Which direction to take?

…a child can move toward people, against them, or away from them.

In a predominantly leaning and complying type we can observe aggressive propensities and some need for detachment. A predominantly hostile person has a complaint strain and needs detachment too. And a detached personality is not without hostility or a desire for affection. The predominant attitude, however, is the one that most strongly determines actual conduct.

Group I, the compliant type, manifests all the traits that go with "moving toward" people. He shows a marked need for affection and approval and an especial need for a "partner" - that is, a friend, lover, husband or wife "who is to fulfill all expectations of life and take responsibility for good and evil, his successful manipulation becoming the predominant task." In sum, this type needs to be liked, wanted, desired, loved; to feel accepted, welcomed, approved or, appreciated; to be needed, to be of importance to others, especially to one particular person; to be helped, protected, taken care of, guided.

Just as the complaint type clings to the belief that people are "nice," and is continually baffled by evidence to the contrary, so the aggressive type (Group II) takes it for granted that everyone is hostile, and refuses to admit that they are not. To him life is a struggle of all against all, and the devil take the hindmost. … His attitude is sometimes quite apparent, but more often it is covered over with a veneer of suave politeness, fairmindedness and good fellowship. Any situation or relationship is looked at from the standpoint of "What can I get out of it?" - whether it has to do with money, prestige, contact, or ideas.

For Group III, it is their conscious and unconscious determination not to get emotionally involved with others in any way, whether in love, fight, co-operation, or competition. They draw around themselves a kind of magic circle which no one may penetrate. And this is why, superficially, they may "get along" with people. … All the needds and qualities they acquire are directed toward this major need of not getting involved.

Where the compliant type looks at his fellow man with the silent question, "Will he like me?" - and the aggressive type wants to know, "How strong an adversary is he?" or "Can he be useful to me?" - the detached person's first concern is, "Will he interfere with me? Will he want to influence me or will he leave me alone?"

In moving toward people the person tries to create for himself a friendly relation to his world. In moving against people he equips himself for survival in a competitive society. In moving away from people he hopes to attain a certain integrity and serenity. As a matter of fact, all three attitudes are not only desirable but necessary to our development as human beings.

--Karen Horney