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Addiction – A Compensation Mechanism


Reading on the topic, “Compensation Mechanism” like I said on my social media platforms, I suddenly laughed out loud because it clicked that at some point in my life, I had unconsciously slipped into the Compensation Mechanism mode.

By Compensation Mechanism, I simply refer to a form of defense mechanism where one overachieves in one area to compensate for the failures of another area. It means emphasizing a strength to make up for a weakness.

Have you found yourself addicted to anything at some point in your life? Why?

If you would be honest enough to answer the above question, you’ll find that that reason you give most probably would have been what led to the addiction which now became the Compensation.

What this is about is the fact that this mechanism leads to a form of addiction which more often than not, a negative impact on behaviour. So we find Kids growing into adults who are addicted to a thing. It could be some form substance or another or even an individual.  In my case, my addiction- Work!!!

Have you ever screamed at your child in front of a number of people? Ever ridiculed any child in front of a company of people?

Here’s what happens:

The brain will feel the intense humiliation and will decide never to have such an event reoccur. Simply because the child does not have the prefrontal material to put things into perspective as an adult does. He, therefore, cannot deal with the emotions of being publicly ridiculed. The brain then unconsciously develops a compensation mechanism- The child will decide on what to do to keep him happy instead of facing such torture.

Discussing with one who had it rough academically while growing up, I found that every one of us has that soft spot inside us that reacts to embarrassing moments. But we react differently and according to our personalities. Though in all, every personality will find a comfort zone which later turns out to be the Compensation Mechanism.

Meet John:

John is an introvert. As an introvert, John hardly relates with people. This means John finds it uncomfortable staying in an organized setting. The classroom is organized and John has to be in school. John sits still most of the time obviously trying to understand how to get along with his mates and teacher. The classroom setting rewards extroverts more often than introverts. So John is stuck with the feeling of I am incompetent. John’s teacher is unconsciously insensitive. She asks John a question, maybe out of anxiety or ignorance, John does not get the question right. The teacher shuns John. This scene begins to play out on a daily basis because the first time it happened, John’s neural pathways were still trying to process the stimulator and coping mechanism when another event occurred. John begins to slip into an ‘I’m not good enough’ mode. This is made even easier because John’s siblings are extroverted. So John begins to feel no one understands him!!!

John manages to grow through the classes. One teacher passing on the ‘John task’ ahead of time to the next teacher before John arrives. Soon enough the ‘John’ message circulates.

John somehow during play, scores a goal and is hailed for scoring that goal. John feels he at least is good at something! So John resorts to playing. Oh! John plays like he never would have as an introvert. John becomes addicted to playing. So much so that in answering examination or test questions, John quickly fills the wrong answers in, submits and runs off to play. At least he now is good at something. The play has become the mechanism that compensates for a seeming inadequacy in the area of his academics.

The story of John is a story that happens every day of our lives when we as parents continuously shun a child, or a staff or just anybody.

We all have our personalities and handle such moments differently. While for John, it was an addiction to play, for some others it could be an addiction to a substance or a friend or a lifestyle depending on the person’s environment.

As parents, we ought to be sensitive to the personalities of our children and ensure that each child grows into a happy, healthy and successful individual. That way, the world will be rid of the different forms of addictions.

Have you had any John-like experience you would love to share?

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