When one child in the family takes life as it comes and does the best he can with it, another child might see life as a series of disasters that have to be overcome. Larry lives in fear of these “disasters” but he prides himself on his survival each time. He can’t see what’s wrong with being a survivor, as if the only alternative were “not surviving.” No one has ever told him that there is a middle ground between surviving by the skin of our teeth and total annihilation.
Self-respecting people do not focus mental energy in predicting disasters in the future, They use their adult judgment to solve problems as they arise. They don’t feel like a victim of a disaster that hasn’t even happened yet. They do not arrange to have a disaster so that they can feel a thrill from surviving it.
A major component in Larry motivations is negative excitement. A survivor like Larry is not interested in happy occasions such as weddings or graduations. They are not exciting. Disasters are exciting. Larry cannot wait to survive the next one.
One way to create some negative excitement in his life is to procrastinate almost to the point of no return. At two minutes to midnight, a professional survivor can rush to his own rescue and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Larry is the last one to turn in his reports at work, and the last one to make the plane. He has done it again, but it was all anxiety ridden and didn’t need to be done. He has relieved his boredom at the expense of his cardiovascular system, but soon enough he finds himself right back where he started.
Like most insecure people, the survivor feels he doesn’t deserve to be happy. Negative excitement is the closest he can come. In fact, when his wife tries to make him happy he brushes her off. Happiness is liable to distract him from the disaster waiting in the wings. After a while she leaves him, but that’s all right. She has just given him another disaster to survive and another chance to do what he does best. He will not see how his choices contributed to the current disaster.
The recollection of childhood events play an important role in understanding the individual’s situation in the present. They do not cause the person’s difficulties; they encapsulate certain roles and expectations that get in his way, and these impediments interfere with his perception, his judgment and his problem solving abilities. As a consequence of these impediments, he has more difficulty in coping with life than he would have otherwise.