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Sense of Entitlement


Sense of Entitlement - An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

Always asking for more

When someone with a Personality Disorder experiences the extreme ups and downs of mood swings, they can sometimes believe their own emotional needs are of the utmost importance. They may appear sometimes to care only about their own desires and needs - at the expense of other people around them - or they may habitually prioritize their own needs. This trait is often referred to as a Sense of Entitlement.

Some people with Personality Disorders seem to have a no sense of shame or scruples. They are not afraid to make a fool out of themselves; or they may believe anything that goes wrong is always someone else’s fault. They may appear to lack much awareness of how others might perceive their actions, which can lead them into behavioral territory most people would avoid.

An acute sense of entitlement is often interpreted as selfishness by Nons. However, some Personality-Disordered individuals will forcefully defend their position and their “wants” are expressed as “needs”. This often occurs when a Personality-Disordered person misinterprets their Feelings as Facts, sometimes to a point where they attach a sense of desperation or crisis to everyday desires. This often results in conflicts and Circular Conversations.

The “Compromise Effect”

If you are the type of person who usually tries to meet people halfway, you may be susceptible to giving away too much to someone who has a sense of entitlement. If they make ten unrealistic demands of you, you might agree to five of them to satisfy your sense of fairness. This is known as the “compromise effect” and it’s a bit like the way some parents with poor boundaries deal with a demanding toddler. (“No you can’t have a pony, but you can have chocolate instead of vegetables for supper.”)

Compromising with a person who has an acute sense of entitlement is a form of Intermittent Reinforcement. When rules, rewards and personal boundaries are enforced inconsistently, this usually encourages the other person to keep pushing until they get what they want from you without changing their own behavior. The lesson they learn is that it works some of the time, so they should keep pushing harder.

The “Surprise Effect”

If you think - consciously or unconsciously - that you are some kind of princess, rock star, leader or VIP, you’ll also tend to think that first class service is your right... so you just go there boldly as if you were entitled to be there. And it works! It works through the “surprise effect”. Until someone realizes that you are not supposed to be there, you have already arrived at your destination and the champagne is sipped.

It works mainly with strangers or superficial relationships. You can take someone by surprise once or twice, but you typically can’t go back to the same person with the same game over and over again. People who are familiar with a person who has an acute sense of entitlement often become resistant to them. Therefore, people with a sense of entitlement are often on the lookout for new friends and acquaintances who may be more open to their demands.

W hat Entitlement looks like

  • A mother feeds herself while letting her children go hungry.
  • A spouse frequently spends money from the joint account on luxury items.
  • A teenager defiantly uses drugs and expects his parents to bail him out when he gets caught.
  • A woman shows up at a function or party she has not been invited to.
  • A middle aged man makes no attempt to save for his retirement, assuming his family will pay for everything.
  • An irate customer demands products and services that they have not paid for.
  • An angry parent wants a school to make impractical concessions or arrangements for their child.

How it feels

When you’re in relationship with someone with a sense of entitlement, it can look and feel like they are incredibly selfish. They may prioritize trivial comforts and pleasures for themselves over basic needs that you have, like balancing the budget, putting food on the table, paying the rent, getting enough sleep, keeping up with work commitments etc. Your own desires and interests will often be relegated to the bottom of the pile.

This can leave you feeling taken for granted, devalued, angry, resentful and taken advantage of.

Your frustration is may come out in all sorts of negative ways including sarcasm, skepticism, name-calling, anger and depression. You may intermittently become angry and rant, then disconnect or give in just to end the drama.

How to cope with a Sense of Entitlement

What NOT to do

  • Don’t give in to unrealistic demands just to keep the peace.
  • Don’t expect a personality-disordered person to reciprocate favorable treatment you show them.
  • Don’t try to use logic to argue your way out of it. That will only be interpreted as invalidating their feelings and result in a Circular Conversation.
  • Don’t stay in any situation or room where your basic needs such as food, sleep, shelter, medical attention, supportive relationships and safety from violence is threatened or withheld.
  • Don’t feel rushed into making or denying commitments or decisions. It’s OK to say “I’ll have to think about it”.
  • Don’t fall into black and white thinking. People with a sense of entitlement also have some legitimate needs and concerns.

What TO do

  • Recognize the characteristics of a sense of entitlement and understand where it comes from.
  • Accept that you are not going to be able to meet all of the needs of any person. That is especially true in the case of people who have a Personality Disorder. Acknowledge the good you do, without beating up on yourself for having sensible limits.
  • Take care of your own needs as well as the needs of others. It is just common sense to establish patterns and choices that are healthy in the long run.
  • Talk to others whom you trust about what is being asked before saying “yes” or “no”.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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