Recently, a thirty-something daughter wanted me to evaluate her fifty-something mother for disability. She wanted her mother to leave her job at a bank. “I don’t want my momma slavin’ in no bank.” The mother worked as a supervisor, and she seemed proud of her position. Her worst stress came from her 16-year-old grandson who was living with her. He had been expelled from school for fighting and had recently pushed her into a wall because she refused to drive him to the mall.
I reflected on the young woman’s formulation that going to work was “slavin'” and the significance of that term to her as an African-American. Did she feel entitled to turn her mother into free in-home supervision for her son? She had felt entitled to have a son whom she could not afford to raise. When the fatherless boy grew into a violent teenager she responded by trying to get her own mother on disability. Coincidentally, the older lady’s job called her while she was in my office. She instantaneously transformed from a slumped, tearful huddle to a professional woman. She said crisply, “I have to take this,” and walked out.
The ego is a prolific pulp fiction writer that churns out countless volumes, This is Why I Am Special and This Is Why I Am More Deserving than You. That is the ego’s job, and it serves a survival purpose. Egos also tenaciously adhere to other egos spinning similar yarns. A new form of group grievance has arisen in America, which I call the “high entitlement mind.” The “high entitlement mind” results from a self-image of victimization based on identification with a group grievance narrative. These group narratives are much stronger than individual narratives because group members reinforce each other’s fictions. The high entitlement mind claims restitution not for actual suffering but for indoctrinated identification with the “borrowed” group suffering of others; it hungers after pay without work as compensation for imaginary injuries.
Most mental illness results from chronic false valuation of a self-important ego trying to get what it wants rather than what it needs, and Americans face a challenge within a challenge regarding special entitlement. The assumption that human beings originate in God-given, unalienable equality is a protection from the machinations of man and places American egos under an extra duty to question the rightfulness of one’s wants, especially if somebody else has to pay for them.
Historically, intergroup exploitation was rationalized on assumptions about group superiority: “Because my group is superior to yours I can exploit and abuse you.” Since the 1960s, American entitlement fallacies have reversed: “Since I was a tyke I’ve been taught that your group abused mine in the past so I deserve special rights to exploit and abuse you.”
Attaining goals against the odds is a tempering process in which the mind moves beyond anger — which provides energy for the struggle — to acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude. When people’s lives are defined by counterfeit victimization and unearned emoluments, like the young woman in my office, there can be no growth. The mind becomes stuck in permanent hostility. This is why the high entitlement mind is always angry and has difficulty forming a relationship outside its false narrative. It is why the young woman in my office could not recognize the needs of her mother.
Alfred Adler is a psychological theoretician who transformed the way modern man views himself. He was considered the dummkopf of Freud’s circle, but he may be the most influential of the founders of depth psychology. His theories about inferiority set the stage for the modern understanding of the importance of self-esteem, and they are the best psychology for understanding the high entitlement mind. Adler theorized that the unconscious perception of inadequacy forms the basis of a sense of inferiority. At every developmental stage the healthy unconscious mind works to convert feelings of inferiority to healthy superiority or “completeness” by successfully achieving developmentally appropriate goals. Mental disorder develops as a retreat from developmental challenges into the discouragement of inferiority, or as an overcompensation of neurotic superiority. Adler stressed the individual’s need for progressive developmental achievement: “As long as this striving is expressed in work it does not lead to false valuations, which are the root of mental disease.”
Adler’s ideas help explain how groups aggregate into inferiority/superiority relationships. Low entitlement groups project inferiority on high entitlement groups, and high entitlement minds unconsciously experience feelings of inferiority or “compensatory superiority” as they struggle to justify special privileges and as their achievements dwindle. This dynamic has been exacerbated by progressive indoctrination, especially of our children. American childhood is no longer sugar and spice and puppy dogs tails, but helpless worries about racism, gender bending, and the whole world burning up. Our children are taught to live in futile reaction against prejudices that no longer define American life. They are indoctrinated to see America as a place where some groups have always been hated and others always privileged. This mental abuse is not just on Harvey Milk Day but every day, in school, on television, everywhere. High entitlement youth (Blacks, Hispanics, illegal aliens, and sex minorities) are taught they are victims of inequality and deserve special privileges. They should not have to work as hard or follow the same rules. Low entitlement children (that is, Whites) are taught that they are perpetrators of inequality. They are publicly punished for expressing their identities, for vigorous masculinity, or for loving Jesus.
When the young woman in my office said, in effect, “My mother is too good to work in a bank,” she was projecting a compensatory superiority that dishonors her mother’s achievement and derails the positive cycle of work and earned respect. Michelle Obama was 44 years old when she said, “For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country.” This is a statement of almost psychotic compensatory superiority. She was really saying, “It was only when Barack and I were contenders for the White House that America was good enough for me.” She didn’t bring herself to this self-assessment. Her ingratitude and self-importance grew in serial false valuations, from a childhood free of institutionalized discrimination, to racial preferences, to an underwritten Ivy League education, culminating in her publicly financed in-your-face opulence.
Adler developed his psychology when the inferiority/superiority complexes were considered neuroses. That term was voted out of the diagnostic manual in the 1970s and replaced by ‘personality disorder’. In neurotic states, people often realize they have a problem and seek help. With personality disorders, people don’t have a problem, they are the problem. No matter how much harm they do they almost never try to change. The high entitlement mind is a functional personality disorder, unable to question its demand for special privilege, and why high entitlement grievance is so difficult to overcome.
The high entitlement fallacy explains why the Obama administration believes it is above the law, invariably bestows favor on its grievance group, and punishes the B-listers: conservatives, devout Christians, Constitutionalists, and all other low entitled “folks.” It explains why our president and first lady cannot form a healthy relationship with many Americans beyond a fictitious racial narrative. The Obama’s genuine and unique privilege is to live in a beautiful house Americans pay for. But in the ingratitude and hostility of the high entitlement mind, they slammed the door to the White House in our faces.