Horney-Coolidge Tridimensional Inventory, HCTI

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Central to her thinking was the concept of a basic conflict or basic anxiety, which Horney defined as: ...the feeling a child has of being isolated and helpless in a potentially hostile world. A wide range of adverse factors in the environment can produce this insecurity in a child: direct or indirect domination, indifference, erratic behavior, lack of respect for the child's individual needs, lack of real guidance, disparaging attitudes, too much admiration or the absence of it, lack of reliable warmth, having too much or too little responsibility, overprotection, isolation from other children, injustice, discrimination, unkept promises, hostile atmosphere, and so on and so on.

In order to cope with these environmental disturbances, Horney thought that all children would develop ways of coping along three dimensions: a child can move toward people (Compliant type), against them (Aggressive type), or away from them (Detached type). She further postulated that the three ways of coping are not mutually exclusive, such that a child may use two or more ways of coping at the same time. Given particular environmental circumstances, a child may come to rely on one way of coping, and this style might become their predominant mode of behaving. Horney thought these predominant modes crystallized into neurotic trends resulting into one of the three neurotic types, Compliant, Aggressive, or Detached.

Compliant Type (Moving Toward People)

The Compliant type has a strong and compulsive need for affection, approval, belonging, and human intimacy. They need a partner on whom they can regularly rely for help, protection, and guidance. Their urge to satisfy these compulsions is so strong that they often forget what their own real feelings are, since they become so sensitive to their partner's feelings. They become so unselfish and self-sacrificing that they have a warped view of their own needs and feelings. They are so compliant and overconsiderate that they tend to see everyone as trustworthy and nice when, in fact, some people aren't. This discrepancy frequently leads the Compliant type into disappointment, failure, and a deepening sense of insecurity. They become unassertive, uncritical, unable to make even reasonable demands upon others, and unable to strive for and achieve their own personal goals. Of the Compliant type, Horney wrote: Also, because his life is altogether oriented toward others, his inhibitions often prevent him from doing things for himself or enjoying things by himself. This may reach a point where any experience not shared with someone whether a meal, a show, music, nature becomes meaningless. Needless to say, such a rigid restriction on enjoyment not only impoverishes life but makes dependence on others all the greater.

Horney summarized the Compliant type as having some of these essential characteristics: pervasive feelings of weakness and helplessness, a strong tendency to subordinate oneself to someone else which leads to inferiority, and a strong dependence on others including rating oneself completely by what other people think.

Aggressive Type (Moving Against People)

Horney saw Aggressive types as viewing all people as hostile so they adopt a tough-appearing life stance. Interestingly, Horney thought that Aggressive types were exacerbations of the Darwinian concept where only the fittest survive and the strong annihilate the weak. Aggressive types, therefore, see it as essential that they pursue only their self-interests and learn to control and manipulate others. Horney believed that the Aggressive type's other neurotic features, such as compliance needs or detachment needs, might ultimately shape their outward behavior. For example, if an Aggressive type also had strong compliant features, then their outward behavior might use indirect methods such as being oversolicitous or getting others obligated to reciprocate. If an Aggressive type is concurrently inclined towards detachment, then they will also be inclined to indirect methods rather than open domination or aggression, because the latter brings them into uncomfortable contact with others.

Horney proposed that Aggressive types also have a strong need to excel, to be successful, and to be acknowledged by others as powerful, dominant, and supreme. In this respect, the Aggressive type is as dependent on others as is the Compliant type. Aggressive types need others to affirm their supremacy. They need to exploit and manipulate others. Feelings are viewed as a weakness. Love is mostly irrelevant. An Aggressive type will more typically marry to improve their social standing, prestige, or wealth. They also have great difficulty admitting to any weaknesses or fears. Horney thought they were consequently likely to find drastic ways of attempting to control their fears. For example, Aggressive type parents would probably throw their children in the water, in kind of a sink or swim attitude, in order to teach their children to swim. Some Aggressive types practice putting their fingers over a flame in order to teach themselves to overcome pain and the fear of pain. Although Aggressive types appear to be fearless and uninhibited, Horney thought they actually were as inhibited as the Compliant type. The Aggressive type's inhibitions center about the expression of emotion, forming friendships, love, sympathy, and empathy. They become highly contemptuous of those who do share their emotions, because Horney thought that Aggressive types are actually highly ambivalent about the expression of emotions. They despise its free expression in others because they view it as a sign of weakness (that they themselves might still possess) yet its expression leaves others vulnerable which Aggressive types should welcome. Horney thought the resulting inner struggle left the Aggressive type as conflicted and confronted by their basic anxiety as any of the other major neurotic types.

Detached Type (Moving Away from People)

Horney proposed that this neurotic trend did not just involve an estrangement from other people but also an alienation from oneself. As Horney wrote: ...that is a numbness to emotional experience, an uncertainty as to what one is, what one loves, hates, desires, hopes, fears, resents, believes.

Detached persons can be quite like the zombies of Haitian lore dead, but revived by witchcraft: they can work and function like live persons, but there is no life in them.

Horney thought that Detached types strive both consciously and unconsciously to distance themselves from others, particularly in regard to any emotional ties or bonds, including loving, fighting, cooperation, or competition. She thought they also have a strong need to be self-sufficient, and one way to reduce one's reliance upon others is to reduce one's general wants and needs. Horney wrote: He is inclined to restrict his eating, drinking, and living habits and keeps them on a scale that will not require him to spend too much time or energy in earning the money to pay for them. He may bitterly resent illness, considering it a humiliation because it forces him to depend on others.

Detached types were also thought to have a strong need for privacy. They prefer to work alone, live alone, and even eat alone. Horney believed that Detached types express a kind of hypersensitivity to any kind of obligation or coercion, no matter how subtle. For example, she proposed that Detached types might even resist the physical pressure of such things as collars, neckties, girdles, shoes.

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  • Frederick L. Coolidge. Horney-Coolidge Tridimensional Inventory: Manual. University of Colorado, 2005