Anger in the Age of Entitlement

Cleaning up emotional pollution

Entitlement and responsibility

You don't care just because I don't care?

A major problem in the Age of Entitlement is the separation of rights from responsibility. "Getting your needs met," has become the motto of the times.

I've received several emails in response to my previous post, which echo hundreds I've gotten in response to my book, Love without Hurt, complaining about therapists who reinforced a sense of entitlement in them and their intimate partners.

In an effort to build boundaries and independence with clients, some well-meaning therapists emphasize rights and sacrifice responsibility. Well-intentioned relationship therapists sometimes separate entitlement from responsibility when trying to engage the most difficult of therapy populations - men. (There's an old joke that every marriage therapist has skid marks at the door where the husband is being drug in by his wife. Men come in far less often and drop out far more frequently than women.)

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In truth, rights and responsibility are inseparable. You cannot expect to receive compassion, for instance, without giving it. An exaggerated sense of entitlement makes us say, "I don't care about how you feel, but I expect you to care about how I feel," which is a formula for disaster in relationships. Marriage therapy that does not set a goal for each party to be the best partner he/she can be, inadvertently reinforces the dynamic where the partners manipulate each other to "get their needs met."

Our greatest responsibility is to be true to our deepest values, which, for most people, include compassion. Viable entitlement - that which does not require a low-grade anger and resentment to enforce - must rise from our basic humanity.



Steven Stosny, Ph.D., treats people for anger and relationship problems. Recent books: How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It, and Love Without Hurt.


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