The main pilots as basic survival responses

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The main pilots as basic survival responses

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Postby Kendrix » Thu May 06, 2021 2:38 pm

So recently I was reading this book about the nature of trauma & how it what it does is to get you "stuck" in survival mode, with all the implications that has including tiredness, reactiveness & physiological stress.

It occurred to me that the 3 main pilots each kind of represent of the the three 'F's, or have that predominant.

Shinji - Flight
Obvious 'I mustn't run away' jokes aside, this shows in how nervous, preoccupied and on-edge he is most of the time.
He's generally anxious and avoidant, frequently asking the nearest person what to do, he's always worried about doing something wrong, displeasing others, hurting them...
Basically because the caregiving wasn't consistent when he was a kid - first Yui dies, Gendo disappears for a week, becomes absorbed in his work, and then full-on abandons him. 10 years later some unspecified incident during the habitual grave visit ended what little occasional contact they had. As far as he could tell, they randomly disappeared or rejected him, so now he's worried with any relationship that they're gonna do the same.
Hence also the people-pleasing tendencies & the bland, half-assed answers ("I don't not like it") cause if you express an opinion you might be disagreed with. In the wilderness animal babies that are abandoned just die so it does feel like an annihilation threat - hence why he is willing to put up with extreme painful shit to not be rejected, & on a few occasions reacts poorly if he is (EoE)
If you're always acting like a tiny rodent chased by a dinosaur, you're also going to have little sense of responsibility since you have the distorted perception that you can do nothing, neither harm nor good.
The book really made me appreciate EVA as a war story more, it's super common for ppl to flip out & do atrocious things after the death of a comrade (such as Shinji does when Kaji, Rei and Kaworu all die in short succession) but even people who reasonably & rationally could have done nothing & didn't do anything wrong tend to have an exaggerated sense of self-blame (like feeling responsible for what happened to everyone in the latter half of the series)


Asuka - Fight
Generally the purpose of aggression is a) self-defense and b) to ensure fair treatment.
We get angry when we are ignored or treated unfairly. So no wonder poor Asuka is just full of pent up anger.
From ep 20 onwards she just can't keep it in anymore & it just comes out in random bursts of rage until she's out of energy to shout.
But even before that she has a super aggressive, hypercompetitive attitude.
The thing that stuck with her the most about all that unfortunate stuff with her mother is that she also "killed" an effigy of her.
I've once had a physically abusive parent make a big show of destroying my favorite toy in front of me so I know that a child will totally feel such aggression as directed at themselves. A small kid would be startled by that sort of strong antagonism.
Aggression has the advantage that it can be motivating - Out of the 3 she's the one who looked functional on the surface & was able to achieve stuff, but being a shutin seems almost better compared to the with the numbing of empathy that comes with being stuck in rage mode.
She basically sees the world as a tough dog eat dog place, no time to worry about anyone else's feelings cause no one but her will worry about hers.
She's even aggressive or at least lowkey dismissive of her roommates because early on, her caregivers that could have been the only source of comfort were also objects of terror. In ep 22 we can see how she's torn between wanting the comfort of her various parental figures & viciously rejecting them as a threat.
So even though she looks popular on the surface she only has one real friend (Hikari)

Rei - Freeze
The freeze reaction tends to be forgotten & misunderstood even though it's actually the oldest, most fundamental one that we fall back to when all others are exhausted.
Ppl don't tend to see how it's useful - but imagine you are in a hiding place. If you freeze & don't move, you will probably not be found. Or consider that you're actively having violence done to you & can't escape. You're already being hurt, so your main priority is not to do something that will cause you to be killed, too. & it helps you block out the suffering & not having to feel it in full.
Another function is a kind of 'power save mode' when there's no one to care for you - in nature, that could be an animal being separated from its mother. In the modern world it could be a neglected child that no longer seeks out contact or reacts to the caregiver's coming & going cause they no longer expect care.
So obvsly Rei was living in an environment where she had to endure painful procedures & deprivation day in, day out. so she just completely numbed out so she can do her job. But as a result she has a bit of a disconnect from her physicality & her actual feelings.
She's loyal to Gendo but also has an ambivalence towards him that only grows stronger as the show progresses.
Inwardly, she's very sad, resigned & pessimistic - much like Shinji she protects herself from frustration by trying not to want or expect anything in the first place.

Basically, many of the traumatized soldiers or disturbed children described in the book reminded me of our trio in various ways.

Mari would then probably be one of those 10% who don't have as much of a fear response. A trait often found in both psychopaths and heroic firefighters. Typically those are ppl who are not easily aroused or startled become risk-takers & adrenaline junkies to find something that does feel stimulating & exciting - They tend not to worry much, live in the present, have low inhibitions and love to learn new things. Sounds just like Mari!
The other 90% of ppl however, would probably come out of combat like one of the OG trio.

Misato is what a Shinji-like response looks like on an extrovert. Introverts tend to be more easily aroused to begin with so it's easier for them to get all nervous. For an extrovert it's more common for excess nervous energy to come out as hyperness & exciteability. Misato is actually also always putting on a likeable image to be accepted. She covers her inner fear of abandonment with bluster by day and copious amounts of booze by night, and instead of clinging, she tries to keep attachments superficial, so that if someone leaves it doesn't hurt.
Last edited by Kendrix on Fri May 07, 2021 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Alas poor Kaworu, I knew him well...

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Re: The main pilots as basic survival responses

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Postby Arcadia's legacy » Thu May 06, 2021 3:28 pm

So what about Kaworu? In his episode, he seemed quite collected and unfazed despite Unit-01's attempts to stop him. It's not until he encounters Lilith that his demeanor briefly changes from confusion, but after that, even with Shinji about to kill him at his own request, he still responds in much the same manner as he usually does
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Re: The main pilots as basic survival responses

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Postby Kendrix » Thu May 06, 2021 4:08 pm

Not enough data/screentime.
Most of the time he seems pretty collected/ in-control, we don't rly see him panic or get under pressure - though he expresses a certain degree contemplative melancholia & resigned fatalism, he generally comes across, or is presented as more together than the main pilots, at least in the OG series.
He's usually more deliberate & collected than reactive. In the end he makes the decision based in idealism and choice, while Shinji just reacts & can't overcome his survival instinct, & Shinji is probably envious of that or feels its yet another thing that makes Kaworu better & himself undeserving of survival.
If you just react on old patterns you're like a button being pressed; if you make a decision out of thought, you have a certain freedom that others don't.


If you wanna discuss rebuild (where we do see him caught off guard once or twice) it would probably get too spoilery for this subforum, but i don't think it would really fit the scope/topic anyways, Kaworu isn't really about survival responses. He's more concerned about trappedness, meaninglessness and futility much more than he is scared of death (if that scares him at all.)
Alas poor Kaworu, I knew him well...

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Re: The main pilots as basic survival responses

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Postby Blockio » Fri May 07, 2021 10:52 am

It's certainly an interesting observation. I'm not sure it can be extended to the other pilots, but for the main trio, I can see it
I can see why Gendo hired Misato to do the actual commanding. He tried it once and did an appalling job. ~ AWinters
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Re: The main pilots as basic survival responses

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Postby Zusuchan » Fri May 07, 2021 4:05 pm

The main observation is pretty interesting, but I'm not sure about a few details. For example, I'd say Asuka's hyper-aggressiveness is also due to wanting to be the best and needing to prove that she is the best, not just to everyone else but to herself too-then again, that's sort of a part of the "fight" response as well, so that's not a big deal.

Rei I think is partially fucked-up due to her sad upbringing and tragic nature, but also due to just being like that. By this I mean that while her quiet, slightly-to-largely subservient, "cold" nature and obvious depression are results of her own upbringing, I have to wonder if there's not a part of her that just is kind of quiet, introspective, melancholic already, due to her very nature as being as close to a literal "Daughter of Lilith" as anyone can really get. So while I'd agree that she uses some "freeze" responses, I think her basic nature is ultimately a larger answer to her qualities as a human being.

Misato doesn't come off as having Shinji's "flight" responses for me that much. She acts precisely the way she acts because that's just who she is, and while she obviously has some deep-seated mental issues, I think that an unwillingness to seriously tackle issues is the extent to which she has any "flight" tendencies.

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Re: The main pilots as basic survival responses

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Postby dzzthink » Fri May 14, 2021 3:03 pm

I'm also been thinking about how to classify each character as well based on some form of psychological framework. At first, I wondering if they could be represented by different mental disorders, but then with each character, there isn't enough to match with any diagnostic criteria, and each experiences depression at some point in the story when faced with adversity. I think it would make sense to link them with their emotional responses, ie. how they react to trauma, or how trauma determines how they react. Each of the extremes in their behavior pinpoints some deep-seated trauma that we can all pretty much relate to some degree. But I'd like to point out that both Asuka and Shinji both react with fight and flight (or catatonia and agression). The most iconic moments for flight would be Asuka lying almost catatonic in a bathtub or that sad Shinji meme of him sitting hunched over in a chair. On the opposite side of the spectrum we have Asuka elevator scene or Shinji's Kitchen hell scene.


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