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We humans have a certain nature to us that has been with us since the very start of our existence. We are more or less a slave to it. However, through practice it can be channelled into something positive. In this book, Robert Greene introduces us to the laws of our human nature. Understand that every one of us operates under these laws. By having awareness of them, we gain a different perception of ourselves as well as others and will be able to life a more fulfilling and easier life. We will be able to understand other people better and build more empathetic and understanding relationships.
“Man will only become better when you make him see what he is like.”
We think of ourselves as rational creatures that consciously make decisions and act out in a rational way. We forget that most of our behaviour is caused by our emotions and that even our thinking is never truly rational. However, rationality can be cultivated through practice.
We are all narcissists, some more (deep narcissists) or less (functional narcissists) than others. We are naturally self-absorped and mostly sensitive to ourselves. Our self-esteem is developed during childhood. We also naturally possess empathy that can be further cultivated in order to feel other people’s emotions and to understand why they act the way they do. By turning our self-absorption and self-love outwards, we can build better relationships and recognise toxic people.
We are all playing a role and wearing a mask. We like to present ourselves in a good way, that makes us seem confident, kind and likable. We like to conceal our negative traits, emotions and intentions. Personality comes from Latin “persona” which means masks. Wearing a mask protects us. Never be blinded by other people’s appearances and try to see through their masks to see their true self.
Our character is developed in our childhood, through our experiences, habits and our attachment style. It is deeply ingrained and stamped within us. It is the reason why we behave the way we do and why we repeat our behaviour (even though we know that we shouldn't do it) and why we fall into negative patterns. We never do something just ones. Figure out the strength of someone’s character and recognise toxic types. Break free from your own negative patterns by altering your character.
We are deeply affected by the absence and presence of something. Too much presence of something suffocates us while absence spurs our interest as it leaves room for imagination. We generally desire what we can’t or don’t have, which is considered as the grass-is-always-greener-syndrome. The closer we get, the more we see that it is actually not that green. Show people what they lack and they will grave it. You can use this for your own advantage to gain power.
We are impressed by the things in the present moment that we tend to forget why they happened or what consequences they will have. This is why we overly react to present circumstances and grave instant gratification. With the passage of time and by increasing the distance to the present, we gain more information and see things more clearly. Time reveals reality. By increasing and widening your vision, you gain clarity to reach your goals.
In this competitive world we must look after ourselves first. We all think of ourselves as autonomous, intelligent and good people: “I am acting out of my own free will. I am intelligent in my own way. I am basically good and decent”. We hate being criticised, proven wrong in our self-opinion and doing something for someone else against our will, which all makes us defensive. Confirm people’s beliefs about themselves and make it seem like they do something for themselves and they will follow you.
Our attitude determines how we see and interpret the world around us. As a result, we act in a way according to our attitude and sabotage ourselves with it. By having negative thoughts of the people around us, they sense our energy and turn away from us. By thinking negative about our circumstances, we avoid taking risks and therefore might miss opportunities.
We see the world differently than anyone else, we have our own perception of reality. Our attitude is developed through our genes, our earliest experiences and attachment styles.
We all have a shadow self within us that includes all of our negative feelings and traits. We conceal, repress and hide it by covering it up with a carefully crafted mask. Our shadow is mostly unconscious but by making it conscious we can channel its energy into something positive. By integrating our shadow, we can become more complete and authentic.
We are constantly comparing and measuring ourselves with others. Some may channel this into a motivating force while others develop deep envy. It is most common in friendships. Notice any sign of envy and draw attention away from yourself to protect yourself. Build self-esteem so that you don’t have to compare yourself.
We all have a high opinion of ourselves and when this opinion is being confirmed, we feel grandiose. We forget the role luck or other people might have played in our success and tie it solely to ourselves. On the other hand, we think failure is caused by anything else but ourselves. We lose touch with reality. It is important to check yourself regularly and tie any accomplishment to your work, your contribution to society etc.
We all have masculine and feminine qualities in us. Their quantity is determined by our genetics, the society we grow up in and our parent of the opposite sex. We repress the masculine or feminine part within us that society doesn’t want to see and by doing so we lose important qualities. By reconnecting to the lost and repressed part within you, you will become more flexible in your thinking and a more complete human.
Because we don’t have instincts, we have to consciously make decisions and take control of our lives. However, most of them are directed by society or by our emotions which is why we often end up where we don’t want to be. We are rather aimless and often end up being depressed. By discovering your purpose in life, you will be able to deal with adversity better and you will instantly know, which direction and path to take.
When in a group, we are often a very different person as if we were on our own. We conform to the morals of the group and think, behave, feel and act like the rest of the group. We lose our individuality and are more prone to taking risks. By being aware of the effects a group has on us, we can embrace our individuality better and think more rationally.
People always feel ambivalent towards their leader, our feelings are never pure or simple. We want freedom and being lead, we love and hate our leader. Getting people to follow you freely takes time and practice. Appear powerful, legitimate and fair.
Observe the phenomen of authority, develop some of the habits and strategies yourself and see authority as a good thing.
Behind their mask, people are dealing with frustration and aggression. We repress these unwanted feelings because we think of ourselves as peaceful and good. However, we want to control and manipulate people and can come off as passive-aggressive. Beware the dangerous types and watch out for the signs. Channel your own inner aggressive energy towards something positive for instance your work.
The source of our aggression lies in our feeling of helplessness. Because of that, we want to take control over everything.
We are born into a generation that has a huge influence on us. Every generation wants to separate itself from the previous one with new ideas and worldviews. During our childhood, we internalise these beliefs and in our adult years we close ourselves off to new ideas from the next generation. We are often not aware of the profound effect our generation has on us. We think that nothing really changes from one day to another but looking back a few years, we see that actually a lot changed.
We repress the fact that we will all die one day and that death is inevitable. We don’t like thinking of death not only because of fear but also because of awkwardness. By thinking about death regularly (and in a healthy way) we will find more purpose in our life and more urgency to realise our goals.
Psychology student with a passion for learning and developing as a person.
The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene is a book that I think everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.
Curious about different takes? Check out our The Laws of Human Nature Summary book page to explore multiple unique summaries written by Deepstash users.
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