f you’ve had a really bad experience then it may seem as if the whole world is a terrible place or that all human beings are just evil. Human nature doesn’t always produce virtuous results and screaming “I hate people” is an understandable reaction which may help you release anger.
But it’s not an enlightened response in the long run. Detesting the entire human race may result in a loss of self-control that enslaves you to anger, creating negative emotions within your interior world and prejudicing you against the possibility of better experiences in future.
My aim is not to persuade you that everyone is great or to deny any negative experiences that you have endured. But I do think it’s worth being careful about which conclusions need to be drawn from such experiences. Here are 12 ways to gradually learn how to stop hating everyone.
1. ALLOW YOURSELF TO RECOVER AND SLOWLY COME TO TERMS
Hatred of humans is best viewed as a “symptom” of having been through a shocking learning experience that may take some time to fully process. The way forward may be to allow yourself to recover from what you have survived rather than finalising any drastic conclusions at this stage.
“It takes time to heal and learn all the right lessons”
Some people undoubtedly behave extremely ignorantly and inconsiderately in certain situations. But the immediate solution is to focus on doing what it takes to look after yourself and to move on from a bad situation rather than punishing yourself with despair about the entire species.
2. ACCEPT THAT YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY “KNOW PEOPLE”
Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as “people” or “what people are like”. There are billions of different kinds of people on the planet including different generations, cultures, subcultures and communities. No two individuals are entirely alike and that variety offers much hope.
“Maybe I’ve just been hanging around the wrong crowd”
One of the amazing things about the modern age is that you’re not usually stuck with only one tribe for life. You have the freedom to find out which kinds of individuals, communities and environments are good for you and to actively seek them out. It can take time to find the right people for you.
3. NOTICE THAT MOST HUMAN BEINGS CAN’T HELP THEIR LIMITATIONS
When people behave inexcusably, it’s easy to get carried away by unrealistic notions about their potential or to imagine that they somehow “could” or “should” know better. But sometimes it makes more sense to accept their natural limitations and the role of cluelessness in their behaviour.
It’s a stupid world out there in so many ways. When people can’t even see when and why what they’re doing is wrong they are lacking in empathy and self-awareness. They “just don’t get it” and can’t help the way they think. The answer is never to demand reasonable behaviour from fools.
“Some people have no idea what they’re even like”
It may be unrealistic to hold people strictly responsible when their own ethical awareness is too hazy to be relied upon for any real clarity. Without the right influences and key formative experiences, it may be unnatural for them to develop the habit of truly considering the impact of their own actions.
Consider the example of a baby, the most blameless kind of human being yet clearly very “selfish” since it only ever cares about its own needs and only sees others in terms of what it can get from them. In a psychiatrist’s chair, a baby might reasonably be diagnosed as the equivalent of a sociopath.
Some people never fully grow out of that same state of ethical immaturity but there is a kind of innocence in their failure to develop responsibility. And so whenever you judge someone as “evil”, part of what you are dealing with is a lack of mature awareness that is essentially infantile in nature.
4. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IMPROVING HOW YOU DEAL WITH PEOPLE
The more you balance a negative view of human beings with some responsibility for learning how to deal with them the easier it becomes to avoid getting angry about their natural limitations. Some people are much easier to get on with when you learn how to push the right buttons.
“I’m willing to gradually learn how to bring out the best in people”
Part of the solution is giving up expectations and thinking about the world more as a kind of marketplace. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something from people but sometimes it makes sense to think about what you can offer in order to make it worth their while to do that for you.
Another way to look at dealing with people is to see it as a kind of game. Everyone has different rules and playing the game involves figuring out what their rules are – even if they are quite silly – and going along with them. It’s not always worth playing someone’s game or taking it too seriously.
5. DEVELOP A MORE BALANCED PICTURE OF HOW HUMAN BEINGS ARE
Anger can mess with your mind. If you spend all your time focusing on what’s wrong with human beings through a kind of mental microscope then the overall picture will look very negative. But it’s a kind of optical illusion that results from narrowing your focus too selectively. The reality is:
“Most people are a mix of good, bad and weird”
The same is true of societies a few of which have been evil in some ways but many of which have made enormous strides to improve the welfare of disadvantaged citizens. It takes humanity centuries to develop awareness and make progress in some areas but it tends to get there in the end.
Rather than concerning yourself with that, it’s enough simply to find a few people who are good for you. When you spend enough time focusing on them, your perspective will naturally change and become more positive. Not everyone can be good for you but they may be good for other people.
6. ACCEPT THAT ANGER HAS A TENDENCY TO GENERALISE ITSELF
Believing that everyone is awful is an entirely understandable reaction to challenging or traumatic events. But it’s an expression of anger or suffering rather than a carefully thought out, weighed up and balanced assessment of reality. It’s just “how the anger feels” right now.
“I don’t have to blame complete strangers for what someone else did”
You may not have to take out your anger against the entire human race and “throw out the baby with the bathwater”. Some people become racists after being mistreated by someone from a particular racial group. It’s not exactly the same but their conclusion is similarly overgeneralised.
Maybe the reason that happens is because anger is like a virus that can easily spread out of control within your emotional world. It’s worth doing whatever you can to contain, limit and moderate it for the sake of achieving peace of mind. Refusing to get carried away by generalisations helps.
7. GRADUALLY REPLACE HATRED WITH HEALTHY SCEPTICISM
You don’t have to be a “fan” of the human race or naively love and trust everyone you meet. But hatred is on the other end of the emotional spectrum and equally unnecessary. Even when you acknowledge what isn’t good you can renounce it peacefully without losing your self-control.
“Avoiding extremes helps me achieve the right balance”
Moving beyond an “all or nothing” perspective can allow you to proceed optimistically but carefully. Everything will be okay as long as you accept that people can be deeply flawed and that success with them requires caution, patience, realism, flexibility, diplomacy, assertiveness and careful selection.
For example, it may be necessary to help someone learn about your boundaries by briefly explaining how you felt and what would help you without resorting to personal criticism. Rather than immediately judging them, standing up for yourself calmly but firmly will often make things better.
8. START TO OBSERVE HUMANS IN A MORE DETACHED WAY
You may tell yourself that you are looking down at people but by hating them you are actually looking up to them by giving them too much importance. Without necessarily realising it, you are putting them on a pedestal in order for it to be possible for them to have that much power over you.
Instead of looking “up to” people, “down at” people or looking “to” them for anything, you could look “at” them from a distance. Your relationship could sometimes be like watching animals in the wild: not needing anything but allowing their nature to be what it is and calmly observing.
“There is a kind of innocence in everything people do”
Consider the example of a cat. One could look at the way it treats mice and say that it is “evil”. But focusing on its cruel side overlooks the fact that the cat is still cute, fluffy and loveable in spite of being naturally incapable of empathy and blamelessly unaware of the true significance of ethics.
A cat has no choice but to behave in the way it does and so there’s no need to judge its shortcomings. The majority of people are similar because they have not spent enough time developing the kind of genuine moral awareness that would significantly differentiate them from some animals.
9. ACCEPT THAT IT’S NOT WORTH NEEDING ANYTHING FROM MOST PEOPLE
Misanthropy is a clear sign of frustration and feeling that your needs have not been met. Part of the solution may be learning how to look after your needs and how to meet them more effectively. But it’s also important not to confuse your needs with other people’s responsibility:
“I may have been barking up the wrong tree”
Sometimes the answer is to lower your expectations and to accept that what you are looking for may not be realistic for many people. If your rule is “Unless you do what I want then you’re awful” then most people will seem “awful” when in reality they simply aren’t as great as you would prefer.
It’s not worth needing anything from the wrong people but imagine if you eventually found everything you wanted from life. Would it still be worth hating anyone who let you down in the past? Your attitude would probably become more laid-back and this is why looking after your needs is vital.
10. VIEW HATRED AS A FORM OF UNNECESSARY EMOTIONAL DEPENDENCY
A good question might be: does my happiness really have to depend on a particular overall picture of what people are like? After all, you could have great people around you and still feel unhappy or awful people around you and actually feel happy. And so, in the long term, it’s better to conclude:
“I can be happy in spite of the way some people are”
It does not have to be your job to take on the burden of all the problems of the world or its people. As long as you are willing to live in a responsible way, you don’t have to feel bad just because someone else behaves like a complete douche-bag. Be glad that you are not responsible for their actions.
11. DEVELOP A HEALTHY DISINTEREST IN THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE
Even if only 1% of the human race were kind, tolerant and open-minded, in a planet of over 7 billion people this would mean that must be at least 70 million kind, tolerant and open-minded people. That is far more amazing people than you could ever get to know in your lifetime.
Rather than taking an interest in the whole human race, view it merely as a “pool” from which you can pick out those individuals who are good for you. Go for “quality over quantity”, forget about anyone who let you down and the issue of what most people are like will fade away.