The 48 Laws of Power: Law 36 – Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them Is the Best Revenge

Randy Quill

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Law 36, “Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them Is the Best Revenge,” is a powerful concept explored in Robert Greene’s book ‘The 48 Laws of Power.’ This law encourages individuals to shift their focus away from unattainable goals or desired possessions and instead cultivate a sense of indifference and contempt. By disregarding what you cannot have, you can redirect your energy toward more productive endeavors and subtly assert your power.

The Trap of Acknowledging the Unattainable:

When we acknowledge and fixate on something we cannot have, we inadvertently give it power and credibility. By constantly yearning for what is beyond our reach, we allow it to consume our thoughts, energy, and resources. This fixation can be detrimental to our well-being and distract us from pursuing attainable goals.

Showing Contempt and Indifference:

Instead of succumbing to the allure of unattainable desires, Law 36 suggests showing contempt for them. By displaying indifference and disregarding what you cannot possess, you undermine its significance and weaken its hold over you. This act of disdain can be a powerful form of revenge, as it denies your enemies the satisfaction of seeing you distraught or longing for what is out of reach.

Avoiding the Mistake of Amplifying Errors:

In our pursuit of goals, we may encounter setbacks or mistakes. Law 36 warns against exacerbating these errors by fixating on them and attempting to rectify them obsessively. Often, our attempts to fix a small mistake only draw attention to it, making it more visible and amplifying its impact. Sometimes, it is wiser to leave things alone and focus on what can be achieved rather than dwelling on what cannot.

Historical Examples:

Throughout history, individuals who mastered the art of disdain for unattainable things have gained the upper hand. One notable example is Queen Elizabeth I of England. She was courted by many suitors from powerful European families, but she strategically maintained her single status to preserve her power and avoid being dominated by a foreign alliance. By rejecting potential marriage proposals and embracing her independence, she demonstrated her ability to disdain what others desired.

Another example is Mahatma Gandhi, who fought for India’s independence from British rule. Gandhi encouraged his followers to boycott British goods and institutions, showing contempt for the material possessions and authority of the British Empire. By rejecting what the British offered, Gandhi undermined their power and rallied support for the Indian independence movement.

Law 36 reminds us of the power of ignoring and showing contempt for what we cannot have. By redirecting our focus and energy toward attainable goals, we regain control over our lives and diminish the influence of our enemies. Historical examples demonstrate the effectiveness of disdain as a form of revenge and a strategic tactic for asserting power. In the next blog post, we will delve into Law 37, which explores the creation of compelling spectacles. Stay tuned for further insights into the timeless laws of power.

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