Entitlement and associated suffering

Adesh Kumar Mishra
4 min readJun 13, 2023
Photo by 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash

Give someone ten rupees daily for ten consecutive days. What would be his reaction if he does not receive the same amount on the eleventh day? He may be furious, or disappointed with you. But, why so? It was not his rightful share from you, he did not earn it. But why is he complaining?

It is because he thinks that he is entitled to it, i.e., getting ten rupees daily whether he has earned it or not.

Entitlement may be justified based on the arduous work we put in, skills learned, sacrifices we made or struggles we had. Society teaches us that we can become or achieve anything if we are willing and capable of in putting the effort it takes. For example, cracking a highly competitive exam or building a successful business, etc.

When we toil hard for anything, be it a career, money or relationship; it is our general belief system that we are entitled to have them. The expectation of having what we deserve generally makes us disappointed, anxious and frustrated.

Somewhere we think that we are entitled to our desired lifestyle and people, which is not true.

Flaws in entitlement -

  1. Logically flawed and delusional based on individual belief, not reality
  2. Generates emotional turmoil.

There is nothing wrong with putting your focus and energy towards your goals. We should be willing to work hard and come out of our comfort zone to achieve our dreams or goals. The problem arises when we start believing that we are entitled to things as we have invested our time and energy in them.

As Marcus Aurelius said in the meditations, it is not up to us to control the outcomes. What we have is only our efforts, opinions and mental fortitude. It is not up to us to meet nice people only, get respect and achieve success, every time we try.

Reality is often different from our expectations, being different is not synonymous with bad or ugly. It is our entitlement to it which makes it good or bad.

Entitlement often leads to emotional turmoil as not getting what we want or believe that we deserve causes grief, suffering and emotional trauma. It is more evident when we invest significant time, energy in the person, career or other goals of our life.

Since childhood, we dream of our life, what type of job will I do. What type of car will I buy, and what type of person do I want to live with? This dreaming often deviates us from reality and makes us wishful thinkers. Wishful thinking results in larger-than-life expectations and makes us anxious and worrisome. It is not the reality that hurts us but rather the imagination of how it should be.

As Seneca points outs, “ It is not the reality that frightens us but rather the imagination of it. “

The negative biasing of our mind is more dominating as compared to the positive side of it, as the evolution of humankind depends on the perceived threats than the realistic ones.

In the past few centuries, life has become safer than it was in ancient times. We have lesser threats from wild animals and deadly infections, we have better health facilities now.

But our history of several thousand years has programmed us to worry about everything that can go wrong even when we do not know the future.

For example, when we like someone or want them in our life, our negative biasing always imagines a scenario of them leaving us. The problem arises when we feel that we are entitled to that person and that entitlement causes all the suffering. Entitlement makes our imagination go wild, the mind starts thinking about all the scenarios where our entitlement can be broken or lost.

This creates immense emotional turmoil as the brain perceives it as a threat to our survival, and releases stress hormones to make us prepare for fight or flight mode. When we continuously live in an anxious or stressed state, it causes the immune system to suppress and opens the door to all kinds of physical and psychological illnesses.

Let us become intimate with poverty, so that fortune may not catch us off guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort if we once learn how far poverty is from being a burden.

  • Seneca, Moral letters to Luculias

Often, we dread the future while, it may not be that dreadful when we face it. It is always better to leave the past in the past, and future in the future. As one has an unalterable reality and another is uncertain, we hardly know anything of it. Entitlement always hindrances our intelligence and creates illusions, we tend to live in a world which is far from reality. As we have already discussed that it is impossible to control the future or actions of other individuals. Entitlement makes us live in a false reality where everything should happen according to our wishes. These wishes hardly would come true, instilling a deep sense of fear in us.

Whenever we feel entitled to someone or something, we should remember the Epictetus saying that goes like this, “ Everything in this world is borrowed, our homes, our possessions, our loved ones and even our bodies are nothing but temporary gifts we take care of until the assigner takes them away which can happen at any moment. “

If we embrace this idea, many problems in our life get solved automatically. Our focus shifts toward the process rather than the outcome, or more specifically desired outcome.

The restless mind always suffers no matter if you provide it with all the luxuries in the world. So, the goal should be peace of mind, and for that, we have to train it just like we train for other aspects of life.

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