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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


In this essay I provided an example of what I deem "positive compensation," the type of compensation in which "stress enhances function." But what would be a valid example of negative compensation, in which "persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation" led rather to "anxiety and withdrawal?"

There are any number of factual stories of persons who become so invested in their fantasy-lives that they lose touch with reality. Ed Gein, the model for Robert Bloch's character of Norman Bates in PSYCHO, is said to have become fascinated with the atrocities featured in "death-cult magazines and adventure stories," though obviously his fixation on his mother was the primary motivation in his short career of murder and grave-robbery.  Bloch has stated that he had only marginal knowledge of Gein when he wrote PSYCHO in the late 1950s. Yet for whatever reason, the author cleaved to the well-known trope of the "geek who reads too much." The original Norman, unlike his cinematic incarnation, was a "book-nerd," so losing himself in arcane volumes that he convinces himself that he has raised his mother from the dead, though as in the film the only way Mrs. Bates comes to life is when Norman "plays" her.

What fascinates me, though, is the means by which this trope of negative compensation takes on ideological status. I've remarked in numerous essays about the ways this trope has been invoked by elitist or ultraliberal critics. But on occasion even persons who make their living with popular fiction can and have done so-- as I'll explore in greater depth in Part 2.

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