From a very early age, Manny Furious was grumpy. If you picture young Manny Furious at all, you must picture him at, say, five years old, with a persistent and inconsolable case of bed head, and a perpetual look of perturbation on his face. And squinting, lots of squinting, because it would be several more years before anybody realized he couldn’t see without glasses.
The haze of perpetual perturbation, though–that followed him everywhere. It was a signal of how he just didn’t get on with reality. He couldn’t fathom why existence would exist if everything was so uncomfortable all the time. He couldn’t conjure a point or a reason for it.
Fear. There was also lots of fear within that boy. Though grown-up Furious, himself, doesn’t actually remember this aspect of his early youth, credible sources who were there at the time maintain that Young Manny Furious was afraid of his own shadow. Literally. But Furious always figured this must’ve been before he was five years old, as he does have a lot of memories of being five, but none of them include him entering the fight or flight response at the sight of his own penumbra.
Anyway, fear, too is uncomfortable. So while he may not have walked around in a state of persistent psychological trauma, he was just, again, uncomfortable all the goddamned time. And, as such, he became a sucker for relief. If you wanted to convince or coerce him into doing something, all you had to do was put him in a situation where you were in a position to increase his discomfort, make him fear that even more discomfort was on its way, and then offer him some kind of relief… or at least some kind of promise thereof.
For example, let’s take a look at how Young Manny Furious, age 5, was convinced to attend his first day of kindergarten. First, he was awoken before he desired or was even ready to be awoken. But, also, his lovely mother, Mama Furious, would not allow him to fall back to sleep. This combination of being forced awake, without being allowed to fall back asleep, of course, was placing him in an uncomfortable situation. Therefore, when Young Manny Furious insisted on resisting his wake up call and to get ready for school, Mama Furious had successfully placed herself in a position to agitate his discomfort.
“If you don’t get up and get ready to go to school on time…” she said, skillfully allowing the mystery and tension of the rest of the threat to accumulate. “Santa WILL NOT be bringing you presents for Christmas, this year.”
Holy Shit! Young Manny Furious thought to himself. There was no worse fate you could possibly imagine. A Christmas with no presents? No Ghostbusters action figures?! No Ninja Turtle van?! No Jean Claude Van Damme movies?
Was there anything more uncomfortable than not getting Christmas presents?
Was there even a point to living if such discomfort was all there was too look forward to?
The point here, though, is you see Young Manny Furious’s mother implementing stage 2 of getting Manny Furious to do something–tightening the screws and suggesting that if he did not do the uncomfortable task of getting up, getting ready and getting to school on time, there would be even more, even larger, even crueler discomfort in the form of a lack of Christmas presents.
Frankly, at this point, the job was done. Mama Furious could’ve just let the idea of no Christmas presents waft about the empty, stupid recesses of the weak, fearful mind of Young Manny Furious for a few moments. It would’ve been enough to rouse him out of bed and into school. But, being his mother, she was already well-aware of his fragile psychology. She already knew that even if she had left it there–with the idea of no Christmas for Young Manny Furious–it may have gotten the desired result, superficially. But there would’ve been a certain motivation, or a certain impetus, missing from his actions. He would simply be going through the motions of getting out of bed and into school with the least amount of effort or investment he could muster.
In order to cultivate the most engagement and investment possible, Mama Furious implemented Stage 3 of getting Manny Furious to do shit–she gave him some sort of promise of relief.
“Listen,” she told him, as he began to rouse himself out of bed. “If you get up and got to school, when you come home, you can stay up a little late and have some New York Seltzer.”
Or the promise of it, anyway. By that age, Furious had yet to have any actual soda, with sugar. His parents didn’t allow any in the house. So, New York Seltzer was what his dumb, little imbecilic mind thought of as a “treat.”
So he uttered a few “motherfuckers” under his breath, got up, got dressed and went to school. (NB that this would pretty much be his morning routine for the next 60 years or so.)
And when he got home, he was allowed to stay up until 10:00pm and there was a bottle of Root Beer flavored New York Seltzer waiting for him in the kitchen.
A few months later, Santa did indeed bring him a toy version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles van, AND, a poster of a half-naked Jean Claude Van Damme flexing in a karate pose of some sort, his joy at which, looking back, probably convinced every member of his family that he was gay. A conviction that still seems to linger in the minds of some….
Needless to say, he learned his first lessons about discomfort and motivation from that experience. But there would be many more.