Compensation. A natural process aimed at establishing or maintaining balance within the psyche. (See also active imagination, dreams, neurosis and self-regulation of the psyche.)
The activity of consciousness is selective. Selection demands direction. But direction requires the exclusion of everything irrelevant. This is bound to make the conscious orientation one-sided. The contents that are excluded and inhibited by the chosen direction sink into the unconscious, where they form a counterweight to the conscious orientation. The strengthening of this counterposition keeps pace with the increase of conscious one-sidedness until finally … the repressed unconscious contents break through in the form of dreams and spontaneous images. … As a rule, the unconscious compensation does not run counter to consciousness, but is rather a balancing or supplementing of the conscious orientation. In dreams, for instance, the unconscious supplies all those contents that are constellated by the conscious situation but are inhibited by conscious selection, although a knowledge of them would be indispensable for complete adaptation. [“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 694.]
In neurosis, where consciousness is one-sided to an extreme, the aim of analytic therapy is the realization and assimilation of unconscious contents so that compensation may be reestablished. This can often be accomplished by paying close attention to dreams, emotions and behavior patterns, and through active imagination.
© from Daryl Sharp’s Jung Lexicon, reproduced with kind permission of the author.