In her book, The Search for Fulfillment, Susan Krauss Whitbourne discusses the views of Karen Horney. Horney was a psychoanalyst and author of the 1937 book The Neurotic Personality of Our Time. Whitbourne writes,
“[Horney] believed that true happiness involves tearing down the false self and allowing the real self to shine through. The false self is the one that tries to put on a proud face to the outside world to cover up our real feelings about who we are.”
So, can one feel happiness only if showing one’s true self to the world? Could one’s true self be happy hidden behind a public facade?
I read about how Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, said something to the effect that our last freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude about our circumstances. Frankl wrote from the perspective of a survivor of the concentration camps in Germany during World War II who went on to work as a psychologist helping other survivors. I’ve not read the book, but what I’ve read about it seems to indicate that from Frankl’s perspective, the thing that keeps one real and alive in such horendous circumstances is keeping the ember of that true self within glowing depsite what’s going on outside. I could imagine that in some circumstances, one might choose to act in a certain way while still retaining their individuality and unique perception of the world inside. This would argue that what’s inside is the critical element of our happiness rather than what’s outside, whereas Horney’s definition suggests that the facade needs to be stripped away for one to be happy.
What do you think is necessary for happiness? Are the rules different if outside circumstances are good versus if outside circumstances involve tragedy? And on a related note, is it really possible to “cover up our real feelings about who we are”?
- Psychiatry: Meaning in Life (time.com)