10. Entitlement Victim Approach - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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10. Entitlement Victim Approach

Therapist Resources > Therapy Books > All Relationships MultiCult

All Relationships and Therapy are Multi-Cultural- Family and Cross-Cultural Complications
by Ronald Mah

An entitlement/victim approach facilitates viewing of individuals, families, or traditionally disenfranchised peoples as victims.  This often degenerates into a contest of "Who is the most oppressed!" or "Who is the biggest victim!"  Among communities (including ethnic or racial groups, religious groups, various classes, etc.) the "Prize" of claiming the title is a sense of entitlement.  Entitlement allows some advantage to an otherwise equitable relationship or meritocracy.  Between members of a relationship, the "Prize" is a sense of moral righteousness.  This can happen between different ethnic groups and also within ethnic groups by class, education, gender, or other criteria.  LaTaillade (2006) points out that "it is not uncommon for African American male and female partners to respectively believe that they each experience more difficulties due to their race and gender and particularly, during times of distress also accuse the other partner of being unsympathetic and unsupportive of his or her pain and frustration" (page 352).  Victims assert that they have little or no power and control in their lives.  This becomes destructive to their sense of self-esteem as power is gained through asserting powerlessness.  In addition, others in their relationships, including partners have to accept being the bad guys and perpetrators.  This compromises the possibility of each person taking responsibility for their role in the relationship dysfunction.  Individuals who have the experience of being victimized in their family of origin and/or having been victimized as members of a targeted disenfranchised and oppressed community may tend to replicate this role in new relationships, including being in a couple.  Quite commonly, both members of a couple or every member of a family will assert that he/she is the real victim in the relationship!  Therapy by the individual or members of the couple or family becomes a contest to recruit the therapist into choosing oneself as the victim.  I keep a small very cheap plastic trophy within reach in my therapy office.  When a couple starts to have start to have the "who's the biggest victim" contest: who has the most stress; who has the worse set of parents… the crummiest job… the biggest grievance, I grab the plastic trophy, wave it at the couple, and ask, "OK, who gets the trophy for being the biggest victim, the most pathetic, the worse of the worse!?"  More often than not, this sarcastic therapeutic intervention breaks the tension, exposes the dysfunctional dynamic, and re-directs the therapy toward more productive examination of where and how the entitlement/victim approach developed for each of them and together in the relationship.

3056 Castro Valley Blvd., #82
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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