Today it's become some sort of a trend to be apathetic and hate everything including people. But is it a healthy lifestyle?
At least once in our lives, or even once a day, we claim we hate people or even say we can’t stand others. It happens to me at least twice a day when I get on the subway on my way to work and back home. For a long time I believed I was a misanthrope that just couldn’t stand people, but after some reading I realized that it was just a matter of impatience towards things not being made or happening the way I want, But there are many people who clearly fit into this scheme and that at the end of the day it might be something that won't lead you to a very healthy social life.
Misanthropy in general terms is defined as the dislike or distrust of humankind. This term that has been around since Ancient Greece, was deeply studied by Plato who believed it was the result of people being extreme idealists. In that way, idealists originally believe that all people should be morally good and when seeing that it’s not the case they just end up growing a hatred towards what they had their hopes on. However this is just how Plato saw it, but of course, the term has been widely analyzed and studied throughout the centuries and today it’s been established that there are so many factors that can derive in misanthropy.
For instance, although this is a trait that many associate to a matter of personality, psychologists like Chad Mortensen (Arizona State University) believe that instead of it being a matter of unfriendliness, it’s actually a reaction of our evolutionary survival instinct. For them, based on several studies he’s directed, he’s reached the conclusion that misanthropy is a primal human trait we developed as a protection system against diseases and germs, in their words, it’s like an ancient “hard-wired psychological immune system” that still accompanies us.
This is quite an interesting approach but it actually doesn’t tell us much about the psychological and social implications of misanthropy. While it’s true that it’s become kind of fashionable to be a hater about everything, even people, it doesn’t mean that we're all misanthropes. But for those who really are it isn’t a beneficial trait, on the contrary, in many cases it can be a sign of depression or even the consequence of an unresolved life trauma that could reemerge at any time and cause even more problems in the future.
It’s really important to distinguish between misanthropy and a most common term called social discomfort. The latter it’s a matter of shyness and being socially uncomfortable but that doesn’t really mean that people with this trait don’t wish to establish any social relationships with others. Misanthropes can be even charismatic and confident and simply dislike being around people. Of course, there are levels and different types of misanthropy, but in rough and general terms, they don’t really like dealing with people because they either get impatient around them or just feel they’re losing their time with people they consider unworthy of them. Basically, there’s some sort of arrogance attached to misanthropy that ends up differentiating them from introverts.
As mentioned before, it can be triggered by so many things, from Plato’s theory of idealist people to those who experienced some trauma in their childhood like bullying or abuse and end up reacting to it by not wanting to establish any sort of relationship with people. The problem here is that instead of treating it from the root they end up piling more hatred and bitterness inside them that at some point it can end up in a mental breakdown. This is talking about a most direct negative consequence, but another side of the issue is perhaps a more obvious one which is that we’re social beings who need to relate to others and not establishing healthy relationships can end in highly negative mental consequences that in severe cases can even include dementia, a decreased sense of resiliency, or even a poor ability to continue learning.
It’s not a matter of being like Ned Flanders all the time, but just knowing that socializing is important for our development and that no matter if you’re not a huge fan of it, it’s an important matter of health. If you’re a misanthrope a good start is trying to change your perspective about people and pushing yourself a bit to understand what’s causing you to distance yourself from others. That last part I believe to be crucial not only to prevent future possible issues but to rebuild things from your past that you've left unsolved.
Finally, Being a misanthrope might be an evolutionary trait to protect ourselves from diseases as Mortensen suggests, or even a shield as a response to a social disappointment or trauma you’ve experienced. But, at the end of the day, the world is based on social terms and pushing yourself back might not be the best idea in any sense of life progress.
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