Entitlement is a term that is used frequently in many different areas. As a way of thinking, entitlement increases the belief that one individual is deserving of special treatment or privileges. This is not based on any specific criteria but rather the belief that you are superior or more deserving than the other person in the relationship. This extends to all aspects of life, and the entitled person does not negotiate or make concessions; they simply demand and expect this special treatment.
This is the very definition of a narcissist. Narcissistic entitlement often involves believing they deserve respect, control, credit, and recognition even if they did nothing to earn those benefits. In fact, a true narcissist simply assumes that he or she will be the sole recipient of those benefits. They expect the other partner in the relationship to follow along and willing to give of themselves and their resources.
In many cases, individuals that display narcissistic entitlement do so only in specific settings. Narcissists are often very insecure and may avoid appearing entitled in the workplace in front of colleagues while taking out all their frustration and need to “get back” at coworkers or their partner.
At the same time, this sense of entitlement is often very familiar to the dynamics many people experience in their families. These people have learned that fawning or giving the narcissist what they want is the best way to please their partner and reduce the risk of conflict and having to withstand the anger of the narcissist.
What is Fawning?
Fawning is a learned behavior that was, at one time, a beneficial coping mechanism. It is the response when in a stressful situation that creates a need to appease others and to avoid conflict at all costs. This is not being kind or letting the small stuff go; it is about giving up all your needs to attempt to please the other and get out of a potential emotional or physically dangerous situation.
Most people with codependency issues have experienced traumatic childhood events. This may be a history of abuse within the family, including both physical and emotional abuse. Over time and with repeated codependent and toxic relationships, this coping strategy becomes their primary response. While they may also use the fight, flight, or freeze response when a traumatic issue is unfolding, these individuals are more likely to use fawning or extreme people pleasing to attempt to avoid conflict.
They want to be seen as being nice, cooperative, or apologetic, but they become hyper-focused on these behaviors. Typically they do not have boundaries or make no attempt to enforce a boundary if they feel threatened.
Tips To Avoid Fawning
The entitled narcissist is able to take full advantage of the fawning or people pleasing by intentionally creating conflict situations that trigger the fawning response. Recognizing that fawning is a go-to response when you feel threatened is an important first step.
There are some tools and techniques that individuals who recognize the fawning response can use to help change their behavior. Some of the most effective techniques include:
- Regulating the nervous system – practicing healthy lifestyle habits is one of the most effective ways to regulate both physical and emotional responses. This includes physical exercise, mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, and refocusing on positive things in life rather than negative events.
- Feeling your body’s response to stress – recognizing where you feel a physiological response to stress can help you make choices before the automatic fawning response. Signs of stress can include clenching the jaws, lifting the shoulders, or experiencing a sinking feeling in the stomach. Breathing deeply and focusing on relaxing these areas can help provide time to consider options to fawning that still provide safety and protection.
- Recognize fawning is a response to trauma – acknowledging the trauma in your past and the development of the fawnings response as a way to protect yourself as a child is important. This is a learned response, and you can learn alternatives.
- Challenge your behaviors – asking yourself what is going on in the moment can help you to become more aware of your choices. Questions such as:
- Why am I choosing to please this individual?
- What is my ideal outcome for this situation?
- Is this action helping or hurting my own values and needs?
- Is this what I want to do or what I feel I need to do to keep someone else happy?
Working with a therapist or joining my community Wake Up Recovery for healing after a codependent or toxic relationship to learn to validate your own experiences and feelings and to create and maintain boundaries will also help to move from fawning to valuing yourself in any relationship.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach
And Wake Up Recovery for Toxic Relationships, Codependency and Love Addiction