Monday, 7 November 2011

Karen Horney on Personality Types

This is from memory:

Karen Horney, the American psychoanalyst, classified people's dominant personality character traits like this:

- those who move towards other people (loving types of all kinds)
- those who move against other people (aggressive types of all kinds)
- those who move away from other people (recluses of all kinds)

The beauty of this simple typology is that it is exhaustive, though sometimes it may be unclear to which category an individual should be assigned. Does a person who gets close to others but in order to manipulate them count as someone who moves towards people or against them?

The typology is not simply exhaustive. It provides an umbrella way of categorising the strategies and solutions people adopt in different situations.

For example, faced with conflict initiated by a paranoid or a bully, some people will seek to move out of the conflict zone altogether. In effect, they become recluses of one kind or another.

A person whose drive is towards attachment is more likely to respond by trying to placate or buy off the aggressor in order to remain close to them. Such a person may even adopt the aggressor's values ("Stockholm Syndrome" would be an extreme example)

But when one aggressive person initiates conflict with another aggressive person, the result is a fight.

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