As I explain in Part 1 of Protecting Yourself from Emotional Predators what we call human nature isn’t one set of identical traits in all people, stable over different times and cultures. Traits vary with individuals, and it’s easy to mistake our unexamined beliefs for intrinsic traits of human nature, rather than the choices of culture and upbringing that they are. The first guideline for dealing with Emotional Predators is to drop your naive belief that because you are generally decent and good, everyone else is basically similar. In fundamental ways, Emotional Predators are nothing at all like decent people. When you lose sight of this foundational understanding, you become easier prey.
In his book Emotional Vampires, Albert Bernstein puts it this way, “The most dangerous mistake you can make is believing that underneath it all, [these people] are really regular people, just like you. If you interpret what [these people] say and do according to what YOU would feel if you said or did the same thing, you’ll be wrong most every time. And you’ll end up drained dry.”
Human nature varies widely between people, and includes a range from marvelous generosity, kindness and caring to chilling greed, barbarity and sadism. Let’s hope that our species is improving over time and changing for the better. But for the present, in thinking about Emotional Predators, first and foremost it’s essential to expand your notions of what’s possible within and from other people. It’s not pessimistic to be realistic about the ruthless, unconscionable and selfish manipulation and abuse some people are capable of. That realism is optimistic about making life better for yourself and your loved ones.