The neurotic works with a certain rigidity when deviating from cultural norms and patterns, with deep mistrust and suspicion of anything new and strange. Unable to enjoy what they have or have accomplished, something stands in their way of achieving paradise. Even with all their gifts and favourable possibilities, a discrepancy between potentiality and actual achievements remains unconscious and unproductive.

Anxiety and displaced guilt press against them, the forefront of their existence, which keeps the neurosis ongoing and in motion. Individuals may be subject to cultural fears, social politics, oppression, historical enemies and taboos. They ward these off with defence and protective rituals, rites and customs.

A chronic, insidious process, starting as a set of childhood rules, leads to character disturbance and personality deformation. There is an excessive dependence on external approval and validation, where they want to be liked and appreciated. Disproportioned importance is given to people in their lives regarding the significance, impact and meaning they have in their lives.

They are unaware of a boundless craving for validation and act with hostility when it is not forthcoming and reciprocated. Feelings of inner inferiority and inadequacy manifest as dependency and compliance. There is a contradiction in behaviour between highlighting alleged defects and complaining, alternating between exuberant acting out and showing off to impress others. A need and desire to obtain Power, status and possessions. Signs of inhibitions regarding self-assertion, inability, and unwillingness to express their wishes and ask for their needs to be met.

They are incapable of defending themselves, can’t say “no”, have difficulties making decisions and forming opinions, are neglectful with plans and goals and are easily distracted by procrastination.


Anxiety and fear are emotional reactions to danger, accompanied by a physical sensation, trembling and perspiration. Fear is proportional to the envisaged danger, while anxiety is disproportionately based on the imaginary veracity of danger faced. Breaking taboos or cultural norms of accepted behaviour and performance threatens one’s existence and feels life-threatening.

  • Fear – Transient and objective
  • Anxiety – Hidden and subjective

Highlighting and making distinctions between fear and anxiety is an attempt to analyse the neurotic aspect of anxiety. Anxiety is not based on how it stands in reality but on how it appears to the individual. People who experience intense fits of anxiety, be it abandonment, rejection or trauma, would rather die than re-experience the experience.

Certain elements within the affect become unbearable, where one feels helpless, humiliated, resented, distorted and despised. Irrational contrasting forces may overwhelm them and exercise strict intellectual and physical control. The more trapped an individual feels, the more they feel trapped, caught between an intricate network of fears and defences. They must cling to their delusion of being right and perfect in all actions to deny any need to change and face the anxiety full on. Four ways to escape anxiety

  1. Deny it
  2. Narcotise it
  3. Rationalise it
  4. Avoidance of thoughts and feelings that might arouse it. Numbing and disassociation.
  • Denial – To exclude from consciousness only appearing as physical manifestations such as shivering, sweating, paralysis or restlessness. Only heroic deeds will face this denial and disregard of ones inner angst. Anxiety may provoke access aggression to overcome inner timidity. The energy spent on the denial can not be used to tackle the underlying problems.
  • Narcotise it – taking alcohol/drugs or plunging into work/social activities to avoid feeling alone and experiencing one’s inner anxiety. Addictions may serve as a safety valve through which anxiety can be released.
  • Rationalise it – the evasion of responsibility turning anxiety into a rational fear. Energy is spent proving the other wrong, shifting blame to the external world and source to escape inner drives and motivation. They Cling to the delusion they can’t change anything and yet may have the benefits and capacity to ensure the change.
  • Avoiding stimulus – unable to make decisions or confront challenges in their life. Inhibition is the inability to do, feel, or think about certain things that may cause anxiety. No anxiety exists in their awareness, as they cannot overcome inhibitions via conscious thought. A hysterical loss of functioning, blindness, frigidity and impotence are all manifestations of inhibition.

The inhibitions keep instincts and impulses in check and are not allowed into awareness.

Anxiety Loop

  1. When undertaking an activity that creates anxiety, one produces a feeling of stress, fatigue and exhaustion, with the anxiety bound up within the activity.
  2. Impairment of functioning is established, where one can’t master the function and cannot perform tasks satisfactorily and to the task well.
  3. They will spoil the pleasure of the activity or deny its enjoyment. Thus, the dislike creates avoidance and devaluation of activity.

Making our drives and impulses conscious will generate anxiety as we become aware of our repressed hostility and inability to defend or express our authentic selves. As primitive rage is controlled and split off from the personality, it will be explosive and intense with disproportionate dimensions when engaged. These hostile impulses trespass the restrictions from inside and outside; through fantasy, the individual believes this hostile impulse comes from someone else and reinforces justification to be hostile against them.

Neurotic Structure

An environment without attunement or genuine emotional warmth and affection creates neurosis, fighting against and loving the idealised parent to survive. Unable to express their true anger and rage leads to the child taking the blame and responsibility for the parent’s inability to love their children unconditionally. The child will repress their hostility, helplessness, and guilt.

Helplessness is usually reinforced via intimidation into emotional dependency. Threats/prohibitions and punishments for the transgression of parental wishes and demands arouse fear. The child clings to the illusion of love, substituted by being docile and obedient to feel love and contact. Hostility leads to the loss of love; the idealised parent would abandon them and withdraw assurance and validation. The child feels guilty for any feeling of aggression that disappointed their parent, and feelings of resentment are forbidden and split off.

The more a child is isolated and deterred from being authentic, the greater the repression and the projections.

A fragile sense of self will take harmless teasing as a cruel rejection, as they are hurt easier than others, unable to defend themselves and seek external sources to do their bidding. Emotional isolation and the need to rely on others are unbearable. Both are impossible to do because of basic mistrust and hostility towards themself and others. A submission to standardised views and opinions, complying with the demands of authority figures, is the motivating and determining factor of existence—an unconscious willingness to be manipulated and abused in the perspective of doing the greater good.

Self-sacrifice and unselfishness have been deemed a virtue to reinforce repressed wishes, as they will pay any price for security and assurance. One type will become emotionally detached, split off their emotional needs, and be superficial and infantile. The other will seek the acquisition of Power, possessions and admiration. If I have Power, no one can hurt me. Two clashes between striving for reassurance and Power

Need for Affection

Incapable of self-love but craving love from others. Any interest in third parties is an act of neglect by the object other and interprets any demand or citicism as humiliation. The need for assurance is the primary factor under a secondary illusion of seeking love. A subjective conviction of attachment by clinging to others to satisfy their infantile need. This is revealed when revulsion kicks in when their demands are not fulfilled. They become absent of feeling and relationship: an incapacity to regard the other’s personality, needs, limitations, development, and desires. Someone drowning and clinging to a swimmer does not usually consider the other`s willingness and capacity to carry them along and save them—an underlying hostility and envy with contempt persist towards others.

A need to maintain and defend such illusions keeps the dilemma of feeling hostile towards someone yet wanting affection from them. This is established by keeping the hostility out of awareness and split off, often projected onto the external world and bad objects. A firm belief that no one can love them or have the capacity to tolerate their excessive demands. Though experiences contradict such beliefs, they are dealt with mistrustfully and disregarded.

The neurotic person is also faced with a feeling of terror when approached with genuine fondness and care, which evokes a dread of dependency and responsibility. Anxiety leads to compulsive behaviour and loss of spontaneity and flexibility: their whole existence, happiness and security depend on liking and approval. Their affection is normally focused on one person, who acquires individual importance, a slow, complete devotion, admiration and idealisation. Clinging to someone for emotional security regardless of the destruction being caused.

The dependent person resents being enslaved and having to comply, but the fear of loss is greater—a neurotic child who demands excessive affection and endless proof of being loved. Neurotic jealousy manifests as a constant fear of losing the idealised object, who must love them exclusively and relentlessly, and it is impossible to fulfil such desire and needs.

They demand to be loved regardless of provocative behaviour and frequent outbursts to test the object’s commitment—a massive sensitivity to rejection, failures in immediate responses and disagreements with wishes. The subsequent rage and disregard are justified as the object is lying and does not love them. The neurotic will become spiteful and vindictive, feeling fatigued and depressed without apprehension or awareness of why.

Fear of rejection can lead to severe inhibition, timidity, and the inability to tell others they need attention or affection. The formation of vicious circles and unprotective behaviours is something the neurotic cannot grasp. Trapped in hopeless situations and entanglements, they can’t break free of.

An infantile appeal for justice, I have done this for you; you should do this for me attitude.

Quest for Power

The neurotic striving Power is born in weakness, where possessions and prestige give a greater feeling of security. The less they can assert themselves, the more anxious they are to avoid anything with a faint resemblance of weakness, such as asking for support or agreeing. Striving for Power protects against feelings of insignificance, creating a rigid, irrational ideal where they believe they can master the world immediately.

This ideal becomes grandiose pride, where weakness is a disgrace and forbidden. She permits others to have freedom yet insists on knowing everything and becomes irritable if anything is kept secret. They expect their partner to be submissive but secretly seek a hero whom they can break into submission.

Horney, K. (1994) The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, W. W. Norton & Company; Revised ed. edition