As promised, my personality theory paper for Psychology of Personality class...
Dr. Randy Young
March 16, 2010
________________________Horney and Adler
______Neo-Fruedians are personality theorists who came after Sigmund Freud and adjusted his ideas in order to create their own theories. Neo-Freudian psychology agrees with Freudian psychology in that a person’s unconscious and childhood are important to personality development, but disagrees with Freud’s over-emphasis on infant sexuality and under-emphasis on the ego and interpersonal relationships. The main tenets of Neo-Freudian theory are that the ego is an important adaptational force; that mental representations and interpersonal relationships are crucial to the development of the sense of self; and that society, culture, and social skills greatly impact personality. Neo-Freudian psychologists include Carl Jung and Erik Erikson, as well as Karen Horney and Alfred Adler. In order to demonstrate Neo-Freudian ideas, I will be discussing the theories of Horney and Adler, drawing comparisons by applying them to my memories of preschool, homeschooling, and being called “sheltered,” and determining which theorist better explains my personality.
______Karen Horney’s theories revolve around the ideas that a person is driven by his or her basic needs for safety and satisfaction and that everyone experiences basic anxiety stemming from the childhood necessity of having to depend on others for these needs to be met, but wanting to be independent. In order to deal with this basic anxiety, Horney outlined three basic solution styles that involve the basic conflicts of moving toward, against, or away from people. The passive style avoids disagreement and confrontation so that others will not leave. The aggressive style focuses on competition and believes that perfection is more important than relationships. The withdrawn style moves away from people so that threats are not seen and pain is not felt. According to Horney, healthy individuals use all three styles according to unique circumstances, whereas neurotic people compulsively use one.
______Another important aspect of Horney’s theory is self-concept. In regards to how people view themselves, Horney identified three trends: the ideal self, and the despised self, and the real self. The ideal self focuses on perfection, but does not motivate successfully because its focus is impossible. The despised self focuses on inferiority and short-comings, which does not motivate because it is too discouraged. However, the real self is the healthy self-concept because it is able to recognize both strengths and weaknesses in order to see potential and have a realistic sense of motivation. According to Horney, the ultimate goal of personality development is to recognize the real self, which Horney referred to as achieving self-realization.
______Alfred Adler’s theory revolves around the ideas that personality is self-determined and based on the meaning given to experiences, that applied ability is more important than ability alone, and that motivation is based entirely on feelings of inferiority. Adler explains that feeling inferior can be an effective motivator for striving to attain perfection or a personal best. However, while inferiority is healthy to a degree, an exaggerated sense leads to an inferiority complex, which creates a very fragile high self-esteem. In order to overcome inferiority, Adler said a person utilizes fictional finalism, which is the act of finding motivation in the ultimate goal a person wants to achieve. According to Adler, the creative ways in which this final fiction is achieved are what lead to an individual’s unique personality. The other most important concept of Adler’s personality theory is the idea of social interest, which also aims to overcome inferiority by working with others to achieve competency and coherency.
______Adler outlined four different styles of life, which represent how individuality is expressed in any situation. The ruling style seeks to establish dominance and leadership, whether through active or passive methods. The getting style constantly leans on and follows others and tends to be very passive. The avoiding style tries not to deal with problems, usually resulting in a sense of superiority from never experiencing negative situations. The ruling, getting, and avoiding styles are misdirected, whereas the socially-useful style is healthy because it aims to benefit others through a high level of social interest. Adler believed that a person’s style of life was set fairly early in life, due to the parenting methods of a child’s parents, such as being encouraging, showing respect, not offering excessive sympathy, providing a routine, not giving too much attention, and showing the importance of cooperation. Throughout Adler’s theories, the most important aspect is social interest, which is treated as the sole criterion for the judgment of a person’s social worth.
______Some of my earliest and most treasured memories come from the two years I participated in a homeschool preschool program known as Joy School. During these third and fourth years of my life, I spent a significant amount of time with a group of about six other children. I consider these times of making stone soup, going fishing, making green eggs and ham, and setting goals to be some of the best memories of my entire life. A particular situation that stands out in my mind is when two of the girls in Joy School liked the same boy and constantly fought over him by competing with each other. This common interest was nearly detrimental to their friendship and I remember sobbing after Joy School one day because I had put myself in the middle of the situation to try and act as a mediator and was upset when I couldn’t fix the situation.
______Applying Horney’s theories to this memory, this experience somewhat fits the passive solution style because I tried to mediate the conflict so that the friendship between my two friends would not be broken. However, Horney’s passive solution style does not fully explain this situation because I was not avoiding the conflict, but rather was facing it directly so as to resolve it. Horney’s theory of self-concept is applicable to this memory because, at the time, I was more focused on my ideal self and the belief that I could resolve this conflict for my friends. Because I quickly noticed that I was incapable of resolving the situation on my own, this experience encouraged me to come closer to the self-realization that I cannot fix everyone, but can still make the effort because mediation can help to an extent.
______Adler would view this early memory in light of fictional finalism and say that this memory reflects my final fiction of wanting to be a youth counselor. It is relatively easy to see how this final fiction motivates most everything I do and Adler would explain that this is why this early memory is consistent with my goal of being a youth counselor. Because I view my life with an emphasis on interpersonal relationships, under Adler’s theories, it makes sense that this early memory carries the same emphasis. Adler would also reach a conclusion similar to Horney in that seeing my inferiority and inability to resolve the conflict between my two friends now provides a deep motivation to continue striving to be the counselor among my friends. This memory and my final fiction of being a youth counselor can also explain why I frequently find myself in a similar position of mediating and resolving conflict.
______Another thing that I consider to have been very influential in who I am now is the fact that I was homeschooled throughout my entire life, all the way to my high school graduation. My dad had a regular job, but I spent a significant amount of time with my mother and brother every day. Because of the integrated nature of homeschooling, school was not separated from my family life or my mom’s parenting style. My homeschooled life caused me to be very close with my family, particularly my mom, even to the point that I cried at summer day camp when I was ten because I was so unaccustomed to being away from her for any length of time. My homeschooled life also meant that my mom’s parenting style was present at all times since I was not out of the house for any schooling, aside from an occasional field trip and my high school years when I began taking more outside classes and started college courses through dual-enrollment.
______Horney advocated distant parenting in order to develop career-driven children because she believed that low self-esteem would inspire a person to focus on his or her career. However, I consider myself to be a fairly career-driven individual and consider myself to be very motivated to succeed in my academic and professional pursuits. Because of this, Horney would probably be confused as to how this could be because my parents were very loving and supportive, rather than distant. I did not experience distant parenting like Horney did, but instead saw how dedicated my parents are to my life based on the fact that they wanted to be so involved in my education. While Horney’s theories do not explain how my parents’ attached style of parenting led to my motivated personality, it makes sense to me because they demonstrated how important education is by taking an active role in mine and this value of the importance of education has since been transferred to me.
______Adler’s theories do a better job of explaining my parents’ influence on my personality through my education based on the parenting advice that stems from his perspective. Adler said that parents must give encouragement, not just punishment; must be firm, but not dominating; must show respect; must not engage in power struggles; must not offer excessive sympathy; must maintain routine; must emphasize cooperation; must not give too much attention; and must show concern through actions more than through words. Considering how my parents acted toward my brother and me, particularly in light of our homeschool education, I can see that they both demonstrated all of these principles that were laid out by Adler. I think that my parents were especially good about knowing the difference between giving attention and spoiling, as well as the difference between empathy and sympathy. Adler said that parenting style influences a person’s style of life. My homeschooled life makes sense according to Adler’s theory of parenting because, not only were my parents good parents, they were also especially present in my life due to my being homeschooled, which explains my high level of social interest and my socially-useful style of life.
______Something else that I consider to have had a profound impact on my life and how I view myself is how often I have been called “sheltered” and how it has reinforced my reputation of being “the good kid.” Because of my mom’s prominent position within the York Home School Association, I was always well-known throughout the homeschool community and experienced a fair amount of pressure to uphold the reputations of my mom and the homeschool group by upholding my own reputation. During my high school years, as I began to befriend more people outside of the homeschool community, my “good kid” reputation caused me to be considered as being “sheltered.” Sometimes this would happen passively, such as when one specific friend said something to the effect of, “Wow, you’re homeschooled? But you’re so talkative and friendly!” Other times it was more direct, such as the many times my friend from Harrisburg Area Community College explicitly referred to me as “sheltered.”
______These memories somewhat relate to Horney’s theory of self-concept in that I probably tended toward my ideal self throughout my younger years, although I have always been aware of the negative expectations and stereotypes that are applied to homeschoolers. However, as I began to interact with more and more non-homeschooled students, this ideal self had to be reconciled with the despised self that was placed on me through the stereotypical expectations most people have of homeschoolers. Although this despised self was not necessarily internalized by me, the fact that others placed these negative stereotypes on me affected the way I thought about myself and inspired the self-realization that there are negatives of being homeschooled, even if these negatives are primarily only perceived by others around me. This self-realization is important because I have since recognized that the negative stereotype of being a “sheltered homeschooler” may cause obstacles and, at the same time, I continue to recognize the deep benefits of having been homeschooled and the extra opportunities my homeschooled life has provided.
______These experiences with the stigmas that are attached to homeschooling also relate to the ideas of Adler. Although Adler’s theories in regards to these experiences are similar to the general concept of Horney’s ideas, Adler’s theories provide a more concrete conclusion because they deal more directly with feelings of inferiority that lead to motivation. Adler’s views of inferiority are particularly interesting when applied to my experiences of being called a “sheltered homeschooler” because I never felt inferior as a homeschooler, even if I had been somewhat sheltered. However, others frequently viewed or treated me as inferior and these experiences caused me to be motivated to dedicate my efforts to becoming more educated and aware. Even though I have never considered myself to be inferior simply because I was homeschooled, the attitudes I have received from others have served as motivating compliments and have had the result that Adler would expect to stem from feelings of inferiority.
______The theories of Horney and Adler are very similar because they overall attitude of their ideas is largely the same. Horney focused on feelings of anxiety from being dependent and Adler focused on feelings of inferiority from being weak, but their conclusions are very similar because they both talk about motivation and striving to be a better person, whether this means being more independent and strong or being more involved and useful. Both Horney and Adler do a good job of explaining my Joy School experience of acting as a mediator between two of my friends, whether because of the self-realization that I cannot fix everyone or because of the inferiority I felt as the mediator, which motivates me to be a better counselor to my friends. However, Horney falls short because the passive solution style does not explain the fact that I was directly trying to resolve the conflict. Adler also does a better job with this memory because his theory of fictional finalism directly relates it my primary life goal of being a youth counselor. Adler also better explains my homeschooling experiences because my parents reflect his advice for good parenting and Horney’s theory of distant parenting cannot explain my value of education and career goals. Finally, although the theories of Horney and Adler are similar in regards to my experiences of being called “sheltered,” Adler’s theories are slightly more applicable because his terminology is more accurate to these situations. Although there are important similarities between these two theorists when talking about my memories of Joy School, homeschooling, and being called “sheltered,” Adler ultimately does a better job of explaining who I am today.
Post-Script: Attachment Styles (Ambivalent, Avoidant, and Secure)
______The way a child attaches to his or her mother impacts how he or she will attach to others later in life. This attachment is based on love and physical contact and has three functions: to provide a secure base, to provide a safe haven, and to serve as a proximity monitor. Attachment style is based on how well these three functions are met and what happens when the primary caregiver momentarily leaves. The ambivalent style develops because of an inconsistent mother and results in a person who always experiences separation anxiety and fear of others leaving. The avoidant style develops because of a neglectful or rejecting mother and results in a person who fears emotional attachment and tries to keep his or her distance from others. The secure style develops because of an affectionate and responsive mother and results in a person who is cooperative and obedient and has more friendships of a higher quality.
______I believe that my attachment style is secure because I have always had a good relationship with my mom. Throughout my life, and even to this day, she has always been very affectionate and responsive. When I am home from school, she will occasionally tuck me in for bed and, although it may sound silly, it demonstrates that she is reliable. It also illustrates my secure attachment because, while I enjoy the time I spend with my mom before bed, I am perfectly fine if she doesn’t tuck me in or cannot because I am at school. I also believe that I am securely attached because of the fact that I was homeschooled, which allowed me to spend a great deal of time with her each day. While I was probably too securely attached at one time when I was younger, which was evident in my shyness or homesickness, I have since found a good balance of security which enables me to live at school without being debilitated by being separated from my mom. My secure attachment style is also reflected within my friendships, which I have recently become more aware of as I began to realize how much of a social person I am. While I may be insecure at times, I am not incapacitated by the fear of others leaving me or getting to close to me, which shows that my secure attachment to my mom has allowed me to securely attach to others.