“I hate people” is one of the most common excuses I hear for people not engaging in social activities. Unsurprisingly, the people that say it tend to say it with a bit of a scowl on their faces. When I see this in a therapy setting, it tends to be connected to people who are also very lonely. This sort of thinking is what is known in the field as a Double-Bind.
Let’s start this off by talking about the double-bind. Merriam-Webster defines it well, calling it “a psychological predicament in which a person receives from a single source conflicting messages that allow no appropriate response to be made.” Much has been written about double-binds in the context of abuse, and in a way, a similar thing is happening here; it’s just that the abuser is yourself. By saying “I hate people” you give yourself the message that other people are not worthy of your emotional investment; but that results in feeling lonely, the only solution to which is investing emotionally in others.
Now comes the fun part: Unraveling the double-bind!
I Hate People
The short answer to this side of the double-bind is that you don’t really hate people, you feel deeply hurt by certain people which has led to a generalized sense of defensiveness toward all people. In layman’s terms, you’ve been hurt by one or more person, and in order to protect yourself from being hurt in the future you put walls up so that no one else can get close enough to do it again.
Or you work in retail. But that’s a whole other issue that we may discuss closer to Black Friday.
But in all seriousness, hate grows out of hurt, and the real key to resolving misanthropy (hating people) is letting yourself feel the pain that led to it. Not to say that this is an easy task; if it was, people wouldn’t fall into this trap. This would be a great time to talk to a trusted friend or, if that isn’t an option, call a therapist.
I Need Friends
Now this side of the bind has a much more simple resolution. As odd as this may sound, making friends is really not that difficult. Once you resolve the misanthropy, finding people to connect with is as simple as figuring out what kind of people you want to connect with! There are lots of avenues to go about this: from checking out the community events boards at your local coffee shop to going to Meetup.com or Facebook events. You can almost literally Google whatever kind of person you want to meet and find a group of them somewhere! The real challenge for this side is that it requires a push beyond your comfort zone. If you aren’t at least a little uncomfortable, you probably aren’t pushing enough.
There was an article posted on The Wall Street Journal a few months ago that has a lot of good insight about the friend-making process as an adult. I really appreciate the author’s candidness and vulnerability when it comes to her own experiences. Ultimately, that’s what it takes to make friends as an adult: a willingness to open yourself up to others.
Finding The Balance
Okay, so you’ve let yourself feel the hurt that’s been brought into your life by other people, and you’ve started putting yourself out there to try and make new friends. You’ve joined some social group and you really seem to be getting on with a few people there. At what point do you start really opening up and showing who you really are?
Vulnerability is a delicate process. It requires a certain finesse when it comes to figuring out when it’s okay to share your stuff. Sharing everything immediately is like handing a stranger a loaded gun: sure, they might not point it at you, but how can you be sure that they won’t? The first attempt at vulnerability after recovering from misanthropy is critical, since you are trying to challenge an inherent belief that all people will hurt you when given the chance.
Brené Brown has an excellent metaphor for building trust and vulnerability: A jar of marbles. Whenever someone shows you through some act of integrity or loyalty that they can be trusted, you put a marble in the jar. After a certain number of marbles are in the jar, they earn the right to your vulnerability.
We sure covered a lot in this post! Each little piece could be it’s own article, but I think it’s time to call this one to a close. If you are interested in learning more about any of these things, leave it in the comments! I would really enjoy hearing your thoughts! And please like and share this post if it’s been helpful or interesting to you!
(Image taken from “The Princess Bride” copyright 1987 The Princess Bride, Ltd.)