The word misanthropy comes from the Greek words misos (“hatred”) and anthrōpos (“man, human”), and means a general dislike, distrust or hatred of the human race. Not to be confused with asociality, which is characterised by the lack of motivation to engage in social interaction, or antisocial, which means behaving in a way which is contrary to the laws and customs of society, in a way that causes annoyance and disapproval in others. A misanthrope may be asocial, antisocial, both, or neither.
There is no one exact cause, by it is likely caused by significant negative experiences with others that have altered the misanthropes perception of human nature. Perhaps they had an abusive childhood, were bullied at school, or were cheated on or betrayed. Or course, it is possible to experience these things and not end up misanthropic, so perhaps there are other factors too, such a lack of friendships, limited social support, low self-esteem, or previous naive optimism. Invariably, the misanthrope tends to have parts of themself they do not like, or even hate, which contributes to the colouring of their beliefs about humans in general.
Perhaps a misanthrope has just been more exposed to the negative elements of human behaviour compared to the average person. Witnessing excessive immoral, sinful or even malevolent acts can easily change persons view of the world.
Common emotions and feelings associated with misanthropy are: bitterness, anger, resentment, disdain, and anger, contempt, scorn, and derision. In mild cases it will just cause a person to experience more negative emotions when thinking about, or interacting with other people. In moderate cases it can lead to social withdrawal, isolation and can also negatively effect friendships, relationships and work life. In more extreme cases it may potentially lead to harming other people, or oneself through self-harm and suicide.
The following is a list of things to try that should hopefully decrease misanthropy:
- If you have experienced any abuse or trauma, try to resolve it and heal from it. Consider getting therapy if you need it.
- Minimise contact with negative and toxic people, and seek out more positive and uplifting people instead.
- Practice empathy and compassion for others more.
- Practice gratitude more, which has been proven to have health benefits.
- If misanthropy runs in your family, try to break the cycle.
- Try to be the person you needed growing up.
- There are innumerable amazing acts of kindness, bravery, support, love, dedication, charity e.t.c., by countless people since the dawn of time. Focus on these more to gain a clearer picture and more fair evaluation of the human race.
- Human nature and behaviour is diverse, complicated and involves many shades of grey. It is not all good or bad—it is both. Try to avoid splitting, a defence mechanism which causes us to see the world in ‘black or white’ terms.
- Often, a persons view of others and even the world is really just a reflection of an aspect of themself. If a person was truly happy with who they were, tried their best, made the right decisions and gave 100% percent effort everyday, they should feel good about themself, and this feeling would also reflect in their view of others and the world.
- Regardless of the truth of human nature, whether it is all good or all bad or somewhere in the middle, perpetuating a sense of negativity will only make matters worse in the long run.
- Consciously choosing to see the good in people will have positive effects on the mind. Consciously choosing to see the bad in people will have negative effects on the mind. The question is what are you choosing to see?
- Realise there are multiple interpretations of events, and some are better than others. For example, if you read a story about a serious crime, you could think: “What a terrible thing to happen, another example of how bad humans are”, or you could think “As bad as this is, statistically very few people who commit these types of crimes”, or you could think “Thank God I am not the victim”, or you could think “That person must of been very disturbed and in need of help”. There are many ways of interpreting the event, and your interpretation will determine your view of the world and even your mood.
- Question your assumptions and beliefs about people and the world, and make sure you are not overgeneralising or cherry picking negative data.
- Understand the law of karma; the more good you put out into the world, the more will return.
- Lead by example.
The most hateful person looks at humanity and remains a misanthrope, while the most loving person looks at humanity and remains a philanthrope. You will always see more of what you are, and you cannot see what you are not.
Today, a good samaritan helped talk a person out of suicide, and on the other side of the world someone else chose to abuse an innocent victim. Ultimately, there is perhaps equal evidence for both the mindsets of misanthropy and philanthropy, but the one that will become the dominant theme in our life can only be determined by our perspective, choices and behaviours. Regardless of the state of the world, if we choose to be more loving then the world just became more loving, however, if we choose to be more hateful, then your home—the earth—just became a more hateful place too. Be mindful of the contents of your soul, and the energy you are putting out into the world, because more often than not, it eventually comes back to you.
In conclusion, the misanthrope looks at the world with dark tinted glasses and only sees half the story. Their incomplete narrative of the world is limited by their refusal to examine their own behaviours, attitudes and negative energy which they are contributing to the world. Fortunately, there is also hope for change, and it starts with self-improvement.
“As a man thinketh in his heart, so shall he be” ~ James Allen
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me” ~ W.H Auden
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~ Carl Jung
“Misanthropy develops when, without art, one puts complete trust in somebody, thinking the man absolutely true and sound and reliable, and then a little later discovers him to be bad and unreliable…and when it happens to someone often…he ends up…hating everyone.” ~ Plato
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi