Dr. Goschi's Blog

Entitlement or Simply Entitled

The buzz words out of Washington today are all about cutting back on Entitlements.  It isn’t significant whether I agree or disagree.  What strikes me about this struggle is deeper than just budget cuts.  Let’s face it, any of us who run a household know how to do budget cuts.  However, it seems to me a metaphor of deeper psychological issues with which a large portion of our society suffer from.  It is known as feelings of entitlement.  Let me explain.

I’m not sure how this issue has evolved among our younger generations but the word entitled comes to mind.  Perhaps it’s the echo of so many parents telling their children that they are great no matter how poorly they have performed.  Or, all the tophies each child has accumulated for just participating in sports.  The schools seem to mirror this attitude with teachers being told they cannot flunk students.  Perhaps it’s our country telling U.S. citizens that we are the best and deserve to have all  of our needs met.

These practices result in children growing up with no idea of what it means to succeed or fail.  Some of the greatest individual accomplishments have been made through hard work and sacrifice.  Extremely successful people will often confess that they have overcome serious setbacks, abuse or impediments that have almost destroyed them.  These same people fought harder to succeed rather than giving up.  One psychology professor at Loyola University, Dr. Dan McAdams, who has done such research – “The Redemptive Self” highlighted the personal struggles of highly successful people like Oprah.

What worries me is the seeming epidemic of  individuals who think  they are “entitled” to everything.  From a cheap mortgage on a house, to a high paying job without commensurate experience, to a marriage in which their spouse adores them no matter how beastly they behave.  There is a real disconnect for certain people.  I’ve heard speculation that this is due to a rise in Narcissism.  I cannot completely agree with this conclusion.  For this sort of full blown pathology to be present you must have had a Narcissistic parent or come from a seriously disturbed family.  I don’t see that many narcissists walking into my office so I can’t believe that our culture is so full of this sort of characterological behavior.

Rather, I postulate extreme self-interest  is related to rewards being so entirely disconnected from behavior.  Many parents push their children to perform without the child’s full understanding of why they should do well and for whom.  “Am I doing this for my parents or for me?”  Some children are highly self-motivated while others are not.  Perhaps the child who isn’t may be more artistic, more social, or simply more contemplative.  I believe there is a place for all different types of personalities and that eventually we find our own way.

However, if we have been told our whole lives that we deserve everything without earning the prize then there is a huge problem.  Perhaps it has been the decades of everything just comes too easy that has caused the disconnect for us.  I’m struck by the scores of individuals who still think they are “entitled” to a home which they cannot afford.  Talk to anyone who has survived the Great Depression and they will speak candidly about how entitled they perceive the subsequent generations.

I suppose the solution is simultaneously at a familial and social level.  Somehow the family unit has to teach children that not everyone is a super star.  That each person has strengths and weaknesses.  And, that is ok to be flawed.  Let’s normalize that concept so that moving forward individuals have a more realistic concept of success.  Additionally, let’s pair hard work with success.  I mean intellectually, physical and emotional hard work.   I don’t like the arbitrary distinctions that are implied today.  There are vastly different ways to perform “hard work” and in my opinion they are all valuable.

Feelings of entitlement are abstract constructs to be sure.  Thus, it’s quite difficult to nail the correct answer in a few paragraphs.  But, I believe it’s important enough to start thinking about.  I am seeing more relationships, marriages, jobs and children suffering as a result of these pervasive attitudes.  Perhaps you have your own thoughts which can facilitate growth in this area – don’t be afraid to voice that opinion.

As always don’t struggle with issues on your own.  Reach out for help from a loved one ora professional.  Help is simply a phone call away.  Contact Dr. Goschi directly at (312)595-1787.

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