Entitlement – The Slow Erosion of Morality

Entitlement has been discussed when talking about younger generations, as in being entitled to something without working for it.  But entitlement entails much more, and just because you work hard doesn’t mean you’re any more or less entitled.   What happens when the highest office in America continues to behave entitled?  By most accounts I haven’t been phased by Trump’s behavior because it’s been expected, however, what concerns, appalls, and scares me is the lack of accountability or denouncement of his behavior or rhetoric by Congress or the Department of Justice.  Where is the integrity?  Should I be surprised? No.  Congress is happy to enable and co-sign this madness just so they can squeeze whatever reforms and laws into existence.  There is no better diversion than chaos.  There has been no checks and balances, until recently.  People may have continued their validation of electing Trump by stating that, “Well, it doesn’t really matter who the President is or what he does.”  But it does and it’s disheartening and appalling on so many levels.

This is Entitlement at its finest and clearest.  I’m not talking about entitlement to unalienable truths as stated in the Constitution, such as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. This entitlement comes from a place of empowerment.  I am talking about entitlement that takes power from others, walks on, and abuses another for the gratification of your own desires and wants regardless of the impact to another.  Entitlement is self-serving, taking what you want, when you want and from whom you choose simply because you think, believe and feel you have a right to do so.  Like most behavior, Entitlement is learned and entitlement is not always connected to privilege.  A broke thief can steal your money just as easily as a wealthy thief, and a poor person can take your life just as easily as a wealthy person.   Entitlement crosses all demographics, genders, socio-economic levels, cultures, and colors etc.  We all feel entitled to some degree, some more than others.   `Entitlement is created and flourishes because there are no boundaries and no accountability.  When you are entitled, then you won’t know, care or respect boundaries.  Boundaries are meant to be crossed because they don’t really apply to you, at least that’s the belief of ‘being above it all,’  the hallmark of a narcissist.

Entitlement is learned and created.  For example, a parent buys their child a toy every time they go to the store.  The parent does this to silence the child so the parent can have a ‘smoother’ or quicker experience shopping.  Only thing is, the child has learned that when he/she goes to the store, he/she will get another toy.  The problem becomes when the parent sets a boundary, the child throws a tantrum and the parent, in a rush to calm the child, acquiesces to their child’s desires. The child knows what he/she needs to do to get what they want.  Fast forward to teenage years, and let’s say the teen wants a car but not any car will do.  The parent wanting to please their child (for whatever reason, validation, outside image etc) buys their teen a muscle car, BMW or Mercedes.  This isn’t a problem within itself, unless the message that the teen gets is that “I can get/have anything I want” and also where does the teen go next?  What is the next level of satisfaction?  This is how entitlement is learned.  Entitlement can also be created even if you didn’t have experiences as a child.  Celebrities, politicians, athletes, lawyers etc can become entitled based on their position, performance and power within society.  These individuals may have worked extremely hard to attain their success and status.  This hard work can also be justification for their entitlement as in, “I deserve xyz because I’ve sacrificed so much or worked so hard.”  The problem with this statement suggests that anyone else with less financial success and status doesn’t work hard.   Also, no one can deny that certain doors and experiences open up to these individuals and over time they become used to preferential treatment and begin to expect it, regardless of their behavior or status.  For example, an individual that gets probation for a crime (theft, assault, drug use) that others would be imprisoned for.   For entitlement to flourish, it must be enabled. Congress is enabling. DOJ is enabling. Citizens are enabling.  Enabling says, “It’s ok. You keep behaving this way, and I’ll keep making excuses and defending you and your behavior.  Business as usual’

Why is entitlement so important?  A lack of boundaries, limits and being held accountable tells the Entitled that they literally can do anything and get away with it, that they are untouchable and above the law.  Entitlement means that nothing is ever enough and can set someone up to be a never-satisfied pit of wanting, having and taking. Without accountability, entitlement slowly erodes your moral compass and values. Entitlement doesn’t have integrity.  We can see this now, more in our country and society.

Here’s the trickle down effect of entitlement from a mass psychology perspective.

When the highest office in the USA employs a man who is entitled, it reverberates through all of society.  Trump stated before being elected: “when you’re a star [women] they let you do it, you can do anything … grab them by the pu$$y,” and “I could shoot somebody and not lose voters.’  He told us just how entitled he was and felt.  As it has trickled down, you can see the entitlement in the people and industries that are important to or at a minimum represent the president and his congress.  Businesses such as the Airlines injuring and dragging passengers off the plane; law enforcement harassing, arresting and killing individuals just because with little to no accountability; public servants (government officials) assaulting reporters and hate crimes being lobbed across the country.  Just today, a man who harassed two women on a train in Portland with ‘go back to your country,’ stabbed and killed two men that intervened.  This man felt entitled to harass these women and take the lives of two people in the process.  Click here  There is no empathy, shame or remorse in any of these behaviors which is the height of entitlement.

What is appalling and disheartening about all of this, is that there is no accountability. Not from Congress who is supposed to be the checks and balances. There is no denouncing of any of this behavior and especially these awful hate crimes from the highest office in the land.  There is no denouncing from the Department of Justice.  When will it be enough for the presidency, his administration and congress to denounce these behaviors and say and mean “Enough is enough, this is not who we are as a people, as a nation.”?

This entitlement needs to stop for the health and well-being of this country or this cancer will continue to spread throughout our  society.   This entitlement needs to stop lest we all become morally bankrupt in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Grief

In our society, you are revered when you ‘don’t let your emotions get the best of you.”  Grief is rarely talked about openly and is considered taboo. The average bereavement time a person receives after the loss of a family member is around 3 days and that might be generous. Three days is just enough time to attend the funeral/memorial services but not enough to mourn, yet we are expected to return to our jobs and lives without missing a beat and be fully functional. The loss of a family member is a devastating experience that alters a person for the remainder of their lives.  Grief can encompass many losses in your life such as divorce, loss of a job, house or a stage of life.   Even with good changes, there is still a feeling of sadness and loss of what was.  Grief is relative.  Some people say that divorce is like a death, and it is in the aspect that your hopes and expectations die, such as of growing old with your partner and being a support to one another.  However, with the change and death of a relationship, you still have a choice on how you want your Ex to be a part of your life going forward. When you lose a family member to actual death, you have no choice.  You have no choice on burying the hatchet in the future, sharing time or a conversation with each other, or co-parenting.  These are all choices that you still have, whether you choose to exercise them or not.

We don’t talk about grief, unless it comes in the form of a divorce or loss of a job, things we know we can replace.  Your grief will unknowingly make people uncomfortable.  It’s easier for people to digest the loss of a job, house or relationship because they often come with inspirational sayings such as, ‘when one door closes another one opens,’ or ‘you’ll get a better job, there’s someone better suited for you out there’ and on and on.  But, when you lose someone to death, the people around you won’t know what to say or what to do, some may even disappear from your life.  As you attempt to step outside of your grief for a brief moment and into your old routine seeking some normalcy or respite from your new reality, people may wonder ‘how can they do (that),’ ‘why aren’t they at home grieving,’ ‘there’s no way I could do that?’  This will  have little to do with you, and more to do with the person’s difficulty and inability in dealing with the enormity of the situation and sometimes their own emotions. The secondary experience of grief may feel too intimate, too real for someone in your orbit.  I don’t necessarily think this is a fault, it is just a response, some people just can’t be present to another person’s pain or because they can’t take your pain away and fix it.  Grief can make the people around you take stock in their own lives, questioning what is real and worthy in their own lives and this is uncomfortable for most everyone regardless of the circumstances that precipitated it.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has identified the 5 stages of grief, but know there is no right or wrong way to grieve there is only your way. The stages of grief are fluid.  You might stay in one stage much longer than other stages, you may go back and forth between the stages and right when you think and feel you’re at the tail end to acceptance, you might circle right back to the beginning stage during your grief. Because of this, grief can feel like it’s The Never-ending Story or Groundhog Day the movie only not a fantasy nor funny. Grief isn’t linear and if you think it is, you are being a disservice to yourself and others.

 


One thing for sure is that grief will change you in some may. One never really heals from the loss, instead you accept the circumstance.  To ‘heal’ would suggest that you are the same as before the loss, that you will never feel the pain or think of the loss.  You may be able to organize the loss in such a way that it ‘makes sense’ to you, but you can’t really go back to who you were prior to losing someone close to you.  The term, “Time Heals All Wounds’ really isn’t true.  What Time gives you is the opportunity to accept the reality of the loss and get comfortable with not seeing, hearing, speaking to or sharing milestones with your loved one.

The loss of a loved one can set the stage for self-examination and can be an opportunity to re-evaluate what is important to you.  What you value may become crystal clear to you and others.  This is the biggest gift because the loss may propel you to live as authentic and honest as you want. Forget about living via the constructed expectations of society, family, friends, or self.

Loss will change you, even when you think it hasn’t.  The experience of losing someone you love is traumatic and therefore will alter you in some way. You will be changed regardless of how much you want to be yourself prior to the loss. Loss is experienced viscerally in the depths of your nervous system. The bigger the shock the bigger the trauma. Put it in simpler terms, shock gets experienced by your body (nervous system) and becomes registered in your long-term memory. Once an overwhelming experience becomes locked in your long-term memory, you register it as trauma. Because this trauma is recorded in the limbic system, your behavior may change based on subconscious experience.  For instance, abandonment and trust issues may be amplified.  Such as, ‘I don’t (subconsciously) trust you to be here for me, you will leave me, I can’t rely on you.’  Have compassion for yourself.

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The loss of a family member is devastating, even when a loved one has lived a long life. To lose a parent is tantamount to losing the foundation beneath you. You are having to grapple with the loss of your life-long and unconditional support/love and not being ‘taken care of’ any longer even though you’ve been self-sustaining for years and also have your own family. To lose a child, well, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  To lose a sibling is like losing your childhood, your camaraderie.

For myself, the loss of my brother in my teens changed me and family. It is no wonder that I became fascinated with psychology with ‘what makes people tick’ and spirituality with ‘what does all of this mean?’ in a search to answer my own internal questions.  Since the loss, what I value most is Time, family and real, honest conversations.  I value the time that I have and others take to spend together, however mundane.  I also value deeper conversations with others, so I have little interest in the superfluous conversations.  Money, things, jobs I can always replace, but I can never get back Time to spend with my brother.

Activity:

What or whom have you lost?

What do you value most now?

 

Know that:

You will laugh again, for real.

You will feel joy again.

Your life may change to exemplify what is truly important to you.

Your empathy may increase.

Remember to:  Be patient with yourself. To love yourself. To have compassion for yourself.

 

Sociopathy and the men of Billions….

Hey all, I’m not sure about you but I’ve been addicted to Billions, the show on Showtime with Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti?  This is a show about two bulls locked in a battle with U.S Attorney, Chuck Rhodes played by Giamatti attempting to put Wall Street billionaire Bobby Axelrod, played by Lewis away (somehow) for securities fraud.   I thought Billions was going to be a scripted tv-show based on displaying the ‘gluttony’ of the wealthy 1%, but with my two favorite actors, it is so SO much more.  It is about wealth, class, inequality, politics, the intricate and convoluted weaving between politics and Wall Street, who has power over whom and the psychology of it all.  It really could be a character or psychological study of our financial and political times of today.  And I F-ing love it!

This was me the other night watching the prelude to the season 2 finale :

I was on pins and needles during Sunday night’s episode, with the many twists and turns like a cloak and dagger mystery. And as usual, I look through the lens of psychology when looking at some tv-shows and this one is so brilliant, that it keeps me guessing about the characters’ psychology/sociopathy scale. It’s no secret that the Wall Street, Political, Law, Business, Marketing/Media industries and high-level individuals have a propensity to score higher than average on the narcissism, sociopath index scales (Hare, R. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, 1999;  Konnikova, M. The Confidence Game, 2016).  Besides the current real-life administration, Billions provides a glimpse into the psychology.

Again, there are many elements that Billions addresses but I’m most interested in the psychology of various characters, especially the main characters. Both men are…complex, like all of us.  Life is complicated and so are you.

Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) head of Axe Capital has acquired his billions through gut instinct, knowledge, bribery and some other not so nice behavior.  He wants to win, to be the top dog.  Winning and acquiring (money, companies) are his thing.  He makes the plays, the decisions and manipulates the world financial market in his favor.  Needless to say, making these decisions while increasing his coffers, will destitute the many others that have no face and he doesn’t lose sleep over it.  Limitations are meant to be crossed.  Bobby also has a henchman that finds other people’s weakness’ or soft spots to exploit or threaten them to his favor when needed.  Yet, Axelrod has been faithfully monogamous to his wife of 15 years with telling one lie in those 15 years. Despite being able to buy just about anything and anyone, Axelrod isn’t out with other women, escorts, strippers and the like until the wee hours of the morning nor does he lie to his wife.  So, by all accounts, he is loyal, monogamous, doesn’t use substances and is honest (direct) with his wife.  The relationship seems to be his rock, his stability despite his love for making money and besting others, but does he love his wife or does he see her as a possession or his property?  What’s interesting about this, is that a narcissist, sociopath will mistreat and abuse his/her spouse yet they are dependent upon them, so when the spouse has had enough and wants to leave, the narcissistic/sociopath will become unglued and attempt to ‘destroy’ their partner any way they can.

Verdict so far:  He has some deficiencies and may exhibit characteristics but Bobby Axelrod isn’t a full-blown sociopath.   What gives it away is: Although he compartmentalizes his behavior, he isn’t reckless with his relationship, he doesn’t lie or cheat on his wife nor does he engage in substances.  You see his entitlement through what he can purchase, but that entitlement hasn’t carried over to his marriage-yet. Personally, I’ve been waiting for how Axelrod will let off some steam in his personal life because he is very well-controlled and well-controlled people can’t do that for too long before some (possibly deviant) behavior arises.  It’s like a politician that looks squeaky clean on the outside proclaiming the importance of family values (monogamy and anti-gay) but finds himself trolling for men in a public bathroom or a politician who made it his goal to clean up the prostitution industry in his city only to procure the services of an escort on a regular basis.

Which brings us to Chuck Rhodes, another complex character.  Giamatti’s character is a U.S. Attorney fighting for justice for the underdog with political ambitions in season 2.   He’s the highest of the law in his jurisdiction, so what kind of pressure do you think he’s under on a daily basis?  Well, to let off some steam, Rhodes enjoys S&M Bondage with him submitting, taking orders and being ‘punished’ with pain – by his wife. That was their agreement, otherwise if news got out, it would cost him his position.   Having worked with and heard many, many things as a counselor which no longer draws a surprise, this was a brilliant characterization by the Billions writers and pretty spot on.  I can understand it, psychologically.  High pressure, high level jobs and having to perform (profits) as well as having multiple professional and personal responsibilities on your shoulders, and the power or wealth that comes with the position wields a lot of stress for one individual and can be exhausting.  It’s no wonder that he would enjoy being dominated and told what to do.  What a breather that must be for him to submit to the will of another albeit momentarily.   Psychologically speaking on this subject, the backstory can go anywhere.

On to sociopathy for Rhodes.  Rhodes set Bobby up at the literal financial expense of losing his Trust (worth millions), his father placing all of his liquidity (is that a word?) as well as Rhodes’ friend, Ira selling his shares back to his law firm and just about quit his job.  Should I put friend in quotes? Probably.  Rhodes knew what he was doing.  He served his father and his friend up like a platter of sashimi for his own needs, to ruin Axelrod.  Rhodes knew or at least hoped that Axelrod would do something to make the stock plummet.  This is where Axelrod’s bribing comes in. He bribed a chemist for vials of a bio-hazardous material that would leave the recipient with stomach issues for a week, kind of like Chipotle.  Axelrod also paid people to ingest this hazardous material while drinking the Ice Juice.  Come to find out, Rhodes was the brainchild of this sting.  In addition to flanking his father and his friend, Rhodes seemed to use his wife’s position as Axelrod’s company therapist to gain information.   After Wendy, Rhodes’ wife visits him at his office to warn him (btw- she risked violating confidentiality) that Axelrod is shorting the stock and to get out of the stock ASAP, Chuck treated her like the enemy and spoke to her with such condescension and disdain that he left her head spinning. Where the hell did that come from?

Verdict so far:  Even though Rhodes fights for the underdog, does he do it for justice because it’s the right thing to do or does he do it to win, to gain in his position?  Since Rhodes masterminded this whole sting (he lied), knowing and not warning anyone close to him such as his father and friend about not investing their life savings, and using his wife for information to fulfill his own needs and desires without thought of the devastation to the one’s closest to him or his marriage, I’d say this is calculated and reckless behavior.  So, I’d say he’s pretty high on the narcissism/sociopath/machiavellian scale.

Sociopathy and narcissism are fluid and progressive depending on circumstances and environment, they’re not born, they’re made.  Power and money are great aphrodisiacs and will bloat the ego exponentially.  Are these two characters simply blinded by pride, revenge, and winning?  The writers do a great job with walking that fine line and they do an even better job with no clear answers of who the  ‘good guy’ vs ‘bad guy’ really is.

This show.  So. Damn. Good.