Blog Archives

How We’ve Been Played

The penny just dropped for me on how the ruling class get away with maintaining the illusion of democracy.  If you’re not familiar with the Princeton Study (Gilens & Page, 2014) , this short video explains how the wishes of billionaires are reflected in public policy, while the wishes of the average voter have “NEAR ZERO” influence on the actions of our elected representatives.  The probability of any particular bill becoming a law is 30%, whether the average voter is opposed to it or supports it. You would think that being ignored 70% of the time would piss people off enough that they would take action, but you’d be wrong. Professor Jordan Peterson explains why in this lecture about how rats play (skip to 3:30). Adolescent rats like to wrestle, and Panksepp discovered that a rat that although a rat that is 10% bigger will trounce a smaller rat every time, if the big rat doesn’t let the little rat win 30% of the time, the little rat won’t play. If the little rat doesn’t play, the big rat can’t have fun. When I heard that “30%” the light went on over my head because I realized that the ruling class are big fucking rats, and the rest of us have been played. Making connections between different fields of knowledge is called consilience. We need more of it and not just in universities.

WW3 HAS BEGUN and Mother Earth is Winning

earthrisekillingmemesmallWorld War 3 has already begun, but you won’t hear about it on the evening news because it is not conventional on most fronts. The combatants on either side of the line are not nation-states. On one side you have a population realizing their votes don’t count and that they’ve been lied to for decades by their government and the corporate media. On the other side, a handful of greedy billionaires, extracting wealth from the rest of us by raping the planet to death.

The primary battlefront is at Standing Rock, but skirmishes are taking place along the entire route of the Dakota Access pipeline. Additional skirmishes are happening in front of U.S. embassies and the offices of investors who have the opportunity pull their money out on January 1st, 2017, provided no oil has been pumped through the pipe by then. At this point, only one side is armed and the other is using peaceful methods to fight for all of us. The truth is that we don’t need another pipeline anywhere and building them only ensures a further delay in the necessary transition to clean energy.

If you’ve been waiting for a sign before you get off your sofa and join the Water Protectors, THIS IS IT. The Obama administration has finally taken steps to protect the water, but the incoming Trump administration doesn’t even accept the science of climate change. We are running out of time. There are no comic-book superheroes coming to save the world for us. If we love our children and their children, WE need to take action NOW. Investors can bail if no oil flows by Jan 1, 2017, so lets keep hammering the banks: NO EXTENSION for DAPL!

Throughout December we need to be telling the planet-killers LOUDLY and OFTEN that we are not having it. We need YOUR voice to make our collective shout loud enough to echo throughout the distant halls of power. Its time to take our power back by using our local networks to implement laws protecting the planet and criminalizing corruption in all its myriad forms. Please help in whatever way you can:  spreading awareness using social media is one way to help, despite known censorship issues. Participating in demonstrations and/or  writing letters to editors and elected representatives are both important tactics. Donating to the Water Protectors is another way to help. One day you will be able to tell your grandchildren about how you helped save the world in December 2016.


(Note: Revised Dec 4, 2017 due to announcement that permits were cancelled.)

Destroy the “One Ring” of Corporate Greed



I stand with Standing Rock because I recognize they are at the front line in the war to save the biosphere from greedy   corporations. People need to learn the truth about who really has the power today, and why the truth is hidden.  That is why I’m building AWAKEupedia, to build a collection of  IMPORTANT LINKS WORTH SHARING. #ILWS is a hashtag people can use to spread awareness about any issue, including DAPL.

It is important to understand that solving any of the life-or-death problems we face requires us to ACT to take our power back. Americans will not enjoy democracy again until they dismantle the corrupt two party system controlled by Oligarchs. If you are sick seeing no progress while greedy billionaires continue raping the planet to death, consider sharing and discussing these ideas with your friends and family:

  1. Giving the Senate to democrats means Bernie Sanders becomes chair of the Budget Committee.
  2. If you think climate change is a big deal, even Ron Paul thinks you should vote for the Green party
  3. Don’t buy the narrative of ‘inevitability’ the media promotes. It is a lie.
  4. Don’t get important information from corporate media sources, they spew propaganda.
  5. Don’t lose sleep about who ends up in the white house this time around, the secret government is real.
  6. The way to take democracy back is to by-pass the whole corrupt political system using ANTI-CORRUPTION ballot initiatives, starting at the municipal and state level.
  7. The way to save the biosphere is to establish ANTI-ECOCIDE laws at the local, federal and international level.



Before the Flood Needs a Sequel

earthrisekillingmemeI just watched Before the Flood on National Geographic, hoping that the filmmakers dug deep enough to get to the root of the problem. Although the film is a strong call to action, I was disappointed that it didn’t follow the story far enough to locate and identify the source of political inaction in America.  The sad truth is that corruption is so extensive, and the political institutions so compromised that voting will not fix this problem unless and until anti-corruption ballot initiatives are passed in every state and eventually in Washington to get fossil fuel money out of the political process.

One of the saddest moments of the film was scientists blaming themselves for failing to inform the public, but that failure cannot be laid at their feet. The fourth estate – the news media – has failed spectacularly, an there is little hope for improvement now that corporate ownership is more concentrated than ever. The mainstream media frames issues and shapes public opinion. Algorithms on social media and Google are manipulated to promote the same narrow view of what is possible. Noam Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” exposed the Propaganda Model but having accused the media of complicity, that understanding of power was  never allowed to bubble to the surface of public consciousness in America. It is time to wake up and connect the dots between political corruption, corporate malfeasance, and media complicity. We need to lay the blame where it properly belongs. As Utah Phillips said:

The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.

This is no time for blind optimism, but fear of the future won’t help either. The time has come to get angry at the crimes fossil fuel companies commit, especially in North Dakota. We need to recognize that what is ‘legal‘ and what is ‘right’ may be very different, in a world where corporations have been allowed to write laws that members of congress often don’t even read.

Before the Flood is a great documentary, but like the Paris Accords, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. I strongly recommend that in his next film, DiCaprio focus on the obstructionist fossil fuel corporations, even if they threaten to sue. If we’re too afraid to step on the toes of the oil giants, we cannot hope to stop them from destroying the biosphere. They have too much power and they are not going to give it up voluntarily. The world would be a better place if the biggest multinationals were broken up into smaller units.

The next film I want to see will focus on the current DOJ investigation of the horrifying fact that EXXON KNEW about man-made climate change in 1981 and spent decades hiding the truth and lying about it. A crime of that magnitude should result in prison for perpetrators and the company should be liquidated.  Ecocide should be recognized as an International Crime Against Humanity under the Rome Statute and people of all nations should demand that their governments ratify the treaty. We need to fight to take back control of our governments and hold the fossil fuel giants to account. We can all begin by standing with Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Climate Crisis Solution: Reclaim Democracy


I just watched the trailer for “Before the Flood” and spotted a serious error made by one of the talking heads interviewed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest documentary. The interviewee says:

“Politicians will do what the people want them to do. Once the American people are convinced, the politicians will fall in line very quickly.”

This fundamental error is the reason climate change is still getting worse. Gilens and Page wrote a paper that demonstrated in 2014 that although politicians respond well to the wishes of billionaires, the average voter has “little or no independent influence” on public policy. This is a difficult fact to accept, as is the reason people have not been shouting louder about the climate crisis.

Ten years ago Al Gore tried to convince us of “The Inconvenient Truth” (2006) that climate change was the most pressing issue of our time. Gore was correct, but his ideas were attacked and marginalized by organized right-wingers. The documentary “Merchants of Doubt” (2015), based on a book of the same name, unmasks the climate deniers, but fails to appreciate the role the corporate media plays in controlling the narrative. For that you have to go back to “Manufacturing Consent” (1992), to learn how the Propaganda Model works. The consolidation of media ownership is part of an even larger problem described in “The Corporation” (2003) which makes the case that if  a corporation was a person, they would be considered a psycho.

This is the fundamental root problem of climate change. The biosphere is not under threat because you ate a hamburger this week (although it would be better if you didn’t). The problem is that the greed of billionaires is out of control. The climate scientists are not experts in the politics of power. The mainstream media produces propaganda instead of journalism. Corporations are abusing eminent domain not for public good, but for private profit because the Supreme Court condoned their behaviour. Politicians on both sides of the party divide are beholden to their major corporate donors. The average voter is learning that, worse than being ignored by  elected representatives, even if their vote is accepted, it may not even be counted at all. Once we finally realize that the root cause of climate change is a lack of democracy, the way forward becomes clear.

When a critical mass of people wakes up, our peace officers will stop acting like rent-a-cops doing dirty deeds for greedy billionaires. Anti-corruption laws, driven by grassroots action and ballot initiatives, can take government out of the hands of corporations and Wall Street banks, and restore it to the people. Electoral reform can break the corrupt two-party system and ensure that paper ballots are used to audit electronic voting machines. The debate system can be opened up so smaller parties are not unfairly marginalized. When the people take back their power they can stop greedy corporations from destroying the biosphere and solve all kinds of problems.

Every problem has a solution, most have several and you don’t have to pick just one. If you want to be part of the solution, share these ideas with your friends, family, co-workers, clients, classmates and neighbours. Don’t wait until it’s too late.



Important Links #WorthSharing

Opinions are like arseholes – everybody has one. Facts are more useful, but can be manipulated, spun and suppressed. If you feel something is going very wrong in the world, you’re not alone. Opinions differ on which of the many problems we face is the most important, but consider this: problems like gun control, political corruption, poverty or climate change will not be solved unless and until the electorate reclaims the power to do so. Too few realize the extent to which a handful of greedy billionaires control both the social/cultural narrative and public policy. We live in a world that increasingly resembles the Matrix: a web of lies and fabrications designed to keep the rich and powerful, well, rich and powerful. Manipulation of thought and public opinion is becoming somewhat more transparent, but also more dangerous.

I don’t have all the answers, but I try to understand where things go off the rails by seeking the views of some of our greatest thinkers. I hope this ‘starter set’ of links will help people with their own learning.  As you review these links, notice that I put this list together BEFORE Trump stacked every department and regulatory agency with billionaires who will benefit by further dismantling the checks and balances that used to safeguard the democracy you no longer have.  Threats to the working poor and the biosphere have never been greater.


Great video explains the problem: ‘Corruption is Legal in America’ :

Evidence for the video above and proof you don’t live in a democracy – ‘The Princeton study’:

Politicians admit it:

Income Inequality chart (outdated – was already horrifying but now its MUCH worse!):

6 men have more wealth than half the planet:

What people want:

Important Documentary “The Corporation”:

Very important documentary (also on Netflix):

Warning from a Billionaire:

How they get away with it:

What they’re getting away with;

Lobbying facts:

and finally, here is a brilliant NON-PARTISAN solution to the problem (the American Anti-corruption Act):

Canada isn’t much better, because if you replicated Gilens & Page here, you’d get the same results despite 2 unique features:

1. First-past-the-post elections often give 100% of the power to a party that earned less than 40% of the votes. That’s how we ended up with NAFTA.

2. ‘Party discipline’ tells MPs to vote the way the ‘leader’ tells them regardless of what their constituents want.

2. VOTING ISSUES – cheating happens, just not like the GOP thinks:

Florida’s Implausible Primary Results:

Strip & flip:

Whistleblower video:

DNC primary:


State corruption rankings;

Better voting system:

Electoral Reform; why first-past-the-post is unfair:

*new* NY Democrats admit illegal primary purge:

3. The “DEEP STATE” governs (why Obama promises were not kept) :

Vote all you want, the secret government won’t change;

Police State:

Shadow Government:

Foreign policy;

Ron Paul;

Double Government:…/5411785

Glennon Article:…/2014/01/Glennon-Final.pdf

War is a racket:

Inverted totalitarianism:


Great conversation about the failure of the fourth estate:

“Manufacturing Consent”:

Chomsky explains the ‘propaganda model’  in less than 7 minutes  (I know his voice is as exciting as listening to paint dry, but that last sentence really ties it up and puts a bow on top):

Military/NFL propaganda:


Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS);

TPP is the dirtiest deal:

TPP rules:


Essential documentary ‘The Corporation’ should be show to EVERY student in high school:

Universal Basic Income – because a) We’ll still need to eat when all the jobs not shipped overseas are done by robots, and b) rich people don’t create jobs – consumers do.

6. ECOCIDE is a Crime Against Humanity:

Water crisis documentaries list;

Pipeline Spill Stats map/video:

Great lakes threat;

Funny #NoDAPL video:

Abuse of Eminent Domain threatens EVERY American homeowner:

7. CORPORATE CRIMES (a very small sample) :

(Thanks for some excellent links, Shane Alg)

– Exxon knew about the catastrophic effects of anthropomorphic CLIMATE CHANGE by the 1980’s, buried the knowledge and lied about it. See pg 13 of this document:

– Merchants of Doubt:

– Lead in Flint’s water:…/epa-stayed…/78719620/

– Chromium 6 (toxin) may be in your water:…/chromium-6-erin…

-Valeant raises price on lead poisoning drug 2700% after Flints criminal disaster…/valeant-drug-prices-lead…/

-Pesticides driving bees to extinction…/epa-confirms…

-Dupont knowingly poisons our water, spreading cancer…/the-lawyer-who-became-duponts…

-Hydraulic fracturing turns Oklahoma into the earthquake nightmare

-Unprecedented gas leak in California town makes neighborhood uninhabitable…/Huge-gas-leak-undermines…

-Neighborhood explodes in flames, killing eight, due to poorly maintained gas lines…/pge-found-guilty-on-six…/

-Oil companies allowed to inject toxic waste into California aquifers…/ca-halts-injection…

– Koch Brothers poison a town:

– Cheney Loophole:

– More reasons Cheney should be in prison:

– Prison slavery:

– Fluoride & cancer?:

– Fluoride as a neurotoxin;

– Geneticist David Suzuki explains why GMOs should be labelled:

– et tu Disney?

– owned by one of the richest men on the planet: 



If there is one dynamic we need to understand it is how the ruling class uses divide & conquer tactics to prevent us from finding common cause and working together on solutions to the most fundamental problems. One way they do this is to play the polarization game by using identity politics to split people who suffer into the smallest demographic groups possible in order to prevent them from finding common cause and organizing to solve the most fundamental problems that underlie the suffering of many different groups. This article uncovers a clear example of how this works:

Divide and conquer is such an effective tactic, its not just the ruling class that uses it:

You can be anti-unfettered-capitalism without being literally Stalin:

Finally, an obscure bit of history we can learn from:

Please let me know in the comments if any links are broken and need fixing or if you have good links to share.


ps: ‘Murica needs a new hat:


Dear American Voter


When Bernie Sanders said if you’re white you “don’t know what its like to be poor” during the heat of a democratic debate, I knew exactly what he was getting at, even though he didn’t phrase it well. If you are white and poor, you are not poor BECAUSE you are white. If you are white and poor in America, you are NOT poor because a non-white person took your cookies. If you are poor and white, it is because the greed of billionaires is out of control.

The political system has been so corrupted by crony capitalism that the millions of poor Americans now include not just blacks, Latinos, seniors and students, but increasing numbers of hard-working whites whose jobs have been shipped overseas. It is now clear that the rising tide of economic recovery is not lifting boats punched full of holes by the corporations who hijacked the government and write the laws and tax code for their own benefit.

Things are bad, but there is a silver lining in this storm cloud. Now that the ranks of the poor have grown to include millions more Americans, they have a common cause against the multi-national corporations. America is now an Oligarchy and if the TransPacific Partnership is ratified, it will be impossible to restore democracy without violence and bloodshed. The neoliberal ideology of selfishness has been exposed as morally bankrupt, destructive and unsustainable.  This is why America is feeling the Bern.

#BernieSanders2016 #FeelTheBern

Cognitive Dissonance is a Killer

Middle-aged white guys are killing themselves at alarming rates and the experts don’t know why. The suicide rate for men in their 50s increased 49% in the decade ending 2010. According to the CBC;

A recent study, co-authored by this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, Angus Deaton, found that a long-term decline in death rates changed direction in 1999 for middle-aged, non-Hispanic white Americans, especially for the segment of that population with only a high school degree or less.

I don’t think the trend is surprising nor the reasons mysterious and, despite what the “men’s rights” windbags contend, it is not the fault of women or feminism. These men who are failing to thrive were brought up in a kinder, gentler world, where income inequality was considerably less. When they were growing up, the middle class was booming and every generation seemed to be better off than the one before. That is clearly no longer the case. Working class Joe did what society expected him to do, but the rewards that were promised have not been not forthcoming.

The new reality of low economic mobility coupled with extreme income inequality grinds against the deeply entrenched, but now mostly false, belief that the “American Dream” is possible. Millions of Americans have been shoved out of the middle class into poverty, and the depth of that poverty is getting worse. In short, the working class white guy has finally figured out that he’s been lied to, and he feels duped and powerless. He didn’t see it coming, so he feels he’s failed to protect and provide for his family. That is a heavy burden to carry alone, and traditionally, men have been socialized to be stoic and not reach out for help, so they suffer in silence until it becomes too much for some of them to bear.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. – Wikipedia

If we’ve been lied to all these years about the American Dream, what other core beliefs are just delusions? Here’s a hard one to swallow: America is no longer a democracy. Let that sink in. The ideal that Lincoln put forth in the Gettysburg Address of government of the people, by the people, for the people has indeed perished in the United States of America. The government is now more accurately described as a corporate-controlled Oligarchy. An academic study done by experts at Princeton and Northwestern concluded in September 2014 that policy decisions are driven by the economic elite and the average voter has a level of influence on public policy that is “near zero.” That’s right, the average voter has no power, no influence on the legislative process. Let. that. sink. in. This is a really tough truth to absorb. That uncomfortable feeling – a painful sense of betrayal – is called cognitive dissonance.

It not news that money is power and power is money. What many failed to notice is that there has been a massive transfer of wealth into the pockets of the 1% from the rest of us.  The ultra-rich are hoarding vast amounts of capital and passing it down to their children, so the oligarchs at the top of the pyramid are using and abusing inherited wealth to buy influence and control politicians and policy. The game is rigged. The concentration of media ownership means that mainstream media does not distribute truth, but propaganda that shapes public opinion to keep people distracted from the fundamental shift of power into the hands of the economic elite. We could solve the energy crisis by hooking up a generator to George Orwell spinning in his grave.

Middle-aged, working class white guys are now on a level playing field for the first time with millions of others from marginalized groups who can’t help but think “karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?” The powers that be have always used our differences to divide us with the political weapons of fear and anger. Even the poorest white people considered themselves better off (or just ‘better’) than their black neighbours. There is certainly a tradition of dis-empowered men building up their own egos at their wives’ expense. If even the formerly privileged white guy finally realizes he’s just as screwed as everyone else, what is left to divide us with? Many men still cling to the idea that competition is better than cooperation. When a critical mass of people understand that compassion is more likely to lead to happiness, we may see a shift in consciousness that leads to greater social justice, reduced inequality, and greater prosperity for the 99%. However, that isn’t going to happen in an Oligarchy.

The way out of this mess isn’t rocket science. The same forces at play in the U.S. have been at work in Canada, where we finally kicked out a right-wing Prime Minister in favour of one who promises to reform the electoral system to make it more fair to voters. Electoral reform is the key to taking democracy back. In Canada it means getting rid of first-past-the-post so our votes aren’t wasted. In the U.S. the biggest issue is campaign finance.  Now that Americans are learning that they don’t live in a democracy anymore, what are they going to do about it?

Edit: Bernie Sanders could have done amazing things.  Perhaps people will wake up by 2018.


Here are some links to some other interesting ideas;


Personhood for the Planet



When I learned that the micro-organisms that populate the human skin and gut outnumber human cells by about 10 to 1, something clicked. This microbiome is essential to maintain the health of the host organism. We need them and they need us.

If we don’t maintain the health of our gracious host we won’t have an environment that is capable of sustaining our lives. If humans perish from the earth, we would be only one of millions of species to have done so, but humans have produced enough nuclear weapons to turn this planet into a dead rock.

Without life, Earth would be a barren rock spinning uselessly through space. Even if you don’t buy the Gaia hypothesis that the planet has its own consciousness, if we can conceive of a corporation as a “person” we can surely comprehend that the planet, with all its complex networks of flora and fauna, is a living organism. Who has a stronger right to exist: you, or an e-coli bacterium in your colon?

If murder is considered a heinous crime, how much worse is ecocide? Why isn’t this forbidden by law yet, as a crime against humanity? Could it be that pernicious institutions like patriarchy and capitalism are getting in the way? We need a revolution in the way we think about this planet and the roles we are playing.

Once you wake up yourself, will you see how important it is to spread these ideas?


When Freud got Schooled by a Woman


Sigmund Freud, venerated master who laid the foundation for psychoanalytical theory, got a couple of things spectacularly wrong. He placed far too much emphasis on libido and unconscious drives as determinants of personality, while underestimating the influence of environmental factors like birth order and interpersonal relationships. Where he really screwed up was in his androcentric view that women were driven by libido just like men, except that they tended to become hysterical for want of a penis.

Karen Horney (I know what you’re thinking , but it’s pronounced horn-eye) never considered herself a feminist, but refused to be held back by traditional gender role expectations. She tore Freud’s penis envy to pieces and explained why a woman really doesn’t have any use for a phallus of her own. Horney pointed out that what women can do physiologically in carrying a pregnancy to term, birthing and suckling infants, is far more enviable than the male ability to pee standing up.  The following essay was written for a psychology class but it fits into the blog posts I’ve written lately on feminist topics.


The Feminine Psychology of Karen Horney

Karen Horney was a woman both of her time and ahead of her time. The circumstances of her life allowed her to develop theories of the personality that were far more sophisticated than she was given credit for. Although she achieved significant professional accomplishments, the pervasive androcentrism of that still marks western civilization prevented her work from having the impact it could have otherwise. This essay, after a brief biography, will trace the early development of Horney’s feminine psychology by exploring the series of papers published in 1967 which looked at the feminine personality in its own right, rather than assuming that a woman was just an inferior man. A consideration of Horney’s later life and work shows how she moved beyond the rigid structures of the male/female binary to develop a more holistic, optimistic and universal theory of personality development. Also, it is worth exploring the reasons that Horney’s name rarely appears in academic psychology textbooks today and also to consider how a better appreciation of Horney’s thinking might be beneficial, not just to psychology, but applied to larger issues as well, through consilience.


Early Biography

Born Karen Horney was born in Germany to an upper-middle class family 1885. Her father, a stern Norwegian sea captain, was 17 years older than her more social mother, who was Dutch. Karen’s mother supported her educational ambitions against her father’s resistance (Kerr, 1987). A few years after the university in Freiburg accepted female students, Karen began training to become a doctor (Eckardt, 2005). She continued her studies in Berlin and married Oscar Horney in 1909 (Kelman, 1967). In 1913 Horney demonstrated her remarkable fortitude by nursing her daughter while writing her medical exams. She then began a training analysis with Karl Abraham which she completed in 1915, although she was reportedly disappointed with the results (Kerr, 1987). By the time she had completed her training as a psychoanalyst Horney was also mother to three daughters, which contributed to her insight into the psychology of the female (O’Connell, 1980). By 1920 Horney was on the teaching staff of the new Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute (Kelman, 1967). Berlin between the wars was a vibrant society, alive with new ideas and a thriving arts community (Eckardt, 2005). Although Sigmund Freud was the acknowledged “master” of the discipline, the psychoanalysts in Berlin were less directly influenced by Freud, who trained a loyal following in Vienna, and thus had more freedom to develop their own ideas about psychoanalytical theory (Kelman, 1967).

Horney’s marriage suffered as a result of her husband’s expectations that her family life should take priority over her career and the couple separated in 1926 (O’Connell, 1980), although they didn’t divorce until 1937. Karen Horney left Berlin for the United States in 1932 to become Associate Director of new Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute (Kelman, 1967). Two years later Horney moved to New York where she continued to practice, write and teach until her death in 1952 (Eckhart, 1984).


Early Development of Theory

Although Karen Horney began her career as an orthodox Freudian psychoanalyst, she soon began to deviate from Freud’s understanding of the psyche (Kelman, 1967). Over the course of her career, Horney’s theories of personality moved further from the orthodox, leading to conflict with mainstream psychoanalytical thought (Kelman, 1967). She was so far ahead of her time that her ideas languished, unappreciated by psychoanalysts who nonetheless incorporated her ideas in subsequent development of the discipline (Smith, 2006).

Freud and his theories emerged from nineteenth century Vienna’s sexually repressed Victorian mores. This was in agreement with his Jewish heritage which positioned men at the head of the household, with women in a subordinate role (Kelman, 1967). Freud’s maleness coloured his perceptions of what it meant to be a person and his ideas tended to be mechanistic and deterministic in keeping with the scientific thinking of his time (Lopez, 1984). He viewed the human organism in a materialistic way, as a closed system with a fixed structure (Kelman, 1967). His point of view naturally informed his perspective, and reflected the attitudes toward women which were common in his culture (Kerr, 1987). In Freud’s theory, males were normative, the phallus was central in their psychosexual development and the libido was the primary drive behind human development even in infancy. In this biological determinism, women, lacking a phallus were like defective males, always seeking to replace that missing part. The primary motivation to have a child in Freud’s theory, was to create a substitute penis, hence a male child would be preferred (Kerr, 1987). This “penis envy” was the basis of female neurosis, in Freud’s opinion (Kerr, 1987).

Karen Horney was trained as a psychoanalyst by Karl Abraham, who himself was a devoted Freudian (O’Connell, 1980). Although the theories she developed in later work diverged from those of Freud and Abraham, she always acknowledged that Freud’s theories formed the foundation on which her own concepts were built (Kelman, 1967).


Feminine Psychology

Throughout the 1920’s and early 1930’s Horney published a series of papers that illustrate the development of her thinking about feminine psychology (Kerr, 1987). Many of these papers were collected and published in English in 1967. Kelman’s introduction to Feminine Psychology describes how the uniqueness of Horney’s ideas was evident even in the first paper she published in 1917 in which she asserted that “much that we have regarded as constitutional” could be remedied by removing “a blockage which can be lifted” (Kelman, 1967). This idea never left her, but was expanded and developed in future writings.

Karen Horney published her first paper on feminine psychology in 1922. This was the first of a number of papers on this topic that she published over the next decade (Kerr, 1987). In 1923 Freud published his theory about the importance of the “phallic phase” in psychosexual development. Horney challenged Freud’s thinking not just on a theoretical level, but backed this up with clinical observations from her practice (Smith, 2006). She noted the more practical aspects of penis envy in that a girl might envy the boy his ability to pee standing up, to hold and see his genital organ, but suggested that a girl’s feelings of inferiority stemmed more from cultural issues than from sensing that she is no more than an incomplete male (Lopez, 1984). The messages of inferiority a girl is subjected to come from the messages she receives from her environment and her family, including restrictions and cultural stereotypes (Symonds, 1991) Horney was able to identify the phallus-centred point of view as natural to the male theorist, but challenged the way they applied this viewpoint to theories of the psychosexual development of females (Symonds, 1991). The biological capacities of women should not be ignored, in Horney’s view, as in her therapeutic experience, males were as likely to envy women their capacity to give birth and suckle their infants, as women were to envy the male phallus (O’Connell, 1980). Horney asserted that what women envied was not the penis, but the superiority that males assumed in society, which limited women’s opportunities (O’Connell, 1980). In addition, Horney noted that envy was a pathological condition, regardless of one’s gender (Kerr, 1987; Symonds, 1991).

In “The Flight From Womanhood” published in 1926, Horney makes a number of keen observations about feminine psychology. Still greatly beholden to the ideas of Freud, she elaborates an alternative to his theory of the centrality of the male phallus by suggesting that we “free our minds from this masculine mode of thought” (Horney, 1926). In so doing, it becomes clear that the great biological difference is not the male’s fleshy organ, but the woman’s generative capacity. Horney points out that a baby is far more than a poor substitute for a woman’s missing penis, but represents great fulfillment, “ineffable happiness” and joy (Horney, 1926). She goes further to suggest that male envy of women’s physiological superiority is the cause of the forced subordination of women by men (Lopez, 2005). This obstruction of women’s development and full social and economic participation leads to the view that women are in some way inferior, but it is wrong to assume that inferiority is the cause of the subordination (Horney, 1926). Horney goes on to flesh out feminine perspectives on psychosexual development, genital awareness, castration fantasies, libidinal interest in the opposite sex and rejection of the feminine role, or the “masculinity complex” (Horney, 1926).

An important concept in understanding Horney’s critique of Freud’s theories is androcentrism. She quotes George Simmel’s views on the assumptions of the normative nature of maleness which liken the dynamics to the master and slave relationship. According to Simmel, it is the privilege of the master to be unaware of his superior position, but the slave cannot ever forget his place in this hierarchical relationship (Horney, 1926). This understanding of privilege is still not widely understood or accepted by the dominant culture today as any online discussion of feminism will demonstrate.

Another analogy to the male/female relationship is the parent/child model, which Horney proposes in a later paper on “The Problem of Feminine Masochism.” Horney notes that like penis envy, masochism is a neurotic condition, rather than a universal condition of women, as postulated in Freudian thought (O’Connell, 1980). While masochism occurs more frequently in women, this is an adaptation or coping strategy to deal with the restrictions placed on them by society (Kerr, 1987). Horney refuted Helene Deutsch’s odious assertion that women desired rape and humiliation and countered that women sought safety and satisfaction through being inconspicuous and dependent (Kerr, 1987). It was this need for safety rather than Freud’s pleasure principle (the id) that motivated human activity (Smith, 2006). The basic anxiety that the world was potentially hostile resulted from conditions that made children feel unloved or unsafe and thus helpless (Smith, 2006).

The roles approved for women encouraged them to be dependent on men for care, protection, love and prestige and thus encouraged them to focus on the beauty and charm that will please men, and make men and children the center of their lives (O’Connell, 1980). Over time it became clearer in Horney’s writing that gender roles are so dependent on cultural influences that the biological determinism of Freud could be safely ignored (Smith, 2006). Freud resented her opposition to his theories and went so far as to suggest she failed to understand the ‘intensity of her own desire for a penis’ and failed to appreciate that desire in her patients as well (Kerr, 1987). This unwarranted ad hominem attack indicates the deep roots of the nerve Horney’s sharp observations skewered.


Horney’s Career in America

When Karen Horney was invited to become the Associate Director of a new psychoanalytic training center in Chicago in 1932, she had the approval of Freud himself (Clemmens, 1984). During this period Horney visited Berlin only to find that the Nazi’s had taken control of the institute there, ending any thoughts she may have had about returning to Europe (Kerr, 1987). However, her two-year contract in Chicago was not renewed because of serious differences of opinion between Horney and her superior, which led her to move to New York. The move to a new life on another continent heightened her sense of the importance of cultural influences on human development (O’Connell, 1980).

By 1941, Horney’s shift from a biological approach to an appreciation for cultural influences and psychosocial factors led to a schism from the New York Psychoanalytic Institute which was also in the process of splitting from the international body in Europe (Kerr, 1987). Her theories had moved so far from the foundation of Freudian thought that she was demoted as a training analyst at a dramatic meeting during which almost half of the membership present declined to participate in the vote, and after which Horney and four like-minded colleagues immediately resigned and marched out (Kerr, 1987). The small group soon established The Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis but within a few years there was another split and the American Institute for Psychoanalysis was formed (Kerr, 1987).

Beyond Feminine Psychology

Horney’s theories continued to develop, moving beyond the male/female binary to a more universal idea of human development. From 1937 onwards, Horney wrote several books which developed a more complete conception of human personality development. Rather than human behavior being driven by libido, Horney postulated that a basic anxiety was the foundation of neurosis and that while the coping mechanisms chosen tended to vary by gender, they were not exclusive to each sex (O’Connell, 1980). These mechanisms were grouped into general movement toward, against or away from others in order to reduce one’s level of anxiety (Symonds, 1991) She continued to develop and modify her theories throughout her life, but although Horney’s theories coalesced into a broad understanding of neurosis and the self, she never considered her model of the personality to be complete (Clemmens, 1984).

Another key difference between Horney and Freud was her optimistic view in the face of his belief in a destructive “death instinct.” Horney thought that people were only destructive when their naturally contstructive nature was blocked by negative forces from the environment (Smith, 2006), whereas Freud thought there was an instinctive counterpoint to the the life force, or Eros.  The film “A Dangerous Method” suggests that Freud’s theory of a death instinct may have been suggested to him by Sabina Spielrein, another under-appreciated woman psychoanalyst.


The Influence of Horney

Karen Horney was a woman ahead of her time in the challenge she posed to male supremacy in the psychoanalytical establishment. Her thinking helped to reframe the understanding of personality by acknowledging the importance of cultural factors like sexual stereotypes and interpersonal relationships (Ingraham, 2005). This attention to non-biological determinants also provided the basis for a more optimistic evaluation of neurosis and the possibilities for positive change and personal growth (Ingram, 2005). Another of the great contributions of Horney’s work is the holistic nature of her practice, taking in the many causal factors that lead to neurosis (Smith, 2006).

Freud’s tremendous influence on the development of psychoanalytic theory and his rejection of Horney’s challenge to his androcentric views are part of reason that Horney is not better known in the field (Clemmens, 1984). Held in high esteem by her contemporaries, Horney’s ideas were later excluded from mainstream psychoanalytic thought (Kerr, 1987). Although Horney rarely appears in textbooks, her ideas were eventually incorporated in psychoanalytic practice (Smith, 2006). Concepts like compartmentalization, externalization, blind spots, and the “tyranny of the should” have been incorporated into other personality theories, as have the striving for self-realization and the unlimited potential for personal growth (O’Connell, 1980)

The posthumous publication of Horney’s papers on Feminine Psychology in 1967 contributed to the development of feminist thought which grew into “second-wave” feminism in the 1970’s (Buhle, 1998). The challenge to mainstream psychoanalytic thought that Horney represented was not without pushback. Generally speaking, when the soldiers came home from WWII, the women who had kept the munitions plants operating tended to get married and head home to raise families. However a disturbing trend of blaming mothers for everything wrong with their children arose in this period (Buhle, 1998). To this day, an androcentric perspective dominates in psychology, despite specific efforts to ameliorate this bias by, for example, forbidding the use of male pronouns in a generic context (Hegarty & Buechel, 2006).



The psychoanalytical theories have much to contribute, even today, to discourse in a number of fields. The rise of third-wave feminism is underway in reaction to a global spreading awareness of the persistence of casual sexism and “rape culture” (Mansfield, 2014). The mechanistic, reductionist scientific paradigm so deeply entrenched in Freud’s time is still the dominant viewpoint the scientific establishment (Hegarty & Buechel, 2006).

The destructive nature of humankind is more in evidence than ever with respect to the increasingly urgent issue of climate change. Horney would not agree with those who think it’s too late to make a meaningful change to save the biosphere from catastrophic habitat destruction and species loss. The male-dominated capitalist system would benefit from an injection of Horney’s understanding of the pathological nature of envy. Horney’s holistic approach may be able to inform other disciplines and help to move toward the kind of consilience that can bring about the meaningful and significant change that our species now requires.



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