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Book Summaries Psychology

Part 1: The Coquette (The Art of Seduction)

The ultimate art in seduction is delaying pleasure. Coquettes are masters at waiting, orchestrating constant movement between hope and frustration. They bait with the promise of reward (physical pleasure, happiness, power), but since it is elusive – it will make the target pursue it more intensely. Coquettes seem self-sufficient, they don’t need you, and this narcissism is devilishly attractive. You want to conquer them, but it is they who hold the cards.

Josephine was the Coquette in her relationship with Napoleon. The French general, despite his restraint and discipline, was maddened by her behavior. A few theatrics and a little coldness was enough on her part to make Napoleon her eternal slave. His last word on his death bed was “Josephine.”

People are perverse, an easy conquest is not as valuable as a difficult one. We only want what we cannot fully possess. Your greatest seductive power is your ability to turn away. Most people do the opposite, they surrender too soon, worried that the other person will lose interest, or that giving the other person what they want will grant them power over them. The truth is that when you satisfy someone, you lose the initiative. Now you are vulnerable, and they may lose interest at any moment.

Vanity is critical in love. Get them to feel insecure about themselves, and then when they have lost hope, reignite it. This hot and cold approach will enslave them. Don’t be put off by their anger, it is a good sign.

Andy Warhol was plagued by conflicting emotions, he wanted fame but was naturally shy. He figured out how to not be pushy and get what he wanted at the same time.

At first Warhol tried to make himself more aggressive, straining to please and court. It didn’t work. After ten futile years he stopped trying and gave in to his own passivity—only to discover the power that withdrawal commands.

Robert Greene, The Art of Seduction

The meaning of his work became ambiguous in the early 1960’s, which made them appealing.

His new paintings of soup cans, green stamps, and other widely known images did not assault you with meaning; in fact their meaning was totally elusive, which only heightened their fascination. They drew you in by their immediacy, their visual power, their coldness. Having transformed his art, Warhol also transformed himself: like his paintings, he became pure surface. He trained himself to hold himself back, to stop talking.

Robert Greene, The Art of Seduction

This attracted people to him.

Cold Coquettes create space by remaining elusive and making others pursue them. Their coolness suggests a comfortable confidence that is exciting to be around, even though it may not actually exist; their silence makes you want to talk. Their self-containment, their appearance of having no need for other people, only makes us want to do things for them, hungry for the slightest sign of recognition and favor.

The world is full of people who try to impose themselves too aggressively, who try too hard. But their victories are temporary, people figure them out too easily. Without space around themselves, there can be no seduction.

Selfishness is one of the qualities apt to inspire love.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

To understand the power of the Coquette, you must understand narcissism. Freud described the “narcissistic” woman as someone who is obsessed with her appearances. Children, before they are socialized and taught to think about others, are this way – self-contained and self-involved. Everyone secretly yearns for those blissful early days. The narcissistic woman makes the man envious, because she reminds him of that period. This will push him to contact her in the hope of recapturing that feeling.

Long a tool of social power for women, coquettishness was slowly adapted by men, particularly the great seducers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who envied the power of such women. One seventeenth-century seducer, the Duc de Lauzun, was a master at exciting a woman, then suddenly acting aloof. Women went wild over him. Today, coquetry is gender-less. In a world that discourages direct confrontation, teasing, coldness, and selective aloofness are a form of indirect power that brilliantly disguises its own aggression.

Robert Greene, The Art of Seduction

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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