Those who cannot control themselves will have to obey, according to Nietzsche

“Whoever does not know how to command himself must obey”, wrote Nietzsche. And he added "more than one knows how to command himself, but he is still very far from knowing how to obey himself". Self-control, knowing how to dominate ourselves, is what allows us to direct our life. Without self-control we are particularly vulnerable to two mechanisms of manipulation and domination: one occurs below the threshold of our consciousness and the other is more explicit.

Whoever makes you angry controls you

Self-control is what allows us to respond rather than react. When we are able to control our thoughts and emotions, we can decide how to respond to circumstances. We can decide if a battle is worth fighting or if, on the contrary, it is better to let it go.



When we are unable to control our emotions and impulses, we just react. Without self-control, there is no time to reflect and find the best solution. We just let ourselves go. And often this implies that someone will manipulate us.

Indeed, emotions have been very powerful which dynamize our behavior. Anger, in particular, is the emotion that most drives us to act and that leaves us the least space for reflection. Science tells us that anger is the emotion we identify the fastest and most accurately on other people's faces. It also reveals that anger changes our perceptions, influences our decisions and guides our behavior, going beyond the situation that originated it.

In the wake of the 11/XNUMX attacks, for example, when researchers at Carnegie Mellon University experimentally induced a state of anger in people, they found that anger affected not only their perception of risk with respect to terrorism, but also their perceptions of events. how to get the flu and their political preferences.



When we are angry, our responses are predictable, so it is no coincidence that much of the social manipulation we are subjected to is based on the generation of emotions such as anger and the states that often accompany it, such as indignation and anger. . In fact, the content with the greatest potential to go viral on the Internet is the one that generates anger and indignation. Researchers at Beihang University found that anger is the most prevalent emotion in social networks and has a domino effect that can lead to anger-filled publications of up to three degrees of separation from the original message.

When we react driven exclusively by anger or other emotions, without having filtered them through self-control, we are more suggestible and easier to manipulate. Of course, that control mechanism usually occurs below the level of consciousness, so we are not aware of its existence. To deactivate it, it would be enough to stop for a second before reacting to regain the control referred to by Nietzsche.

If you don't have a clear idea about your path, someone will decide it for you

“Not everyone wants to carry the burden of what is not ordered; but they do the most difficult things when you order them ”, Nietzsche said, referring to the fairly widespread tendency to escape from our responsibilities and let others decide for us.

Developing self-control also means recognizing that we are responsible for our actions. However, when people are unwilling to take that responsibility, they prefer to leave it in the hands of others for them to decide.


The trial that began on April 11, 1961 in Jerusalem against Adolf Eichmann, lieutenant colonel of the Nazi SS and principal responsible for the mass deportations that ended the lives of over 6 million Jews, is an extreme example of the abdication of control.


Hannah Arendt, a German-born Jewish philosopher who fled to the United States, wrote when she came face to face with Eichmann: “despite the prosecutor's best efforts, anyone could see that this man was not a monster [...] sheer thoughtlessness and simple […] was what predisposed him to become the greatest criminal of his time […] It was not stupidity, but a curious and authentic inability to think ”.

This man considered himself a "simple cog in the administrative machine". He had let the others decide for him, check him out and tell him what to do. Arendt realized this. He understood that completely normal people can commit heinous acts when they let others decide for them.

Those who escape their responsibilities and do not want to take charge of their own life will let others take on this task. After all, if things go wrong, it is easier to blame others and look for scapegoats than to examine one's conscience, chant the mea culpa, and work to correct the mistakes made.


Nietszche's concept of Übermensch goes in the opposite direction. His ideal of a superman is a person who responds to no one but himself. A person who decides according to his system of values, has an iron will and, above all, takes responsibility for his own life. This self-determined man does not allow himself to be manipulated by external forces, much less does he allow others to tell him how he should live.

Those who have not developed an internal locus of control and lack willpower will need clear rules that come from outside and help them direct their lives. Hence the external values ​​take the place of the eigenvalues. The decisions of others guide their decisions. And they end up living the life someone else has chosen for them.


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