Social Attitudes

Balance and Imbalance in Personality

Erle Fiske Young
Professor of Sociology, University of Southern California

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THE moralists were probably the first to note the dual character of human personality. To them man appeared as a curious mixture of the god-like and the diabolical, capable at once of the most sublime heroic behavior and the most bestial depravity. Every truly revealing autobiography provides many examples of behavior which arise from contradictory traits. None of us needs much self-analysis to discover deeply rooted conflicting impulses which on occasion seem to tear us asunder by their very irreconcilability. The problem of good and evil has haunted human thinking from the very inception of reflective thought. Philosopher, novelist, poet, humorist, satirist alike have readily found a wealth of material for the depiction of the loving-hating, idling-energetic, fearless-fearful, egotistic-altruistic dual character of serio-comic Man. Consistency and constancy are frequently accounted the rarest of human traits.

Physiologists and psychologists have uncovered a wide variety of structures and processes which make it possible to view the human machine as a complex of moving equilibria. Walking and vision, as cases in point, are controlled by delicate automatic mechanisms which bring into play opposing sets of muscles to adjust the body to the requirements of gravity and spatial distance. Metabolism is a balance struck between anabolism and catabolism. A directorate of glands seems to regulate the proportion of water, oxygen, salts, and so on in the body. Growth itself is the resultant of the interplay of a growth-stimulating factor and a growth-inhibiting factor. Dwarfism and gigantism represent a certain unusual degree of free play on the part of one or the other of these opposing factors. Man is both structurally balanced and bio-chemically bal-

( 76) -anced. Posture and diet are matters of balance which may be controlled to a considerable degree.[1]

Careful examination has revealed that these paired-off polarized tendencies are in unstable equilibrium: The outstretched hand is in a state of fine tremor; standing is a matter of moment-to-moment readjustment of flexor and extensor muscle tensions; the eye only approximately "fixes" on the object-its movement along a line of type is hop-skip-and-jump fashion, and so on throughout the list of tension systems. These phenomena merely remind us that life is movement as well as balance. However, many movements are antithetically organized and, therefore, tend to oscillate about certain pivotal or balancing points. By this means the growth, development, and functioning of the organism as a whole are kept within the limits of tolerance determined by the milieu.

Psychologically, activity and rest, diffusion and concentration of attention or energy, and so on alternate in somewhat regular periodic oscillations. The basic general activity-arc common to many of these physiological-psychological processes manifests a cycle whose successive phases are: tension, fatigue, relaxation, rest, renewed activity. These cyclical processes provide the rhythm of life which is delicately adjusted through the long evolutionary development of mankind to the diurnal, seasonal, and other natural environmental rhythms. Man shares many of these processes with the animals. They constitute the static and dynamic balances necessary to maintain physical life.

Biological and psychological research have not yet revealed all the physical and bio-chemical balances maintained by the human organism. Nor must we suppose that their cataloging and correlating would provide us with all we would need to know to understand man as a biological and psychological datum. The more important instances of balance have been noted by Dr. Spaulding as follows:[2]

( 77)

1. The organic-functional balance, e.g., balance maintained between the claims of the various organs of the body.

2. The mental-growth physical-growth balance, as tested by psychometric methods.

3. The energy balance between expression and repression, e.g., extroversion-introversion.

4. Affective balance-freedom from emotional attachment versus emotional dependency.

5. Emotional-intellectual balance.

6. Balances of characterological traits, as for example a. Masculine-feminine. b. Imagination-reality. c. Routine-creative activities. d. Work-play. e. Optimism-pessimism. f. Etc.

Psychiatry makes much use of the concept "balance." Mental balance, for example, is taken to imply a condition in which the individual is free from delusions, is oriented as to time, place, and situation, and is emotionally reacting to situations in appropriate ways. Dr. Adolf Meyer conceives dementia praecox as a matter of "faulty personal, instinctive adjustment involving a miscarriage of instincts through lack of balance." [3]

Among the psychological balances perhaps should also be included the basic seeking-avoiding balance which underlies all animate behavior. The life-economy of the individual determines the specific stimuli which will call this balance into play. Evolution has selected the specific complex of balances which characterize the behavior of any representative of a species from among an infinite number of possible balances. His behavior then can be resolved in considerable part, into oscillations pivoted upon the values which satisfy the various appetitive systems. He approaches and appropriates these values or satisfiers under the impulse of affective cravings, he is then satisfied, and once sated, becomes nauseated by plethora. This loss of appetite-of capacity to respond further to a stimulus's obviously in the first instance simply a mechanism for main-

( 78) -taining the balance between intake and output of energy which is measured by the metabolism rate.

The glutton, the satyr, the "punch-drunk" boxer, the deepsea diver suffering from oxygen exhilaration are examples of imbalance in which the regulators which ordinarily protect the organism from damage due to excess do not or cannot work. Such behavior can, therefore, be said to be fixed or overdetermined. Control has been lost through the dissociation of the associated antithetical inhibiting tendency. Ordinarily, recuperation would follow upon a rest period but the body mechanisms are unable to set in motion the counter activities which would eventually restore balance. There appears to be a normal amplitude for each of the arcs of activity and a corresponding normal rhythm. The rhythm can quite generally be timed, though it varies from individual to individual and is conditioned by many factors, chief among which are other arcs of activity and their rhythms.

The significance of various physio-psychological balances in social relationships have been indicated frequently by psychiatrists. They are socially important since we evaluate the individual's balances as we do any of his traits. They may become social values and hence determinants of status. Accordingly they undergo such modifications in their overt forms of expression as do the temperamental and other innate tendencies and traits. Under social pressure the character of the individual is molded and the affective balance, the energy balance, the emotional-intellectual balance and so on come to assume the modes of expression characteristic of the particular culture group of which he is a member. In short, his innate original traits and balanced tendencies are socially conditioned.

However, careful scrutiny fails to show that few, if any, of the polarized and balanced traits so far considered are society-born. From a sociological point of view they are traits of individuality, and not of personality; they are characteristic' of man as a member of genus homo and are not characteristic of man as a social phenomenon, an interacting personality. The problem then remains: What rôle, if any, do balance and imbalance play in personality?

First among the balances characteristic of personality may be mentioned that maintained between our tendency to seek out

(79) and to avoid our fellow humans. We crave the crowd and we flee from it. An army recruit has thus described his first weeks of cantonment life:

For several weeks now we have been quarantined but we are losing no time in training. The latter I do not object to; the trouble comes from this prolonged cooping up with a crowd of others. They were a pretty good lot to begin with, enthusiastic, generally wholesome, full of life, clever in devising ways and means for escaping the tensions of army routine. One thing only we cannot do: We can't escape from each other. We drill together, play together, eat together, sleep in one big room together, never for a single moment have I been out of sight and hearing, or without a constant sensing of the physical presence and, worse still, the mental presence of the company. Gold-fish in a parlor bowl lead a retired private existence compared to my life in this camp. My fellow men have gotten quite distasteful to me. I'm just fed up on them.

Such a situation has, of course, both a psychological and a sociological phase. The irritation and restlessness is due in part to the fatigue of attending continuously to the hum of voices, the interplay of moving bodies, the constant adjusting of muscular and neural activities to the physical presence of other humans. The difficulty, however, lies deeper than mere physical and psychological fatigue due to prolonged tensions. Life in the army camp required also a moment-to-moment taking account of the attitudes of the other members of the group. Their likes and dislikes, opinions, views, prejudices, their social attitudes and values, require steady attention and a corresponding output of energy. One's position in the group, his self-respect, his system of values need continuous attention in the presence of these others. They symbolize conventions, traditions, social controls of many varieties from which even the most Philistine person tends to flee on occasion.

Change to some other group for the time being with a different set of tensions may relieve the irritation, arouse new interests, and stimulate a new output of energy. This phenomenon rests primarily upon the fact that the experiences, memories, activities of the second group are apt to be novel in some respects. It is the specialization of activities, the nar-

(80) -rowness of interests of any particular group as compared with the range of interests and activities of the larger group which produces conflict or boredom and ennui in the family group, the neighborhood group, or the conventional groups of which one is a member, which set him seeking for counterbalancing activities in contrasting groups. Such behavior is, therefore, historically late in its appearance and depends upon the extent to which the social life of a group is differentiated.

Sure, my wife's O.K. and C is O.K. But I've lived there for over ten years-ever since I married. It just got on my nerves and I left. Nothing ever happens in that burg. I worked pretty steady all that time but we never saved much though we were not extravagant. We really had a nice home for just common working folks. No, Mary and I didn't quarrel, that is, not more than most folks do, and the kids are all right-not any particular trouble, leastways. I guess Mary was a better woman and a better housekeeper than most men like me ever get. I suppose I did wrong going off and leaving them sudden like I did.

You see, I never sowed any wild oats and I always lived pretty quiet but it's mighty hard lines living in a little place with the same folks around you all the time. There never was a thing a fellow ever did in that town that wasn't all over town the very next day. I knew all the folks in the place and all about their parents and grand-parents and relatives and all about their business, and they knew all about me too. I just naturally wore that town out. They never thought so much of me either. Everyone called me Tom. I don't suppose I was ever called "Mister" by anyone until I went on the road. Everyone in that town knew all about the time I got drunk and they were always either guying me about it or throwing it up to me when they wanted to bawl me out about something or other. Even Mary did it though it never happened but the once.

That was what started me off this time. I was just bored stiff and wanted to get a job at L like some of the other fellows did. That's about twelve miles from C-. Mary didn't think I ought to go so far away to work even if I could get a little more. When I insisted on working at L- she thought she'd stop me by saying that I just wanted a chance to get drunk again; you see, there were lots of bootleggers in L-. Well, it wasn't that at all, and she made me mad and I left.

Yes, I did go off once before, about a year after we were mar-


-ried. I don't know why I did it; just a fool kid stunt, I guess. I traveled around for a couple of months and saw lots of country but I got awful tired of it after a while. It's interesting on the road but you never see anyone you know and a fellow could starve to death for all the most of them would care. Some of those Us have gotten used to it but I don't like to have to be suspicious of everybody I meet along the road for fear he'll hold me up, or I'll catch some disease from him. Then, too, some of the people you meet think you're just a crook and treat you real suspicious-like. Some of the small town police are downright mean to you; they seem to think that's the only way they can earn their salaries, so it seems.

I got so lonesome for real folks and real cooking and a real home that I finally went back. Mary took me back all right and we made up a story about my going off to the oilfields and most folks believed it. That trip lasted me ten years nearly and now I'm away from home again.

I've been away two months now. Sure, I've had a good time but I'm beginning to get worried about the home folks. It's been lots harder knocking about this time too. I suppose I'm not much of a kid any longer and sleeping out and eating when you can isn't fun any more. I'm ashamed to go back but I guess I'll have to. I just wish there was some way a fellow could be real comfortable at home and yet could see some of the rest of the world occasionally outside of movies and the magazines, or else that a fellow could take along with him a nice comfortable home when he's traveling. I've often wondered about these fellows riding along in a house built on a truck with their whole family along. Do you think they've found out how to do both things at once?[4]

Similarly the desire to flee from all mankind after a prolonged period of contact is a relatively late type of balance to develop. Primitive men are only relatively slightly individualized [5] and like herd-bound cattle function only in the group. Modern man, on the other hand, leads a personal and private life in counter-distinction to his group life or public. While in the presence of the group his sympathies are apt to be called upon at any moment, his personality may be unexpectedly invaded, the expectations of the group regarding his behavior

(82) are a steady undertone in his consciousness and tend at every moment to inhibit, modify, or control in some way the expression of his native impulses and his personal desires. The family is more insistent in its claims than are the secondary groups. In extreme cases, when the individual is unable to escape from the pressure of group attitudes, actual insanity may result.

John N. developed periodic headaches and vague symptoms of mental disturbance which were causing considerable loss of time from work. Two or three times weekly he remained shut up in his room resting under the influence of headache powders. His wife and children were excluded from his room and complete quiet insisted upon.

A review of his social history showed a number of circumstances whose interrelationship became more apparent as the study progressed. He had been an active young fellow, working his own way through high school since his parents lived near the poverty line. He secured a prized clerkship in a large downtown office and married a young woman just graduated from college, two years his senior. They settled in a home inherited from her father and began to raise a family. They were well known and well liked in the suburban community and participated actively in local affairs.

In the course of a few years it became apparent that John had found his vocational level in clerking, his salary rose very slowly, his family soon included four active healthy boys, and he found himself left hopelessly behind in the struggle to keep up with the rising standards of his community. They could not afford the cheapest automobile, the house was no longer in keeping with local standards, they were wholly unable to keep it in repair or to do any refurnishing however badly needed; suitable clothing for church and school could not be financed. The most rigid economy was used, yet each year it was necessary to increase the burden of debt on the home property and the borrowings from friends, tradesmen and finally from loan sharks.

Both John and his wife were only too keenly aware of the sympathetic interest of friends and acquaintances, both felt themselves trapped in some mysterious way. Though they practiced every virtue traditional in their group they seemed fated to perish in some unimaginable fashion. Hard work, sobriety, modest living, fidelity to each other, religious duties faithfully performed, all had availed nothing. The fear of a fifth child haunted them constantly.

John suffered more keenly than his wife. This was, no doubt,


in part due to his somewhat more "nervous" temperament. But as the gravity of the situation grew upon him he began to sense more vividly how completely he had failed to measure up to his college-bred wife, whose inheritance he had slowly consumed to meet the steady deficit and whose most reasonable expectations he could not even approximate. He felt the weight of her pity for him and surmised that eventually from sheer necessity she might be compelled to take some desperate action-something he could not clearly imagine but real nevertheless. Then it was that he fled, via headaches, from all the entangling perplexities of life. Momentarily, at least, no one could expect him to pay debts, climb the ladder of success, play the man in his family and community. Headaches negatived the claims of society upon him and were an actual relief to him since every hateful impossible task was thereby avoided.[6]

Individualization has made possible, perhaps inevitable, the development of the private life of the individual in contrast with his public life. Independence and isolation are necessarily only relative and are balanced against dependence and social contacts. These phenomena gave rise to the ethical problem of egotism and altruism, of self-regarding and other-regarding sentiments. A by-product of the discussion of these ethical problems was the concept of the "socialized personality." In one sense this antithesis may be regarded as a psychological-sociological balance. The socially unconditioned tendencies are frequently in sharp contrast and conflict with the socially conditioned tendencies. Actual behavior depends upon the extent to which the one or the other controls at a given moment. Conscience is the regulator which strikes the balance and determines the degree to which the person is "socialized" in the ethical sense. Here lies a basic inner conflict between the demands of the individual as against those of the person.

This fundamental antithesis in personality, however, is not that between good and evil desires, between selfishness and selflessness, but rather an antithesis between the extent to which the individual tends to include the attitudes of others within, or to exclude them from his consciousness. Between these two extremes he oscillates. Like Walt Whitman, when in an expansive mood, we would include in our sympathies all upon

(84) whom the sun shines, even the common prostitute; then the mood changes and we are tempted to turn our backs on the whole race of humans and seek quiet and contentment among the cattle who are unconcerned about the state of their souls and are free from puerile fears. These contrasting tendencies produce what may be called the social interaction balance: The balance between identification with other human beings and antagonism to them.

This same phenomenon can be viewed from another standpoint. Another human is both a physical object and a social value to us. As a love-object, for example, he may satisfy the sex appetite in the simplest and most direct manner without in any real sense "entering into our lives." On the other hand, the interplay of two personalities of opposite sex may satisfy the craving for social response in the most delicate and subtle fashion with little or no physical relation. The long dissociation of the physical and psychic elements in sex life tends, however, to produce a serious imbalance in personality. Normal, wholesome relations seem to require a combination of the two contrasting tendencies in varying proportions, first one and then the other dominant.[7]

The relations of parent and child reveal a similar balance between needs of each as independent individuals as against their mutual dependence upon each other as satisfiers of affective cravings. At one extreme of the arc lies the pathological state described by such terms as Oedipus and Electra complexes and folie ŕ deux; at the other extreme is complete severance of the filial tie. The complete dominance of either of these tendencies is frequently fatal to the development of balanced personality. There is probably nothing in original human nature which inevitably produces this parent-child conflict. As with the other socially conditioned and polarized systems, this particular differentiation is an element of a specific cultural situation. The points at which Polish youth, for example, found themselves individualized and at which problems of parent-child relationships arose in the group are well indi-

(85) -cated in Thomas' analysis of the phenomena of Polish family disorganization.[8]

The following selections from a verbatim report of an interview with a young Russian sectarian will illustrate the forces which drive one from the immigrant home and attract him back to it

I just dropped in to see you. I have just had a little fight with mother and wanted to get out of the house. No use arguing and getting her sore and myself all heated up. Many times I get mad and leave the house. You see, I don't want to hurt my parents and still I want to live as I think is right, that is, according to American ways. They don't see that my way and I can't see it their way.

I am not much of a Russian, and except to my parents, I never speak Russian. All of my friends are Americans both men and girls. Well, I am American, we live in America. Why shouldn't we live American ways? If I go out in the evening my mother looks sad; she thinks I should stay in the house all the time and read and talk to them. I tell her I can't do that every evening. She says: "Why can't you?"

"Because I am young and want some pleasure."

"Well, I was young too and I stayed around the house."

"Yes, but that was in Russia."

I used to work in Hollywood and took a room there and lived there. She worried so much about me that I felt sorry for poor mother and came back home to live. I don't like to hurt her feelings and generally do as I please without telling things to her. But we sit at home and discuss many things and have many arguments.

For instance, the elders (who with us are something like your priests or ministers) say it's wrong to shave off your beard. They take the Bible and read to me that it says that you must not shave your beard. I read a few lines myself, and sure it says that if you are going to accept it in an ignorant way. But I say, God gave you a mind, why don't you use it? Why don't you figure out the Bible for yourself ? My mother says: "Keep still, you are ignorant; do as you are told, as your fathers before you did." Sure, it's all right if you're going back to those old times, but 1 am not going to.

I sit and figure it out for myself and say to myself, "Poor old folks, they can't help it. It's their habit. It's not natural for them


to cut their beard off any more that it would be natural for me not to cut mine. It's their habit, they brought it from Russia and they must keep it.

The trouble with the young people is an old story and the same in every family. The older people live by religion. They eat by their religion, they dress by their religion, they worship by their religion. They have little education; they are old and hard to change. The young people live by notion. They are born here and are broken into American ways. They lack this sentiment for Russian things and beliefs. They can't absorb two educations. When they are away from home they have to forget all of the Russian teachings and when one can't do that he gets mixed up and gets into trouble. It's a tough game to have to play.

We don't get any help from the older generation. They are old-fashioned and don't understand. They ask: "Why should you get mixed up? Why don't you follow our ways altogether, then you won't get mixed up? You don't know nothing and these American schools don't teach you nothing. Learning can't match up with the wisdom of the Bible and the traditions of your forefathers."

You just don't get anywhere with these arguments. They don't understand what we are up against. Then too I want to marry an American girl and not a Russian girl. That is another story, however. Mother argues violently with me about that. Then I get mad and leave the house; she worries about me then and I hate to hurt her feelings, so I return shortly.[9]

Another balance significant for personality is that maintained among the various "segments" among which the behavior of the person can be thought of as apportioned. Each of these segments corresponds to a social group in which specific activities are carried on and toward which the individual has a definite set of attitudes. Somewhat like the organs of the body, there is real competition between these segments for the available social satisfiers and some method of maintaining a balance among them is required. A study of the individual's expenditures of time and money will reveal approximately the degree of control he maintains over the claims of each of these segments to preëminence. It is in this connection that our commonest examples of imbalance are to be found: the bridge

(87) -fiend, the book-worm, the rake, the fan, the faddist-all evidence the dominance of some one segment at the expense of the others.[10]

The tendency to increase indefinitely the number and variety of interests and activities, and thereby the number of personality segments, is held in check by the tendency of some few of these segments to become dominant and by this means to keep the energy output confined to a relatively few major channels, say (1) a vocational, (2) an avocational (both of which are conventional) and (3) some contrasting unconventional activity (some private vice, as it were) which serves as a general cathartic for repressions. That is, differentiation and integration are themselves balancing tendencies.

It is when we interrelate the phenomenon of dominance with that of balance that many instances of seeming imbalance become "normal" types. Two examples will suffice. The proportion of the sex elements, male-female, appear to be in a permanent state of imbalance in each of the two sexes. It is the dominance of the one or the other which determines the sex of the individual. The two sexes clearly balance about different pivotal points-but each balances in its own characteristic manner. In like case, but much more varied, are the various vocational balances which frequently pivot about very narrow activities, yet without any necessary disorganization of personality. Viewed individually personalities may vary widely with reference to the pivotal center about which their own particular activities tend to oscillate. However, biological or vocational specialization-producing more or less permanent types which are thus eccentrically balanced-requires that the larger world in which these personalities live must itself maintain certain balances, for example, a balance between the number of the sexes, among the various vocations, and so on. That is, the balance systems of one individual must be studied in relation to those of all others who condition his social life. Then it is that the hermit philosopher, the genius, the professional sportsman, the speculator, and others of their kind, are

(88) discovered to be segmental personalities but not necessarily in imbalance because of the dominance of an interest or some particular activity. In those cases in which the narrowing of activities does lead to serious tensions within the individual compensatory activities usually arise more or less spontaneously. Many of these compensations provide only a vicarious sort of experience, as witness the rôle of sports spectacles, movies, and "escape" literature. All of these phenomena can be viewed as providing mental activities which contrast sharply with those of the duller workaday life.

The greater the degree of specialization of a society the more it depends upon the utilization of individuals whose interests, activities, experiences, and attitudes are limited to very narrow fields.

Yet modern social organization is such as to stimulate the individual to include within his experience the widest possible range of experience, to increase indefinitely the scope of his information, to utilize fully every aptitude and ability he may possess, to enter into an ever-increasing number of relationships; to live a "full life." A very large number of new personality-complements have, therefore, developed. Husband-wife, parent-child, employer-employee, and other traditional complements are now supplemented by such relations as sports idol-fan, gang leader-gang member, giver-beggar, cult leader-devotee, teacher-pupil, doctor-patient, lawyer-client, etc. A given individual may maintain a considerable number of such relations. His own personality finds its complements in those of many others. As among these some sort of balance will arise ordinarily by which conflicting claims will be mediated through the ultimate dominance of a relatively few of these relationships.

In general, the patterns of life-organization provided by the cultural groups to which one belongs determine which segments will dominate. A break with this culture group is apt to throw the individual into a state of confusion. As a result he lacks satisfactory methods of dealing with his personal problems and reacts to social situations in incalculable ways. In cases also in which the culture group itself lacks social status its control over its members is at a minimum and individual conduct lacks

( 89) balance. The following case [11] is an example of such extreme lack of control as to appear almost pathological. The interview is in reply to questions regarding use of leisure time and methods of "having fun."

What does I do to play and have fun? Mostly I slap my mother, and she slaps me. We gets mad, slaps hard, hurts each other. Then my mother beats me; I beat back. Then I laugh; then my mother laughs. Then we both sit down and laughs hard and say, "Whee ! Whoopee!"

God, my mother sure is mean. She's only got one hand to slap with. I like her; she likes me; we sticks together. We picks fights with other people and has fun. Old Lady D lives on our street; looks like a truck, she does. When she goes by, I sticks my head out the door and yells, "Hey, garbage wagon, get out of the way." She talks back; I talks back. I gets a board; my mother gets a board and we chase that old stink devil, garbage wagon. If we catches her, we swats her. She sure looks funny when she runs. Some day I'm goin' to beat the garbage out of her.

After we chases old Garbage D-, I laugh loud and my mother laughs loud and laughs and laughs. That's why I get in trouble at school. I laugh loud. just can't help it. Laugh loud all the time at home; talk loud too. Teachers sure love to get mad at me. I likes to make white teachers mad.

I walk in the school room, shake my hips, pull up my dress, scrape my heels. The old teachers sure get sore. Then I say, "Think you are colored!" and laugh and say, "Whee !" I want them to slap me. I'd beat the hot chile out of them. just let one of them touch me.

Yes, I likes to play games. I likes to play baseball. I likes to be catcher. Don't mind if I bust a finger nail or two. I can catch better than any girl at this high school. But, Lord, I sure fall down when I have to run for bases. I'm too faggoty fat and tight in the legs.

No, I won't reduce. All I likes to eat is meat, cheese, potatoes


and sweet things. I sure gets lots of fun out of eating. I eat and eat until I almost bust. Then I laugh and raise the devil with mother. We sure knows how to have fun. We throws plates, bones, spoons, and things at each other. It don't make no difference if a black girl is fat. They just ought to eat and have a good time.

Colored people sure know how to have fun. I play the old piano. You'd like to hear me play. Oh, I can play songs and sing loud and jazzy. My dad is old-fashioned; he don't like jazz. I don't like nothin' else. I play and sing "Pagan Love Song," "Break-away," "I Got Blues," "Girl of My Dreams." Then I make up songs and sings them. My mother gets mad, cause I makes up bad, bad songs and I likes to say bad things. It's fun.

I sure can dance, Lady. God, but I can do a wicked snake hip. When a fat girl does the snake hip, all the boys sure laughs. It's mean the way I roll and shake my hips. I sure can make everybody clap their hands. I'm bad, I is.

Bein' bad is what makes the boys like you. I act racy. I say bad things. Then I laugh and we clap our hands and laugh more. I has lots of fun. It's too bad you ain't colored. I'd take you along.

What does I say bad? I'll tell you; promise you won't get mad. Well, I say to the boys . . . [Tells obscene story].

Black boys know better than to get fresh with me. I'd bust their old tar faces and stick a knife in their guts. When I dance on the stage or for the movies, I goes early, get my make-up on and swap jokes with the boys. I just wear tights, shoes and a piece of lace. Hell, but the men laugh when I do a snake hip and the break-away. I do clog and tap dances too but they ain't so racy. I just loves to dance, I does. I practices all the time. I makes up new steps for fun.

Lots of boys wants to take me home. I say, "Meet me out behind the box cars." But I don't go near them cars. I goes home by myself. I carry a knife; daren't even let my own sweetie walk home with me 'cause I'm scared he'd get fresh and I'd have to rip him open.

I like to go to the movies. I like Clara Bow. She's hot stuff. Just a tight old girl that knows how to love. I likes pictures with lovin' in them. When I sees lovin' on the screen, I just gets happy all over and hollers out loud and laughs loud. Sometimes they try to throw me out but I lies and says, "I didn't do nothin'." Nice folks don't act like I do but they don't have fun.

Yes, I loves to fight. A Mex' says "nigger" to me and I sure


beat and chase him. I don't allow anybody to call me chocolate, tar babe, nigger, or charcoal. I'se colored, I is. I'm not "negros" as the Mexican calls me. I busts everybody's face that calls me that.

How does I fight? I got system. I pushes, kicks, pulls hair, scratches, bites, butts with my head like a Billy goat and punches all at the same time. Lady, you ain't seen me in action; it's just too bad. I staged a knockout last week.

A girl says "siffs" to me. "You got the siffs" [she means syphilis]. God, but I beat hell out of her. I busted her old tar face in, tore her belly open, ripped off her clothes, cracked her chin bone, pulled her old nappy hair and kicked her plenty until she couldn't sit down. It took four girls to pull me off. I wanted to kill that old Felix cat. After it was all over I just laughed and laughed until I hurt. It's fun to fight.

Sure, I go to church. I believe in God and the hereafter. I don't get drunk. Neither does my mother. We never drink anything but beer. I only swears when I gets mad and then I asks God to forgive me. I fights to protect myself from insults. I never picks a fight but I enjoys one when I get started. I know the devil is out to tempt you. Don't you know, he's hidin' by them box cars on Compton Avenue. He calls me every time I pass but I never crawls in.

God says it's wicked to hate but I sure does hate school teachers. I'd like to burn all the school books ever written and do a mean Charleston all around the blazes. I pray to God to forgive me but he just made me to be bad, I know, or he wouldn't send the devil to tempt me so often. The devil seems to tempt our family. He tempted my sister that's older than me and she's bad. She's a street walker, she is.

Right now I've got me a tight old beau that's crazy about me. I meet him down by the box cars after school. I'm prayin' to God that he will keep me good, 'cause, lady, you don't have no idea how much temptation I've got.[12]

Another striking instance of balance in personality is that between inferiority and superiority attitudes which arises in the struggle for status. This struggle, as has been frequently noticed, is not merely for high status, but for some status. The duality of the master-slave tendencies in each of us makes us

(92) first superior and then inferior in our attitudes toward others, according as the situation changes. The more craven the slave the more domineering he is when he becomes master.

It is not necessary to give further specific instances of balance. Their number is legion, varying from group to group and person to person and from time to time in the same person. Many examples will readily occur to the reader: hedonistic-utilitarian tendencies, bias-reason, idealism-realism, expression-inhibition, and so on.

Balance is a phenomenon of organization. The particular types of balance to be discovered in a personality depend upon the ways in which that personality is organized. As far as general schemes are found they are probably best understood as based upon similarity of experience in the first instance and ultimately upon a common inheritance of physio-psychological traits.

The difference between wholesome or well-organized persons and unwholesome or disorganized persons seems in considerable part to depend upon the extent to which their interests, impulses, activities have been brought into some sort of general balance. The well-organized person alternates work and play, sleep and activity, thinking and action, private and public life, self-regarding and other-regarding; his income and expenditures balance, his output of energy balances with his intake of food, and so on. On the other hand, the disorganized person is out of balance in some one or more respects: some interest dominates too persistently, some habit controls, some thought will not down; he cannot balance income and outgo of family funds, or personal energy, or mental activity. Some tendency has become dissociated from the balance-system in which it previously functioned.

In every-day language we frequently refer to individuals, who are not in fact mentally diseased, as "unbalanced." This term is probably most useful in referring to the totality of personality, reserving "imbalance" to refer to the processes or traits, singly or in complexes, involved in the behavior. That is, an unbalanced person is one in whom one or more imbalances are to be discovered. Group norms are obviously the criteria by which such unbalanced persons are judged. The fol-

(93) -lowing case [13] illustrates such lack of balance from the point of view of the particular group and the resulting disorganization in the individual's behavior pattern.

How do you do? My name is Cora-Cora Jackson. Oh, I don't want any Russian name or anything else that's Russian. I try to leave all that behind me. I live most of the time with American people. Today I am visiting my cousin in Russian Town. I don't mind talking to you about Russians, but I try to forget them.

I was ten years old when we came to America. We came on Saturday and on Monday I went to work in a laundry. My father told the boss I was fourteen years old. I looked big and twenty years ago they were not so strict about youngsters.

The work was hard and we were poor. I worked until I was fifteen and never saved a cent. I gave all my money to my folks and they gave me a dime or a quarter on Sunday. Now, what can you get for a dime or a quarter? All the other girls in the laundry spent that much every day. They were all well dressed and they called me a fool. I thought that if I got married I can do as I please.

I was married at fifteen; he was nineteen. We were married in church and had a nice feast and a nice wedding. After the wedding we went to his folks' house. His mother was jealous of me. Her son did not bring his wages any more to her. We started a savings account and she interfered. When my husband and I wanted to go out she wanted to go along too. She was a widow with many small children and she would not let us have a good time. A man is free and when he could not go out with me he went alone-and got drunk every time. Russian Town is full of liquor-even school boys get it. Then he came home and abused me when he was drunk.

I became pregnant. At sixteen years old I have a kid, and two years later I have another and in seven years I have four kids; three girls and one boy. My husband drinks worse than ever; he beats me up; and I can't go to work. I have a black eye, a bleeding forehead, a broken rib. I go to our "preacher" and tell him my husband drinks and beats me. He says: "You go to police, they put him in jail. We can't do any more for you." I say:

"Well, thank you for your good advice. 1 knew that much before

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talking to you. You can't do nothing for me? l am much obliged . . . . Now don't blame me. I am telling you in advance: I am going to leave him and his mother and my children. I will not be beaten up by a drunkard." I slam the door and run out. This preacher goes to my father and says: "She was fresh to me." He turned my father against me and my father and mother won't have anything to do with me.

I can't live at home. I leave my kids and my husband and my folks blame me for deserting them. I rent a room with Americans and live with them. I was terribly lonesome at first. I did nothing right in that house. I did not know how to talk, how to eat at the table, how to visit with them. I was homesick but my parents would not let me in. I suffered for weeks, but week after week and month after month when you are alone you get used to everything and time heals everything.

I cried for my children. I went to see them when the old woman was in church. My heart ached when they cried for me. Then I went back to live with them, and every time that brute would promise to treat me right but it was the same old story over again and again. I left him again and then went to live with him again but about five years ago I had to run for my life. I was twenty-four years old then and made up my mind never to return to him. I can't support the children on $16 a week. It cost that much to support myself. They stay with his people. They don't get the right care and food, but I couldn't do much better for them.

Three years ago my boy was run over by a truck and killed. He lived four days after the accident and died at the hospital. My mother-in-law didn't even let me know about it. My oldest girl 'phoned me and I came out and begged her to let me know where the boy was. But she says: "He is fine, he hurt only a little." I went to the County Hospital and the doctor says that the boy can't live; his head is crushed too much.

I had to go back to work or lose my job. I run back to the boss and beg him to let me off. He gave me a few days off. I run back to County Hospital and find my boy dead. His grandmother there and wants the body. I say: "I am his mother, I see to his funeral." She says: "Don't be a fool. You no more Molokan. You have no money for funeral. Preacher won't come to pray." I say : "Never mind, I bury my son without money. Watch and see." I went to an undertaker and told him my troubles. He said: "Never mind money, I fix your boy for nothing and I bring him to you tomorrow." I go to my father's house and beg him to


let me bring my boy to his house. He says all right, but he and mother left the house and nobody came in all that day and the next day. I stayed all night alone at the house-nobody but my boy's body and I. I thought how hard my own people are. I was never so weary as I was that night. I was through with them all and resolved to tell them after the funeral how I felt about them.

The preacher came and prayed over my boy and they buried him. I gave a funeral feast and went through all the ceremony, crying only for my little son's soul. After the feast my father brings my husband around and the preacher comes with his mother and they wanted me to kiss and make up. I said: "I can't kiss him. I don't know where he was. I can't live with him. I tried many times and he is not the right man." Then I turned to the preacher and said to him and to them all: "Listen, you better go your way and I'll go mine and we don't have to be in each other's road." They were astonished. But the night of the funeral taught me what to do. They pushed my husband toward me and his cousin asked me: "Isn't he going home with you tonight?" and I said: "Certainly not. I am through."

I cried for days, cried until I looked like forty, my eyes red and face swollen. I looked at myself and said: "You better brace up and live your own life." Well, I am but sometimes I get terribly blue and sometimes I laugh at myself and go out and try to forget Russians and to have a good time. I do my best. I would like to take the three girls to live with me and next summer I think I can. My sister may take the youngest girl and the two older ones can stay with me. The oldest is fourteen and she calls me up and tells me that the boys tease her and are fresh with her. The grandmother does not know when the girl goes to a dance hall or when she comes home. She sneaks through the window and fools the old woman at every step. I feel sorry for those children, but what can I do?

The neighbors gossip about me; they say I ran away from the children. I'll show them yet how I am going to take care of them. I have worked in the same laundry now for six years. My boss knows I am a good worker and I can depend on that job as long as I need it. My girls are growing up and soon we will be together.[14]

The concept balance has been used for some time by sociologists when writing on personality. Nevertheless practically little, if any, work has actually been put in motion to test its

( 96) scientific validity, refine its meaning, or demonstrate its value as a tool of analysis. We cannot say at present how far the current use of the word is merely by way of analogy and how far balances can be shown to exist in human personality as they exist in the human body. What is needed is research which will test the hypothesis as the concept of social distance is being tested by Bogardus and others. The term seems fruitful since it allows for many variations and at the same time takes account of the recurrent characteristic traits whose complexes enable us to identify and classify personalities. It also allows us to consider personality both from the static and the dynamic point of view. Its use tends to focus our attention upon those tensions which so largely characterize social behavior.

The number and variety of social activity-systems and the nature and functions of the balances which they maintain are only slightly known at the present time. Though we know that about eight hours' sleep or a certain number of calories for the adult in good health is "sufficient," we do not know the number of magazine articles or the number of friendships or number of days or miles of travel required for his proper social development and functioning. These latter are all more or less interchangeable, while food and sleep have to do with specific needs and cannot be substituted for each other.

The concept of paired attitudes is, of course, entirely too simple to represent the complexities of personality. Personality is not a series or constellation of simple social dichotomies. Yet, just as personality, cannot be described by even the most painstaking list of traits, nevertheless the identification and study of single traits and complexes of traits has been fruitful.[15]

In like manner the study of the various balance systems is a research enterprise with much promise. Any given reaction or attitude is itself a balance struck among all the various systems involved in it. The problem may be approached both by behavioristic and introspective methods. Behavior rhythms are early observable and the alternation of attitudes are generally matters of which one is conscious.


The practical value of the concepts balance and imbalance in personality for purposes of social diagnosis and treatment can hardly be overstated. They are implicit in much of our thinking. In dealing with particular cases of what appear to be imbalance, the question frequently is raised as to whether "conditions won't right themselves in time." This is merely recognition of the somewhat automatic way in which nature trims ship. Yet social workers frequently deliberately set out to bring the counter-balancing tendency into play. As yet, however, we are far from clear as to which are the really significant personality balances, the precise ways in which they behave, the points at which imbalance occurs, their relations to each other, and the methods of conditioning and controlling them.

To describe completely any one of these arcs of activity will require much further research both behavioristic and non-behavioristic. Among the criteria of such paired tendencies may be enumerated

1. The basal condition. That is, the pivotal mean condition about which oscillations tend to occur. This condition is itself probably only relatively stable and subject to change through growth with reference to some larger and more inclusive system. The "balanced diet" is different for a child than for an adult. This use of the concept balance seems to emphasize that proportioning of the various elements or forces which will produce a desired static condition, as in the balancing of scales.

2. The limits of activity. These are the "saturation points" at which reversal of the direction of activity ordinarily occurs. All movement between these two points may be regarded as "normal."

3. Imbalance. This is the condition when activity proceeds in either direction beyond the "normal" arc; it is fundamentally a condition of disorganization in which the two normally associated antithetical elements become dissociated.

4. Character of movement along the arc; the cycle. The length of the period, its regularity, the speed of movement, the variations in the speed of movement may serve as minimum data in this matter; that is, for example, is the movement pendulum-like, a teeter-tauter, or is it stock-market-wise?

5. Conditioning factors, including the effect upon the arc-

(98) of-activity of age, sex, temperament, vocation, cultural background, personal experiences, and so on.

6. Correlation with other processes; that is, relationships to other balance-systems and the extent to which the given balance can be isolated from these others and studied as a distinct unit.

7. Relations to basic appetites and social wishes. Meanwhile it is important to remember that the assumed antithesis between balanced tendencies is probably logical in character and can be only approximately demonstrated in actual life. Precise polarity does not exist in nature. The treatment of the one element as negative and the other as positive is useful as a scientific device; however, these terms simply indicate direction or relativity. All wishes and attitudes are positive on any absolute scale just as all temperatures, however low, are always positive on the absolute scale.

Personality is not in dynamic balance in the sense in which the rotating crank-shaft or flywheel or airplane propeller are said to be in dynamic balance. Such balances as exist in human personality are not merely balances of activities which repeat themselves in unvarying fashion throughout the life of the individual. The regularity of their alternations-their rhythms -are subject to the influence of purpose which is linear rather than oscillatory or circular in character. Every balance system is in a constant condition of reorganization not only of its own constituent parts and readjustment to other arcs of activity but, most important, readjustment to the goal-activities of personality.

The biologists who have studied personality have tended to emphasize the static and dynamic balances, the tropistic movements, the regularity ro1e of the hormones, the behavior of the autonomic mechanisms, and so on. On the other hand, certain of the psychoanalysts have emphasized the linearity of conduct. The non-reversible character of the life of the individual is quite as apparent to him as is its rhythm. The truth of the matter probably lies in the synthesis of these two points of view, The urge to drive ahead towards goals is itself counterbalanced by the tendency to maintain the existing system of balances. Behavior oscillates between these two poles. Thus better adjustments to the milieu are secured but old values are

( 99) not prematurely lost. That, perhaps, is a fundamental personality balance: the personality-growth balance. Personality analysis needs, therefore, to include some description of the social attitude balances which can be conceived as an interlocking group of opposed behavior tendencies. They are dynamic in character and display relatively little of the merely static. Purposeful action tends to disturb the existing balance and leads to reorganization at new levels.


Adler, A., The Neurotic Constitution. (Translated by B. Glueck and J. E. Lind.) New York, 1917.

Adler, A., The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology. (Translated by P. Radin.) New York, 1927.

Child, C. M., Physiological Foundations of Behavior, New York, 1924.

Craig, W., "Appetites and Aversions as Constituents of Instincts," Biological Bulletin, 1918, Vol. XXXIV, pp. 91-107.

Ellis, Havelock, Studies in the Psychology of Sex (3rd edition), Vol. IV, pp. 246-59, and Vol. V, pp. 260-73, Philadelphia.

Freud, Sigmund, Civilization and Its Discontents. (Translated by J. Riviere.) New York, 1930.

Meyer, Adolf, "What Do Histories of Cases of Insanity Teach Us Concerning Preventive Mental Hygiene During the Years of School Life?" Psychological Clinic, 1908, Vol. II, pp. 89-101.

Raup, Robert B., Complacency: The Foundation of Human Behavior, New York, 1925.

Spaulding, Edith R., "Imbalance in the Development of Personality as a Cause of Mental Ill-health," Mental Hygiene, 1920, Vol. IV, pp. 897-910.

Thomas, W. I., and Znaniecki, Florian, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (2nd edition), 2 vols., New York 1927.

Vislick-Young, Pauline, The Holy-Jumpers of Russian Town (in press), Chicago, University of Chicago Press, I93I.

Young, Kimball, "The Integration of the Personality," Pedagogical Seminary, 1923, Vol. XXX, pp. 264-85.


  1. The writer does not mean to rely upon any biological analogies in the present discussion however striking. Their use is merely for graphic purposes. Arguments from physiological or psychological data to sociological data present great difficulties.
  2. Edith R. Spaulding "Imbalance in the Development of Personality as a Cause of Mental Ill-health," Mental Hygiene, 1920, Vol. IV, pp. 897-910.
  3. Adolf, Meyer, "What Do Histories of Cases of Insanity Teach Us Concerning Preventive Mental Hygiene During the Years of School Life?" Psychological Clinic, 1908, Vol. II, p. 92.
  4. Interview with transient man.
  5. Perhaps more so than the usual conception of primitive life; present-day primitives, at least, have considerable individualization as has been shown by B. Malinowski, Crime and Custom in Savage Society, 1926.
  6. Abstract of document in writer's files.
  7. For a good example of sexual imbalance characterized by excessive dominance of the physical elements, see Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex (3rd edition), Vol. IV, pp. 246-59 and Vol. V, pp. 260-73.
  8. W. I. Thomas and F. Znaniecki, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1st edition), especially Vol. IV.
  9. Adapted from Pauline Vislick-Young, The Holy-Jumpers of Russian Town (in press), University of Chicago Press.
  10. This significant concept-dominance-has been developed at length in C. M. Child, The Physiological Foundations o f Behavior. Its applicability to human ecology has been suggested by R. D. McKenzie, "The Concept of Dominance and World-Organization," American Journal of Sociology, 1926; VOL XXXIII, pp. 28-42.
  11. La Doux is a pretty mulatto girl, sixteen years old, of average intelligence (I.Q. 91). She is short, stockily built, rude, uncouth, obscene, and boisterous in manner. She has been excluded from several high schools on charges of impudence, insolence, insubordination, fighting, and profanity She is an agitator, emotionally unstable, capable of deep affection and overwhelming hatred. Her statements are sometimes gross exaggerations and when caught will laughingly admit her error and excuse herself by saying that she is just looking for fun.
  12. Gail G. Clarke, A Study of the Leisure-Time Activities of Maladjusted Negro Girls. (Manuscript.)
  13. The interviewee is a young Russian sectarian woman of peasant extraction. Her dress and manner, however, approximate that of the "modern" American woman. She speaks fairly good English and is straightforward in her account but has a tone of bitterness and discouragement.
  14. Pauline Vislick-Young, op. cit.
  15. It is well to remember, of course, that the existence of a given trait may be wholly problematic. See W. I. Thomas and D. S. Thomas, The Child in America, 1928, particularly the chapter on the personality testing approach, pp. 370-434.

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