Here's a summary of Chapter Two of Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene. If you missed part 1, I'm afraid I can't link to it from Reddit so you'll have to search.
Video Summary of Chapter 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mxPLc9nwc0
Written Summary of Chapter 2: Transform Self Love Into Empathy - The Law of Narcissism.
Empathy gives us a vision into peoples moods and to acquire social power. But it’s blunted by our self absorption. We are all narcissists.
The narcissistic spectrum
Our sense of self worth depends on recognition from others. Because of this people will do almost anything to get attention.
Look behind almost any action and you will see the need for attention as a primary motivation.
Unfortunately there’s only so much attention to go around. We cannot rely on others to give us constant validation, and yet we still crave it.
To get around this we create a “self” that gives us validation from within. It can’t be too far out of line with reality or others will call us on it. But if we have a way that validates our self image from within we have self esteem.
The key window for developing a self comes between the ages of 2 and 5 years old. We become aware that we are alone but still dependent on our parents.
Deep narcissists have a sharp break during this development and are never able to construct a consistent and realistic feeling of a self. Sometimes the parents are narcissists themselves or inmeshers. They have no self to retreat to or rely on for self esteem, so they become learn how to get attention from others.
They are either a God or a worm. Since their visions for themselves are so grandiose, they often won’t be able to get validation from others, which breeds lots of self doubt.
Drugs and alcohol often become necessary crutches for narcissists to deal with the low points.
How to recognize a narcissist
- If they are insulted or challenged, they have no defense. They react with great rage or vengeance. Position themselves as the wounded victim.
- They immediately turn conversations to themselves. They get envious if other people are getting attention. They often project a strong self confidence but it doesn’t stand behind anything.
- Deep narcissists have an unusual relationship with other people in their lives. They see others as extensions of themselves. Instruments of attention or tools of validation. No competition for attention. Some narcissists find attention from their work. They are continually worrying about what others think of them. They change jobs or careers rather frequently.
- They can be frustrating and annoying to deal with. Lots of drama in their lives.
One variety of deep narcissists that are the most toxic because of the deep levels of power he or she can attain:
The Narcissistic Leader.
They often have more ambition then the average deep narcissist and for a while can funnel this energy into their work. They attract attention and followers with their energy, outrageous statements that others wouldn’t dare say. Experts at using people.
They have to control everything. Tend to burn and destroy whatever they create.
On a scale, if someone falls below the halfway mark they become a deep narcissist, they are often not able to bring themselves back up because they lack the self esteem device. Mostly tend to sink deeper into themselves over time.
Above the halfway mark on the narcissistic scale is what we call the functional narcissist. Where most of us reside. Also self absorbed but we have a coherent sense of self that we can rely upon and love. We may have deeper narcissistic moments, when challenged or depressed. But we elevate ourselves because we have the ability to turn our attention outward to our work or our relationships with others.
Our Task as Students of Human Nature is 3-fold:
- Fully understand the phenomenon of the deep narcissist. They can inflict a deep amount of harm in the world. We need to be able to recognize them. Know how to handle the deep narcissists in our life.
- We must be honest about our own nature and not deny it. We are all narcissists. We want to tell our story and give our opinion. We are all prone to flattery because of our self love. We are all on the spectrum of self absorption. We must accept our own narcissistic nature so we can move beyond it. Denying it doesn’t solve the problem.
- We must begin to make the transformation into the healthy narcissist. A stronger, more resilient sense of self. Hover closer to the top of the scale, recover quicker from attacks, understand their own limits. Since they understand themselves they often have a stronger sense of self. They can direct their focus and love into their work, which gives them success. The other direction is towards people. Developing empathic powers. Complete absorption of others. We can take the perspective of others when we focus on other people. These people can become great leaders.
Higher levels of self absorption has been seen in individuals since the 1970s. A lot of it can be attributed to the internet and social media. Empathy comes from focused attention on other people, not distracted.
We are built for continual social interaction. This is how we have evolved.
Deep narcissism sinks you deeper as you are unable to develop your work or relationships. But healthy narcissism and empathy as you turn your attention outward, you get constant positive attention, people want to be around you more, your work improves.
The four components of the empathic skill set
- The empathic attitude. Begin with the assumption that you’re ignorant and have natural bisases that will make you judge others incorrectly. Remember that other people have a mask that you can mistake for reality. Let go of your tendency to making snap judgements and open your mind. Treat every person like an undiscovered country that you must uncover. Begin this transformation in attitude in your numerous daily conversations. Reverse the impulse to talk and then try to hear other peoples point of view. Consider the mindset that makes people think the way they do. Put yourself in their shoes. Completely accept your own character flaws so you can love yourself.
- Visceral Empathy. Pay attention to people. When they talk they either have a feeling tone that is in sync or not in sync with what they are saying. Try to detect their feeling before even listengin to what they hav to say. The key thing we are trying to figure out is peoples intentions. There’s almost always a key emotion behind every intention. Instead of focusing on peoples words, focus on the feeling tone you pick up. This kind of awareness relies on mirror neurons which allows us to feel the energy of other people. Mirroring people on any level can bring a connection. Physically this is known as the chameleon effect.
- Analytic Empathy. The reason we are so close to our friends, family and lovers is because we know a lot about them. Gather as much information as you can about people. Their relationship to their parents, etc. their current relationship to their family will tell you a lot about who they are. Taste in partners will say a lot. Ask open ended questions or begin with a submission of your own. Find out what makes them unique.
- The empathic skill. To ensure you’re making progress on any skill, you need feedback. Feedback can come in 1 of two forms. direct (ask about thoughts and feelings to find out if you’ve guessed correctly.) or indirect (sense a greater rapport of how certain techniques work.) the more people you interact with and the greater variety, the better you get. Be alive to the moment and look at how they act with other people who aren’t you. Continually mix the visceral with the analytic.
4 examples of Narcissistic Types:
- The Complete Control Narcissist. There;’s a lot of questions about how someone so self absorbed can get any power. But it has to with their early careers from before they turned paranoid and vicious. Have more ambition and energy than the average narcissist. Complete control narcissists stimulate your desire to get close to them but keep you at arms distance. They control their emotions and your reactions. They will resent the fact that they have to play the charm game. They become total micromanagers because they think of other people as useless. You will enevitably encounter this type because of their ambitions they become managers, bosses, cult figures and leaders. Look at their past and see they haven’t one single relationship where they are vulnerable. Keep your distance from this type.
- The Theatrical Narcissist. They never just support or give to a good cause. They make a big show of it. Recognize that the focus always seems to be on them. They are always superior in suffering or drama.
- The Narcissistic Couple. A relationship has a life and personality all its own and can bring out the narcissistic tendencies of both sides. Lack of empathy that makes the partners retreat deeper and deeper into their own narcissistic tendencies. When narcissistic couples are together they don’t see situations from each others side. A little empathy will help this entirely. Understand the value system of the other person. This will help you understand them and show empathy at a time when you would normally pull away. Measure all relationships on the narcissism spectrum. It’s not one person or the other, but the dynamic itself that must be altered.
- The Healthy Narcissist - The Mood Reader. There are not a lot of books or training manuals on dealing with people’s moods. But it’s the most important thing in desperate times. Our ancestors were acutely aware of the moods of others which allowed us to cooperate. Primary Rule: The leader infects the mindset. People pick up what the leader is feeling. Mostly on the non-verbal level. Shackleton showed an air of complete confidence and optimism that infected his group.
Secondarily: divide attention between individuals and the group. With the group - chattiness, amount of swearing. With individuals - tone of voice, how quickly they eat their food, how slowly they get out of bed. When you see people in a certain mood, anticipate their moves by putting yourself into a similar mood.
Third: Be gentle. Scolding makes people feel ashamed and figured out which leads to contagious effects down the road. Find indirect ways to elevate moods or isolate individuals without them realizing what you’re doing. This takes practice.
Developing empathic powers is out of necessity. If our survival depends on it, we’ll find the resources. Normally we assume we know quite well the people we deal with. But it is a matter of life and death and our survival does depend on us being able to develop these skills.
Realize the connection between problems in our life and constant misreading of peoples moods and intentions. And the endless missed opportunities that accrue from this.
Realize you have a remarkable social tool that youre not cultivating. Try it out. Stop your interior monologue and pay deeper attention to people. Attune yourself to the shifting moods of individuals and the group. Get a read on each person’s psychology and what motivates them. Try to take their perspective. Enter their world and value system. Once you sense this power you will feel its importance and awaken to new social possibilities.
“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels. I myself become the wounded person.” - Walt Whitman
Self Note: This comes in waves. Sometimes we are the healthy narcissist, sometimes we are the deep narcissist. The goal is to be aware of this and simply make a conscious effort to transform yourself into the healthy narcissist.