Feel Entitled? Watch Out for a World of Unhappiness

Who doesn't remember the Stanford swimmer who got off very lightly after raping an unconscious co-ed?  Or, if you're old enough, the preppy killer, Robert Chambers, who strangled his girlfriend and used "rough sex" as his defense.  He's now in jail for 19 years on a drug charge.

So what's up with all these people who feel so entitled?  (And the people who grant it to them, like judge Aaron Persky, who faced recall after his decision.)

Says Joshua Grubbs, the primary author of a new paper on entitlement and a recent PhD graduate in psychology from Case Western Reserve, “At extreme levels, entitlement is a toxic narcissistic trait, repeatedly exposing people to the risk of feeling frustrated, unhappy and disappointed with life."

Entitlement—a personality trait driven by exaggerated feelings of deservingness and superiority—may lead to chronic disappointment, unmet expectations and a habitual, self-reinforcing cycle of behavior with dire psychological and social costs, according to new research by Case Western Reserve University.

In a new theoretical model, researchers have mapped how entitled personality traits may lead to a perpetual loop of distress, according to newswise.com.

Some call it a damning recipe for happiness.

We've all known them.  Growing up in an affluent part of the country, I was exposed to the kids whose fathers gave them brand-new convertibles when they turned 16 (sadly, mostly because they were never around), or the ones who expected salespeople to wait on them first (hmm, I'm thinking of a certain presidential candidate).

“Often times, life, health, aging and the social world don’t treat us as well as we’d like. Confronting these limitations is especially threatening to an entitled person because it violates their worldview of self-superiority,” said Grubbs, now a clinical psychology professor at Bowling Green State University.
Reacting to perceived injustices, entitled people may direct their anger outward, blaming others, while reassuring themselves of their own specialness—thus beginning the cycle again.

Here's what the study found:
  • First, entitlement creates a constant vulnerability to unmet expectations.
  • Unmet expectations then lead to dissatisfaction and other volatile emotions. 
  • Emotional distress demands a remedy, leading to the reinforcement of superiority.
“Reassurance stemming from entitlement can provide temporary relief from the very distress caused by entitlement,” adds Julie Exline, co-author of the study and a professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve.

But these benefits are short-lived; long-term consequences associated with entitled behavior include poor relationships, interpersonal conflicts and depression.

“The entire mindset pits someone against other people,” Exline notes. “When people think that they should have everything they want—often for nothing—it comes at the cost of relationships with others and, ultimately, their own happiness.”


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