The Spoiled Adult Children Epidemic: Has it Affected You?

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Erin was a young woman with everything going for her, or so it seemed to those who made her acquaintance. She had a bright future ahead of her, with a promising career and a wealthy upbringing. However, as with so many of our patients, she came to us with an immense sadness and depression weighing on her heart. “I grew up being told by my parents that I was destined for greatness – that I could do anything,” she lamented to me. “They doled out all of these compliments without giving me any tools to make it happen for myself. Now, three years out of college, I’m stuck in a mindless corporate sales job.”

Upon hearing her story, we knew that we needed to do some serious work together to help her overcome her negative feelings and patterns of thinking. Erin’s entitlement had caused her to become a classic example of behavioral dysregulation. Over the next few months, we worked together towards a single goal: for her to take responsibility for her own life and happiness.

Unfortunately, Erin found herself struggling as her friends began to secure high-paying jobs. Her difficulty in initially establishing a career path was simple: she was not sure what she wanted to do. If she had attributed this fact as the core reason for the lack of runaway success that her friends were experiencing, then her solution would have been just as simple: take steps to find where your interests may lie and pursue them. However, her entitlement had led her to believe that she was entitled to a certain kind of lifestyle post-college, and she was now faced with the full reality of her extreme narcissistic injury – a blow to her self-esteem – in her transition from top of her class to the bottom of the heap in the working world.

Erin’s entitlement originated with her parents’ doting comments given throughout her upbringing. Coming from a family of high achievers and being surrounded by equally successful friends only added to her belief that things would come easy. When she entered the real world, first as a waitress for a high-end restaurant, she was confronted with the fact that the world didn’t owe her a thing, and it had thrown her into a deep depression. In the months before she came to see me, Erin had been sabotaging her chances for a bright future by placing the blame firmly on others.

Despite Erin’s depression, we felt energized by the opportunity to help her take control of her life for the first time ever. At Journey Psych, we focus our entire energy on healing our patients, and life-changing results will follow. That’s why we are so intent upon doing whatever it takes for those who come to see us, and that’s what we wanted to offer Erin.

We began treatment with antidepressant medication and intensive psychotherapy, providing emotional support for Erin to develop an open, safe, and empathetic therapeutic relationship. We then transitioned to a deeper therapy, where Erin began to explore the unconscious origins of her conflicts. Through our work together, she began to accept that nothing was guaranteed in life, and that you have to work for what you want.

Together, we walked through the ways in which Erin’s entitlement had led her to self-sabotage her own future. Erin centered around both repertoires of behavior and narratives she played in her head. Repertoires of behavior are ways we act which are comfortable and familiar, learned over the years, but which may worsen our prospects in the present. Because Erin had grown up with two parents who openly idealized her at every opportunity, she’d developed entitlement-driven behaviors in adulthood that felt easy and comfortable, but which did not make life very easy for her at all. Erin also played out certain narratives in her head. Because she grew up believing that she was an enormously talented, bright, and confident woman, she was very sensitive to harsh comments made by others.

Together, we shifted her narratives in a way that they became less personalized and more realistic, and she learned that often, when people are short with us or tell us something negative, their behavior is less a reflection of us than a reflection of them and what they might be going through. In other words, “it’s not personal; it has to do with them in the context of their own life struggles and personalities.”

Perhaps you know someone in your life who is struggling with similar issues. Remember, it’s never too late to take control of your life – and with the right guidance and support, anything is possible.

Erin’s story is a common one – despite the many opportunities and advantages she had in life, she felt lost and unhappy. She believed that her expensive degree and privileged upbringing entitled her to a certain kind of lifestyle after college, but when she found herself in a mindless corporate sales job, she realized that things weren’t going to be as easy as she thought. Her feelings of entitlement had caused her to become a classic behavioral dysregulation, and she was struggling to take responsibility for her own life and happiness.

At Journey Psych, we specialize in helping patients like Erin overcome these types of challenges. We began her treatment with antidepressant medication and intensive psychotherapy, and we provided her with emotional support to develop an open, safe, and empathetic therapeutic relationship. We then delved deeper into her unconscious conflicts and helped her explore the origins of her entitlement-driven behaviors and narratives.

Through our work together, Erin started to accept that nothing was guaranteed in life and that she had to work for what she wanted. We helped her shift her narratives so that they became less personalized and more realistic, and she learned to not take other people’s negative comments personally. Over time, she was able to let go of her feelings of entitlement and focus on building a fulfilling career in advertising. She has since obtained a mid-level position at a Fortune 500 company, has been dating the same person for over six months, and has applied to MBA programs with a focus on advertising – all while feeling completely satisfied with her work life.

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