NOTE: It appears that some people are using this entry as a support of the bizarre conservative belief that poor people have a “sense of entitlement” to the means by which to live and that this is somehow bad. Obviously we are all entitled to the right to live, and to say otherwise is asinine. Stop linking to this entry, right-wing assholes.
People sometimes get a feeling of entitlement, which makes them hard to deal with. It does often lead them to try to control others, generally through psychological manipulation. The two concepts are closely related. When two hostile people stand on unequal footing, violence can be used, but when they are roughly equal in an ordered society, the best they can do is try to manipulate each other.
People are led to have a sense of entitlement because they falsely believe they are owed something based on the social roles that they have taken for themselves. Because someone has accepted the role of being someone’s friend, boy/girlfriend, husband or wife, they feel entitled to get favours from the other person. Because someone has accepted the role of being a parent, they feel entitled to being respected by their children. Because someone has accepted the role of being a consumer, they feel entitled to be served as they desire. In short, they want to play the game without having the power to get what they want, so they will try to manipulate you to get it.
The feeling of entitlement is predicated on the acceptance of social roles, of false selves. People who reject these roles must also reject the feeling of entitlement, and all the false beliefs that come from it. No one owes you anything, except what they willfully promised you. you do not owe anyone anything, except what you willfully promised them.
The issue of manipulation is interesting in and of itself. Here is what the humanistic psychology site redpsy.com has to say about the issue (my translation from the original French):
How are we manipulated?
Two partners are needed for manipulation to be successful: the one who manipulates and the one who gives in to manipulated. Why do we give in? We give in because the manipulator strikes in us a “sensitive chord.” We can say that he makes a chord vibrate which we do not wish to feel vibrating. So we do what he wants in order to cease the vibration. This sensitive chord is generally an unpleasant emotion, an undesirable self-image, an unwanted consequence.
What is the role of giving in to manipulation?
We give in to prevent from living through something that we judge worse than the manipulation itself.
* It’s easier for me to give in to my child’s screaming than bear through his tantrum, so I give him what he wants.
* It’s less intolerable for me to claim that I didn’t really believe what I said (even if I’m lying in saying that) than to bear through his sulking.
* It’s impossible for me to stay mad when he’s charming me like that. It makes me feel odious and I can’t bear it. I let myself be seduced to solve the dilemma.
* It hurts me to see her so pitiful and I know she’ll never do anything to improve her situation. I take it upon myself to solve her problem even if I very well know that she only doesn’t do it herself because she’s a coward.
All the other control mindsets we’ve seen relied on aberrations in the victim’s mind in order to operate (“noble revenge” on the belief in “good guys” and “bad guys,” the superiority complex on total belief in one’s faction, “following orders” on the belief in hierarchies), and the same is true here as well (although in this case we are no longer in the area which would be called “politics”). Because the two people involved are on an equal footing and are operating solely in the area of communication and psychological effect, any act of manipulation implies something like consent on the part of the victim, because of some weakness or aberration in our minds that is incompatible with our values.
Look at our examples. In all cases, we are confronted, as the victim, to feelings that oppose what brings us well-being (parenting as we envision it, honest communication, being valued, having happy autonomous friends). His sulking when faced with an uncomfortable truth makes me feel unwanted, his charms make me feel like my attitude is odious, her pitiful state hurts me.
The question then becomes: why do I feel that way? Here the answers seem to diverge somewhat. For instance, I wouldn’t say that the last example is really a case of manipulation: the fact that someone is too lazy or overwhelmed to solve their problems doesn’t necessarily mean that they are consciously manipulating me to do it for them. And it’s perfectly legitimate for me to want to help someone else, even if they might be able to do it themselves. I also won’t keep using the first example, since it involves parenting and is therefore ambiguous at best (for instance, depending on how young the child is, we may not say that they are consciously manipulating their parents, but merely conditioned by the parent’s reactions over time).
At any rate, the second and third examples are clear examples of manipulation, so let’s answer for those. Why do I feel like his sulking is intolerable? Why do I feel odious for being mad? Because I believe I am at fault, in the first case for not saying what he wants, in the second case for remaining mad. The main error, it seems to me, consist in assuming that one must conform to other people’s expectations, rather than having a relation of equals. The manipulator does this by overwhelming me with either discontent (aggressively getting me to back down) or dishonest love (trying to forcibly drag me back to a positive attitude).
The examples also show the dishonest involved on the part of the victim. Just as in cognitive dissonance, I have to lie to myself in order to make myself accept a new situation. In the second example, I literally lie in order to accept the “I will sulk until you give in” situation. In the third example, I dishonestly force myself to “be seduced” in order to accept the “he’s seducing me while I feel mad” situation. The contradiction between my values and the manipulation is resolved, in these cases by giving in. A more healthy person would, of course, resolve the situation by pointing out the manipulation and refusing to give into it.
These examples pertain to manipulation at a personal level, but they also apply to manipulation at a more public level, such as politics. An individual with a healthy psyche and unconditioned to obedience should be able to see through political manipulation, but most people are unable to do so.
Either way, giving in to manipulation is pointless, because the only consequence will be that the “giving in” will become a reflex, then an automatism (in the same way that obedience does, as I discussed in my entry on the obedience circuit). It is an unwinnable situation. Breaking out of the game of manipulation is done, not by being a better manipulator (with all the corruption that this entails), but rather by exposing it and dashing it as violently as one can. Only then can one be set free from it.