Neurosis and Human Growth (1950) Karen Horney

Underconsumed Knowledge
23 min readMay 20, 2021

Humans & Their Behavior, Completely Explained

This is one of the top five books I have ever read in my life, as a layperson. I’ve read that Horney and Eric Fromm are thought to be more neo-Adlerians (Alfred Adler) than neo-Freudians (as they are often called), but regardless, I feel this book enhanced my understanding of the human condition more than any other book I’ve read on the subject (though I do like Carl Rogers for more “Okay, so what now?” approach). Here’s six thousand words of my notes, hand typed from the ancient 400-page library book which I borrowed.

Humans naturally grow towards self-realization. This means trying to fulfill all their human potentialities. When someone grows healthily, they eventually realize they are part of a connected whole, and try to contribute to all of humanity with their gifts, whatever they are. People fail to grow in this way, however, due to estrangement from their “real self”, whatever it is that they truly want, think, believe; they then waste their productive energies into molding himself into his idealized image (usurping that energy from self-realization). “[Neurosis is] a process that breeds conflicts and a need for their solution. But, since the solutions the individual finds are only artificial ones, new conflicts arise which again call for new solutions — which may allow him to function in a fairly smooth way… [driving] him farther and farther away from his real self… [endangering] personal growth.” “Instead of developing a basic confidence in self and others the child developed basic anxiety, which I defined as a feeling of being isolated and helpless toward a world potentially hostile… [with] compulsive [responses] collid[ing].” The idealized self forms the basis for his “pride system,” a feeling of identity, a way to derive power and significance. He then idealizes those characteristics which compromise his life solution into virtues, I.e. compliance as goodness, aggressiveness in asserting egocentric claims as strength, aversion to work as avoiding the deadly habit of work, etc. “His capacity for this unconscious reversal of values is perfectly amazing… people afflicted with some undesirable trait take a brush, paint over the trait with beautiful colors, and present with blustering pride the picture of their assets.” Alienation occurs due to the difference between the idealized, Godlike self of perfection, which does not measure up to the real self, and is the basis for neurosis, and all the frustrations which then arise. “the godlike being is bound to hate his actual being… Neurosis now became a disturbance in one’s relation to self and to others.This process is not altogether conscious, and is often unconscious. “It would hardly occur to a cocker spaniel that he is ‘really’ an Irish setter.”; thus, the process of alienation from real self is a uniquely human process. In addition to idealized perfection, the neurotic idealizes ambition, and wants vindictive triumph; “people in the clutches of ambition are but little related to the content of what they are doing. What counts is the excelling itself…” this is an important distinction, because people can switch from one task to another, see it as self-growth, but it is really just a move from one task at which they can accel to another; one does not care about climbing the mountain, he just wants to be on top. The life emphasis then “shifts from being to appearing.” “…when they do attain more money, more power, they also come to feel the whole impact of the futility of their chase. They do not secure any more peace of mind, inner security, or joy of living. The inner distress… is still as great as ever… one might rightly say the whole pursuit of success is intrinsically unrealistic.” Finally, “the feeling of grandeur, increasing with every triumph, render[s] it increasingly intolerable that anybody… should not recognize his grandeur” (this with regard to Hitler). “The great positions to which he may rise, the fame he may acquire, will render him arrogant but will not bring him inner security. He still feels a bottom unwanted, is easily hurt, and needs incessant confirmation of his value… feelings of elation collapse easily when, in a strange environment, support is lacking; when he incurs failure; or when he is by himself. The kingdom of heaven does not come through external gestures.” “…some who have such a heavy investment of neurotic pride in these prestige values… that their lives revolve around them and they often fritter away their best energies in their service.” “’Insults’ therefore hurt him in a twofold way: feeling humiliated by others and feeling ashamed of the very fact of his being hurt. Such a person is in an almost permanent dilemma: he is vulnerable to an absurd degree, but his pride does not allow him to be vulnerable at all. This inner condition greatly contributes to a diffuse irritability.” Of the arrogant or ungrateful person, we should have sympathy, and allow them to save face, “… if we thought more often of the possibility that offensive behavior may stem from hurt pride, we would save ourselves many painful or even heartbreaking troubles… we should not be upset over his ingratitude but consider how badly his pride may have been hurt by accepting help. And, according to circumstances, we might either talk to him about it or try ourselves to help him in a way that saves his face… we must also regard him as someone who goes through life with a raw skin because of being pervasively vulnerable through his pride.” Regarding someone who always wants to fight back ‘dishonor,’ “…vindictiveness may in addition be a means toward self-vindication. It involves the belief that by getting back at the offender one’s own pride will be restored. This belief is based on the feeling that the offender, by his very power to hurt our pride, has put himself above us and has defeated us. By our taking revenge and hurting him more than he did us, the situation will be reversed… nothing short of triumph can restore the imaginary grandeur in which pride is invested. It is this very capacity to restore pride that gives neurotic vindictiveness its incredible tenacity and accounts for its compulsive character.” If someone needs this vindictive triumph, it can become the primary driver in their life. Vindictive types are very competitive, cannot stand anyone who knows or achieves more, questions others’ greatness; he must drag down his rival, or defeat him. “Among ways to restore pride the next in importance is losing interest in all situations or people who in some way hurt this pride.” Someone becomes uninterested, pursues things below their capacity, because they are impatient to excel, to dominate, and be perfect. “…the most ruinous aspect of [these withdrawals] is that we lose interest in our real self because we are not proud of it.” “He is not aware of wanting to avoid an activity because it might hurt his pride. He just avoids it… pertain[ing] to activities, to associations with people, and it may put a check on realistic strivings and efforts. If it is widespread it can actually cripple a person’s life. He does not embark on any serious pursuits commensurate with his gifts lest he fail to be a brilliant success. He would like to write or to paint and does not dare to start. He does not dare to approach girls lest they reject him. He may not even dare to travel lest he be awkward with hotel managers or porters. Or he may go only to places where he is well known since he would feel like a nonentity with strangers… In order to endure life he must now entrench himself more firmly in his private fantasy-world… neurosis… becomes a precious alibi for the lack of accomplishment.” People want to disown responsibility for themselves; not own up to shortcomings, forget things they are not proud of, blame other people. “More often, avoidances are restricted to certain areas.” Thus, he may be successful socially, and pursue it, but a failure at work, and not treat it seriously, or vice versa; one may pursue his Don Juan role, but nothing professional. The fear of rejection can be so strong as to be a contributing (not sole) factor in developing homosexuality. There are a few general “types” which emerge in psychoanalysis, which are the ways people deal with these inner dictates; the expansive personality, who tries to actually master the world and activate his idealized self; the self-effacing personality, who tries to minimize themself and their desires, and the resigned personality, who basically gives up and “doesn’t care.” These “solutions,” a person’s life philosophy, are very hard to change, and requires pain to even see them. These neurotic life philosophies are not always all-encompassing; people may exist somewhere on a spectrum between healthy and neurotic growth tendencies. Something passes from a healthy striving to a neurotic striving when it becomes compulsive; then the action has lost the healthy, spontaneous drive of the real self, of actually wanting to do it, and has devolved into a compulsive part of their “tyranny of shoulds.” The inner necessities of say “I must (to avoid danger)” instead of “I want to.” “The compulsiveness of the neurotic person’s need for indiscriminate supremacy makes him indifferent to truth, whether concerning himself, others, or facts.” “There are endless ways in which he disregards evidence which he does not choose to see”, i.e. being provoked, being ‘unable to help it,’ it was circumstances, etc. Of moral righteousness, which we see so prominently in modern culture, “Knowing the ‘right’ moral values makes him a virtuous person — often, indeed, a kind of moral genius. And of course his imagination must work overtime to discard all the disturbing evidence to the contrary.” “A neurotic person’s very high standards make him feel that he is a moral wonder to be proud of, regardless of how he actually is and behaves… His pride is not in being moral, but in knowing how he should be.” Thus, imagination is a central element to changing the neurotic’s perception of reality to fit his needs and worldview. “He loses sight of what is actually necessary for achieving something.” The Tyranny of Shoulds is made up of all the things the neurotic tells themself they should do in life, vs. what they actually are; they impede spontaneity of feelings, thoughts, wishes, beliefs, furthering alienation from real self. They derive from his kinds of pride, and their non-fulfillment results in self-accusations, against which he must protect himself. “The shoulds, therefore, lack the moral seriousness of genuine ideals.” “For me the equivalent shoulds and taboos of whatever kind and degree are altogether a neurotic force, counterfeiting morality and conscience.” This is the role of culture, to an extent. The neurotic is most susceptible to these inner dictates, the shoulds, which pull them in competing directions at times, presenting conflict, anxiety, and the potential for life paralysis; because they are alienated from their true self, what they would really like to do, this requires the neurotic solution to navigate life. The shoulds are coercive, “you must be this perfect thing,” and can lead to overreactions; in contrast, ideals are what we would like to move towards. “Feelings are the most alive part of ourselves; if they are put under a dictatorial regime, a profound uncertainty is created in our essential being which must affect adversely our relations to everything inside and outside ourselves.” People’s dependence on their shoulds can lead to a lack of faith in others, “… the belief that one cannot make other people do the ‘right’ thing except by force, which is an externalized expression of his inner experience.” “His demands that limitations in time and energies should not exist for him are stronger than reason.” Demands on self tend to show “disregard for conditions under which they could be fulfilled.” “They believe that their intelligence should be a supreme moving power” (independent of emotional state), thus, “subsequent disappointment and discouragement are unavoidable.” If he was earnest, he would acknowledge the “early influences” in his life which would have produced “molding him unfavorably” in anyone; energies must be expended to outgrow this unfavorable molding. But, the neurotic is not earnest, and says that he should not have been affected; progress is the reversal of this position in therapy, and giving himself credit for not having been “entirely crushed by the early circumstances.” “For all practical purposes we take it for granted that in general the patient could not develop otherwise than he did; that in particular he could not help doing, feeling, thinking what he did do, feel, think. This viewpoint, however, is not shared by the patient… The fact that, everything considered, his development could go only in certain directions is beneath his consideration… he should have met [the odds] with unfailing strength.” ‘Doing your best’ is not enough for the neurotic; he should have done better. The self-hate of the real self will cause him to always hone in on his faults, on what he did wrong, even if it was out of his control, a reflection on their “disgraceful limitations.” “…calling a spade a spade, is often close to impossible for the neurotic caught in the push and pull of pride and self-condemnation… he makes resolutions concerning the future which cannot possibly carry weight because he is too busy justifying himself and blaming others to mean what he plans. What has not penetrated is the sober realization that the lack of discipline is his problem, that it actually makes his life difficult, and that consequently it is up to him to do something about it.” People must in therapy understand the underlying sources of their troubles; facing a particular fear (burglars) or overcoming a particular symptom or difficulty (keeping a budget) is not addressing the actual problem. “The necessity to ward off any self-accusation stunts the capacity for constructive self-criticism and thereby mars the possibility of learning from mistakes.” The neurotic may be confused about what his own freedom, independence, love, goodness, strength is, and, “…as long as he is not ready to come to grips with himself he has a stringent subjective interest in maintaining a confusion — which, in turn, he may cover up by false pride in his all-penetrating intellect.” Psychic fragmentation protects the status quo, prevents a psychic breakdown; thus he is subconsciously but intentionally uninterested in himself. Wishes or needs morph into neurotic claims; the frustration of these is felt as unfair, and may cause feelings of indignation; we are “entitled” for the train to be on time, for example. Cause and effect can become muddied; if we want to achieve something, we must work for it, if we do not love ourselves, we will remain suspicious towards any assertion of love. “Claims are often justified on cultural grounds” i.e. a man not wanting to do dishes; the individual in question always thinks they are superior, they are extra special, and therefore deserve special treatment. “The emphasis on justice has a reverse side, moreover, which is to make other people responsible for any adversity which overtakes them.” When it comes to others, however, they might think all unemployed do not want to work, or that the Jews were responsible for their persecutions. Claims substitute active working at problems; “The unconscious claim, then, is that the mere intention should be enough to bring about achievement, to get a job, to be happy, to overcome a difficulty…” and this can lead to excess fatigue at the idea of having to actually do something. “Others are responsible for the trouble I am in — so I am entitled to repair… It is no longer up to him to do something about his life; it is up to ‘them,’ or to fate.” “The claims are his guaranty for future glory, thus, he makes no effort, and clings onto them. “…instead of making constructive efforts in living, he puts all his energies into a more effective assertion of his claims… he neglects all that could make life worth living.”

There are many causes which give rise to the inner conflicts and alienation from self, chief of which is a childhood growth period that is somehow stunted; the child is not allowed to exercise their faculties by an overbearing father, or suffers abuse in some form. There are also temperament, faculty, propensities, and conditions of life which impact the individual in their growth. “The cramping pressure of his basic anxiety prevents the child from relating himself to others with the spontaneity of his real feelings, and forces him to find ways to cope with them… ways which… allay his basic anxiety [unconsciously].” He also needs to “evolve artificial, strategic ways to cope with others” which “force[s] him to override his genuine feelings, wishes, and thoughts.” The neurotic sees others in the light of his needs — which may be directed at others, or impact how he feels about others; he needs them for approval, for vindication, for he cannot find this in his own eyes. Thus, his need for admiration turns people into an audience, his need for magic help endows them with magical helping qualities, etc. The neurotic thrusts himself on others, making it difficult for others to deal with him, though he cannot see it; he “makes others more formidable than they actually are.” “…having stifled his own positive feelings, he may be incapable of recognizing in others an existing friendliness or devotion.” He is both hostile to others but needs them for his existence. “Instead of a relationship being a medium in which both can enjoy each other and grow with each other, it becomes a means of satisfying his own neurotic needs.” The need for safety supersedes feelings and thoughts; he is now being driven and is no longer the driver. “But he does not do much of anything; he has no vigorous interest of any kind. There is a great deal of passivity and self-indulgence in the picture”; thus, people become somewhat dead inside. “The self-belittling processes disturb the active pursuit of any interest to a varying degree… he may start some activity but give it up at the first difficulty that arises.” “…time and time again their interest peters out before anything is accomplished.” “What the person himself notices while doing creative work is his lack of concentration… He gets disgusted with himself, makes heroic efforts to work, but in a short time is so deadly fatigued that he has to give up.” He minimizes the importance of his work, and would not presume he could achieve something great; his taboos on mastery make him inefficient. “… he is too easily available for any request which his family or his friends may make… scatter[ing] his energies in too many directions.” To realize the self, one must be truthful to himself, be active and productive, and realize his shared mutuality with other humans. “As soon as we go off on the search for glory we st It is a long and hard lesson for anybody to learn that others can neither hurt nor establish self-esteem.op being concerned about the truth of ourselves.” One can outgrow their shoulds and inner dictates through ever increasing self-knowledge and understanding; it liberates the forces of spontaneous growth. “Self-realization does not exclusively, or even primarily, aim at developing one’s special gifts. The center of the process is the evolution of one’s potentialities as a human being; hence it involves — in a central place — the development of one’s capacities for good human relations. “The less self-conscious, the less intimidated, the less a person tries to comply with the expectations of others, the less his need to be right or perfect, the better he can express whatever gifts he has.” Analytic therapy has a deep history, even if not so named; in terms of Socrates and Hindu philosophy, it is the road to “reorientation through self-knowledge.” “Science cannot teach you to know your dog; it can only tell you about dogs in general.” Thus, knowledge and information are different; to gain knowledge in something, we must be truly interested in it; knowledge of self means becoming truly aware, to be interested, and to overcome hurt to know. “He must feel the full impact of his rage or the very depths of his self-condemnation; only then does the force of some unconscious process (and its irrationality) stare him in the face. Only then may he have an incentive to find out more and more about himself.” “The therapeutic value of the disillusioning process lies in the possibility that, with the weakening of the obstructive forces, the constructive forces of the real self have a chance to grow.” Thus, it is the job of the psychoanalyst to work to help to remove the negative forces, so that the real self may work to bring the positive forces of growth. “For it is indeed natural for man — it is in his nature — to feel his feelings, to know his wishes or beliefs. And there is reason to wonder when these natural capacities do not function. And if the wonder is not volunteered the analyst may initiate such questioning at the proper time.” “The effect is to be compared with the moment when a youngster who has grown up under a dictatorship learns of a democratic way of living… it may gradually dawn on him that he is missing out on something desirable.” “[Patients] simply have no understanding whatever that these attitudes, drives, or beliefs constitute conflicts… the analyst cannot tackle it directly because the need to maintain this fragmentation requires an unusual amount of dulling of the sense of truth and of value, of discarding the evidence of reality, of shunning any responsibility for self. Here too the meaning and the power of expansive and self-effacing drives will gradually come into clearer relief. But this alone is of no avail unless much work is done at their evasiveness and their unconscious dishonesty.” Thus, it is difficult to break down the neurotic solutions because they are so necessary, so evasive of the truth; it requires a lot of work. “Another patient could end a love relationship because she arrived at a square recognition that the relationship had been based mainly on neurotic needs operating in herself and her lover, that it had lost meaning for her and held no promise for the future… but soon afterward became panicky; they were scared of their independence, scared of becoming unlikable… all for retrieving shelter within the safe confines of a self-abnegating overmodesty.” Thus, people may begin to do what is good for them, but then leap to grab a life raft because it is too scary. “This is a realistic fear of not being able to cope with life without his neurotic props. The neurotic is after all a magician living by his magic powers. Any step toward self-realization means relinquishing these powers and living by his existing resources. But as he realizes that he can in fact live without such illusions, and even live better without them, he gains faith in himself.” Finally, he will “gradually experience himself as part of a bigger whole. And he will be willing and able to assume his share of responsibility in it and contribute to it constructively in whatever way he is best able.” Thus, people will recognize their shared humanity when abandoning egocentric thinking, and will have the capacity to think of the larger World, in whatever way they deem themselves fit. As with Peterson, points out how these psychic processes have played out over time, “The same theme… has appeared again and again… whatever the basic dualism of good and evil… Certainly the parallel with the neurotic process described in this book is striking: an individual in psychic distress arrogates to himself infinite powers, losing his soul and suffering the torments of hell in his self-hate.”

Neurotic types compulsively compare themselves with everybody, to their own disadvantage; he must be superior in every regard, even if it does not make logical sense (i.e. needing to be better at piano than a master pianist); he should be superior. “…any ‘superior’ skill or quality of others must be disturbing, and must call forth a self-destructive berating.” Feelings of self-contempt are regularly externalized; thus, compliments have spurious motives behind them, people must want something of him, they like him but clearly don’t know him well, etc. Someone makes a good natured joke about him, and he thinks it is a clear attempt to humiliate him. “Although it is painful for him, as it would be for anybody, to feel slighted and rejected, it is less painful than coming face to face with his own self-contempt. ” “…the need to alleviate or balance self-contempt with the attention, regard, appreciation, admiration, or love of others” is a balancing act, and people become in “total dependence on others for self-evaluation.” “Any criticism, no matter how seriously or conscientiously given, is eo ipso felt as a hostile attack. And, because of their necessity to choke off any doubts about themselves, they tend not to examine the validity of the criticism but to focus primarily upon warding it off in this way or that. For that same reason their need for recognition of their work, in whatever form, is boundless. They tend to feel entitled to such recognition and to be indignant if it is not forthcoming.” “They may be hypersensitive to having anybody’s achievement praised in their presence.” “There is thus a vicious circle operating between pride and self-contempt… this can change only to the extent that he gets interested in the truth about himself. But again self-contempt renders it difficult to find himself.” “The question ‘Am I attractive?’ is inseparable from another one: ‘Am I lovable?’” One has to do with looks, the other with personality; but, the neurotic is alienated from their personality, thus, appearance takes on a larger-than-life importance. Regarding feelings for enjoyment and excuses to not allow it, “Of course one has to examine in these instances whether such objections [to enjoyment] stem from a genuinely deep feeling of social responsibility or whether they are only a screen for a taboo on enjoyment. Often a simple question clarifies the issue and reveals a false halo: would the person actually send the packages to Europe [an impoverished place in 1950] with the money he does not spend on himself?” Thus, are wishes for “equality” actually false pretenses based on the fact the given individual cannot enjoy their own life? People overwhelmed with self-contempt and hopelessness cannot counteract their self-destructive drives; alcoholism, drugs, or otherwise ensues. Regarding alienation from self and function, “For the analyst it is a source of never-ending astonishment how comparatively well a person can function with the core of himself not participating.” “But, on the contrary, the need for thrill and excitement is a trustworthy indication of painful inner emptiness. Only the sharp stimuli of the unusual can elicit any response from such a person’s inert emotions.” Of compliant people, “…they are compelled to leave the direction of their lives to others instead of taking it in their own hands. They will feel lost when left to their own resources.” Thus, anxiety can ensue if trying to “abandon accustomed aids” used to typically direct the self. People may put in places system of automatic control; systems of so-called stoicism, dignity, wearing a mask, having a poker face, being ‘realistic’ or ‘unsentimental’, unable to laugh heartily, fall in love, or be carried away with natural enthusiasm. He may think others always assume he has ulterior motives in those things which he does, so he wears this mask, feeling under constant suspicion. The neurotic believes in the supremacy of the mind; thus, mind versus self, mind versus feelings, even though we are the mind and these things. This is accompanied by a belief in their infallibility in logic; everyone else is an idiot if they do not agree with him.

The expansive personality hates anything that suggests he is helpless; he should be the master of everything. He may be excessively sensitive to criticism or failure, and is worried of being called out as a fraud; he thinks in the back of his mind that he did not achieve through honest work, but by pulling a fast one. “He may speak incessantly of his exploits or of his wonderful qualities and needs endless confirmation of his estimate of himself in the form of admiration and devotion… he must impress [anyone and everyone].” He may insist others live up to his perfectionism, and disdain those who do not (externalization of his self-hate). “His own perfection therefore is not only a means to superiority but also one to control life. The idea of undeserved fortune, whether good, or bad, is alien to him. His own success… [is] proof of his virtue… He not only resents ill fortune as unfair… invalidat[ing] his whole accounting system and conjur[ing] up the ghastly prospect of helplessness.” He must always be prepared to strike back, to be the invincible master of every situation. The vindictive type “decides” affection is not attainable; he then no longer wants it, after a brutal childhood, and scorns it; but, because people need these things, he becomes nasty, and must achieve revenge, defeat the “others”, and vindicate himself. “If, however, a hurt does penetrate through the protective layer of invulnerability, then the pain becomes intolerable. In addition to his pride being hurt… he also suffers the humiliating blow of having “allowed” something or somebody to hurt him.” “He hates and despises in others all he suppresses and hates in himself: their spontaneity, their joy of living, their appeasing trends, their compliance, their hypocrisy, their ‘stupidity.’” “…when we realize the efforts he must make not to be crushed by his self-hate, we see him as a harassed human being struggling for survival.” “He feels that such a [happy] person wants to humiliate him viciously by flaunting his happiness in his face.” Thus, he becomes hard and unsympathetic; he feels “excluded from life in general” and has a bitter envy of everyone who is joyous or interested in something.

The self-effacing personality suppresses ambition, vindictiveness, triumph, seeking advantage; he solves his conflict by suppressing all expansive attitudes. He cancels out any feelings that might lead to growth or self-esteem. He fears ridicule, and would never speak up in a discussion, run for office, engage a creative pursuit. He should be all the things expansive, but is not; he despises himself for ineffectualness and compliance (unlike in resignation, which says, “I don’t care); he is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. He puts on a pedestal as virtues all those values which diminish him, i.e. being “humble.” He badly needs people and “love,” his salvation lies in others; he cannot stand being alone, feeling lost, cut off from life. Aloneness is also further proof of being unwanted and unliked. Love allays his anxiety and comprises his meaning; neurotics expect more from love than it can deliver. “It is but natural that he overrates what, in this or that way, he does for another person. He is oblivious to the fact that the latter may not at all like this kind of attention or generosity (i.e. Friend A wanting to come “help” sick Friend B when Friend B has not asked for such help). He feels abused as a person. Losses such as that of a loved one or a job may produce a breakdown, bringing anxiety and feelings of futility to the foreground. The self-effacing person is “functionally suffering”; indeed, his suffering is his life alibi for amounting to little. The dependent person feels hurt if his attentiveness is rejected; these lovable qualities are the only things he values in himself, so any rejection of them is a total rejection. Two people may be positively matched based on their neurotic solutions, leading “successful” lives together; one the protector, the other the protected. The self-effacing person may be naturally drawn to the supposed direction of the driven type, whether they are truly so or not; if the partner turns out to be vindictive, the relationships may fail. The morbidly dependent partner has one fear — that of antagonizing and losing their partner; their other life interests subside. Thus, surrender to the partner is a life solution. If the relationship fails, the dependent partner may lose zest for life, neglect themselves, and languish.

The personality of resignation may produce conditions that allow for smooth functioning; they may pass as “normal.” “We can think of many older people who have recognized the intrinsic futility of ambition and success, who have mellowed by expecting and demanding less, and who through renunciation of nonessentials have become wiser.” This is not what the resignation life solution is about, however. The neurotic gives up the quest for peace in life by abandoning all conflicts and goals, not by striving toward higher goals. The life of resignation is a life without pain, friction, but also without zest. There is no striving for advancement and aversion to effort; this stems from the restriction of wishes. He is sensitive to coercion, even if it’s in his best interest because he wants to remain inert. “Lastly, an aversion to change, to anything new, goes with resignation… He would much rather put up with the status quo… Nor does it occur to him that he might be able to improve his situation.” “The whole attitude of resignation may be conscious; in that case the person regards it as the better part of wisdom.” He is proud of the way he is, of his independence, his being above competition. The child grew detached from his true self in this way to preserve his inner self, while he distanced himself apart from his conflicts, the contradictory shoulds. He trains himself to not show suffering but also not to feel it. He does not want help or sympathy for fear of their being bondage over him. Because of his taboo on aggression, he is deeply suspect of authority, which become commands that cannot be escaped. “Moreover he is convinced that people would coldly turn against him if he did not comply with their expectations… Others would turn as sharply against him as he would himself for not measuring up to his shoulds.” Thus, the person is always wary of abandonment. “…anything he does… may register as something he should do: brushing his teeth, reading the newspaper, taking a walk, doing his work… Everything then meets with a silent resistance, resulting in a pervasive inertia. Activities therefore are restricted to a minimum or, more frequently, are performed under a strain. Hence he is unproductive, tires easily, or suffers from a chronic fatigue.” “His psychic paralysis may have turned in his mind into an unalterable affliction, and he uses it to stave off self-accusations and self-contempt.” “Also they often have no particular ‘symptoms’ like anxiety and depression. The impression is in short that they do not suffer from disturbances but that they lack something… a result of being crushed by authority early in life.”

“For the simple but inexorable reason that time and energies are too limited to do both productive work and conscientious reading, I must restrict myself here to pointing out certain similarities to, and differences from, comparable concepts of [other psychologists, such as Freud.]” — this is a good analysis of producing versus consuming and how much one person is capable of; in this case, the author is an expert on psychoanalysis through experience, thus did not need to consume as much to produce so greatly, and was limited in capacity to do so.



Underconsumed Knowledge

"For the time being I gave up writing -- there is already too much truth in the world -- an overproduction which apparently cannot be consumed!" Otto Rank, 1933