Overcompensation: what it is and how it influences the mind according to Alfred Adler

The term “overcompensation” has been studied extensively by the Viennese physician and psychotherapist Alfred Adler., widely known for being the founder of the School of Individual Psychology, as well as a collaborator of Sigmund Freud.

Overcompensation in psychology is the exaggeration or amplification of a particular ability that a person possesses in order to disguise or conceal some other characteristic or ability that they consider inferior compared to other people, and this can be a real or imagined self-perception. In Adler’s theory, overcompensation is closely related to the inferiority complex.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at both the concept of overcompensation and the inferiority complex.

    What is overcompensation?

    Again the concept of overcompensation had already been used by Sigmund Freud, was Alfred Adler, the founder of the School of Individual Psychology, who introduced this term into his theory in relation to the feelings of inferiority suffered by some people, due to which this concept took greater consideration in the field of psychology.

    And it is that in the theory of individual psychology of Adler has as one of the foundations the belief that one of the main motivations of the psyche of people is this tendency to trying to compensate for own physical characteristics that people consider “inferior” to those of others.

    In other words, overcompensation is the tendency to try to exaggerate a number of abilities that a person possesses in order to cover or compensate for other abilities or characteristics that they consider inferior to those of other people. , and these can be real or even imaginary, the result of an exaggeration created in his imagination.

    In the process of overcompensation, it can also happen that a person suffers from any type of physical or cognitive impairment and tries correcting it excessively and even exaggeratedly.

      Complex of overcompensation and inferiority in psychology

      The inferiority complex is made up of a series of attitudes, mental representations and behaviors related to a feeling of inferiority towards others. You could say that the inferiority complex is a personal feeling of inadequacy.

      Adler, in his Theory of Individual Psychology, used this construct to give central meaning to that form of self-perception that some people have, by reporting some physical form or physical characteristic, which they considered to be inferior to functionality. that they felt they should have. (eg a person has complexes with their arms because they think they are “too thin” and will not allow them to grab heavy objects, and may even underestimate their own strength).

      At the time, his theory referred to people trying to overcompensate for that physical characteristic that causes them complexion or feelings of inferiority, for example by always wearing long-sleeved T-shirts).

      Adller was particularly interested in studying the inferiority complex and the negative and positive effects of self-esteem during the time he worked with children with some form of physical disability, in which observed notable differences in the ability of patients to be successful, and do some achieve great success in sports, seeing it as a great motivation to overcome their own abilities every day. At the same time, other patients felt overwhelmed by their disability and had no motivation to try to make progress. Therefore, Adeler understood that these differences were due to individual self-esteem.

      In psychoanalysis, there are textbooks on the subject which explain that the inferiority complex has been characterized by a struggle to achieve certain unrealistic or unattainable goals, thus causing insecurities and complexes in the person.

      Freud considered the inferiority complex as a symptom to be analyzed in psychotherapy sessions with reference to the possibility that there are two types of causes for this complex: real or imaginary. Freud also referred to the inferiority complex, whether its cause is real or imagined, as a series of thoughts about yourself that could trigger feelings of guilt or even depression, being in any case a negative self-evaluation.

        The individual psychology of Alfred Adler

        To better understand overcompensation, it is helpful to better understand Adler’s theory of individual psychology, which in its psychological approach emphasizes the study and understanding of people, with all their characteristics, as a whole which is in contact with the environment in which they live, as Adler conceives of the human being as a unitary being fixed on his environment. which means he is influenced by what is happening in the community where he lives. In contrast, Freud placed less importance on the environmental context and focused more on the intrapsychic life of people.

        In turn, Adler sees the human being as an entity that cares about his future, and not so much about his past, as Freud did, who guides him by his own instinct to surpass himself, who keeps people motivated to launch a series of tasks that allow the achievement of the previously proposed objectives.

        Therefore, there are two fundamental ideas in Adler’s theory: the desire for superiority and the sense of community of people.

        This sense of community is given by the fact that people are social beings who need relationships and unity with others in order to survive. On the other hand, the desire for superiority is that motivation that people need to improve throughout life and is also related to the sense of perfectionism. Then, this desire for superiority and perfectionism occurs in the social context, since by nature human beings tend to be competitive and compare themselves to others.

        At the same time, this desire for superiority and perfectionism is often triggered by people’s attempts to compensate for a feeling of inferiority, by perceiving some kind of weakness or weakness in relation to other people around us, and this could be considered as a means of overcompensation. According to Adler, all people suffer from this feeling of inferiority at some point in their life and to some extent, so they somehow try to overcompensate..

        Adler believes that this feeling of inferiority can be very pronounced and cause great discomfort in those who suffer throughout their childhood from complicated problems that make them insecure or in those who suffer from a physical limitation of any kind. that is. The importance that Alfred also attached to the impact of childhood experiences in adulthood it is due to the influence that Freud had on him, and it is that Adler also considered that certain complicated events of childhood could condition the rest of life.

          The relationship with people’s way of life

          According to Adler’s theory of individual psychology, all human beings live under an impulse to overcome., what he calls a way of life, which can be understood as the set of choices and actions that a person makes throughout his life so that there is overcompensation for the feelings of inferiority that the person experience.

          Second, according to Adler, people tend to lead a lifestyle that gives meaning to their beliefs and at the same time allows them to progress towards their goals.

          Here we see again Adler’s premise that people function as a whole. he is trying to achieve a bright future that goes beyond the current situation that they live, so that there is a constant constant in different areas that everyone considers important and which also serve to overcompensate for a certain feeling of inferiority.

          Adler’s lifestyle theory is based on three concepts central:

          • Fictitious Finalism: People are finalists because they are always striving to achieve goals.

          • I ideal: it is made up of all the goals for the future that each person has set for himself.

          • I am creative: a part of the personality that makes sense of the past, corrects mistakes and uses them to seek a better future.

          • Related article: “Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment”

          Example of overcompensation

          Comparison with other people is very common in childhood and adolescenceAt the same time, people tend to be more insecure at these stages of their life due to immaturity, among other factors, while their self-concept and personality have not yet been fully developed.

          When a child feels inferior, to have the perception that he is surrounded by other smarter and stronger children, this inferiority motivates him to do certain things in order to surpass himself and achieve specific goals, which could suppose a way of overcompensation.

          It should be noted that if this child has psychological balance, success could be beneficial and build self-confidence, while if he does not have mental balance, success does not alleviate his feeling of inferiority, he could therefore develop an inferiority complex.

          Bibliographical references

          • Collin, C. et al. (2012). The Psychology Book. Madrid: Ediciones Akal.
          • Doron, R. (2008). Akal Dictionary of Psychology. Madrid: Ediciones Akal.
          • Lopez, S. (2019). Dictionary of Psychology and Psychiatry. Madrid: Editorial Médica Panamericana.
          • Oberst, U., Ibarz, V. and Leon, R. (2004). The individual psychology of Alfred Adler and the psychosynthesis of Oliver Brachfeld. Journal of Neuro-Psychiatry, 67, pp. 31-44.
          • Rodriguez, A. (2019). Manual of psychotherapies. Barcelona: Herder.

          Leave a Comment