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Friday, June 17, 2005

Narcissistic Entitlement

The word "narcissism" comes from the character made famous by the Greek poet Ovid. We all remember Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. In the story,a girl named Echo falls in love with Narcissus and gets rejected. The story makes it clear that Narcissus is only able to love himself and not others. Conversely, Echo completely loses herself in her love for Narcissus and has no sense of self at all - she just ends up repeating everything that she hears. At the end of the story, Narcissus tells Echo, "I would die before I give you power over me," and Echo responds, "I give you power over me." Both Narcissus and Echo die because their love is unattainable. Like many of the Greek myths, this story has "legs" due to its universal applicability - many of us cannot find a balance between ourselves and others.

"Narcissitic Entitlement" is a psychological term that has been around for a while. There are lots of people that bang through life with an inflated sense of personal entitlement - people that believe thier rights trump everyone else's rights, people who never apologize or concede anything. Folks afflicted with narcissitic entitlement are obsessed with collecting on all debts they feel that they are owed, and they are owed a lot by many people. People with narcissitic entiltlement syndrome never forgive and never forget. They usually ignore the needs and viewpoints of others.

I am pretty sure that narcisstic entitlement is becoming a common condition. It seems to be extremely contagious - entire groups of people can quickly get infected - all the members of certain religous groups, political parties, economic classes. Some of my clients have this affliction. I think the guy my eldest daughter dates also suffers from this - at least a little bit.

Do you know anyone who is obssessed with being treated with respect and fairness, quick to take offense, always externalizes blame, views forgiveness as moral weakness and insists on repayment for any perceived transgression? These are often the type of folks that work themselves into that state of righteous rage where any behavior is justified.

This is a nasty approach to life.

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