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The Neurotic Personality of Our Time Summary

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The Neurotic Personality of Our Time

What is Normal? One needs to compete with others to acquire power or wealth in society. Competition is difficult on each person, but especially on the neurotic. Despite the happiness that ...

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What is Normal?

One needs to compete with others to acquire power or wealth in society. Competition is difficult on each person, but especially on the neurotic.

Despite the happiness that life can offer, the facts of old age, sickness, and death remain. The individual is limited and isolated because he is unique and separate from others.

What is considered “normal” changes across time and from culture to culture. The neurotic is afflicted with many of the same problems of normal people. The difference is that normal people deal with these problems head on, while the neurotic is handicapped by them.

Whether someone is considered neurotic depends on what extent his behavior conforms to that of others in his time. For example, in Greece, Italy, or Mexico, during different stages, the person who chose to work harder than necessary was considered strange or indecent.

Sometimes, someone can have severe neurosis but seem normal on the surface, that is, well-functional. The difference is that the neurotic is always suspicious while the normal person is only suspicious when he needs to be.

Who is the Neurotic?

The neurotic is a woman, who despite her attractiveness, feels ugly. Or the person who has every reason to feel happy but cannot.

Rigidity is neurotic when it deviates from cultural patterns. Thrift is acceptable when the culture promotes thrift. In the same way, we study the discrepancies within the individual. If someone is gifted and has potential but wastes it, then they are neurotic. A neurotic has the impression that he stands in his own way.

The neurotic is invariably a suffering person. He may not even know it.

The neurotic is sensitive to rejection, not receiving phone calls from friends, but they tend to fake a “don’t care” attitude.

They have the need for self-aggrandizement and showing off.

Neurotics fail to plan, both romantically and professionally. They allow themselves to drift.

The neurotic may make a conscious effort to deny their fears as does the scared soldier who performs a heroic deed.

How to Escape Anxiety?

There are four ways to escape anxiety in our culture: rationalize it, deny it, avoid anything that may trigger it, narcotize it.

To narcotize it, one may become hyper-social or hyper-industrious.

To protect themselves against basic anxiety, the individual seeks affection, becomes submissive, seeks power, or withdraws.

Striving for affection and power frequently clash.

But these desires, for power, compliance, withdrawal, affection are present in everyone.

Horney does not deny that these drives are normal, only that they serve as a defence against anxiety.  The point is it matters why you do something. The normal person may choose to do something because they desire it or feel curious about it. The neurotic does the same thing out of fear or compulsion.

The Root of Neuroticism

The intelligent person who fears solitude is neurotic. And the neurotic wife may feel she loves her husband but resents him when he works or is with friends. The neurotic mother thinks she wants the best for her children but resents their independent development.

Persons who fear any possible rejection may sabotage their own lives by refusing opportunities, such as asking a girl to dance.

The neurotic strives for money and power to liberate hostility that is repressed.

The normal person strives for power because they either intelligent or mature, or their strivings relate to a political or religious cause. The neurotic strives for power out of a feeling of inferiority, anxiety, and hatred.

The neurotic must know everything. They admire the strong and have contempt for the weak.

The neurotic refuses love or a good change for them because it implies for them giving in, or surrender.

He wants everyone around him to admire him.

Striving for possession is not a normal human instinct but a cultural one. The neurotic may desire power to humiliate others. In relationships, women, as well as men, may be aware of their intent to humiliate the other sex.

He may be considered narcissistic, yet he strives towards inflating his ego, not out of self-love, but for the sake of protecting himself from a feeling of insignificance or to repair his self-esteem.

The striving for possession in a compulsive way vanishes when the anxieties determining it are vanished.

The neurotic person may have exceptional talent, but by striving to be perfect in everything, ends up being great at nothing.

They abandon projects early because their excessive ambition leaves them discouraged when they do not immediately succeed.

The neurotic pursues two contradictory paths: “no one but I” dominance, and an excessive desire to be loved by everyone.

This is a central feature of neurosis.

The neurotic believes they are too young to give their opinion if they are below 40 and too old to take the lead if they are above 40.

More and more, they substitute grandiose ambitions for attainable goals.

Sex and Neurosis

Sex can offer an outlet for the anxieties of the neurotic.

Freud thought that unconscious guilt feelings bring about neurosis. In sexual perversions, that aim at positive satisfaction, the conclusion was that all neurotic suffering is determined by a wish for satisfaction (the neurotic wants to suffer). The difference between sexual perversions and moral masochism (failing at one’s life tasks by self-sabotage) is assumed to be a difference in awareness.

In the former, the striving for satisfaction and the satisfaction are conscious. In the latter, both are unconscious.

When the neurotic dwindles to nothing in his own estimation, categories of success and failure, superiority and inferiority cease to exist. By exaggerating his pain, and losing himself in a general feeling of misery, the aggravating experiences loses some of its reality – the sting is narcotized.

By belittling himself, the neurotic avoids the danger of competition.

Nietzsche thought of this as the Dionysian tendency, in contrary to the Apollyon tendency.

the individual has sought many ways of diminishing the self, through religion or a political cause. It is expressed by the Upanishad, “By vanishing to nothing, we become the creative principle of the universe.”

The masochistic person is incapable of entirely giving himself to anything, another person or a cause.

In Western civilization, the drove to surrender is seldom supported. the individual is expected to stand on his own feet. Religion had offered this possibility but has lost its power and appeal.

Genuine surrender to a person or cause is a manifestation of inner strength. Masochistic surrender is generally a manifestation of weakness.

Freud thought that masochistic drives are essentially sexual. He thought it was an aspect of a definite, biologically determined stage of sexual development, anal-sadistic stage. Later, he added that masochistic drives imply the living wish to be a woman.

Horney thinks, on the other hand, hat masochistic drives are either essentially sexual or biologically determined but originate in personality conflicts. The aim is not suffering. The neurotic wants to suffer as little as anyone else. Neurotic suffering is not what a person wants but what a person pays. The satisfaction that he aims at is not suffering itself but the relinquishment of the self.

Intensive suppression of primitive drives without sublimation may lead to neurosis. The growth of civilization must inevitably imply a growth of neurosis.

Neurosis it the price that society pays for cultural development.

Under the pressure of existing ideology, even the most normal person thinks they are worthless if defeated and something if they are successful. This is a shaky basis for self-esteem.

Man, in our culture thinks of his own self as a separate unity. He finds happiness in developing himself and the world I an active conquest, being constructive and doing creative work.

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"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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