Monthly Focus

May 2021

The following is taken from Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program To End Negative Behaviour And Feel Great Again” by Jeffrey E. Young, Ph.D, founder of Schema Therapy.

 

What are Lifetraps?

A lifetrap (Schema) is a pattern that starts in childhood and reverberates throughout life. It began with something that was done to us by our families or by othe children. We are abandoned, criticized, overprotected, abused, excluded, or deprived—we were damaged in some way. Eventually the lifetrap becomes part of us. Long after we leave the home we grew up in, we continue to create situations in which we are mistreated, ignored, put down, or controlled and in which we fail to reach our most desired goals.

Lifetraps determine how we feel think, feel, act, and relate to others. They trigger strong feelings such as anger, sadness, and anxiety. Even when we appear to have everything—social status, an ideal marriage, the respect of people close to us, career success—we are often unable to savor life or believe in our accomplishments. 

 

This month’s focus is the Entitlement Schema.

 

Table of Contents

 

 
 

The Entitlement Lifetrap

 

The Entitlement Questionnaire

Use this questionnaire to measure the strength of your Entitlement lifetrap. Answer the items based on the following scale:

 

  1. Completely untrue of me
  2. Mostly untrue of me
  3. Slightly more true than untrue of me
  4. Moderately true of me
  5. Mostly true of me
  6. Describes me perfectly

 

If you have any 5’s or 6’s on this questionnaire, this lifetrap may still apply to you, even if your score is in the low range.

 

 

  1. I have trouble accepting “no” for an answer.
  2. I get angry when I cannot get what I want.
  3. I am special and should not have to accept normal constraints.
  4. I put my needs first.
  5. I have a lot of difficulty getting myself to stop drinking, smoking, overeating, or other problem behaviours.
  6. I cannot discipline myself to complete boring or routine tasks.
  7. I act on impulses and emotions that get me into trouble later.
  8. If I cannot reach a goal, I become easily frustrated and give up.
  9. I insist that people do things my way.
  10. I have trouble giving up immediate gratification to reach a long-term goal.

Add your scores together for questions 1-10

 

Interpreting your Entitlement Score

 

10-19 Very low. This lifetrap probably does not apply to you.

20-29 Fairly low. This lifetrap may only apply occasionally.

30-39 Moderate. This lifetrap is an issue in your life.

40-49 High. This is definitely an important lifetrap for you.

50-60 Very high. This is definitely one of your core lifetraps.

 

 
 

The Experience of Entitlement

 

There are three types of entitlement, each with its own characteristic experience. The types overlap—you can be more than one.

 

Three types of Entitlement

  1. Spoiled Entitlement
  2. Dependent Entitlement
  3. Impulsivity

 

Spoiled Entitlement

 

You see yourself as special. You are demanding and controlling, and want everything your way. When other people balk, you get angry. 

You have little empathy or concern for the feelings of others. This leads you to be inconsiderate and perhaps even abusive. 

 

You are indifferent to normal social expectations and conventions. You consider yourself above the law. You believe that although other people should be punished when they violate social norms, you should not be punished. You do not expect to have to pay the normal consequences for your actions. 

 

You take what you want without guilt because you feel entitled. You expect that you will somehow mange to escape the negative consequences other people would incur for acting similarly. You will get away with it or manipulate the situation so you do not have to pay the consequences. 

 

Dependent Entitlement

 

If you are the dependent type, you feel entitled to depend on other people. You place yourself in the weak, incompetent, needy role, and expect other people to be strong and take care of you.

 

You feel entitled much in the same way as a child feels toward a parent. It is your right. People owe it to you. 

 

You let other people assume responsibility for your everyday affairs and for much of your decision-making. 

 

You are more likely to be passively than actively aggressive. When someone fails to take care of you, you feel like a victim. You are angry, but you probably restrain yourself. You express your resentment in other ways—through pouting, passive-aggressive behaviours, hypochondriacal complaints, whining, and occasionally a childlike temper tantrum. 

 

You do not necessarily feel that you are special. In fact, you may try very hard to please and be accommodating. Yet you feel entitled to be dependent. Your entitlement comes from the fact that you feel weak and vulnerable. You need help, and people must give it to you.

 

Impulsivity

 

This is a lifelong pattern of difficulty controlling your behaviour and feelings. You have problems with impulse control. You act on your desires and feelings without regard for the consequences. 

 

You have trouble tolerating frustration enough to complete long-term tasks. Especially boring or routine ones. You have a general lack of organization and structure. You are undisciplined. 

You may have a tendency to procrastinate. When you finally do the task, you do it half-heartedly or passive-aggressively. You just cannot get yourself to focus and persevere. Even when you want to stick to something it is hard for you. You have a problem with short-term versus long-term gratification. 

 

Your difficulty postponing short-term gratification may also take the form of addictions such as overeating, smoking, drinking, drugs, or compulsive sex. However, problems with addictions do not necessarily indicate that you have this lifetrap. Addictions are only one of several indicators. For you to have the entitlement lifetrap, the addictions must be part of a more general pattern of problems with self-control and self-discipline. 

 

You may have trouble controlling your emotions, particularly anger. Although you may have some depression, anger is your predominant emotion. You are not able to express your anger in a mature way. Rather you are like an enraged child. You get impatient, irritable, angry. 

 

You are self-indulgent about expressing your anger. You feel you should be free to vent any emotion. You do not consider the impact on other people. 

 

Your problems with anger and impulse control put you at risk. At the extreme your problem controlling your impulses could lead to criminal behaviour. More typically, they occur in explosiveness, temper tantrums, or inappropriate behaviour.

 

Unlike many of the other lifetraps—which cause you to suppress your needs—the Entitlement lifetrap involves the excessive expression of your needs. You lack a normal degree of restraint. Whereas other people inhibit and discipline themselves appropriately, you do not. 

 

Most patients with Entitlement do not feel any real distress about their pattern. This sets Entitlement apart from all the other lifetraps.

 

However, many of our patients have partners with serious Entitlement issues. This is how an entitled person shows up most often in therapy—as the partner of our patients. To put it bluntly, rather than seeking therapy yourself, more often you are the person who drives others to seek therapy. 

 

Your life becomes painful only when you are no longer able to avoid the serious negative consequences that result from your Entitlement—for example, when you actually lose your job because you cannot complete the work properly, or when your spouse threatens to leave you. Only then will you acknowledge that other people are not happy with your behaviour and that entitlement is a problem. You finally realize that the lifetrap has a cost—that it can really damage your life.

 

 
 

Origins of Entitlement

 

Entitlement can develop in three quite different ways. The first involves weak parental limits. 

 

Origin 1: Weak Limits

 

Weak limits is the most obvious origin for Entitlement. These parents fail to exercise sufficient discipline and control over their children. Such parents spoil or indulge their children in a variety of ways. 

 

(A) Spoiled Entitlement: Children are given whatever they want, whenever they want it. This may include material desires or having their own way. The child controls the parents. 

 

(B) Impulsivity: Children are not taught frustration tolerance. They are not forced to take responsibility and complete assigned tasks. This may include chores around the house or schoolwork. The parent allows the child to get away with irresponsibility by not following through with aversive consequences. They are also not taught impulse control. The parents allow children to act out impulses, such as anger, without imposing sufficient negative consequences. One of both parents may themselves have difficulty controlling emotions and impulses. 

 

When we discuss limits, we mean reasonable rules and consequences. 

 

When adults cannot control themselves, they are unlikely to control their children. It is through parental self-control that we learn to control ourselves. When we have parents who provide clear, consistent, and appropriate limits, then we learn to apply these limits to ourselves. 

 

Patients brought up with weak limits usually do not learn the notion of reciprocity as a child. Your parents did not teach you that in order to get something, you have to give something back. Rather, the message they gave you was that they would take care of you, and you did not have to do anything in return.

 

Origin 2: Dependent Overindulgence

 

The origin of Dependent Entitlement is parents who overindulge their children in ways that make the children dependent on them. The parents take on everyday responsibilities, decisions, and difficult tasks for the child. The environment is so safe and protected and so little is expected of the child that the child comes to demand this level of care. 

 

Origin 3: Entitlement as a Counterattack for Other Lifetraps

 

For the majority of our patients, Entitlement is a form of Counterattack, or overcompensation, for other core lifetraps—usually Defectiveness, Emotional Deprivation, or Social Exclusion. For the origin of these Entitlement cases, one must look at the underlying core lifetrap. 

 

If you developed Entitlement as a means of coping with early Emotional Deprivation, then you were probably cheated or deprived as a child in some significant way. Perhaps your parents were cold and non-nurturing, so you were emotionally deprived.  You counterattacked by becoming entitled. Or perhaps you were materially deprived. The families around you had money, but you were relatively poor. You wanted things that you could not get. Now, as an adult, you make sure that you get everything. 

 

Your Entitlement may have been an adaptive, healthy means of coping when you were young. Entitlement may have offered you a way out of the loneliness, the lack of loving, caring, and attention that you experienced as a child. Or it offered you a way out of the material deprivation. The problem is that you went too far. As an adult, you were so afraid of being deprived or cheated again that you became demanding, narcissistic, and controlling. You began to alienate the people closest to you. In trying to make sure that your needs got me, you began to push away the very people who could most meet them. 

 

 
 

Danger Signals in Partners

 

These are signs that your choice of partner is lifetrap-driven. That is, you have chosen someone who reinforces your sense of entitlement. 

 

Spoiled Entitlement

You are attracted to partners who:

 

  1. Sacrifice their own needs for yours.
  2. Allow you to control them.
  3. Are afraid to express their own needs and feelings.
  4. Are willing to tolerate abuse, criticism, etc.
  5. Allow you to take advantage of them.
  6. Do not have a strong sense of self, and allow themselves to live through you.
  7. Are dependent on you, and accept domination as the price of being dependent.

 

Dependent Entitlement

You are drawn to strong partners who are competent and willing to take care of you.

 

Impulsivity

You may be drawn to partners who are organized, disciplined, compulsive, etc. and who thus  offset your own tendency toward chaos and disorganization. 

In sum, you are drawn to partner who support, rather than challenge, your sense of Entitlement. 

 

 
 

Entitlement Lifetraps

 

Spoiled Entitlement Lifetraps

 

  1. You do not care about the needs of the people around you. You get your needs met at their expense. You hurt them
  2. You may abuse, humiliate, or demean the people around you.
  3. You have difficulty empathizing with the feelings of those around you. They feel you do not understand or care about their feelings.
  4. You may take more from society than you give. This results in an inequity and is unfair to other people.
  5. At work, you may be fired, demoted, etc., for failing to consider the needs and feelings of others, or for failing to follow rules.
  6. Your partner, family, friends, or children may leave you, resent you, or cut off contact with you because you treat them abusively, unfairly, or selfishly.
  7. You may get into legal or criminal trouble if you cheat of break laws, such as tax evasion or business fraud.
  8. You never have a chance to experience the joy of giving to other people unselfishly—or of having a truly equal, reciprocal relationship.
  9. If your Entitlement is a form of Counterattack, you never allow yourself to face and solve your underlying lifetraps. Your real needs are never addressed. You may continue to feel emotionally deprived, defective, or socially undesirable.

 

Dependent Entitlement Lifetraps

 

  1. You never learn to take care of yourself, because you insist that other take care of you.
  2. You unfairly impinge on the rights of people close to you to use their own time for themselves. Your demands become a drain on the people around you.
  3. People you depend on may eventually become fed up or angry with your dependence and demands, and will leave you, fire you, or refuse to continue helping you.
  4. The people you depend on may die or leave, and you will be unable to take care of yourself.

 

Impulsivity Lifetraps

 

  1. You never complete tasks necessary to make progress in your career. You are a chronic underachiever, and eventually feel inadequate as a result of your failures.
  2. The people around you may eventually get fed up with your irresponsibility and cut off their relationship with you.
  3. Your life is in chaos. You cannot discipline yourself sufficiently well to have direction and organization. You are therefore stuck.
  4. You may have difficulty with addictions, such as drugs, alcohol, or overeating.
  5. In almost every area of your life, your lack of discipline prevents you from achieving your goals.
  6. You may not have enough money to get what you want in life.
  7. You may have gotten into trouble with authorities at school, with police, or at work because you cannot control your impulses.
  8. You may have alienated your friends, spouse, children, or bosses, through your anger and explosiveness.

 

 
 

Helping Yourself Overcome Entitlement Problems

 

  1. List the advantages and disadvantages of not accepting limits. This is crucial to motivate yourself to change.
  2. Confront the excuses you use to avoid accepting limits.
  3. List the various ways that your limits problems manifests itself in everyday life.
  4. Make Flashcards to help you fight your Entitlement and self-discipline problems in each situation.
  5. Ask for feedback as you try to change.
  6. Try to empathize with the people around you.
  7. If your lifetrap is a form of Counterattack, try to understand the core lifetraps underlying it. Follow the relevant change techniques.
  8. If you have self-discipline problems, make a hierarchy of tasks, graded in terms of boredom or frustration level. Gradually work your way up the hierarchy.
  9. If you have difficulty controlling your emotions, develop a “time-out” technique.
  10. If you have Dependent Entitlement, make a hierarchy of tasks, graded in terms of difficulty. Gradually start doing the things you allow other people to do for you. Start proving to yourself that you are competent.