Click Map for Details

Flag Counter

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Laws of Power (10)

My son Alton and I are reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power and sharing our responses to the readings.

Robert Greene’s 10th law of power is:  Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky.  You can die from someone else’s misery—emotional states are as infectious as diseases.  You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster.  The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you.  Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

Mr. Greene makes a distinction between unhappiness brought on by adverse circumstances and unhappiness deeply seated in a person’s soul.  It is the second type of unhappy person that he recommends we avoid.  He views this unhappiness and tendency to be miserable as more powerful than one’s charitable attempts to bring happiness to the other person.  Of course it must be said that in practice it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a person is inherently unhappy by nature or whether it is brought on by circumstances.  Perhaps a judgment can be made about this only after some time of interaction with the individual—until we can determine that the person’s primary problems are largely self-inflicted.  Mother Teresa, for example, helped the unfortunate no doubt primarily based on adverse circumstances.  Yet I feel sure that in her helping other people, she encountered some who in her opinion would be considered troubled in spirit as much or more than as troubled physically or materially.  These encounters may have challenged her own generous nature and even tested her faith.

As a Christian, I feel that we should love and help others as much as possible.  I believe this in theory.  But in practice I do tend to restrict association with negative people who always seem to consider themselves as unhappy victims. They seem to carry an active cynicism that I instinctively want to avoid.  I disagree with them intellectually and emotionally that everything is bad.  When I am with them, I find myself internally in constant disagreement.  This disagreement wells up within me.  I realize it would be fruitless to argue a more positive outlook.  They are not open to persuasion.  I avoid them for this reason—not so much that I fear infection from them, but from the stress of constant silent disagreement with them and the unsettling sense that I am being used.  There seems to be no effective remedy except disassociation.  This admittedly is “giving up” on another person—seeing them as not open to change.  But hope of change is sometimes hard to come by, sad as that is.

Print Page