The Laws of Human Nature Quotes on Toxic Behavior

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Laws Of Human Nature" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you looking for The Laws of Human Nature quotes? How can these quotes help explain the 16 laws in Robert Greene’s book?

These The Laws of Human Nature quotes are about several of the laws of nature. Like the book itself, they ask you to focus on avoiding becoming toxic due to your nature.

Keep reading for the The Laws of Human Nature quotes.

The Laws of Human Nature Quotes

These The Laws of Human Nature quotes are about improving yourself through understanding your toxic behavior. You can use these The Laws of Human Nature quotes to get a better understanding of concepts in the book, or to motivate you to improve your behavior.

“Learn to question yourself: Why this anger or resentment? Where does this incessant need for attention come from? Under such scrutiny, your emotions will lose their hold on you. You will begin to think for yourself instead of reacting to what others give you.”

Our self-opinion is enormously important to our personalities. It affects our thinking and values to the point where we reinterpret the truth so that it doesn’t clash with our sense of self. 

The qualities we try to hide are called the Shadow. Our Shadows developed in childhood as we learned from our parents which behavior was acceptable and which wasn’t. Because we depended on our parents for survival, we didn’t dare do anything that would make them abandon us, so we hid the things about ourselves that they didn’t like. 

As we grew up, we experienced pressure from friends, mentors, and our culture to behave in certain ways (or else be left out of the group), so we repressed more. Typically, we learned that we had to hide aggression, overambition, arrogance, vengefulness, and other emotions society perceives as negative. Usually, the harder someone is repressing, the more likely the Shadow is to break free.

“[W]e tend to think of our behavior as largely conscious and willed. To imagine that we are not always in control of what we do is a frightening thought, but in fact it is the reality.”

Humans tend to be concerned with the present rather than the future because our brains evolved to look for immediate rather than far-off danger. This was beneficial in earlier times when all our problems were animal-like—eat, sleep, avoid predators, and so on. We didn’t need to understand complex situations or reason; we needed to notice the most dramatic elements of a situation and react quickly. We also tended to assume the current conditions were permanent. 

Now, however, this evolutionary adaptation is to our detriment. The world is more complicated and long-term dangers are larger problems than most of what we’ll encounter in the present. For example, we pay more attention to terrorism than global warming, even though global warming is far more dangerous. Additionally, our attention spans are even worse because of technology, which is distracting.

“We see people not as they are, but as they appear to us. And these appearances are usually misleading.”

Now that we understand how to observe and interpret nonverbal cues, it’s time to look at some of the traits and feelings almost everyone hides with these The Laws of Human Nature quotes about masks.

No one acts true to themselves all the time. Starting from birth, we learn how to use our faces and bodies to get our parents to give us things, and we continue to act throughout our lives to fit into society. Acting completely honestly would result in social ruin—we would offend people and open ourselves up to so much judgment and insecurity it would affect our mental health.

We hide our negative feelings—such as superiority or insecurity—with words and sometimes mixed signals. A lot of the time we don’t even know we’re acting, and this conviction is part of what makes the mask believable.  However, no matter how good we are at hiding our feelings and masking, our real feelings are underneath somewhere, and they’re impossible to fully suppress, especially when we’re stressed, tired, angry, frustrated, or drunk.

“Do not be afraid to exaggerate the role of willpower. It is an exaggeration with a purpose. It leads to a positive self-fulfilling dynamic, and that is all you care about. See this shaping of your attitude as your most important creation in life, and never leave it to chance.”

Our characters are at the core of our being and determine our actions, even when we’re not consciously aware of them. While we can shape our characters, we can’t change them. This is why we tend to repeat the same mistakes, even when we try to do things differently, and this compulsiveness can be so strong that we believe that it’s fate or predisposition.

Hopefully, these The Laws of Human Nature quotes will help you improve your life by examining your own nature.

The Laws of Human Nature Quotes on Toxic Behavior

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Robert Greene's "The Laws Of Human Nature" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Laws Of Human Nature summary:

  • Why it's in your nature to self-sabotage
  • How you behave differently when you're in a group
  • Why you're wired to want the wrong things in life

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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