The Counterphobic Six

Negative Expectations

Susan Sarandon often plays a Six or Seven and in the movie Safe Passage she plays a marvelous example of a Counterphobic Six.

Here are some clues that tell you that you're watching a Counterphobic Six. First, on the high side, there's this wonderful loyalty to her family. In spite of the fact that she has kicked her husband out, she keeps in constant contact, calls him at 5 am to share her fears (of course) and takes care of him even while scolding and ranting at him. Towards the end of the movie she takes a civil service test. She passes but one of the questions is "Who are you?" She can't get past the group: She writes that she is the mother of seven sons and then has nothing more to say. That's how a Six can identify with the group.

Her fears are obvious throughout, but with the Counterphobic Six, there is a lively ambivalence. When they are afraid, they must do what they fear. Fear is not only no reason to abstain from an action, it is the very reason they must take action. The fears are not about real things. Real crises Sixes often handle quite well. As one Counterphobic Six friend of mind remarked. "When I was in the hospital with a serious injury, everyone remarked on how well I handled it. But they didn't know I had been preparing for this all my life." Sarandon handles the news that her son may have been killed quite well. She holds the family together, she continues to work; she doesn't collapse or go hysterical.

But the movie starts with her calling her estranged husband at 5 am about a premonition dream. She gets the person who is going to be harmed wrong three or four times, but that really doesn't bother a Six. There's danger out there, we have to be on the lookout because it is going to strike, we just don't know where. As Colin Powell spoke for our very Sixish military, "Our greatest danger is the unknown enemy." And he put our money where his mouth is. The Pentagon has decided as an official policy that we now must be ready to fight wars on two fronts. When one enemy (USSR) collapses, two spring up to take its place! That's a Counterphobic Six trance.

Going into Action

The negative expectations are integral to any Six. Murphy's Law is a cosmic pattern. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, and it's going to be worse than we can possibly imagine. But the Six doesn't stop there. They go looking for what can go wrong. They interpret everything in the light of the danger they know is there. The Counterphobic Six goes into action and attacks that danger that they know is there. The two vivid examples in Safe Passage, of course, are the carrying her son off the field and almost killing the dog to defend her son. And not just killing, but hand to tooth combat! Notice in the Counterphobic Six, when they are reflective, they are afraid, but when real danger comes, they don't think at all. They act and they act impulsively and even foolishly. Sometimes this danger-defying activity can be sustained. I know a young Counterphobic Six who is scared to death of heights. His job? He washes the outside windows of very tall buildings. Likes the rush, I guess.

Sarandon does the restless, edgy quality of the Counterphobic Six very well. You can feel that her life isn't working. She has that victim look so prized in thriller movies but she is the victim of her own fantasy. Notice the power of her fears: she holds the family together, one woman against eight men. They don't have a chance. She whipsaws them with threats and neediness. They all want to take care of her and she simultaneously takes care of and slightly bullies them - and her type Seven husband won't see the pain of what's going on, but is very good at playing with the kids.