COMPENSATION

The tendency to develop strength in one area to offset weakness in anotherCompensation may be a deliberate, conscious reaction, an unconscious defense mechanism, or a mixture of the two. Many people deliberately try to counterbalance their physical handicaps, deficiencies in skill, or even their personality defects by developing special abilities. The blind man concentrates on his senses of touch and hearing, the homely girl designs clothes for the social elite, the timid boy becomes a chess expert. No sharp line can be drawn between compensation as an adjustment device and as a defense mechanism. Generally speaking, however, it is likely to be a defense mechanism if it is grossly exaggerated or unconsciously adopted as a protection against anxiety. The braggart, the show-off, the “Royal Imperial Potentate” of the lodge, are not aware that they are responding to feelings of inferiority. The small man who develops a pompous, overbearing manner, and the woman from a “lowly” background who strives for the social register usually do not realize that they are reacting to a sense of inadequacy. Compensation may be a powerful motive for achievement and an effective force in adapting ourselves to handicaps that cannot be corrected. It may lead to increased emotional security and greater self-esteem, and in this way may contribute to sound mental health. But in some forms, such as intense competitiveness or tyrannical behavior, it does more harm than good. It may also be a factor in clearly neurotic or psychotic behavior. In fugue states, for example, the individual may not only unconsciously seek to escape from distressing situations, but to compensate for his deficiencies or frustrations by losing his identity and acting like a totally different person. In cases of brain impairment due to infection or injury, the patient sometimes develops grandiose delusions as a compensation for his reduced capacities. A similar reaction occurs in the paranoid type of schizophrenia in which the patient may become convinced that he is a great savior or a great sinner. See ADLER, SCHIZOPHRENIA (PARANOID TYPE), DEFENSE MECHANISM, FUGUE STATE, GRANDIOSE DELUSIONS.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "COMPENSATION," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/compensation/ (accessed August 19, 2019).
SHARE