The Social Dynamics of Self-Esteem: Theory to Therapy

By R. A. Steffenhagen; Jeff D. Burns | Go to book overview

4
The Compensatory Mechanism

Chapter 3 developed the self-esteem theory of deviance, postulating that the basic psychosocial mechanism underlying individual deviance is low selfesteem. When people feel inferior they may utilize a special defense mechanism in which they overemphasize one type of behavior in order to cover up for the felt deficiencies in another. Here we will discuss the role of compensation, whereby individuals may actually devote such energy as not only to achieve normalcy in a given area but actually excell where they were once deficient. Compensation, one of Adler's most important concepts, emerged from his work in physiological (organ) inferiority, which he then transferred to the psychological realm. Compensation is used to protect the ego, as a safeguarding mechanism for a fragile self-esteem. In the Freudian paradigm, the source of psychic energy is the id, whereas the Adlerian model does not postulate an innate psychic energy, but rather, suggests that the basic motivating force of all human behavior accrues through the striving for superiority. It is in this striving for superiority that self-esteem emerges. We evaluate ourselves in reference to our goals; that is, we set goals and then evaluate ourselves on the basis of our perception of our level of achievement. We have hypothesized that people who set unrealistic goals, that is, goals that are so high they cannot be achieved, will always maintain a low self-esteem in that they constantly devalue themselves and their efforts because they never achieve their goals. Francis Bacon has suggested that individuals should set their goals somewhat higher than they feel they can attain, and that by so doing they will achieve more than if they set goals in reference to what is perceived as attainable. This particular thought should lead to productivity and ultimately increased happiness, because the individual will be satisfied and elated over the fact that more

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The Social Dynamics of Self-Esteem: Theory to Therapy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables and Figures ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 - Self-Esteem Psychology 1
  • 2 - Toward a Definition of Self-Esteem 19
  • Notes 51
  • 3 - The Self-Esteem Theory of Deviance 53
  • Notes 92
  • 4 - The Compensatory Mechanism 95
  • 5 - Self-Esteem in Modern Society 119
  • Notes 155
  • 6 - The Nature of Conflict in the Development of Personality 157
  • Notes 181
  • 7 - The Conflict Theory of Personality 183
  • Appendix A - Self-Esteem Inventory 215
  • Appendix B - Mapping Strategies for the Inventory 221
  • Appendix C - Reliability of SEI 223
  • Bibliography 227
  • Index 235
  • About the Authors 244
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