Subconscious Motives for Lateness

Some power and love game players consciously savor the consequences of being late. However, most people who are motivated to be late are unaware of the positive feelings they have when they think about lateness and its consequences: they act out these motives subconsciously.

This may be the result of a general lack of emotional self-awareness. Most people are focused on their thoughts and actions. They may pay attention to emotional responses that they didn’t expect, e.g. feeling sad in a situation that they usually feel happy in. They become even more likely to be aware of an emotion if it strong enough to make them want to act in a way that is inconsistent with their self-image: e.g. when anger makes the “nice” person want to yell at someone, or sadness makes the self-controlled person burst into tears.

In the case of some power and love game players, subconscious game playing can also be the result of more specific processes of denial, suppression and repression. When people who consider themselves to be good, caring, people become aware of enjoying the fact that they are keeping someone waiting, they feel guilty, ashamed and confused: “What’s wrong with me?!” They may try and summon up motivation to be on time, may think, “I want to be on time! I don’t want to keep them waiting.” But their motivation for punctuality gets undermined by the game player pleasure.

In order to suppress the guilt, confusion, and frustration they may ignore the pleasure they feel. Their attention may turn from the guilt-inducing thought that they are keeping others waiting to distracting pleasurable thoughts: “Hmm, what shall I have for dinner?” They can then attribute the pleasure from keeping others waiting to pleasure from the distracting thought.

With repetition, this suppression happens so quickly that the enjoyment no longer makes it into the person’s awareness; suppression becomes repression. The repressed emotions remain, however, unconsciously motivating lateness. If these un-self-aware game players become aware of the guilt that motivates the repression, they misinterpret it as a commendable empathic response to the idea of keeping others waiting. When the game player finally arrives, others may pick up on non-verbal cues such as a power game player smirk, but the player is only aware of having thought “I want to be on time.” and feels maligned and mistreated when others don’t accept his apology.

The fact that people who are motivated to be late don’t necessarily make a conscious decision to keep others waiting can also limit their self-awareness. For example, when a rebel imagines someone waiting for her she immediately feels more powerful; she may never think “I’m going to make you wait for me!” This also creates deniability. If others accuse her of manipulating them, she can truthfully say, “What do you mean?!! I never decided to be late!”

Similarly, self-saboteurs don’t think, “I’m going to be late so that I will get fired.” or, “I’ll be late so that he will reject me now before he discovers that I’m really unlovable.” They imagine being fired or rejected and feel relief. The lack of verbal articulation makes it easier for them to deny responsibility for the outcome and to adopt a self-righteous victim stance.

Power and love game players may also be unaware of their motives because they are motivated by subconscious emotions automatically triggered by the words “late” and “on time.” As a result of repeated pairings of the thought “late” with pleasure created by the idea of keeping others waiting, just thinking “I’m going to be late.” directly triggers the pleasure. The game player no longer needs to think about keeping others waiting to experience the good feeling. As a result, game players who are motivated by subconscious word-triggered emotions don’t have to wrestle with guilt or shame about being a “bad” person.

People who consciously want to be on time but who harbor unconscious rebel motives become victims of an internal vicious cycle of rebel self-defiance. As a result of experiences with controlling authority figures, they associate the words “should” or “have to” with coercion. When they think, “I should get up now.” or “I’ve got to leave now.” they react with defiant anger that motivates them to be late. Instead of focusing on getting to their destination, they direct this anger onto themselves for resisting, just like the authority figures did: “I’m so lazy!” In this way, what once was an interpersonal conflict becomes an intra-psychic one.

To summarize, people may not be aware of their motives for lateness because of:

    • a general lack of emotional self-awareness;
    • denial, suppression and repression resulting from guilt about feeling good about keeping others waiting;
    • Not articulating in words a decision to make others wait; and/or
    • Being motivated by subconscious emotions triggered by the words “late” and “on time.”

People who consciously want to be on time but who harbor unconscious rebel motives become victims of an internal vicious cycle of self-defiance.
Now that we understand the possible causes, we can consider methods for overcoming chronic lateness.