Last week I wrote about Harvey Weinstein and the long term cultural reasons for his outlandish manish behavior.
I received so many responses that I see I hit a nerve.
One of you asked some very important questions regarding family. Think, for a minute, about the subtitle of my book “Don’t Bring It To Work,” which says so much: “Breaking The Family Patterns That Limit Success.”
Here is the query from last week.
“What I want to know is WHY? And for you, Sylvia, what is the pattern that leads to this type of behavior? Where is the failure in parenting that potentiates or somehow licenses sexual aggression or disrespect toward women? Or towards men, for that matter, in the case of Kevin Spacey? (He says youth and booze made him do what he doesn’t remember.) Why aren’t mothers and fathers educating their sons in how to behave? Or modeling behavior?
First, let me say I spent a great deal of time reading all I could find about Weinstein’s growing up time. I was looking for the patterns that connect one generation to the next or some crisis that may be at the heart of his behavior.
I also want to go past “powerful men exploiting women.”
Since I never met Weinstein (although he exemplifies how power corrupts) I am going to take some broad strokes and look at our society and the complexities of the parent – child relationship that I hope will stimulate thought and open eyes to new ways of seeing past the obvious of right and wrong, good and bad.
Let me introduce you to the psychological concept of “Destructive Entitlement.”
Entitlement is something earned or believed to be earned by one’s actions. An example would be that John or Joanne did an all-nighter to finish a major project. They then feel entitled to take a few days off after that to chill and recuperate and expect an added bonus for their efforts.
We are always attempting to balance the scales of fairness. From the time we are children wanting the pie to be cut in exact pieces, to adulthood where we want (and need) recognition for who we are and what we do to be helpful and effective.
Now, on to Destructive Entitlement. Here’s what happens in a family and how this reverberates in society in general.
When individuals (especially children) give without getting any recognition, the seeds of destructive entitlement are sown.
For example, a child of a depressed mother spends all of his/her time worrying about the parent’s welfare. They come home from school to tend to the parent, hoping to make them happy and see them relax. Instead they watch as the parent lies on the sofa, television blaring and alcohol or drugs close by. While they cannot change the scene, they stay attached and over-protective. Perhaps they request help from the father who is absent either emotionally or physically, to no avail.
Fast forward to this youngster as an adult.
Yearning for attention they turn to other women/men to fill the void that was left from being a caretaker as a kid.
I call it “attempting to fill an empty pitcher without a bottom.”
If not checked this behavior searching to fill the pitcher turns into an obsession. Nothing is enough. More sex, more drugs, more money, more adulation.
The pattern that began in childhood is called “parentification.” This means the child becomes the parent to very needy grown-ups. And, sadly, this can go on for generations.
The failure in parenting is when adults who have become parents do not look at their own neediness (one or both parents) and make the necessary changes to help the next generation become whole.
Parents who are not educating their sons (and daughters) about effective behavior are already damaged in their own way.
My suggestion, as many of you know, is to spend the time doing your Sankofa Map and looking at where entitlement can be seen as destructive.
I hope both Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are afforded the possibility of looking at their family generational patterns that have led them to take what is not theirs via the route of destructive entitlement.
I value your comments and will continue to respond.