Compensation

Midlife Crisis

In psychology, compensation is a strategy whereby one covers up, consciously or unconsciously, weaknesses, frustrations, desires, feelings of inadequacy or incompetence in one life area through the gratification or (drive towards) excellence in another area.

Compensation can cover up either real or imagined deficiencies and personal or physical inferiority. The compensation strategy, however does not truly address the source of this inferiority. Positive compensations may help one to overcome one’s difficulties. On the other hand, negative compensations do not, which results in a reinforced feeling of inferiority.

There are two kinds of negative compensation: Overcompensation, characterized by a superiority goal, leads to striving for power, dominance, self-esteem and self-devaluation; and Undercompensation, which includes a demand for help, leads to a lack of courage and a fear for life. A well-known example of failing overcompensation, is observed in people going through a midlife-crisis. Approaching midlife many people (especially men) lack the energy to maintain their psychological defenses, including their compensatory acts.

Alfred Adler, founder of the school of individual psychology, introduced the term compensation in relation to inferiority feelings. In his book ‘Study of Organ Inferiority and Its Physical Compensation’ (1907) he describes this relationship: If one feels inferior (weak) he / she (usually) tries to compensate for it somewhere else. Adler’s motivation to investigate this was from personal experience. He was a very sickly child. He was unable to walk till he was four because of rickets. Then he was victim of pneumonia as well as a series of accidents. His theory argues that narcissistic people, by compensation theory, mute the feelings of low self-esteem by: talking ‘highly’ and contacting ‘highly admired’ persons.

Furthermore, narcissistic children try to compensate for their jealousy and anger by: fantasizing about power, beauty, and richness. Christopher Lasch, an American historian and social critic wrote in his book ‘The Culture of Narcissism’ (1979) that North American society in the 1970s was narcissistic and: worships consumption; fears dependency, aging, and death; Therefore it is ‘fascinated’ with fame. Consumption has been put forward as a means of compensation (e.g. use of goods to convey human relationships).

One Comment to “Compensation”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s