The replacement child
A middle-aged young man came to see me for a consultation. He was worried and puzzled by the fact that throughout his adult life he kept resigning from jobs he had struggled to obtain. Well, I thought, he was probably one of those people I had come to consider “quitters”. However, as he went on to describe these situations in more detail, I recognised that he was not seeking “novelty”, adventure—rather, he was reacting to an underlying unconscious feeling that the new position represented a triumph he did not deserve to enjoy—what one might describe as an experience of “non-entitlement”. Finding this definition brought to mind a sense of familiarity: I had met other patients who fell into this category. If “quitters” elicited in me a degree of irritation, those patients that I diagnosed as struggling with an unconscious feeling of non-entitlement made me feel a degree of sympathy and pity—plus a sense of failure and helplessness that I had experienced when trying to help such patients in the past.