Entitled Pattern

Interpersonal Behavior

Treats other people an as extensions of herself. Lack of boundaries with focus on self-needs.

Self-absorbed, selfish.

Lacking in empathy. Insensitive to other people’s feelings and needs.

Assumes that others are like her, and if they appear different, it is because they are out of touch or in need of help.

Intrusive, unaware of other people’s boundaries.

Exploitative, uses other people, usually without realizing it.

Can be impulsive.


Breaks rules without even realizing there are rules.

Tends to not feel OK unless things are exactly as she wants them to be; gets upset and angry.


Group, Community, Organizational, and Work Behavior

Can monopolize group’s attention or otherwise take up space without sensitivity to others.



Comes from a lack of boundaries and inability to see others as whole people.

A defense against being exploited or controlled by others.

The pattern is partly a way for the person to try to get a feeling of being valued to make up for an underlying feeling of deficiency. If others will give to me, then I must be OK.


Core Issues/Origins

Exploitation, being used by parents, often by acting as a mirror for their parents. Lack of boundaries means one or the other is likely to be exploited, so the entitled pattern defends against being exploited by exploiting others.

Indulgence of child. Child was not given proper limits or taught delayed gratification. Child was indulged when she was selfish or demanding. Other people’s needs were not made important. Child was not expected to be responsible around house.

Over-investment in the child’s being special.

Modeled entitlement, by either parent or sibling

Defense against obligation to be responsible for others

Partly derived from legitimate entitlement of young deprived child to get needs met, from a need to treat others as selfobjects

Partly derives from fixation at stage of development where self and other not fully differentiated.

Deficiency issues of any kind.



My needs are important.


Unconscious Thought

Other people are extensions of me.

If you give to me, I must be valuable.



Self and other representations are fused with a focus on needs of self.


Distortions of Perception

Sees others as a way to meet my needs.

Sees self as assertive

Sees people who are autonomous as defiant or isolated

Sees people who are compliant as healthy


Healthy Capacities Blocked

Caring, considerate, responsible, cooperative


Activating Conditions

Threats to sense of value or autonomy.

Close relationships. 

Situations where needs might get met.



People with the entitled pattern tend to be controlling, but in a way that comes from lack of boundaries, while some people with the controlling pattern do it from a bounded place and aren’t entitled.

Assertiveness is a healthy capacity where a person can ask for what she wants, but without necessarily being insensitive to other people’s needs.

Expansiveness is a healthy capacity where a person can take up space, but without necessarily being insensitive to other people’s needs.

Isolated people can also be selfish and lacking in empathy, but they do this by being over-bounded while entitled people do it by being under-bounded. 

A needy person may see other primarily in terms of meeting her needs, but she won’t necessarily expect that they should do so.


Combinations of Entitled Pattern with Other Patterns

Prideful: narcissistic performer, derives from combination of exploitation and investment in the child being special in a particular way; your job is to make me feel good about myself

Narcissism usually involves the prideful, brittle, and entitled patterns, sometimes including the charming pattern.

Codependent: Person believes she is caring for others but is really meeting her own needs and so is often controlling and intrusive.

Needy: Person is so desperate to get her needs met that others needs and limits don’t count. Tends to be intrusive and demanding.

Charming: Charms people into making her the center of attention and admiring her, thus playing into her sense of entitlement.

Insecure: To be loved means being treated specially. If I don’t get that, I must not be OK



The victim pattern involves being entitled in a certain way.

Entitled people are usually controlling.

Entitled and compliant people are often attracted to each other.

Entitled and defiant people often get into conflicts with each other.

Entitled, needy, victim, codependent, and compliant patterns all involve a lack of boundaries.


Dynamics with Other Patterns and Capacities

Entitled people are often attracted to compliant or codependent people in a destructive way, and vice versa.

Entitled people often gets into serious conflicts with defiant or isolated or needy people.

An entitled person often makes others feel that they are not being seen. They may respond with anger, competition, or feeling bad about themselves.


How to Relate to Entitled People

Circumventing & Disconfirming: Be sensitive to their needs  

Protection: Assert your own needs. Point out how they are not sensitive to you.

Using Their Strength: Put them in situations where you need someone to expect a lot from others

Healing response to an entitled person being considerate: Be appreciative. Don’t forget about their needs


How to Experiment with Healthy Behavior and Attitude

Work on becoming aware of your expectation of having everything your way

Work on becoming aware of your need to be treated in a special way

Work on becoming aware of your tendency to take others for granted

Work on becoming empathic with other people’s feelings

Work on becoming sensitive to other people’s needs, pain, and limits, especially when your pain and needs are strong

Work on becoming aware of other people’s responses to you and take this as information about your sensitivity to them

Work on becoming aware of your fear of being exploited by others

Work on feeling sufficient and OK even if you don’t get what you want





Related Technical Concepts

Fused object relations




Client expects special favors from therapist around money, time, etc.

Client expects therapist to give her exactly what she wants.

In making these demands, the client disregard any needs or limits the therapist might have.


Countertransference toward Entitled Client

Therapist gives in to client’s demands for special treatment.

Therapist becomes angry at client’s demands and at therapist’s needs being ignored.


Countertransference of Entitled Therapist

Therapist is too focused on the therapy meeting his needs rather than the client’s.

Therapist talks too much about himself.


Group Roles/Positions





Forming the Alliance

The entitled pattern doesn’t show up as much or cause as much trouble in individual therapy because that modality fits the needs of the pattern. (This is quite different in group, family, or couple therapy.) This means that forming an alliance is not a problem.


Understanding of Pattern Needed by Client

Client needs to see that she has trouble being sensitive to other people’s needs or limits. You can point out the ways that the client acts this out in the transference, but this shouldn’t be done too soon or with brittle clients. Better to do this with respect to other people in the client’s life.

Entitled clients have a better chance of seeing their pattern in group, couple, or family therapy. Here they will be confronted by others about their pattern, and be forced to deal with other people’s needs and limits.

Be careful in pointing out this issue because it can engender shame to be seen as selfish and insensitive. Make it clear to the client that she is not bad, that entitled issues are no different from other therapy issues.


Accessing Core Issue and Origins

Client needs to access the pain of being exploited by parents, and also the pain of being valued only as a mirror for parents.

Indulgence is rarely accessed because there is little pain involved.


Healing Response to Accessing

Entitled clients especially need mirroring for who they really are, not for what they can do for others. This can take the form of empathy and understanding as the client accesses painful material.


Accessing Healthy Capacities

Entitled clients needs to develop their capacity for empathy and understanding of others. This happens best in group therapy. If an entitled client has trouble being interested in other people’s pain and stories, this can be explored as an issue.


Experimenting with Healthy Behavior and Attitudes

In group therapy, the client needs to experiment with being sensitive to others, caring for others, and appreciating differences between herself and others. Once the client understands her pattern, you can explicitly encourage her in this direction.

Entitled clients often want to tell stories or otherwise perform while making little contact with others. Their real need is for genuine contact and caring, but they don't know this. Help the client to see that getting attention isn’t really satisfying and to experiment with going for what they really need.


Healing Response to Experimenting

Appreciation is helpful. Explicitly frame what the client has done.

When a client goes for real contact, she will usually get it, which is healing in itself.


Healing Relationship 

A relationship in which the client is neither exploited nor indulged, where she is seen and understood, loved and appreciated for her real self. Where she is challenged when she is insensitive to others within the larger context of being cared for. Where she can get real contact and caring from others, not just attention.


Potential Problems 

In group therapy, an entitled client can monopolize group time and be intrusive, generating resentment in other members. If the client is also brittle, she won’t be able to handle the anger she will get. Try to work with her yourself to forestall group attacks and to get her interested in this issue.


Other Interventions

Keep clear and firm boundaries around the treatment so the client doesn’t exploit you. This also is a healing response to the parents’ indulgence of the client as a child..