Master your Emotional Self

The Laws of Human Nature – Book Summary

The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene.

Find the full book here.

This is the start of a book summary of the book – The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene.

Each chapter will be summarized in a separate blog post.

Any text in italics is a direct quotation from the book unless otherwise mentioned.

Chapter 1 – Master your Emotional Self


You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life as best you can. But you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you.

Whenever something bad befalls us we immediately look externally for the cause of that situation. We blame people, governments, society, communities, etc. before we blame ourselves.

It could be that external entities are to blame for some issues, but it is imperative that one seeks out the causes (of a situation) that he can control rather than the causes he cannot control.

You do not have control over other people, governments and communities; but you do have control over yourself.

The first step toward becoming rational is to understand our fundamental irrationality.

No one is free from emotions & irrationality.

The wise, the intellectual and the educated are irrational at times.

We will introduce the main steps in banishing irrationality and welcoming rationality further on.

One must understand that irrationality is promoted in the modern world.

How can businesses sell you something you don’t need?

They connect to the irrational side of man.

Advertisers bombard us with highly effective subliminal messages. Our continual connection to social media makes us prone to new forms of viral emotional effects. These are not media designed for calm reflection. With their constant presence, we have less and less mental space to step back and think.

Irrational people are easily affected by the subliminal messages of advertisers. They associate a product with the notion of success, beauty, prestige, etc.

Rational people are introspective. They are able to remove emotions from their thought processes to an extent and think clearly and objectively. This is why rational people tend not to be affected by advertisements, social media, and other modern day distractions.

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How to banish irrationality.

STEP ONE: Recognize the Biases.

  • The Appearance Bias :

Do not misread people. People are not who they seem to be. Generally, we see people not as they are, but as they appear to us.

  • THE GROUP BIAS:

We like to agree with the ideas of a group, so we can belong. The feelings of isolation & alienation crush us from inside. We avoid this by following an ideology of an established group. It is imperative to follow your own ideology even though it alienates you from others.

  • THE BLAME BIAS:

When something goes wrong, we immediately point the finger at someone or something else. We never consider ourselves as the cause of an issue. It is important to look at ourselves before we look at the mistakes of others.

  • SUPERIORITY BIAS:

Deep down, we like to consider ourselves superior to others, whether that be in intellect, morals or wealth & prestige. This bias is also known as arrogance. Arrogance limits the individual from learning and growth; because one thinks he is better he is inclined to refuse the advice of others.

BEWARE THE INFLAMING FACTORS.

There are several factors which contribute to irrationality.

TRIGGER POINTS FROM EARLY CHILDHOOD

There are key moments in our childhood that leave a deep impression upon us. This could be something positive such as ‘walking the dog in a meadow and smelling the smell of flowers’ or it could be something negative such as ’embarrassing yourself at an important social event’.

These impressionable moments may be triggered at a later point in the future, and the same emotions that were felt the first time will be felt when those moments are triggered the second time.

Greene gives the example of a boy who has a distant mother. He experiences abandonment and deals with his mothers bitter nature. Later on in life, his relationship partner might show hints of disapproval in his actions and he will associate her disapproval with the same actions of his mother.

This will trigger those emotions felt in the past and will send him into fury, depression or any other ferocious emotion. The partner will be confused as too why a slight disapproval affected him greatly.

This is very common. Many people have irrational fears and emotional tendencies that they themselves cannot explain. Among the reasons for these fears and tendencies are sourced from childhood (I guess this is why psychologists ask their patients about their childhood alot).

Sudden Gains or Losses

Winnings that are not achieved by hard work, patience and according to the principles of success are regarded as sudden gains.

Sudden gains could be winning a large sum of money at the poker machines, or it could be simply finding a good amount of money.

These situations tend to become addicting. We will desire more and more sudden winnings.

When sudden winnings become addictive, you begin to chase winnings instead of working for it. You will disregard the true principles of success and begin to place your hopes on luck and the whims of the people that surround you.

Also, sudden loses have the impact of sending one into mania and irrationality. To have ‘a lot’ one day and nothing the next day is a burdensome toll to pay.

The advice regarding these situations is to remain aware and critical of your winnings and losses. Make sure you are aware of the source of your winnings & losses. Once you are aware, you are able to refrain yourself from falling into the addictive cycle of sudden winnings. Once you are aware, you are able to withdraw from a situation (sudden loss) and come back to it when your mind is level and clear.

RISING PRESSURE

When emotional and psychological pressure is placed on someone they will attempt to contain themselves and attempt to act as civilized as possible.

But, rising pressure tends to bring out the worst out of people. Rising pressure could bring out irrational behavior such as; extreme anger, childish behavior, melancholy, etc.

When you feel that the pressure is rising, make sure to withdraw from the immediate situation and retreat so that you could get a clearer perspective.

Inflaming Individuals

There are people in the world who by their nature tend to trigger powerful emotions in almost everyone they encounter.

I am sure we all know one or more individuals who we are emotionally affected by.

First you must learn to identify an inflaming individual. Key indicators of an inflaming individual include; charisma and good social skills, changes in the mood of an environment, good communication skills, the ability to adapt to many situations, etc.

It is important to recognize the inflaming individuals that you may have in your daily life, so that you are not affected by their sweet words and magnetizing presence.

The Group Effect

Our moods and inclinations tend to change when we are part of a group.

This could include religious groups, sporting groups, crowds at sporting events, groups of protesters and so on.

When in a group, our emotions mimic the emotions off the complete group. When in a group there is a dominant set of emotions which you can call; ‘collective emotions’. We tend to follow the emotions of the group because being in a group does not stimulate independent reasoning but rather the intense desire to belong.

The advice here is to ’emotionally withdraw’ from the group. Awareness is key to this inflaming factor and many others. When you are aware of the group affect, you are most likely are not going to be influenced by it.

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STRATEGIES TO BRING OUT THE RATIONAL SELF

Know yourself deeply: Study yourself. What are your weaknesses? What are your trigger points? Analyze your previous mistakes. How can you improve>

Find the source of your emotions: Sometimes your emotions are not a direct response to external stimulus. Responses may be due to: trigger points from early childhood, a bad day, mental state affected by drugs or alcohol. Remember: Withdraw before reacting irrationally.

Withdraw from a situation: It is wise to step back from a situation before exhibiting your full emotions and judgement. Sometimes a situation is not what it seems to be. Sometimes bad situations are actually a good in disguise. Analyze a situation before reacting to it.

Balance thinking and emotions: The horse is the emotions. The rider is thought. Without the other, nothing can be achieved. However, if they are together, they are able to become a powerful force.


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