passive role that society assigns to them. These circumstances contribute to depression and low self-esteem.

Horney described three basic patterns of behavior by which people relate to others: moving toward (or self-effacing), moving away from (or distancing), and moving against (or expanding). The moving-toward behavior involves dependency and taking care of others as well as self-effacement. Women have been conditioned since birth to relate to others in this manner, according to Horney.

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