Entitlement Angst

We’ve been having a heat wave where I live, so I’ve been spending a lot of time lying in bed, watching inane things on Netflix. And after awhile, all the story lines started to run  together in my head, probably because they melted in the heat. Or my brains did.

It goes kind of like this: character has a decent, but unsatisfying life, character sees a person, house, something that they are convinced will make their life better, character messes up life going after said thing, hilarity/drama/tragedy ensues, character has regrets but likely hasn’t learned a thing from their mistakes, especially if it’s a TV series instead of a movie.

This pattern is based on something I have come to call Entitlement Angst. It happens when we fall for the belief that something better than what we have is out there and we deserve to have it, no matter what the consequences to ourselves or others. So we mess up a perfectly good relationship with someone nice for the temporary illusion of perfection with someone else. Until they stop being perfect and we decide to move on.

Or instead of decluttering our kitchen and giving it a fresh coat of paint, we go for the total gut and reno with all new appliances and whatever the surfaces du jour happen to be and then wonder, loudly, why we can’t afford a nice vacation this year???

Or we fall for the hype that starting a family means that we need to move to the biggest house we can manage the payments on. And we need to fill it with furniture. And then we wonder why we have to work all the time and why we’re so tired….

I think we fall into these traps not because these are things we genuinely want or because we truly believe we deserve them, but because secretly, we don’t believe we’re deserving and so we try to prove our worth through the acquisition of a new partner/car/house even though it makes us and everyone around us miserable.

And it’s not even that we necessarily want these things for ourselves, but we feel that we should want them because all our friends seem to want them and we don’t want to look stupid by being satisfied with what we have because we’re all supposed to want more and strive for better all the time aren’t we and maybe there’s something wrong with me if I don’t? And if you don’t believe that this pressure is there, just see what happens when you’re talking to someone about life and plans of any form and you admit that you’re pretty happy with the way things are. In my experience, it’s a total conversation ender.

Wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge our feelings of unworthiness and work on those while maintaining the stability and long-term happiness of our lives? Sometimes the solution to our house woes is a bit of meditation and a good long walk. Maybe we can find the partner of our dreams by taking the partner that we have to couples therapy. Sometimes what we really need is a good long nap.

I’m not saying that everybody has to stay exactly where they are in life. Some relationships really are toxic and need to end. Some kitchens need replacing.

But maybe take a step back and analyze. Is the need for change real, or is it Entitlement Angst that’s got you feeling restless?

And you know, I love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know what you’re thinking about these days.



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10 Responses to Entitlement Angst

  1. Sue Hilborn says:

    As always you are right on. Contentment no longer exists in our vocabulary…. sadly. But is it making happier humans??

  2. Dan says:

    I just finished Ernest Becker’s “Denial of Death” this week. His central argument is that the main human internal conflict is between our need to be a “hero” and the reality that we are simply fancy mortal animals. In the past things like religion or even a simple commitment to the clearly defined societal roles of farmer or mason or baker allowed one to be a hero if they simply met those societally defined roles. Even in 1974 when he wrote the book, Becker was seeing that those traditional roles that allowed us to define ourselves as more than animals were breaking down in our post modernist world. But that need to define ourselves as the “hero” is quite basic and still needed (needs?) to be fulfilled in some way. I think our current obsession with things is a new way of trying to define ourselves as a “hero”. If we have the most or the best, clearly we are something more than a simple beast. But of course it is a never ending quest as someone will always be “more heroic” than you (ie have more stuff or better stuff). When we defined “hero” as simply meeting a specific defined role as perhaps a “good catholic” or a “master baker” there was some kind of end point that could be achieved. Of course there were always people who went beyond and became “more heroic” or “truly heroic” but it was OK to just meet the basic hero definition. We don’t have a “basic level of consumption” that allows one to define oneself as a hero in this new world. Is it one TV or two? Is a forty inch TV big enough? Of course our previous measures of “hero” were also arbitrary but I think they were more tangible (if you made bread that rose, tasted good and sold you were a journeyman baker, if you could teach someone else the trade you were a master baker) and therefore had more clear endpoints. One can always take the eastern philosophy perspective that the self really doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter so much and as such the need to define oneself as a hero separate from the animals is less central but I think that is a pretty huge leap for most people steeped in Western religion and philosophy. So we are left with a need to be a “hero” in order to be comfortably other than the animals (or even than our own animalistic instincts). Will we as a society ever figure out a new way to be the hero? We need to try but I have no idea what the answer might look like.

  3. Sharron says:

    It is normal to want to upgrade- this is the whole concept behind creativity. Nor necessarily on love or friendships- this is something that we always need to appreciate and be grateful for but invention and progression is all based upon our vision of creating something better. As an artist, I am always working to create a better vision- that, in my nature.

    • Barb says:

      Very good point, Sharron.

      And I think that kind of creative improvement is a really good thing. And so very different from wanting or buying this year’s style of (fill in the blank).

  4. John Mailloux says:

    Spock said this: Stonn, she is yours. After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.

  5. Karen Elliott says:

    There’s such peace in being content.

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