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Re-conceptualizing Neurosis as a Degree of Egocentricity: Ethical Issues in Psychological Theory
M. Alvarez-Segura • M. F. Echavarria • P. C. Vitz
13 September, 2014


Psychology's historical rejection of ethics has led to an oversimplification of
the origins and treatments of mental disorders. In this article, we present an analysis of how
classical neurosis can be reformulated from an ethical and psychological interaction. We
focus on the crucial role that egocentricity plays and argue that this term can help to clarify
how ego defensive ethical decisions can undermine psychological capacities and contribute
to a progressive depersonalization that can result in typical clinical disorders. In Christian
anthropology, the virtues, especially humility and love have a crucial role in the positive
growth of human affective and cognitive capacities. In addition, the person in his/her
nature is endowed with the capacity to transcend the self and to escape egocentricity
through self-giving love of God and of others. This capacity of self-giving is diametrically
opposed to egocentricity and opens a new way for possible psychological recovery.


"We propose that egocentricity properly understood can help to clarify how ethical
decisions and attitudes can undermine psychological capacities and contribute, to a greater
or lesser degree, to a progressive depersonalization which can crystallize in typical clinical
disorders. It applies then to the complex interaction between ethics and psychology."

"Horney described five tragic consequences for the neurotic: de-personalization, alienation
from the self, lack of a sense of direction, continued failure to assume responsibility
and finally, lack of unity. The pride system allows the neurotic to find pseudo-solutions
through distorted attempts at integration. The neurotic thus descends into a destructive and
painful process of depersonalization in which there is an impoverishment of the emotional life.
The more attached to the self-idealized image the neurotic becomes, the less contact
there is with real feeling and thoughts. In this state, the general capacity for conscious
experiences is much impaired. If neurotics do not assume responsibility they are at the
mercy of their pseudo-solutions. This is what Horney calls neurotic attempts at solution."

"Horney's exposition of neurotic development as both dynamic and destructive gives us
insight into the fixed effect that egocentricity plays in the logic of the neurotic process.
Egocentricity through fear draws psychic forces inward for the purpose of guaranteeing
security. The more the fearful ego does this the greater the loss of contact with a positive
interpersonal environment resulting in a still greater need to defend itself. The net result of
this kind of ''vicious circle'' is a progressive depersonalization."
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