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Narcissistic Entitlement=Learned Helplessness+Grandiosity

Uploaded 6/17/2021, approx. 12 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and I am a professor of psychology.

Today we are going to discuss a topic which is much misunderstood among the self-styled experts online, and not only there, and it is a topic of narcissistic entitlement.

Narcissism feels entitled, but is it really what it seems to be?

I think I'm going to turn this topsy-turvy. I'm going to upend your world. You're not going to be the same people if you do dare go to the end of this video. Those of you who survived this video will never be the same again.

Alright, so let's start with entitlement.

Entitlement is a hallmark of all types of narcissists. Vulnerable, covert narcissists have entitlement, grandiose, overt narcissists have entitlement, somatic narcissists have entitlements, ribs, inverted, you name it.

When I have entitlement, narcissists are convinced that they deserve special treatment. They are absolutely assured, self-assured, that they are owed privileges, so they feel privileged, and they feel that they should be treated in a special way only by special people.

Actually, entitlement is such a crucial pillar and determinant of narcissism that it is one of the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, all the additions from number 3 onwards.

So entitlement, together with grandiosity, together with a lack of empathy, these are the three legs of the narcissistic stool.

And yes, I'm using the word stool judiciously, unintended.

Okay, the narcissist feels entitled to everything. He feels entitled to be treated by the head doctor, not by just any doctor. He feels entitled to skip the cue and head straight onto the counter. He feels entitled to not be criticized. He feels entitled to everything.

And of course, he feels entitled to narcissistic supply. This is a very crucial point that many people, experts, real and pretend, miss.

Narcissistic supply is not something that the narcissist extracts from the environment. It's not something that he works hard to garner and accomplish.

The narcissist believes that he is owed narcissistic supply. The world owes him adulation and admiration by the very fact of his existence. The very fact that he exists entitles a narcissist to narcissistic supply. He doesn't have to work hard for it. He doesn't have to invest any effort in it.

And if people ask him to do something in order to garner the supply, he gets really, really mad and angry. He feels deprived. He feels discriminated against. He feels that he's mistreated or treated unjustly.

He says, why do I have to work for my narcissistic supply? I deserve it. And I deserve it merely by being, for example, a genius or handsome or like me, a handsome genius. Got it? Right.

The narcissistic supply is an integral part of entitlement. The narcissist feels entitled to everything without any commensurate accomplishments and without any investment of effort, effortlessly.


But what laymen and experts alike fail to appreciate is that entitlement is a form of learned helplessness.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Learned helplessness.

Now, some of you may remember that learned helplessness is a state of mind where people feel helpless because they had been educated and trained and conditioned to feel helpless in, for example, the childhood.

So whenever we encourage people to feel dependent, needy, clinging, helpless, codependent in extreme cases, we foster learned helplessness. It's a form of helplessness that is acquired.

You're not born with it. You just learn. You learn throughout life that when it comes to these and these issues, these and these topics, these and these challenges, you're helpless.

You need someone else to do it for you. Learned helplessness.

And of course, immediately you can see that there's a close affinity between entitlement and learned helplessness because entitlement, what does a narcissist say when he feels entitled? He feels, I don't have to do anything. Other people have to do things for me. Other people have to fulfill functions that otherwise I would have had to fulfill. Otherwise, people have to work for me. People have to cater to my needs. People have to satisfy my urges and wishes. People have to create an ambiance or environment where I can function optimally by basically slacking and doing nothing.

So it's a form of learned helplessness.

The narcissist's dependence on narcissistic supply is a form of learned helplessness.

And so it's not surprising that narcissistic supply is a form of entitlement. They're all interlinked. They're all sides of the same bizarre coin with three sides. They're all sides of the same coin.

Abusive parents, for example, parents who are selfish, parents who are absent, parents who are depressed, dead mothers as Andrei Green called them, parents who are who parentify the child, parents who instrumentalize the child, parents who spoil the child and isolate him from reality, parents who do not allow the child to form boundaries, don't allow the child to separate, don't allow the child to individually. These are abusive parents. And because they do this, the child comes to depend on them. And he depends on them for acting in the world. When he wants to act in the world, he has to go through the intermediation of his abusive parents. He doesn't dare, he doesn't have the necessary healthy grandiosity to take on the world, because his parents keep broadcasting to him, you are not an individual, you're an extension, you're an object. We're going to love you only if you perform predictably and unexpectedly.

So the child doesn't separate from the parent, doesn't become an individual, an agent, he doesn't develop agency and self efficacy. So the child comes to depend on the intermediation of his parents in order to act in the world.

But even worse, the child comes to depend on the parents when it comes to regulating his internal environment.

Many ego functions, many psychological needs and psychological functions which are carried out internally in healthy people are carried out via the parents in a child who grows up in an abusive environment.

So the parents become in a way, an extension of the child, very much as the child becomes an extension of the parent, they intermesh, they engulf each other, they fuse and merge, they create essentially a codependent cell.

And so the child uses the parents to regulate internal processes, for example, his sense of self worth and self esteem, his sense of whether he's a good object or a bad object. So he outsources his internal environment to his parents.

And consequently, when he grows up, when he becomes an adult, he cannot tell the difference between internal and external, because all his life as a child, everything that was internal normally suddenly became external via the agency of the parents.

So this renders the child, parentally, interminably, sympathetically, helpless. The child learns to be helpless. The child learns that if he wants to ascertain, to assure the parental love, he needs to act helpless.

And when he acts helpless, the parent loves him or her.

So the child learns helplessness. The child outsources, sources outs, allows the parent to perform functions that normally are internalized.

In other words, all his psychology becomes the parents psychology, his mind is a hive mind, his mind is intermeshed and intermingled and entangled with the parents minds. So he becomes helpless, because it's a symbiosis.

If you were to disconnect him from the parents, he would shrivel and die and be unable or impotent and able to function internally and externally.

And this artificially induced impotence provokes, of course, aggression, who wants to be an impotent? No one wants to feel helpless. It provokes rage and anger and aggression, but the child cannot direct this aggression at the parents because he depends on them.

So this aggression, he sublimates it. He converts it into socially acceptable forms. He sublimates this forbidden impulse, his aggression, his anger at the parents. He sublimates it by becoming demanding, petulant, implacable, in short, a spoiled brat.

He sublimates his aggression by becoming entitled and so entitlement is a form of aggression directed at the environment and intended to elicit certain behaviors in the environment, which would cater to internal psychological needs and would allow the budding narcissist, the nascent narcissist to function in the world.

It's a pattern of misbehavior. It carries well into the child's dysfunctional adulthood.

And of course, entitlement is the opposite of routine. In routine, you have to act regularly and predictably. You have to do chores. You have to fulfill tasks and assignments. You're not entitled. Routine is the opposite of entitlement.

So narcissists hate routine. When the narcissist finds himself doing the same things over and over again, the narcissist gets depressed. The narcissist oversleeps, overeats, overdrinks in general, engages in addictive, impulsive and compulsive behaviors.

These are his reactions to routine because routine negates his sense of entitlement. Routine demands of him to invest effort and work, to do things, to accomplish things. He can no longer be needy or dependent.

And this is the narcissist's way of reintroducing risk and excitement into what otherwise emotionally he perceives as a barren life.

By overeating, overdrinking, oversleeping, engaging in reckless and risky behaviors and so on, he re-energizes his life. He excites himself from oblivion into a state of being alive. It's a kind of self-mutilation or self-harm in a way.

The problem is that even the most exciting and varied existence becomes routine after a while. Living in the same country or apartment, meeting the same people, doing essentially the same things, even if you're president or prime minister or king, they all become stultifying roads, routine.

So then the narcissist feels that he's entitled to more than routine. Routine is for the voipoloi. Routine is for the teeming, unwashed multitudes. The narcissist's superior is above all this. He's entitled to more. He negates routine via his entitlement. He feels he's right.

For example, because he's intellectually superior or because he's unusually handsome or again like me, both. He feels that it's his right to lead a thrilling, rewarding, kaleidoscopic life. He feels entitled to force life itself or at least people around him to yield to his wishes and needs.

And the supreme among these needs is the need for stimulating variety. In the distance and the narcissist is indistinguishable from the psychopath. They both have a low boredom threshold. They don't do boredom. They don't do being bored very well.

And this rejection of habit, which is essentially a rejection of life because his life is routine. But this rejection of habit is part of a larger pattern of aggressive entitlement.

The narcissist feels that the very existence of a sublime intellect and amazing beauty, such as himself or herself, his very existence warrants, justifies concessions and allowances on the part of others. Standing in line is a waste of time, a waste of cosmically significant time, a waste of an amazing mind, a brilliant mind. You know, so he shouldn't stand in line. He shouldn't stand in line because this time is better spent pursuing knowledge, scientific breakthroughs, inventing and creating.

The narcissist should avail himself of the best medical treatment preferred by the most prominent medical authorities because otherwise the asset that he is might be lost to mankind. He should not be bothered with proofreading his articles, with washing dishes, with taking the trash out. He shouldn't be bothered with his minutiae of life. These lowly menial or intellectual jobs should be best assigned, should be assigned to the less gifted.

The devil is in paying precious attention to details. Entitlement is sometimes justified.

Don't misunderstand me. A Picasso, an Einstein or a Wacknin, you know, they should feel entitled.

But most narcissists are not. They're not a Picasso or an Einstein or even a Wacknin.

The accomplishments of the narcissists, he grotesquely amplifies them. He creates fantasies and delusions of grandeur.

And even then, these so-called accomplishments are grotesquely incommensurate with his overwhelming sense of entitlement. Most narcissists are mediocre or even underachievers, forgettable. But they don't perceive themselves as such.

And this grandiosity feeds the entitlement. You're beginning to see all the connections between the various strands of the narcissist's chaotic, low organization personality.

Of course, the feeling of supremacy often serves to mask a cancerous complex of inferiority.


Today, most recent studies show that compensatory narcissism is actually the only form of narcissism. There's a core which Adler called inferiority complex, and it's compensated for by narcissism and grandiosity.

So narcissists infect others with their projected grandiosity and the feedback of these others, of these other people. This feedback constitutes the edifice upon which the narcissist constructs his self-esteem. It's a shared psychosis.

Shared fantasy in the case of romantic relationships, but could be mass psychosis or shared psychosis in the case of cults or political parties, personality cults.

The narcissist regulates his sense of self-worth by rigidly insisting that he's above the maddening crowd, that he is superior and supreme, ubermensch. And at the same time, he derives his narcissistic supply from the very people that he despises, from the very sources that he holds in contempt.

But there is a second angle to this abhorrence of the predictable in the routine and the mundane and the pedestrian.

There's a second angle to this, as a narcissist.

The narcissist employs a host of emotional investment prevention mechanisms, EIPMs.

Yes, I coined this phrase as well. He despises routine and he avoids routine. And this is one of these mechanisms, emotional involvement prevention mechanisms.

Google it.

The function of EIPMs is to prevent the narcissist from getting emotionally involved and subsequently from getting hurt. It's an outcome of pain aversion, anticipated pain and then pain aversion.

And the application of EIPMs results in an approach avoidance, repetition, compulsion, the narcissist fearing and loathing intimacy, stability, security, and yet at the same time craving intimacy, stability and security is torn. He approaches people, situations, jobs, and then he avoids, he withdraws.

Significant others, important tasks. There's a rapid succession of apparently inconsistent and disconnected behaviors. And this is only one of the EIPMs.

And I'll dedicate my next video or the video after that to a detailed analysis of emotional investment prevention mechanisms in narcissism.

You see, entitlement is connected to everything. Aggression, grandiosity, pain aversion, learned helplessness, boundaries or lack of boundaries, lack of separation and individuation, etc. It is indeed a psychodynamic pillar of narcissism, but it's misunderstood. It's compensatory. It's not grandiose. It's exactly the opposite.

Okay, Shoshani, I hope you survived to this very second. And if you haven't, I can't say that I blame you. Absolutely not. I feel entitled to your attention, but I'm insufficiently grandiose to expect it.

Thank you.

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