I think they hate me?
May 6, 2010 10:27 AM   Subscribe

I am always suspecting that people secretly hate me, or they are secretly mad at me, or they are generally acting towards me in ways that conceal their inner (potentially manipulative) emotions. What could cause this, and how do I stop?

I suspect that co-workers, employers, professors, roommates, etc. all secretly dislike me or are secretly mad at me. I worry that my "friends" secretly hate me, or that my significant other is secretly thinking terrible things about me and planning to break up. I suspect my therapist of having secret and emotionally threatening motivations/insights that she is not revealing to me (e.g. I have a personality disorder or she's trying to trick me into talking about something). I don't trust the outward behaviors & communications of other people--often misinterpreting things as anger/dislike/etc. and dismissing positive interactions.

I am trying to learn to check with people openly, but I'm embarrassed, and I can't do that with everyone all of the time. To clarify, this is definitely not any intense sort of paranoia that people are trying to kill me or anything. I'm not ready to talk about this extensively with my therapist yet; we're dealing with other things.

So, for now, I seek your insight: what could be causing these suspicions and interpretations, and how can I stop/prevent them?

Throwaway e-mail: mefime29@yahoo.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

Ask yourself how much time you spend thinking about other people, not counting the time you spend thinking what they're thinking about you. Odds are it's not very much. Everyone else is like that. Only less so. People have plenty of other crap to worry about. On their mental lists, you're underneath Lady Gaga, the chance that the new "Iron Man" movie is going to suck, and whether their driveway is going to make it through another winter. Hurting you would take time out of their day that they don't have anyway.

Tell your therapist. She is probably pretty qualified to decide whether this is something that you need to work out now.
posted by Etrigan at 10:38 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

In CBT, this is a cognitive distortion known as "mind reading," which means you're assuming you know what other people are thinking even when you truly have no evidence to back up those assumptions.

I'm not sure what causes this, other than a general sense of anxiety or insecurity. The populate technique for helping to deal with it is to keep a notebook handy, and write it down when it happens, write down exactly what your thoughts/assumptions are, and then rebut them using pure logic and any evidence at hand (you don't have to necessarily confront people directly to test your assumptions, but you can point out to yourself the LACK of hard evidence.)

If you do this consistently, you may be able to break the habit, or at least bring more awareness to it.
posted by Ouisch at 10:43 AM on May 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

(populate = popular)
posted by Ouisch at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2010

I can't tell you exactly what the root is, but it is in some way related to depression and/or anxiety and surprisingly common. I've had episodes like this (some rougher than others,) and know others who have as well. The one similar thread is that we all perceived malice where there wasn't any. It helps - a bit - to realize that it is entirely in your head. Of course that will probably not make the feeling go away. Talk to your therapist and try your utter hardest to trust her.

Sadly, outside of seeing a psychiatrist (which worked well for, uh, my friends and the only experience I have with "fixing" it,) I have no idea how to make this stuff go away. I am not saying you need a psychiatrist. Like I said above, bring this up with your therapist. She should be familiar with this symptom - it is common, you are not alone - and help you decide what is best for you. If she thinks psychiatry would help, please trust the doctor. I know this sounds all "drink the kool aid," but use your rationale to realize that no, not everyone can be out after you and, in fact, there are people who wish to help you.

Good luck. Feel free to msg me.
posted by griphus at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2010

I'm not ready to talk about this extensively with my therapist yet; we're dealing with other things.

Your therapist would be able and interested in also dealing with this. Therapy can't work for you unless you trust your therapist and you feel comfortable communicating openly with this person. I relate to what you're talking about, and I hope you feel better.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:50 AM on May 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have this exact problem. Realizing I'm so not that important (whats so awful about me that everyone I know is thinking it all the time? I am not the center of their world) and that everyone else is probably thinking the same thing really, really helps.
posted by The Whelk at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

I have this same problem, and I try to think of it the same way The Whelk does. Basically, even if it doesn’t come natural, assume good faith upon the actions of everyone else.
posted by Think_Long at 10:59 AM on May 6, 2010

Also, people very very rarely act with intentional malice.
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is some sociological research that about 38% of those people do secretly hate you. I am not sure how rigorous it is but it is in peer reviewed journals. You might find this blog post I wrote summarizing my findings helpful. The earliest cite I found was Osgood and Richard, "From yang and yin to and or but" from 1973.
posted by bukvich at 11:15 AM on May 6, 2010

I relate to this a lot too, though perhaps I don't feel it as quite strongly as you do.

As to what causes it, in my case I know because it's obvious. First, I grew up surrounded by a lot of mean, judgemental people and although they didn't care enough about me to hate me, they really were frequently mean to me or at best dismissive of me. I didn't realize until I was like 25 that most people don't have "nasty" as a default setting, but it's hard to adjust after spending your formative years always half-afraid. Second, I had a few memorable experiences as an adult where people (usually authority figures like teachers or bosses, though also a couple friends) truly did like me and then turn against me. Intellectually I knew that I didn't cause it; it was because these people had their own problems. But when you're sort of expecting it and then it happens, it tends to seem like a pattern.

So, IANATherapist, and I've never even been to a therapist, so feel free to ignore this, but I think it's a form of self-preservation. If you're not counting on people to like you, if you're always preparing yourself for them to suddenly reveal their dislike, then you can't be hurt when it happens. It's natural to want to protect yourself from disappointment.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:16 AM on May 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

I had good luck dealing with this kind of thing through cognitive-behavioral therapy. I think a general improvement in my self-esteem and a drop in self-consciousness as I got older and mentally healthier made a difference as well. For me, it was all tied up with anxiety, and with the fact that I grew up in a house where I was in fact constantly watched and judged (nothing I ever did was good enough for either of my parents, and they let me know it all the time). So I had to unpack that childhood stuff, and also treat the anxiety, which for me meant a combination of therapy and medication.

I also read something once in which the author pointed out that if you're going to make up other people's thoughts about you, you might as well make up good ones. It was one of those passing comments that was really striking to me. I started drawing on times people had said positive things to me ("you're unflappable," "You're always so patient with your kids," "You dress so cute," "you're such a happy person."). A lot of times when people said those kinds of things to me, I immediately countered them mentally with all the times I'd lost my cool, been impatient with my kids, been anything but happy. But I started to say to myself, "Hey, maybe that's true!" Sometimes I found that other people really did have a more accurate perception of me (the person who called me "bubbly and life-loving" ten years ago deserves great thanks, because I am bubbly and life-loving and until she said it, I couldn't see it. I thought I was basically melancholy). And I used those positive comments as the seed for the imaginary positive thoughts I decided other people were having about me all the time.

So, for instance, instead of imagining that somebody watching me squeeze my self into a carnival ride with my 2yo was thinking, "God, that's disgusting," I imagined somebody watching and thinking, "I wish I had enough self-confidence to do that."

Of course, the truth is, most people probably aren't watching or thinking about me at all (my first therapist, more than 20 years ago, listening to me obsess about making a good first impression on my first day at grad school, said, "You know, to be honest, most people just aren't paying that much attention to you." Again, an insight that served me well.).

I use a stop-and-redirect technique when I catch myself heading down unproductive paths. Usually it's a mental "stop!" but sometimes when I'm alone I'll actually say it out loud. Then I consciously make the effort to either counter the negative thought or just think about something else.
posted by not that girl at 11:18 AM on May 6, 2010 [14 favorites]

I concur with everyone above: it goes along with anxiety/depression, it's in your head and looking logically at the facts can help. Etrigan and The Whelk are right to say that other people just don't have the time or interest to spend that much mental energy on you. Recognize that your assumption that they are that invested in thinking about you is narcissistic.

I used to suffer pretty badly from this. It got much worse during a very stressful time and I almost couldn't handle being in public for a while. Even at a low level, it's no way to live. It's inhibiting and a source of constant anxiety and stress. I agree that CTB techniques can help. One that I used a lot to get over this was the "so what?" technique. I don't know what it's really called, but it's detailed somewhere in Feeling Good. Basically, you talk yourself out of your worries:

- Lucy's being nice to me, but I know deep down that she really hates me.
- Well, you have no evidence to support that feeling. But it could be true. Maybe she really hates you. So what?
- That makes me feel awful!
- Ok. You feel awful. So what?
- Well, if Lucy hates me, I must be a really pathetic person.
- Someone hating you doesn't make you pathetic. But it could be true - you might be pathetic. So what if you are?
- But I don't want to be pathetic!

I like this method, because it takes you from a paralyzing, non-solvable problem (the possibility of someone hating you) and teasing out the irrational fears that are tangled up with it ("I'm pathetic") so that you can disarm the underlying fear ("Actually, there's nothing pathetic about me"), or address it if it has any grounding in reality ("Ok, maybe sometimes I'm pathetic, but I'd feel less so if I did x, y and z").
posted by kitcat at 11:28 AM on May 6, 2010

If your friends secretly hated you or were angry with you, why would they waste the effort of pretending to be your friends or hiding their anger? Ditto for pretty much everyone else on your list. It's pretty rare for people to be secretive about these things.

(Just based on his own description, the 38% number bukvich cites appears to be the percentage of people who won't like someone, period; not the percentage of people who will dislike them but pretend to like them anyway for no apparent reason.)

I'm not ready to talk about this extensively with my therapist yet; we're dealing with other things.

Talk about this with your therapist. If for no other reason than that they can't help you with the other things if you're harboring these mildly-paranoid fears about them.
posted by ook at 11:36 AM on May 6, 2010

Oh man, you have no idea how much I can relate to this. This is something that I might have written word-for-word a year or two ago; I'm still not 100% over this (it's so deeply ingrained in the way I was raised that I don't know if I'll ever be), but it's much more manageable for me now.

One thing that made this easier to handle was realizing that you can never quite know anyone else fully - and vice versa.

All of us are making approximations and best guesses and, outside of maybe some ultra-rare moment of complete empathy, we never completely *know* how someone else is feeling. After all, you don't know yourself fully (no one does) - so how can you have a hope of doing so for someone else? We can just do our best, and try to be kind.

As such, you can never know whether someone is truly thinking something positive, or negative. If you think "I know that she's *really* thinking how incompetent I really am," remind yourself if possible that, rationally, you can never quite really know.

For that matter, what if she's mad at you, but doesn't herself realize it? Or she's mad at you, but shouldn't be? Or she's in fact more pleased than she's letting off, but is giving a more neutral demeanor? Wouldn't all of these be reasons at least modify that concern? And aren't they just as possible?

If you're like me in this respect, then assessing the thoughts of other people can be such an uncertain thing that you're better off being assured by the fact that you don't know. And being aware that if someone expects you to be a mind-reader to act appropriately, than they're not being fair to you. (But they probably don't, because again, it's so impossible to know these things.)

I'm perhaps being a bit callous by acting as if one can just 'stop' these things - a huge part of this problem is that there are certain patterns of thought that you're plugged into, that are involuntary. (E.g. I can be entirely aware in lucid moments that there's nothing wrong with the way I look - and yet, should I forget that conscious fact for an instant, I'll immediately attribute the man bumping into me on the street as a reflection of how ugly I must truly be.) That's why the second suggestion I'd make is looking into some form of meditation, as dismissive as it might sound. One of the huge benefits of some forms is that they force you to get off the train of your normal, compulsive thought, and view it from afar - as just something your brain does, in the same way that you're breathing in an autonomic fashion.

Msg me if you want to talk - I wish you the best.
posted by Ash3000 at 11:42 AM on May 6, 2010

As for what could be causing the issue... did anyone in your past actually act like they liked you when it turned out they secretly hated you? I ask because I had two people very important do that to me in the past -- my best friend, who then abruptly stopped talking to me, and then my boyfriend, who bashed me to all our mutual friends without telling me for a full year before breaking up with me, while simultaneously telling me he wanted to marry me. This was all in high school, but even though I'm 25 now it's still difficult for me to accept that anyone genuinely likes me.

I can tell you some things that have helped me:
- What Etrigan said: realizing that people simply don't think about me (or anyone else) as much as I might worry they do. It's a waste of time worrying if you're not sure that someone else dislikes you, so I decide to only worry about these things if I know for certain.

- Realizing that the behavior of those two people had very little to do with me -- which is not to discount the little bit that did have to do with me (aspects of my personality they might have found abrasive and that I have since worked to eliminate) but their reactions and how they treated me was completely out of line for however I might have annoyed them. Normal, healthy people will not nurse huge grudges against you unless you've genuinely slighted them in some way, and normal, healthy people do not waste a lot of energy being nice to someone's face while wallowing in hatred for them. If you're nice to people and someone reacts that way to you, it has EVERYTHING to do with their problems. It helps for me to remember that when I find someone a bit abrasive I don't sit around hating them, and I sure as hell wouldn't do anything to them like was done to me. Most people would agree with that; everyone meets people they don't entirely mesh with and most people just shrug it off.

This was easier to do in the boyfriend's case since he acted pretty nuts regarding me to everyone else and I was not the only one to observe that, and I also had the opportunity to see him throw a friend of his aside for no good reason so I knew it wasn't just me; while it's hard to evaluate ourselves, the friend he threw aside is one of the nicest people I've ever met and was always good to him. He started being a jerk and ignoring this friend because some of his new friends didn't mesh with the old friend. I finally had to accept that though my ex put on a good act, he was not a very good person. He was cowardly so he would lie in his interactions with other people, and he didn't care if his shortcomings hurt other people. He would do everything to protect himself. It also helped that he made up outrageous lies about me, including that he didn't break up with me sooner because I had threatened to kill myself. If he had been classy I might not have realized all these things about him, and I might still think it was my fault.

The other person was harder to get over, because she didn't say much of anything to anyone and I had no idea what I might have done wrong. She ended up contacting me, nearly ten years after the fact, with a long apology saying that I was one of the best friends she ever had, and the most loyal, and she wasn't sure why she was so upset at me but that it didn't have anything to do with me. I believe her because she had some depression issues growing up and she'd sometimes lash out at people because of them, and her apologizing was something else she was doing to get through what issues remained. We're good friends again, now. It was helpful to hear that it wasn't my fault, and it's more difficult to think she secretly hates me now because if that were true, she would have never contacted me again the first place.

But I was lucky in that those two situations were obvious enough that I could rationally pick them apart. If you can't, then just refer back to the first paragraph of this point: unless you've done something seriously mean, anyone who would secretly hate you is a little nuts. Those sorts of people aren't worth worrying about, so definitely don't worry about hypothetical people like that.

- I actively remove dramatic or duplicitous people from my life. If I have good reason to think that someone is going to gossip or talk shit about me behind my back -- i.e. I hear it from someone else, or I see how they talk about other people and then how they act to their face -- then they're out. My remaining friends are all very good people, and not the kind of people that need to bash other people to make themselves feel better, so it's easier to trust them.

- I do my best to be a good person and never be mean to anyone, and that alone makes it easier to reassure myself that if anyone secretly hates me, they have big problems. (As for merely not really liking me, I don't mind so much; there's a lot of people I don't mesh with who are perfectly good people, and I would hate for them to feel bad about themselves because I don't like them more.) It's also good because it's made me more patient and empathetic, and it forces me to think how people might react to me -- which in turn makes me less likely to be irritated by other people myself, which makes me less stressed, which is always nice.

- It's a bit of a double-edged sword, but I've forced myself to be okay with other people abandoning me -- not in the sense that it excuses anything, but that it will not be the end of the world and I will get through it. After all, I know empirically that no matter what I do, people will abandon me for no fault of my own, and no matter how careful I am, people will get through my checks and hurt me. I can't control that, all I can do is control how I feel about it and not be dependent on any one person.

I say it's double-edged because while I feel it's just a fact of life and accepting it reduces my stress, it also reduces my happiness a bit: I can't bring myself to be as close to anyone as I used to. After all, even if you can survive it, it doesn't mean it doesn't still hurt. The crux of it is that everyone I care about ultimately has the potential to hurt me no matter what I do, so I'm inclined to keep everyone at a bearable-if-they-abandon-me distance. I start to feel nervous if I spend a lot of time with someone, aside from my husband, even though I miss people when I don't see them much. And part of me still feels that I could wake up to tomorrow and all my friends will have spontaneously decided they hate me, I just feel more emptiness than despair about it. I'm not entirely happy with this state of affairs, but acceptance has at least worked better for me than wishing it weren't true. Possibly you will do better at this.

- That being said, all I can say is that I don't actively agonize over whether people secretly hate me anymore. I still have a lot of trouble making new friends because I don't feel safe around people until I have a decent gauge of their personality. I do have a tendency to think acquaintances might secretly hate me because I don't know them as well, it's just I don't care or think about it much.

Mostly I tell myself that if someone hates me they wouldn't initiate conversations with me, and if they do hate me and initiate conversations with me, they're pretty messed up. That helps a lot. The problem is, I never initiate conversations with anyone because I'm terrified of bothering them if they don't like talking to me. This can be irritating to my friends because they feel like they have to do all the work, or else they get the impression that maybe I don't like them. Mostly they just know how I am now, though, and I try to work on initiating things more.

Anyway, I hope some of this has been helpful.
posted by Nattie at 11:44 AM on May 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

There are some very logical and rational arguments on here. I'm wondering how helpful the OP is finding them. . .

Just a thought though, there is a self-fulfilling prophecy piece to this. See, if you're always wondering if the person you're talking to is not liking you, you can't be as present in the conversation and you'll activate a force less conscious in them that will put them in this skeptical state as well. In general, this level of insecurity in others is just tiring to deal with. And who would like that?

I'm wondering, what it would mean to you if (some) people actually didn't like you? Could you tolerate it? Would you be able to function with them? Can you be truly okay with some people not liking you?
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 11:47 AM on May 6, 2010

I've had this, too, when my depression's gotten the better of me. FWIW, I've always been shy, and I was unpopular and frequently picked on as a kid, so my self-esteem has not always been very good. Maybe you have a similar story?

CBT can definitely help, and I'll second checking out Feeling Good. Additionally, if you do have depression or anxiety, and if you're open to taking medication, you might want to consider going down that road - when the depression's in remission, these thoughts often leave with it. (I don't mean to suggest that this is something you can simply throw a prescription at, but antidepressants worked for me.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:48 AM on May 6, 2010

Right there right now myself.

I think it is due to over-population. The human brain is wired for small bands of humans, tribes, working together in a vast hostile world. When you encounter anything not part of your tribe, a snake, or a bull, or a mastodon or a stranger from another tribe or whatever, you assume it wants to do you harm. Even the inanimate objects are at best obstacles, resources or maybe hidden dangers, plants that you might want to eat... but be careful because they might be poisonous. But these interactions are really irrelevant for tribe status transactions (unless you kill a lion or get humiliated by not bringing home a successful hunt).

Your human tribe used to be the only thing you could trust, but also there you have hierarchy power struggles, status transactions. Your status in the tribe is EVERYTHING. But it was simple to keep those pecking orders in line because there are what, like 10, 20 maybe a few score of you? So you didn't have to worry about so many variables, you know who was competing with you in the pecking order and who was not a threat (or not threatened by you), etc. Moreover, being that the tribe was so small, the health of the tribe would not be improved by KILLING competitors, simply by shaming them, ostracizing them temporarily maybe... "hating" them if you will.

Now, however, both those dynamics are on their head. The thing you MOST often encounter are people, and if you are open minded individual, you believe all people are a member of your "tribe". And the environment is all man made so every thing you see can, subconsciously, be attributed back to a person or group of people (your buddies Iphone, a note from your parents, the poorly maintained road made by the government, your companies malfunctioning telephone system, the asshole in the pickup truck who cut you off, the turd on your lawn by some neighbors dog). So most of your frustrations, fears, and pain is caused by a human. So thus, subconsciously, you feel that SOMEONE in your tribe hates you, wants to cause you pain, but maybe cannot nail down exactly who.

Additionally, All interactions with the environment have subconscious status transactions (Can I drive my car well? Can I operate this computer program at work and do my job? will I have to ask questions about this bank statement and get in a confrontation? will the credit card repossess my TV? will I reveal some embarrassing lack of knowledge that makes people secretly laugh at me? and on and on and on...). If you fail at any of these tasks you don't know who is watching and who might report that information back to (in your primitive brain) a potential mate or a potential competitor.

On top of that, your human network is now infinitely large. You have no idea what people you are struggling with in the pecking order. There could be literally millions of similarly ranked competitors, all going to tell potential mates that you failed, or are a pathetic person and really bring nothing to the tribe. Political blocks that may be hidden, agreements of a Machiavellian nature for slights you don't remember or agendas you don't fully comprehend or even irrational emotionality that makes for good drama (thank you reality television).

Moreover, the cultural script has been rewritten, values have shifted. Now in movies, music, television, literature, the news we always see images of the malcontent, hated, ostracized members of the tribe getting killed, or jailed, or physically harmed. Comedians and late night television broadcast negative social transactions to millions. And Facebook shares it silently to everyone you care are about.

And we have hidden anti-tribes that walk among us (this depends on your Ideology but think of the "hidden terrorists" or perhaps racist, sexist, genderist prejudices and hatreds that your "tribe" has constructed to limit themselves to a manageable level of social transactions that can be monitored and the rest, with blacks or democrats or whatever group they have decided to other-ize, can be safely ignored as background noise in the environment).

With all of this, it is no wonder that you brain has gone haywire and decided that secretly everyone is out to get you, everyone hates you.

But, this is actually quite liberating, because we KNOW that the world we live in is not this pre-agrarian wilderness, it is the 21st century. You can construct new scripts, new ways of being.

(but personally I wouldn't bother, the world is about to end anyway)

posted by DetonatedManiac at 1:06 PM on May 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Hello, anon, I just wanted to say that sometimes people DO secretly dislike things about others, so I don't think you're completely crazy for having these concerns. When I did CBT, I disliked how it turned the "mind reading" distortion into a bit of a straw man. It's not exactly fair to say that you assume you KNOW what people are thinking, or that you truly have no evidence. You're aware it's only a suspicion, and possibly irrational, because you asked this question. And we don't know enough to say there's no evidence, because who knows, there very well might be. As you say, people are doing things you tend to interpret (or misinterpret) as dislike, while you tend to dismiss more positive signals. It's almost certainly NOT true that all these people in your life dislike everything about you, but a few of your negative interpretations could actually be correct. (I also disagree with the implication that we should never try to interpret people's outward behaviors-- as you say, constantly checking in with people isn't always practical, so interpretation is an important part of communication, even if we sometimes guess wrong. Guessing wrong most of the time is indeed a problem.)

What could cause your negative interpretations? Well, in my own life, I've had friends confide to me things they dislike about others but have never actually told those people (and some of those negative things are qualities I fear I share). And I myself have things I secretly dislike about certain people I know, even though I've never told them. So I assume that others might also dislike certain things about me, even though they haven't told me. And I think that's very reasonable to assume! (More reasonable, in my opinion, that believing that people never, ever have bad feelings toward us.)

I tend to go overboard, though, and interpret neutral or ambiguous behaviors as negative. Part of this can be chalked up to a combination of bad luck and the way human brains learn from experience. Repeated early experiences of actually being disliked (in my case, being rejected again and again for group sports during grade school recess) or perhaps a single very intense experience (for me, being publicly humiliated by the first girl I ever admitted to having a crush on) can lay down a pattern of neurons in the brain that automatically react whenever we encounter a similar situation in the future. The tricky part about these neural networks is that even a vaguely similar stimulus can cause the whole network to go off. Our conscious experience of this tendency is that neutral or ambiguous signals from people very easily trigger the negative interpretation laid down in our brain. And we tend to dismiss positive signals because the neural patterns associated with being liked just aren't wired together as strongly. It takes a really powerful positive signal to register in our brains, and mildly positive messages not register at all sometimes.

Whew! So, what to do about it? I believe it involves strengthening the positive neural patterns in our brains so they eventually overpower the negative ones. The quickest way would be to have lots and lots of really positive signals that people like us, but we're unlikely ever to get that! Failing that, therapy can help-- even CBT-- by helping us notice the times we were wrong about being disliked, and the times when we dismissed something positive. (And hopefully it's really TRUE that people's feelings about us are more good than bad!!) I would rephrase the "mind reading" distortion in a much gentler way, such as: "I tend to suspect that people dislike me or things that I do, and sometimes I'm actually right! But I've also noticed that sometimes I'm wrong. If I really think about it, I can remember times when I was sure someone hated me, and I was so relieved when I checked in with them and learned the truth. And I can even remember times when someone really liked me but I didn't believe it or didn't even notice it at the time. And it really helps to remember how good it felt to be liked and to replay that memory again and again."
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 1:39 PM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

i'm with nattie. have you recently been through an experience where someone you loved/trusted/thought was a friend suddenly turned on you, and you realized that they'd harboured dislike for you for years? i always thought the best of people until i had someone i thought was a friend turn on me in an overly complicated way that i don't want to go into here. i'd never done anything to her, but apparently without knowing i was one of those 'girls who had everything she wanted' so eventually she flipped and decided she'd try to destroy parts of my life behind my back due to her own issues. it backfired on her in a massive way but it destroyed my ability to trust people for a long time. i started becoming paranoid that other people who were nice to my face secretly hated me for having built a decent life for myself, or just hated me for being me. it wasn't enough for me to think, i do my best to be a good person, i like people and hopefully they like me. it became, even if i do my best, someone's still going to hate me behind a smiling face and knife me in the back when i least expect it.

i'm still working to get through those issues. time has helped, as well as no repeats of what had happened with that particular "friend". like nattie, i started weeding out acquaintances i could practically smell the drama on and made no effort to befriend anyone i had the feeling was duplicitous. surrounding myself with people i am certain are honest and incapable of harbouring deep secret feelings of hatred for me has done a lot to get me back to my old happy go lucky self.
posted by raw sugar at 3:33 PM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of pursuing the consequences. If someone actually hates you - so what? You should feel bad for them. They have to spend time with someone they dislike, and they aren't doing anything about it! Is there anything you can do about it? no.
posted by Gor-ella at 6:53 AM on May 7, 2010

Is it possible that you dislike other people and find it difficult to be around them, and so you project onto them a distaste for you? Perhaps facing up to your own misanthropy or whatever (which may seem Wrong to you and therefore in need of externalization) is the issue here. Just a thought. I know I can be like that -- assuming people don't like me because I have a hard time permitting myself not to like them sometimes.

How much time do you spend thinking whether YOU like other people?

Or are your thoughts always on how they see you?

Would it, in fact, be reassuring to have everyone actually hate you so you could be free and alone?

Don't be afraid of other people. They need you!
posted by cymru_j at 5:40 PM on May 7, 2010

I've felt this way at certain points myself. It was always due to stress or depression. This is what works for me:

Sometimes you are picking up on some subtle hostility from others correctly. They have decided something bad about you. This is due to either:

A. Something you have done or said that they didn't like, or

B. Something they have assumed about you (or projected upon you) that isn't true.

And there is nothing you can do about either of these things (without driving yourself crazy trying to please everyone - which wastes energy and lacks integrity). As long as you aren't trying to irritate/anger anyone on purpose, you have nothing to worry about. Period. All you can do is be yourself (true to yourself) while being mindful of other's feelings.

Then again, sometimes you apply A or B to those around you.

And there is nothing they can do about it.

Sometimes people assume good things about other people that are, as well, untrue. All anyone can do is open their mind to the possibility that they are assuming things, or that they are being inflexible (towards others and themselves - I think this sort of thing can be a guilty reaction to one's own hostility to others = "wow, they hate me", but IANAP). Maybe person X had a bad day, made a bad first impression, or was so wrapped up in thier own drama that they treated you/everyone offhandedly for a period of time?).

If you decide to see others as changing and yourself as capable of inspiring both good and bad responses from people (whether it's deserved or not) then not only might your own perception shift, but you may realize that you don't care very much what other people think.

It's, as they say, "none of your business" what other people think of you, anyway (that goes for the "good" and the "bad").

It helps to get out of your own head a little bit, too. Volunteering to help others can take you right out of your own head for a while.
posted by marimeko at 7:43 AM on May 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing having found CBT very effective in shedding this soul destroying thought process that was part depression, part extremely low self esteem, and part anxiety in my life.

I, too, had to learn that "nasty" wasn't everyone's default. The added bonus of the CBT aiding me in this matter was that I also have a much more relaxed attitude when I do encounter hatefulness.

If it's not been mentioned, I suggest MoodGym - free internet accessed CBT
posted by _paegan_ at 1:48 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anti-depressants cut out all that paranoid noise very quickly for me. YMMV, but worth trying.
posted by heatherann at 2:26 PM on May 11, 2010

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