What are we entitled to?

As you can imagine, people come in to my office looking for help for specific problems.  As we begin sessions, sometimes clients don’t make progress as quickly as they want.  I often find that the cause of this slow progress is often one (or more) unconscious assumptions.

There are a handful of these unconscious assumptions that I tend to see with some frequency.  I’m going to discuss one of them today, which is a sense of entitlement.

Entitlement is a word that engenders images of high social class, extreme wealth, and almost limitless opportunity.  Think of royalty or rich and famous personalities.

Entitlement is related to a sense of deserving and a rightness to the order of things.

“I am in a specific class of people, above or beyond others in specific ways, and therefore “x” is due me.  Of course I’ll get it, it’s my right, I deserve it.”

If you can’t identify with this sense of what I’ll call Royal Entitlement, you’re not alone.  I can’t either.

However, you don’t need to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to have an assumption of entitlement; there is a much more subtle side to it as well.

It can happen when one thinks they are smarter than other people.  “Of course I won the debate, I’m much smarter than that other person.”

Or when you think you have more power or influence than the others.  “Of course I’m going to get my way with this proposal, I know everyone on the board.”

It can also happen when you think you have worked harder or more thoroughly than others.  “Of course I’m going to get rich, I’ve been working 80 hours a week for 20 years.”

This subtle type of entitlement can also happen in unexpected ways, like when you’ve been through tougher experiences than other people.  “Of course things are going to work out in my favor, so far my life has made the Greek tragedies look like bad comedy.”

The reason this last one is one of the most difficult to address, is because it presumes a sense of fairness.  That just because you have suffered greatly, that you are now deserving of a bump-free ride to success, a free pass to “even things up” or “balance things out.”

Even though we believe in justness and fairness, and we act accordingly because it is the right/ethical thing to do, this fairness (as you are probably well aware) is not mandatorily dispensed back to us.

Unfortunately, success and ease don’t often come as compensation for a rough life.

Expecting the solution to your problem to simply drop into your lap is often not enough.  Hoping, wanting, and even praying for the fix to occur suddenly and miraculously, because you deserve it for whatever reason, is not enough.

Now, I really do believe that miraculous things happen, that sometimes the perfect solutions do drop into our laps, and things are “fixed” suddenly and permanently.

But from a purely realistic perspective, these occurrences are the exception rather than the rule, especially when we’re wanting that miracle so that we don’t have to choose and be wrong, or to choose to do hard work that doesn’t pan out.

No matter how we arrive at this sense of entitlement, and no matter how subtle, as an unconscious belief it will be an obstacle to your transformation simply because it removes an important sense of responsibility that can only rest with us.

We must re-evaluate what our responsibilities actually are, with an openness to resetting our expectations.

We start by determining what we actually ARE entitled to.

As US citizens, for example, we are officially granted the right to life and liberty, and we are entitled to make choices in pursuit of our own flavor of happiness (inside the bounds of law, of course!).

And I would argue that our entitlement ends right about there as well.

While we may want fairness or balance, or to have an advantage because we are smart, or strong, or socially likeable, we are not entitled to them.

We are not entitled to success because we are powerful, or connected, or because we have good ethics, or a lot of money, or any other reason.

We are simply entitled to our choices.

We are entitled to choose to do those things that make us happy, to do those things that we think will get us where we want to go.

We’re entitled to choose to spend time with people we enjoy and to pursue a relationship or a job we’ve dreamed of.  We’re even entitled to be poor and miserable if we choose to be!

When we hope for that miraculous intervention that will solve all our problems, we have to also make the choices consistent with that sense of hope.

We are not entitled to fairness, success, wealth, or enlightenment, a soul-mate, the perfect boss, or a home in the Hamptons.

We are only entitled to our choices.

How are you spending yours?

And are you getting what you want?

2 Comments

  1. larry ferris

    December 23, 2016

    Post a Reply

    Very good information! However, choices are limited to the variety and scope at hand. In other words, choices are limited to the choices available. For many all the choices are bad. The real challenge is to broaden/expand the choices we have. Or at least push the envelope! Make sure you never run out of rungs on your ladder.

    • td

      December 24, 2016

      Post a Reply

      I would mostly agree with the sentiment you expressed. I would differ by suggesting that all the choices are bad for only a few people (at least in the population of people I primarily deal with).
      Part of the work I do with clients is to help expand the palette of reasonable choices, even when all they (temporarily) see are poor ones.

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