Performing Therapy On Yourself: Self-Knowledge and Self-Realization

Performing Therapy On Yourself: Self-Knowledge and Self-Realization


Why do so many people fail to flourish? And what can we do in our own life to ensure we do not succumb to the states of apathy, self-sabotage, and fear which abound in the lives of the mass of men. In a series of books, the twentieth-century psychoanalyst, Karen Horney, explored the idea that many people undermine their own well-being as a result of unconscious disturbances which influence their thoughts and behaviours. In this video, we are going to examine Horney’s ideas on why unconscious disturbances form and explore the possibility of attaining self-knowledge so as to free ourselves from their crippling influence. That many people wither rather than blossom as they age was intriguing to Horney given her belief that in every individual is an innate drive to self-realization. To help explain the nature of this drive, Horney suggested that the development of a human being is analogous to that of an oak tree. Given appropriate environmental conditions, an acorn will develop into a healthy oak tree. It will flourish and fulfill its innate potential. In a similar manner, Horney posited that every individual will tend toward self-realization; provided we are not impeded by our environment. As she explains, Unfortunately, for many people the movement towards self-realization is disrupted due to neglect, rejection, abuse or other forms of childhood trauma. The child subjected to this early wounding is unable to say “My parent has personal problems, which are having an effect on me.” but rather the child is only able to conclude that the world is unsafe, hence, they become plagued by what Horney calls “basic anxiety” which initially renders them helpless and overwhelmed but over time, propels them to find ways to cope with life despite their fears. They develop what Horney calls “unconscious neurotic trends” which sculpt their personality so as to give them the semblance of safety and what is perceived to be a threatening environment. And when they emerge into adulthood, these neurotic trends do not disappear, but rather they continue to influence their attitudes and behaviours and wreak havoc on their well-being. Rare is the individual who lives completely free from these unconscious relics left over from childhood. The type of neurotic trends which form depend upon both temperament and environmental factors. Some adapt to an unfavourable upbringing by detaching from life and other people. Others develop a neurotic need for approval and affection. Neurotic trends however are complex and individual and therefore defy rigid conceptualization. But when our behaviour is unconsciously motivated by them, we tend to develop symptoms in due time. If we are not afflicted with phobias, depression, compulsions, severe apathy, codependency, addictions, or extreme indecision, we may become plagued by an inner emptiness or feel as if there is a vital element missing in our life. Rather than focusing on the outward manifestation of our symptoms, however, Horney advises us to fixate on their underlying source. That being, the neurotic trends we developed as a means to cope with life. Psychoanalysis was founded by Sigmund Freud following his discovery that his patient’s symptoms could be cured when the unconscious factors underlying them, be it repressed memories or emotions, were made conscious. Many followers of psychoanalysis, however, believed the excavation of unconscious material could only be conducted with the help of a trained therapist. But Karen Horney was one of the few twentieth-century psychoanalysts who thought it could be accomplished alone. She called this form of therapy “self analysis” and defined it as the But Horney did not deem self analysis as merely a possibility, rather in many cases, she thought it to be more desirable than traditional therapy. The therapist always begins as a stranger who requires months, if not years, of analysis to learn of the inner workings, complexities, and depths of our mind. We, on the other hand, are intimately familiar with ourselves. Given the right attitude we can therefore explore and expose the elements of our unconscious wrecking havoc on our life more efficiently than a trained therapist. Furthermore, self-analysis has the added benefit that it can increase our strength and confidence to a greater degree than traditional therapy. Just as traversing a difficult mountain path on our own grants us a greater feeling of accomplishment than following a guide, so to Horney notes, Yet despite its benefits, self analysis does not lack obstacles. The primary of which is how difficult self-knowledge is to attain. The curative role of self-knowledge has been recognized for thousands of years. In the West, most notably, in the philosophy of Socrates in Plato and in the aphorism “Know Thyself” inscribed on the ancient Greek temple of Apollo at Delphi. But the Ancient Greeks, Horney points out, believed the attainment of self-knowledge to be far easier than we do today. Exploring our inner depths, as we now know, is no easy matter but is rather akin to an adventure into an unknown territory full of surprises and potential dangers. In his book, “The Dawn of Day”, Nietzsche echoes this sentiment by describing the vast gulf which separates the Ancient Greek conception of the mind from the modern. Another obstacle which confronts us in self analysis is fear. Many avoid descending into their depths in the apprehension that they may stumble upon a deeply disturbing insight, or worse, become lost and confused in their inner labyrinth… unable to find their way out. But Horney dismisses these fears as unfounded. Uncovering an alarming truth or repressed memory, she notes, is not just painful but also liberating and furthermore, if we come upon a disturbing insight, Horney explains, that it usually implies we are strong enough to endure and work through it. But even given its difficulties, self analysis can be highly effective and beneficial provided we have a strong incentive to grow. Horney, in fact, deems our motivation to overcome our problems as the primary determinant in whether self analysis is successful or not. Therefore, if we find ourselves overly passive, deeply unhappy, or saddled with symptoms we can’t seem to shake we could try to kindle a burning desire to find the key to our problems and set aside time for self-reflection and self observation. Shining a light on the hidden corners of our mind can be uncomfortable and painful but such a task may be necessary not only to free ourselves from the neurotic trends we developed in childhood, but also to restore the innate growth forces within and keep us steadfast on the path of self-realization, continuously growing in the words of Horney, from acorn to oak tree

20 thoughts on “Performing Therapy On Yourself: Self-Knowledge and Self-Realization

  1. Check out Horney’s book on Self-Analysis: https://amzn.to/2CDBLUL
    As always, find a gallery and links to all the art work used in this video on our website:  https://academyofideas.com/2018/09/performing-therapy-on-yourself/

  2. Looks like Horney verbatim copied everything from Jung. Jung is the one who used the Oak tree analogy in one of his video interviews. Everything apart from the Oak tree analogy is copied as well. What a shame.

  3. Great video, but please, if you are struggling with mental illness, go see a qualified therapist. It is important to learn how to manage things on your own, but we often need outside support to guide us to that place. It is VERY easy to get caught in thought patterns or opinions that you think are helpful but are actually exacerbating the problem. I went through a period where I was sure that I could work through my own problems without help. I was wrong. Therapy helped me gain a new perspective and provided me with the tools I need to now better handle things.

  4. Great Video.. It's unfortunate that society pegs anyone that explores or go through this process as crazy. There is no monetary benefit of self analysis for big pharma and doctors…

  5. When life becomes too easy and people have too much free time on their hands, they become self-absorbed, lose their way and get themselves all twisted up in knots. The key to happinees is to stay away from the self-help industry completely.

  6. Just ordered the book from your link. Great work on brining this to light for us. You taught us to see the truth which is to make conscious the unconscious and process that but only for purposes of having a better life not nessisarily the re-excavation of all things. Inspiring logic and power framing from ancient to modern. GRATITUDE, I salute your 🦞😎 strong lobster ways 🤩

  7. I see a lot of truth in this, but after years of in-and-out therapy, some helpful, others not so much, I've done a lot of research (again), feel I've unquestionably uncovered the CAUSE of my problems stemming from a weird childhood, but still don't really know the SOLUTION to them. I guess more research is needed.

  8. This is something ALMOST ALL of do as HUMAN BEINGS in LIFE CONSTANTLY , it's a SUB CONSCIOUS HABIT WE DEVELOP in LIFE about OURSELVES as MEN and WOMEN and WE do it ALL of OUR LIFE . To REFLECT INWARD EVALUATE OURSELVES as MEN and WOMEN or to CHECK YOURSELF in LIFE as a MAN or WOMAN id ALL it is . Most do in the HOPES of SELF IMPROVEMENT or OURSELVES as MAN or WOMAN in LIFE , WE are not and NEVER be PERFECT as a MAN or WOMAN YOU n LIFE and WE ALL know this
    What can do though in LIFE is to TRY and RECOGNIZE OUR SHORT COMING in LIFE and say OPENLY and HONESTLY as a MAN or WOMAN this is a FAULT I have if I WORK on it MAYBE I can CHANGE it and in return make MYSELF a BETTER HUMAN BEING and PERSON to those AROUND ME in LIFE. Most of RECOGNIZE OUR SHOE COMES in LIFE OURSELVES as MEN and WOMEN . Sometimes it a FRIEND or FAMILY MEMBER or most YOUR PARTNER in LIFE , there are not doing it to HUMILIATE ,DEGRADE in LIFE as HUMAN BEING by telling YOU something is WRONG YOU HELP with this in LIFE thatd there JOB in LIFE as a FRIEND someone WHOM CARES in about YOU in LIFE as FELLOW HUMAN BEING in LIFE. The thing is the WAY in which YOU briing UP the CONVERSATION for YOU can TELL a MAN or WOMAN anything in LIFE it's the WAY in which TELL them that's the PROBLEM that can cause a PROBLEM.

  9. You know that you come to a point of self-realization and self-awareness concerning who you are–when you're not an extension of what public opinion perceives objective truth and reality to be. Rather, you get to perceive it on your own terms and be your own person.

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