Why do you make me so mad?
September 19, 2013 6:29 PM   Subscribe

There is someone in my circle of friends who I dislike, and recently I have become increasingly preoccupied by that dislike, to the point where it's actually making me uncomfortable. What's going on here? How do I cut this out?

I thought about listing all of the reasons I do not like this person, but I think they're basically beside the point. Suffice it to say, they are fairly smug and obnoxious and dismissive of others' opinions, and I am not the only person who dislikes them.

However, recently, thoughts such as "ugh, fuck that person, why are they LIKE that" have been popping into my head, like... almost every day. That is way, way more brainspace than I ought to be devoting to pointless hatred. Partly this is because we're Facebook friends, so I see their posts- and, since realizing how weirdly anti-this-person I'd become, I have blocked them from my feed, which should help. I only see them in person once or twice a month, usually.

The thing is, this person is not all bad- I used to get along with them just fine, and in person I still do- and most of the things they post are just... normal stuff. And I don't know why, or when, I went from thinking "man that person I know has some shitty opinions, whatever" to "ugh I fucking HATE them SO MUCH."

I am generally not like this at all. In fact I usually go out of my way to try and empathize with other people, even when others aren't doing so.

Maybe it's because I perceive them to be successful in some way that I'm not, and I resent their ability to get what I want even with a bad personality. Maybe I'm making them play the role of every bad person in the whole world and directing all my collected ire onto them. Maybe I'm kinda lonely and bored and it's easier to hate them than to hate myself. Maybe it's just that I was sheltered before and have genuinely have never had a 'friend' I felt this way about and I don't know how to handle it. It could be any or none of these reasons, I honestly don't know! And it's driving me crazy!

Is there any way to tease out just where this extreme antipathy came from? And is there any way I can stop it from happening? Has this type of out-of-nowhere borderline hatred ever happened to anybody else? I'm a fucking grownup (well, mid-20s) and this is just completely ridiculous and petty.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
The most successful advice I've ever been given for intrusive thoughts like this comes from the CBT/insight meditation technique of awareness:

When one of these thoughts come into your mind, notice that it has come into your mind.
Don't judge or chastise yourself or the thought, just notice that it exists, and notice what it's like.

The theory is that by mentally swatting yourself when you have these annoying thoughts, even subconsciously, you are giving them more power, and reinforcing them in your mind. Weird, but that's how many brains, mine included, are wired.

Letting those thoughts slide into your mind, noticing them, then letting them slide out again, if you practice it consistently, is likely to slowly reduce the hold they have on your brain.

If you want to go a little deeper, Metta meditation is probably a good technique to practice if this sort of thing is bothering you.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:37 PM on September 19, 2013 [25 favorites]

Yeah, this kind of thing just happens. When I was in my early/mid 20s I made my first group of adult, post-school friends, and for the first couple years everyone got along great and I kept thinking, "this is amazing! all these people are so great!" And then, inevitably, fractures started to appear and now I positively hate some of those people. Fortunately, I never see most of them anymore because we have all, in most cases, moved away from the city I lived in at that time.

So I think what's going on here is that as you've gotten to know this person better, you just don't like them anymore. That is fine and normal - we can't like everybody we meet, and sometimes there is no identifiable reason for enmity other than some kind of subconscious personality clash. I wonder if part of what you're feeling is a sense of fascination, like, "this person sucks SO MUCH - how could I have not seen this before?" and you just sort of wallow in the terribleness. I've done that. I still do it sometimes, even with people I haven't seen for eight years. The thing is, doing that doesn't hurt anybody but myself, because those people don't care (or probably even know) how I feel about them, and it's not really their business to know, anyway. So I try not to get caught up in it, and just accept that people are different and that they are going around living their lives just like I am, and that's fine.

Obviously until you get over the immediate feelings of this new and intense hatred it would probably be best to limit how often you have to see this person - you are on the right track blocking them from your facebook feed. Unless they have done something truly horrible to deserve the enmity, it will probably fade in time.
posted by something something at 6:39 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and another thing that helps me deal with bad behavior of all types is to try to keep in mind that everyone is doing the best they can at any given time. Maybe smug and obnoxious is your person's defense mechanism to deal with crippling social anxiety. Maybe their mom is really sick or they have money problems or their little brother has a drug problem. I try to remember that everybody has shit they're dealing with that I know nothing about, and that if somebody is being an asshole there's probably a reason for it that is based upon some kind of sadness or stress.
posted by something something at 6:43 PM on September 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

This has happened to me, although not out of the blue. The most recent example I can think of is a person I work with who I feel negatively interfered in my last relationship as well as made some morally questionable decisions. I find this person to be manipulative, fake, and conniving. Problem is, other people at work generally like her and she and I have mutual friends. So I have to play nice. But man if I could just rip into her, it would make my day, and I consequently spend more time than I would like to admit wondering why she is such an insufferable bitch. Anyway.

I hid her on Facebook and just basically have as little contact with her as possible. I really avoid events where I would have to interact with her because after a long time of dragging myself to places in order to make an appearance, it finally occurred to me that there's nothing wrong with just staying home and being in the company of my animals who love me and who don't require me to fake being nice. I hate being fake nice, probably because I'm so bad at it.

The only thing that has really helped is to look at this through the lens of Christianity which I'm not sure you buy into, and remember that she is a person just as I am a person, she is loved by her creator like I am, and that no one is perfect. You could probably filter that through whatever worldview you subscribe to.
posted by thank you silence at 6:45 PM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I dislike someone that intensely, I do two things:

1. Distance myself from the person - so good job blocking them on Facebook. That was a smart move. I've had a hard time doing things like this in the past, but whenever I do it makes things much better.

2. Remind myself that they're a person, too, and they have struggles and hard times. Sometimes these struggles make them act in ways that are really downright irritating. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that their negative qualities come from whatever hardships they are experiencing or have experienced. Life's tough.

I also recommend the mindfulness approach described by Salvor Hardin. One thing I like to do with negative thoughts in general is greet them. I say, "Hi, thought. I remember you. See you later!" and then I kind of walk away from the thought. Acknowledging and recognizing the thought seems to help make it pop up less frequently.
posted by sockermom at 6:45 PM on September 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Maybe your intuition is telling you something about this person that you need to listen to. Whenever I have experienced the kind of repulsion at a person that you are towards this guy, there has been a reason. My subconscious was noticing red flags even if my conscious mind wasn't. Each time, the person turned out to be someone who did hurtful things.

You said "they are fairly smug and obnoxious and dismissive of others' opinions" and this is the kind of constellation of character traits that I react to with repulsion also. There's a reason for that. These character traits suck. In more than one case these traits have been the tip of the iceberg of a sociopathic personality. I don't think you have anything to feel guilty about.
posted by xenophile at 7:17 PM on September 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

it is healthy to acknowledge one's dislike. just work to minimize its impact on what you do in your life and your interactions with that person. its okay to trust the animal part of you that makes these calls. just don't cross that feeling in business deals or love.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:02 PM on September 19, 2013

Often when people drive me really crazy, it's because they exhibit extreme versions of characteristics that I share and am ashamed of and try to hide, but they are clueless.
posted by ecsh at 8:24 PM on September 19, 2013 [43 favorites]

I've had this happen, too. It was also enlightening for me was contemplating the idea that, "you dislike most in others that which you despise about yourself." I don't think it always applies, but it's an interesting angle to explore along with the other good suggestions here.
posted by juliplease at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sometimes I get these weird, pointless obsessions when my brain doesn't have anything else more productive to chew on or everything else that could be occupying it is either more unpleasant or consequential or both. You might want to think about what else is going on with you right now. Maybe read excellent novel you haven't read before.
posted by bleep at 8:46 PM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with esch. You might be an overly conscientious, ethical type of person, so this other person's obnoxious behavior may appear to have a kind of transgressive thrill, of the pleasure of being bad and breaking the rules. You resent them because you feel they get to enjoy aggressive impulses of which you are deprived. Seeing them enjoy that gives you an outlet to unleash your own pent up aggressive impulses towards them, rationalizing it on the grounds that they are a bad person, so your hatred is permitted, it is for the greater good and so on.

I'm exaggerating things quite a bit here, so take it with a grain of salt. It's not that bad. Most people are like this. The problem is that you can't easily get rid of the antisocial impulses in humanity. The same mechanisms you use (moral condemnation or whatever) to stamp them out become themselves contaminated with the very cruelty and sadism they are directed against. Cruelty against the cruel, viciousness against the vicious, war in the name of peace, fascism in the name of freedom, etc.
posted by AlsoMike at 9:01 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's happened to me a few times. It's basically a hatecrush. Just like you interpret the object of your affection through the most generous lens possible, seeing reflected only the parts of them that live up to your ideal version of them, an object of your dislike can get more and more annoying as you amass evidence that they are the Worst, Most Awful person ever.

For extra bonus points that person will be well liked by at least one or two people the opinions and taste of which you respect, and you may even come to secretly believe their judgement is suspect, or worse, that they are mistaken in their reasons for liking you.

Every time I have had one of these the root has been an insecurity of my own. Perhaps the person is loud and gregarious, and since I feel I am too quiet this annoys me. Perhaps they are smart, competent, and driven at work, but taciturn and unfriendly, and so their skill annoys me since I feel their unfriendliness is somehow a comment on my own average drive and abilities.

The main thing to remember, really, is that hatecrushes, like regular crushes, are so much more about the crusher than the crushed upon.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:10 PM on September 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

I think ecsh is onto something. If maybe you feel the occasional impulse to be "smug and obnoxious and dismissive of others' opinions," but then rightly stamp that thought out, because you're not a jerk... maybe it drives you crazy to see someone else just getting away with doing those things and apparently suffering few negative consequences for it?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:10 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Distance helps a bunch. My friend group just went through this, but in our case it was a lot of in-person annoyance that we couldn't get away from until this friend moved away. We still "like" this person and they're still a friend, but holy moly are we glad we no longer have to deal with them. In our collective case, I believe we had strong, valid reasons for "hatecrushing" this person and they were not a reflection of our deepest struggles with ourselves or some such. I don't disagree that that also happens, but in this case that was definitely not what was going on. I think minimizing contact will help a lot with these persistent negative thoughts about this person.
posted by rawralphadawg at 9:37 PM on September 19, 2013

I don't know but I'll tell you what---if you focus on loving this person with all your heart you will reach wholeness so much quicker than almost any other way you can imagine.
posted by macinchik at 10:04 PM on September 19, 2013

I used to think that people who I disliked probably represented something about me, and if someone hurt my feelings, treated me badly, behaved badly and it upset me I should meditate within myself and make total peace and harmony out of it and it all seemed very profound and advanced.

I wound up interacting with a lot of abusive fucked up assholes as a result. It was not very profound. And it really had very little to do with me, other than that I had stifled my normal and healthy reactions of dislike to harmful people.

So I'm going to go with, trust your instincts and avoid people who treat others badly even in "minor" ways that feel like a big deal to you. However, that doesn't mean you can't have compassion for their plight from a distance. Plenty of harmful people don't mean to be that way, they can't see how their behavior hurts others, or they're coping with more than they can handle by not having empathy for others or or or who knows?

The point is, you're normal if you don't like being treated badly or seeing others treated badly and that's healthy. Just avoid this person, and wish them improvement in whatever is causing them to act like a jerk, maybe it's not their fault at all and they should be pitied, or they really need a whole lot of help that's not available for whatever reason.
posted by xarnop at 4:03 AM on September 20, 2013 [15 favorites]

I can understad where youu might be coming from in this drive to "demonisation" as I've been there myself.

For me a lot of this had to do with the hangover from an abusive upbringing that made me super-sensitive to certain people and behavior and badly damaged my ability to trust other people and very emotionally raw and exposed; that led me to a very Manichean (good/bad) understanding and attitude towards other people.

While I was very skilled at hiding a lot of this as a way of overcoming this, unconsciously when faced with those who resembled negative people and situations from my childhood would hit me like a brick and fill me with anger disappointment and rage that would turn them around in my head to I perceived as their "true colors" and turning them into a "mortal" enemy that I some how needed to create with rather disastrous results for the rest of my life

Though my example seems extreme, and your reaction may feel irrational, to have this press your buttons so much means that it definitely something there "triggering it" even if your conscious mind isn't aware of it, or seems to be counterproductive to your conscious instincts.

If his is just a one off, its probably just one of those things, but if this is a definite pattern for you or has a very difficult outcomes for you; looking into the uncomfortable relationships or unhappy bits of your life might help you understand it better.
posted by Middlemarch at 5:43 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I often find that this is your brain BEGGING you to SAY SOMETHING.

Often for the sake of peace and harmony in a group setting, we let the token yutz yammer on without opposition.

The next time you are with this person, and he/she says something you disagree with, say so.

"No Clyde, I don't agree that drug testing welfare receipients is a good idea."

"No Clyde, I DO think that Sandra Bullock is a good actor and I like her movies."

"Clyde, I understand that you're frustrated with the waitstaff here, but yelling at our server won't get your food here faster and I don't like spit in my salad."

I have found that when I speak my mind, respectfully, I feel better. It's holding in your opinions that's making you crazy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:22 AM on September 20, 2013 [11 favorites]

Seconding Ruthless Bunny's "honesty without aggression" policy.

A lot of the disproportionate resentment may come from the feeling that this person is free to annoy you but you are not free to respond. This is me, a Total Internet Stranger, giving you permission to respond. Small arms first, as Ruthless Bunny suggests; but if he/she is being a jackass, feel free to point that out. You may be doing the world a favour.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:16 PM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

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