Why Karen Horney Should Be At The Top Of Your Reading List

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Why Karen Horney Should Be At The Top Of Your Reading List

Embracing your inner bookworm will really help you develop quickly as a forex trader and you’ll find that there are countless books out there, all written with the aim in mind of helping you reach the very pinnacle of success on the trading floor.


However, reading widely and enjoying a large variety of books will help you build the skills you need even more quickly and efficiently, so don’t just feel as though you need to stick to trading volumes and nothing else. You’ll be doing yourself a serious disservice if you adopt this relatively blinkered approach to learning and honing your craft.


Books on philosophy and psychology, in particular, should take pride of place on your bookshelf and you might well be pleasantly surprised to find just how effective they can be for self-growth and self-awareness, both of which are attributes you’ll need in abundance if you do plan on becoming one of the top traders of your time.


One author of particular interest for traders is Karen Horney, a neo-Freudian psychologist from Germany who, aside from receiving acclaim for her theory of neurotic needs and her research on feminine psychology, made significant contributions to the fields of self-psychology and how self-analysis and self-help are linked to mental health.


It’s this latter field of interest that traders are likely to find especially useful since trading success largely lives and dies by your ability to look inwards, to self-reflect, to ask yourself the hard questions and make changes where changes are required.


Gaining a deeper understanding of who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your skills, attributes and personality traits are will certainly make you a better trader and even potentially a better person – so if you haven’t come across Karen Horney before, perhaps now’s the time to grab yourself a copy of Self-Analysis or The Neurotic Personality of Our Time and see where you end up.


Horney’s argument is that our real self isn’t something permanent or fixed, but rather a set of “intrinsic potentialities” that cover everything from talent and temperament to our predispositions and capacities. All of these come down to our genetics, of course, but in order for them to develop they need to be nurtured in a positive, favourable environment.


While we cannot learn to be ourselves, we can certainly be influenced in one direction or another and the true self can be actualised through the way in which we interact with the external world… which essentially means that there are countless different ways in which we can develop.


To Horney, our real self should be viewed as the “alive, unique, personal centre of ourselves”, in which we can discover the true meaning of life… which is simply “to be ourselves fully and completely”.


The true self should be our main driver, allowing us to focus only on those activities that are inherently and intrinsically satisfying, so much so that we need no external validation for justifying or explaining what we do.


When we lose our true selves, we find ourselves floating in the ether without a centre of meaning to anchor ourselves to, without any meaningful direction, without any sense of value.


The end result? We find ourselves under the control of our neurotic solutions, leaving us incapable of adapting and leaning towards a tendency for excessive negative or obsessive thoughts and behaviours.


Horney’s theory of neurotic needs suggests that neurosis develops from the basic level of anxiety that arises from our interpersonal relationships as children, where experiences like isolation, lack of respect for needs, lack of guidance, injustice and discrimination, excessive admiration, overprotection, lack of warmth, hostility in the home and so on contribute to our neuroticism.


Our neurotic needs (which include the need for affection and approval, the need for personal achievement, the need for perfection, the need for power, the need for prestige and the need for personal admiration) can all lead to different types of behaviour that can have an impact on our lives.


For example, if one of your neurotic drivers is for prestige, power or achievement, you may unwittingly find yourself engaging in behaviours that are perhaps exploitative or even aggressive. Or if you have a need for affection and approval, you may engage in compliant people-pleasing behaviour to make sure that other people like you.


Interestingly, research even shows that people with high neurotic needs are often more likely to experience negative emotions, which can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, irritability, anger and emotional instability.


This is something to really bear in mind if you’re keen to make a real success out of trading forex, as the ability to regulate your emotions, see the bigger picture and trade with a clear head is an absolute must and a skill that all the top traders will nurture over time.


As soon as you let your emotions take control, you’ll start to see your trading performance suffer, so understanding where this instability comes from is your first step towards becoming its master, rather than its slave.




This is where the quest for your true self really begins. According to Horney’s theories, once you embrace the idea of self-realisation, you can use the new insights you gain into how you really think and feel, and what you really believe to assume real responsibility for yourself, determining your own values and your own goals and aspirations for your life.


From there, you’ll make decisions that serve you in a healthy way and you’ll shy away from anything that could potentially steer you from the path of pursuing your true self. You will find the centre of gravity within yourself and this will allow you to say no to anything that will get in the way of your selfhood.


The real self vs the idealised self


Horney goes on to identify two different selves… the real self (also referred to as the possible self) and the idealised self (or the impossible self).


The real self needs to be nourished and nurtured in order to be realised and it’s very easy to lose touch with it, while the idealised self can never be realised because it’s a projection, a defensive strategy that allows us to cope with feeling undervalued, unloved and unsafe.


But there’s a third self that you need to know about and that’s the despised self… how we perceive ourselves when we are no longer able to meet the unrealistic demands (or our ‘shoulds’, as Horney termed them) that we continue to put upon ourselves, which ultimately gets in the way of us achieving our full potential.


And then there’s our actual self, which brings together all our strengths and weaknesses, the defensive strategies we fall back on and what we do to promote healthy growth that all come about as a result of our intrinsic nature and personality, and the environment in which we find ourselves.


When our real and actual selves come together in a linear fashion, without disparity, we have a clear sense of identity, of who we are. But if the two divert from each other, it can lead to confusion.


To tackle this, you need to let your idealised self go and truly accept yourself for who it is you really are, thus diminishing your despised self and increasing your chances of really getting to know your true self at last.


Underlying all this, of course, is the need for self-acceptance. Once you reach a certain level of self-awareness in your pursuit of the true self, it is inevitable that you’ll see (if you’re really being honest with yourself) that there’s still a huge amount of room for improvement, even if you have made significant inroads and progress. Old habits are hard to break, after all!


The key here is to embrace your true self not as you want it to be or what it could be in the future, but what it is right now… the actual self, in whatever form that takes. So, too, is it important to recognise that you may never entirely resolve your central inner conflict and it’s likely to be something that you’ll have to work on for the rest of your life.


However, this is something that the most seasoned forex traders will tell you is absolutely the case if you do want to make a truly successful career out of trading currency pairs.


You never finish growing or developing as a person or a trader and both life and forex alike are about the struggle and the striving, the development and the growth… and in order to facilitate this, self-analysis is absolutely essential.


Nonetheless, it certainly rings true that the more transparent you are and the more honest you are with yourself, the more freedom you’ll ultimately enjoy.

FTUK Funded Account Disclaimer

CFTC Rule 4.41 – Hypothetical or Simulated performance results have certain limitations. Unlike an actual performance record, simulated results do not represent actual trading. Also, because the trades have not actually been executed, the results may have under-or-over compensated for the impact, if any, of certain market factors, such as lack of liquidity. Simulated trading programs, in general, are also subject to the fact that they are designed with the benefit of hindsight. No representation is being made that any account will or is likely to achieve profit or losses similar to those shown.

All our funded accounts come with a fixed equity stop out level. Once the account equity level gets below this fixed stop out bar, we will close all running trades and disable trading and access. The stop out level is a fixed value for each funding level, this means that any profit which has been made by the trader increases the loss allowance.

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