Of course, the actual need to survive trumps the search for feeling and purpose. Survival behavior, as far as the body goes, is intended to start quickly and end quickly. After the survival behavior, autonomic balance can be restored to the body, and pleasure and satisfaction becomes possible again. But for most of us, survival is not just a goal, it is a mode of perceiving. How this comes about is discussed below.
Ideally, young children feel danger only very rarely. It is the parents role to manage survival for children. Children need to see their parents as indestructible. An extended period of external security allows for an internal security to develop that allows creativity and achievement as an adult.
Unfortunately, we have developed a very competitive society in which almost everyone must struggle to find a place, even though objectively, people are safer than ever. That struggle is felt by the body as a struggle for survival. Working backwards, parents often try to prepare kids to succeed in this struggle by growing up fast and growing up precocious, or ahead of other children. However, this pressure and hurry undermines the sense of security and safety. So, ironically, even children from privileged families tend to be survival oriented.
Children from families where there is not much material security can still be secure if the parents make it clear that it is not the children's responsibility to 'hurry up and fix things'. Quite commonly, though, the parents' anxiety does leak out, and children feel they must contribute to survival.
Survival mentality limits a person to two types of motivation: 1) something must be done, or 2) doing something will provide an advantage in the struggle to survive. Doing something for pleasure or satisfaction is not conceivable. The creative motive is largely lost though it may surface in ingenuity. True altruism is not possible though it may simulated. And of course love is not possible.
An obvious survival behavior is doing for money what one really does not want to do. A less obvious survival behavior is the struggle to become rich and powerful. Some very rich people work on survival until they die. A good practice is to review activity that is not enjoyed and see if the felt motivation (as opposed to rationalization) is survival or security, and whether survival or security is really at stake. Trying to get by with as little as possible is a survival orientation just as much as trying to make as much as possible--they are both ways of ensuring a surplus..
At some point, extensive physical orientation toward survival becomes fixed in the body. Survival mentality produces sympathetic shift, poor grounding, an incapacity to relax, and incapacity for pleasure. A survival orientation can have the long term benefit that the practical usefulness of things is understood very well, and that can be a resource for others. But for the individual, practical application often is hampered by hurry and poor mastery. That is because, if survival is at stake, getting something done is everything, how something is done is irrelevant. Injuries are common because the body may be flung at a problem willy-nilly. This contrasts of course with bringing about contact, pleasure, and comfort.
With survival, 'quantity fights quality' Low quality food, goods and services may be so compelling that one chooses them even when higher quality is affordable or available. Hoarding or stockpiling of marginal items may consume the attention and no energy or interest is left in making things more satisfying. The supposed benefit of feeling secure never materializes because security come from a quality of experience not a material surplus.