How can I stop hating people?
July 13, 2022 1:55 PM   Subscribe

[Gestures broadly at everything] is making me into a misanthrope and I don't like it. I hate people. Not specific people, or even specific kinds of people. PEOPLE. Persons are fine. Introduce me to your mom and she'll find me personable and friendly. But people as a collective and non-specific people out in the world are just the worst. I need to be able to like and enjoy humanity again, so that I can be happier, perform better at work, set a better example for my kid, and not miss out on the good from other people.

I have come most of the way out of a pretty deep hole where depression is concerned. I take meds. They seem to work. I can enjoy things. I am very happy at home or doing things with my family. I even enjoy travel, because there is this sense of being sort of in a bubble, sort of in a place but not in it. We have some friends, a small circle. I like these people. I can talk to my family and it isn't awful.

But many things make me miserable these days and I'm realizing they're all different sides of the same thing: I can barely tolerate other people.

How this plays out:
-Work seems awful. I'm in sales. Talking to strangers? Awful. In the field I'm in? They're probably going to say dumb shit about masks or the virus or gas prices and Biden. Or maybe they're "Democrats" in the worst center right way and they're fully 60% as bad. Or they're just not smart. Or they are smart, but they're pricks. Maybe they're nice, but that's worse because now I have to talk about tech bullshit in little emails while the world is on fire. I used to be a great listener but I can barely be present when people talk now.
-I think there is probably value on our team video calls but I can no more focus on those than I can fly or shoot lasers from my fingers.
-I would rather poke out my own eyes than have an impromptu conversation out in the wild with someone I don't know. I force myself to try to be friendly anyway but I feel like a pod person clumsily imitating a human.
-The amount of grace I have for people runs dry faster than it once did. Even with people I like (other than my immediate family) when they aren't their best selves, my road from "benefit of the doubt" to "fuck them" is shorter than ever.

I am not mean to people. I am not unhappy on the whole. But I'm guarded, standoffish, distrustful, easily bored, not curious. I used to be a charmer. I can barely bring myself to say "Good morning" to people in the office I don't already know.

The world has gotten so mean, and when it isn't cruel, it's trifling and thick-witted. I blocked myself off so I could learn to stop being sad. Now I'm not sad, but I'm stuck.

What kinds of things can I do to learn to like people again?
posted by DirtyOldTown to Human Relations (54 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
How might you be able to find groups of people you like, and spend more time around them? (You don't have to threadsit to answer -- I just think this might be a question that leads you helpful places.)
posted by humbug at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I definitely don't want to threadsit, but I should really clarify: this isn't a "How do I make more friends?" question. It's a "How can I accept and maybe even learn to enjoy basic human interaction with people outside of my inner circle?" question.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:00 PM on July 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

I have three answers!

Easiest: loving kindness meditation. The insight timer app is free and has lots of good short meditations on this topic. Also called the “Metta bhavana” (Sanskrit). Can confirm that personally it gave me a lot more love for humanity, generally and specifically.

Medium: accept that you (and many others) just aren’t that into meeting new people and small talk, which is totally fine and normal. I know this wasn’t your question but I think you’re lovely just as you are. :)

Harder: I think you should quit your job and find a position at a nonprofit whose mission you believe in! I know not everyone can do this, though.
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 2:04 PM on July 13, 2022 [18 favorites]

Seconding loving kindness mediation. Also an unusual suggestion: the MindHabits game. It shows you frowning faces and smiling faces, and the game is to pick the smiling ones. The idea is to train your brain to notice the positive.
posted by catquas at 2:08 PM on July 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

Do you go to spaces or hang out in communities where people are doing best-people-we-can-be things? In my own life, that’s swing dancing, rollerskating, watching folks with their dogs and babies at the park. It can feel like empathy-exercise to listen to podcasts where people discuss their struggles and triumphs: Esther Perel’s Where Do We Begin (and How’s Work), Risk, The Moth, Storycorps - I often listen while walking or gardening.

Volunteering *can* be this, but I also know people who’ve gotten even more burnt out by trying to dismantle difficult feelings directly through volunteering (because non-profits can be ineffective or corrupt, because it’s one more surface exposed to the difficulty people face in the world, etc.).

I’m sorry things feel so hard right now. I hope you feel some relief soon.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 2:11 PM on July 13, 2022 [10 favorites]

This sounds like burnout. Maybe it's job burnout, but maybe it's just life in general burnout. If there's any way for you to get a break for a while, several weeks maybe, to spend time with loved ones, be in nature, turn your brain off, and not have to be around all these irritations, that can help a lot. But also, know that a lot of us are all also just going through the motions a lot of the time. You're not alone in feeling this way, and you're not wrong to feel the way you do.
posted by decathecting at 2:15 PM on July 13, 2022 [38 favorites]

I kind of feel like the way you're treating your depression could stand another look into because you still sound depressed to me. It sounds like that to me because I feel all of the same ways about people pretty much but those thoughts & feelings don't put fishhooks in me. If something seems to be putting fishhooks in someone it suggests to me they have an issue that needs a different strategy than they're getting.
posted by bleep at 2:16 PM on July 13, 2022 [9 favorites]

From a career in non-profit work, I don’t recommend switching into it if you’re already burnt out! But if looking for other jobs is an option (it may not be!), selling something you believe in whose customer base/pitch are farther from these huge, painful tensions in society would definitely help, so that you’re not healing yourself just to go back and sustain more injury.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 2:19 PM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

It sounds like your feelings of frustration with humanity stem from exposure to people who are assholes.

It seems to me that one logical solution is to increase exposure to people who are not assholes.

This does NOT have to mean making friends. Maybe it could mean hanging out in a radical bookstore, watching documentaries about people doing positive things, asking here for anecdotal evidence that humanity is not pure shit.

Writing down good experiences you’ve had with other humans - past or present. Reaching out to people you care about and appreciate.

These activities should provide more positive experiences with humans while not putting too much pressure on you.

(For me, changing my antidepressant seems to have made a big difference).
posted by bunderful at 2:20 PM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

I took humbug's suggestion to be less about "making friends" and more about being less pessimistic about humanity. For example, I personally enjoy volunteering for various environmental causes (think stream cleanups and tree plantings). At least where I'm located, these attract a fairly broad crowd in terms of identity demographics and while politically people lean left, there are plenty of centrists who like having a clean park or whatever. In short, these aren't all people I want to be buddies with, but that's actually why I like it - because it gives me a chance to have a positive interaction, to see someone as a full and complicated person, who I might not entirely agree with on all things.

I also agree with rrrrrrrrrt that podcasts like those by Esther Perel, which are essentially edited therapy sessions, have helped me be more empathetic - I also find the interviews on Death, Sex, and Money to be similar for that purpose. These serve the as the backdrop to my cleaning/chores. The podcast Hidden Brain is a bit more hit and miss (personal opinion) but worth checking out (the host interviews psychologists on various topics).

And if you need a "mantra" or reminder, try telling yourself everyday "Nobody is perfect, but most people are trying their best."
posted by coffeecat at 2:22 PM on July 13, 2022 [9 favorites]

Are you doing anything to help the world not be on fire quite so much? Ideally as part of a group, but having that time where you can say, “okay, I worked on the thing and made a tiny difference, now I can do other things” is helpful.
posted by momus_window at 2:26 PM on July 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

I force myself to try to be friendly anyway but I feel like a pod person clumsily imitating a human.

Same! This is hard. But, as someone who was awful at this and is now less awful, a few things helped me.

1. "You bring your own weather" that is, sometimes even if you think you're going into an interaction with an open mind, you may have some residual "This is going to suck, I hate these people" kinds of feelings that you bring to it and those, in turn can reinforce those feelings or make others respond to you in ways that are less like what you want. Sometimes figuring out if there's a way to make these interactions "worth it" for you, in whatever way "worth it" means to you, can be a good exercise. So for me, making small talk with strangers was a way to get to know my community better, sometimes put in a good word for the library, sometimes they'd be a good resource for a later thing. Cosmic karma bank. It's a little mercenary but sometimes it can help. Like, I used to HATE supermarket shopping, made me stressed out, I felt clumsy and awkward, people would ask me questions they didn't want to answer to ("Did you find everything you need okay?") and I'd get fed up and my interactions would be weird. Now that I am better at being like "Hey how's it going?" with some open curiosity, those exchanges go better.

2. Some of that, the feelings above, were because of anxiety generally. So it may be that your depression treatment is going okay but now it turns out you have some anxiety to manage. There are a lot of ways to look at this that work for other people (exercise, meds, meditation, lowering caffeine, eating better) and you can think about what might work for you.

3. And yeah loving kindness meditation can sometimes help. Meditation is not for everyone so you can give it a shot and see what you think, but just opening your heart to understanding that other people are fully realized humans and not either a bad version of you or 2D cutouts that you can not care about, can sometimes be helpful. MeFi taught me some of that also. Learning to find some space between how you're thinking and what you feel like you need to DO about those thoughts is another good benefit of meditation.

Realistically too, give yourself some space. It's been a really really hard few years and we still have some real challenges ahead of us. So it's okay to just say "Hey this is hard and it's making it harder for me to feel hopeful and optimistic and maybe it's okay to just sit with that for a while" I'll be honest I manage some of how I interact with the world by somewhat ignoring some of the shit out there--the shitty political environment, shitty people, shitty things I can't change, shitty things I am afraid of--and it's okay to not think about some bad/hard things sometimes if it helps you do the other things you need to do. Hugs friend, it's hard.
posted by jessamyn at 2:26 PM on July 13, 2022 [34 favorites]

I think it would be a good experiment for you to try limiting your internet use for a while and seeing if that helps.

I have friends who are really fun, kind, cool people IRL who turn into giant turds once they log into Twitter. Things are kinda shitty these days and the discourse online is just like, not very helpful a lot of the time. If you spend too much time online, it can feel like everyone is either a Trumper C.H.U.D., a sanctimonious liberal, a TERFy sociopath, or whatever your personal flavor of "type of person I don't like" might be. The internet breeds poorly thought out hot takes, unfunny jokes, and shitty opinions, all in the hope that someone will like and share your comment. I can take it in pretty good humor most of the time, but man, when I'm feeling bad about the state of the world it all really starts to get me down and I can find myself harboring pretty uncharitable opinions about my fellow humans.

So maybe try to detox from the unending cycle of online takes for awhile? People really aren't so bad, they're just annoying on the internet. Take it from me!
posted by cakelite at 2:27 PM on July 13, 2022 [20 favorites]

I don't know if the answer here is to make yourself enjoy and like the things you don't enjoy or like. I'm glad you talked about what your misanthropy looks like in everyday life because that gives us a good idea how it is affecting you in concrete ways. So, following that thought,

- is it possible that working in sales is not for you anymore? Job changes are a big pain in the ass and career changes even more so, but idk, I would be miserable if I were forced to do things I hate on a daily basis for my job. What comes to my mind is that main character from Office Space who ends up working in construction by the end and loves it. He's just a movie character but I kind of did something similar in my own life, jumped from IT/programming which I hated to technical writing which I'm great at, and IRL this jump took me about 7 years to complete (but only because I had two babies inbetween). It was hard to make the jump. Now I kiss the ground that my desk sits on every day and I swear the hard work was worth it. You might be at the point where the effort would be worth it for you, too.

- I don't know a single person who doesn't hate team video calls? So perhaps this one can be coped with using humor or half-assing your attendance or (the thing I do) crochet through every meeting, which makes it easier to pay attention and gives my hands something to do other than stab people's profile pictures with my pen knife.

- By the power vested in me by this MeFi thread, I hereby give you permission to never talk to a stranger again, not even make eye contact with anyone, and feel excellent about yourself forevermore.

- Here you go, I made this just for you: You're done, you don't have to do it anymore unless you feel like it someday at some point.

tl;dr: I think the acceptance you are looking for is accepting that you hate humans AND THAT'S OK, not this other acceptance you are talking about that you must forever cheerfully interact with other humans in these ways no matter how much you hate it.

PS: I also suspect like other commenters that you are experiencing burnout, which may turn out to be temporary if you can manage to give yourself a luxurious break from people. But even if this misanthropy is permanent, gosh, what you describe is a perfectly normal way for a person to feel and you won't actually be doing something morally incorrect by allowing yourself to avoid the types of interactions that drain you.
posted by MiraK at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2022 [17 favorites]

I am so sorry you're feeling this way. The world is tough right now. I also work with the public and it has been helpful to me to remind myself over and over that EVERYONE has had a really difficult couple of years. It helps because I remember that no one is at their best right now (so I can excuse difficult behavior) and that everyone needs extra kindness while living through the apocalypse. When we first re-opened to the public, our director advised us to treat everyone as we would treat a loved one who was going through a crisis - with all the patience and kindness. It was one of the best professional directives I've ever received.
posted by tangosnail at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2022 [14 favorites]

My job brings me into these spheres too. I would like to second the nature prescription. Also the following:

- revisit the stories/music/art that gives you joy and connects you across time and space to other humans. My boss is seriously ADHD. When I’m about to lose it I diligently listen to the Miles Vorkosigan saga on audiobook
- do something small for people; it does require your brain (but only if you have a bit of energy to give.)
- enjoy your meals if you can. Eat outdoors when you can.
- seek out things that make you laugh
- make things pleasant - queue up Beethoven in the car
- disconnect from media. The world will be there in a week. If there’s a new pandemic issue someone will tell you.
- if you have small children around your sphere, take them to a playground or a beach or similar for a day
- ditto dogs
posted by warriorqueen at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2022 [9 favorites]

Making sure little things that bring me joy are a part of my daily routine is KEY for getting me through the fuckery.
-I'm on Twitter--I make sure to follow plenty of "adorable animal" and "fun thing from my childhood" bots so I get hedgehogs and wombats and Frog and Toad snippets alongside my outrage.
-I've almost entirely stopped reading Books I Should Read and read entirely books that entertain me.
-I bought 18 stress balls for ~$25 on Amazon.
-I belong to Panera's Unlimited Sip Club for ~$12/month and get what otherwise would be a $3 iced tea for free every morning on my way to work (SO GOOD) and smile (through my mask) at the people I see every day there.
-Alongside this, I'm on a med combo that is really working to manage my depression/anxiety, I'm getting plenty of sleep, and I'm in a job that isn't soul-crushing with colleagues who are supportive. This keeps my baseline high enough that the little things make a dent in the general fuckery.
posted by epj at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2022 [8 favorites]

Although "assholes" works I think the other term that works is "ridiculously polarized". It's like a large percentage of people have slid into some deep valley and:
#1 - don't believe they are in a valley
#2 - believe you are one of the people that made them slide into the valley
#3 - that you should be ashamed of yourself for just existing
#4 - no, they will not accept your advice or assistance for getting out of the valley, who do you think you are?

Heck, I was at church recently and said the wrong thing and off the person went. Their final words to me were "I know what you are!!!!!". I've been afraid to say hello to them ever since, and they never look at me. It all came of me referring to the pandemic, the one they don't believe exists, it was all just a political sham!

I had one class in college in Logic (Philosophy 101) and some students in that class were struggling in 1973, but 2022 makes those folks look great.

To sum up the above, sure the Internet can be a risk factor for gloomy outlook on civilization, and depression may not help, but (at least in my opinion) it's downright weird cubed out there!!!
posted by forthright at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

OH! Right. Something else in your question jumped out at me.

Since 2020 I’ve noticed that it has become increasingly difficult to take in new information - especially via listening, participate in conversations, and actually pay attention in team meetings.

I figured this was just me until several months ago when a friend mentioned that “it just seems like more work to have conversations lately.”

I took an informal poll among my friends and established that this Definitely A Thing that people are experiencing and it seems to be related to the dumpster fire of a timeline that we are living in.

It feels separate from depression, to me. I don’t know what it is or how it gets fixed.

But you are not the only one experiencing it.
posted by bunderful at 2:30 PM on July 13, 2022 [22 favorites]

It sounds to me that as a certified middle-aged person you are having a certified mid-life crisis. Not a huge one as you're still in a good place with family, but you've been knocked loose from the place you previously belonged in society and so everything around you is out of sync.

It's clear that you like to connect with people and that because of this change you are no longer surrounded by your kind of people. In your shoes the very first thing I would do is see if I could find them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:44 PM on July 13, 2022

Don’t hate the player, hate the game. The game, as I’m sure you know, is for various entities to profit from people clicking on outrageous content, which thanks to engagement algorithms leads them to more of the same, the effect of which is to brainwash them into these hateful automatons. Our capacity to learn and empathize has been fully hijacked to make a tiny % of people rich (along with whichever opportunist tags along). This is *on top* of the propaganda machine that’s been in full force since Roger Ailes and then Paul Weyrich and then Reagan (and Thatcher etc, whose ideological descendants across the globe still meet* annually to share filthy MOs). People don’t stand a chance when they’ve been brainwashed.

On top of which, they’re desperate, because they’re broke or losing what they have and that’s accelerating. And civil society - social trust - has broken down across the board.

If you listen to older gen X and boomers working in eg healthcare, they’ll tell you it’s never been this bad, they’ve never had to deal with this much hostility and stupidity. Because **people have been highjacked**. Does it help to remember this, that what we see isn’t the whole truth of it? We’ve been infected with malware, hopefully temporarily.

(I’ve been stressed out because my neighbourhood is EXTRA aggro (and it was already pretty aggro). It would appear that’s because meth has taken a lot of them. Again because someone’s profiting off them.)

It’s not people’s fault, most usually don’t even know they’ve been made pawns.

posted by cotton dress sock at 2:56 PM on July 13, 2022 [10 favorites]

I'm in nonprofit work doing disability advocacy, and while this is a great way to make a difference in some ways, the biggest thing for me is that my coworkers also care very much about the work we're doing. That said - a lot of us are already burned out, and nonprofit workplaces can have the same kinds of toxicity that for-profits have - nonprofit is a tax status, not a snapshot of the workplace culture. I do think you should consider if you want to do a different kind of work, because changing that up might be what you need. If it is, great. If not, that's fine.

In general, here are some things that I think might be helpful:

Get (more) involved with activism in an area you want to work on, and have the spoons to work on - this may be something personal, or it might be work where you're an ally (men doing pro-choice work right now come to mind, or white folks working on racial justice issues, or animal rescue). This will let you be around people who share your values and get that change needs to happen.

Check in with your provider to see if there are ways you could possibly improve your mental health care, whether that's a switch in meds or something else. You sound burned out in a big way, but it may also be that you need your meds adjusted, or some new coping skills.

Find some things you like to do that let you unwind - these things can be looking at cute animals online, or getting outside more (away from other humans), making art, viewing art, whatever feel-good media is for you. Consider returning to an old hobby that's slid away a bit, or trying something new - there are a ton of people on youtube who will be delighted to show you how to watercolor or fix up your home or whatever you've secretly wanted to try and not made time for.

Finally, don't beat yourself up about this. I think burnout is extremely common right now - we've all just spent four years under Trump, there's still a pandemic going on, and the US is skipping down the road toward civil war and all of those things are very legitimate to be stressed out and disappointed in humanity over. The expectation for all of us to go on like this is just business as usual is common, but that doesn't make it reasonable. You're not alone, not by a long shot.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:04 PM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

This reminds me a lot of a point a couple years back (during the Trump admin, pre pandemic) when I realized that just being in a situation where there was a risk of hearing a political opinion from a beloved friend or family member made me absolutely spin out and want to stick my fingers in my ears. I spent a while sitting with that feeling to figure out what I was afraid of. I won't give you too much details about mine but I really had to open my heart in a way that it had been calcified up, and had to open space for vulnerability and being wrong and being curious about other people (being curious is much harder than "knowing the right answer"). Reading about folks' experiences with de-radicalizing cult members or militia members, or folks' advice for doing deep canvassing, did a lot to help me take off a bit of the armor and find a different, less brittle kind of strength. Maybe that will help you too?

I think at its core, the question you are asking is how to live in a world that contains many people in it, not all of whom share your exact opinions and beliefs. So people who have leaned into that work may help show you a way.
posted by Lady Li at 3:09 PM on July 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

Lord, I am with you. My fuse is SHORT. I don't even have an especially diverse circle of thought, I guess I'm lucky in the sense that I do not constantly see or hear from people who I feel are threatening me and my loved ones. But I still feel like "everyone is stupid, I can't hear one more word out of their fool mouths" way too often.

What I've found that helped is volunteering. Do NOT get overinvolved. Do NOT overthink your impact. Just find something that you can do for a few hours a week that you enjoy and brings you into contact with other people who have a positive goal. This kind of personal interaction did wonders for me and I hope it will do so for you.
posted by kingdead at 3:21 PM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Getting a new job probably isn't the way. When I complain about my work, it's the "prospecting" part of sales I hate. The other part is great. Also, I work for the best company I have ever been involved with. And, if I'm being frank, they pay me an amount that isn't earth-shattering, but I once would have considered "first against the wall" money. I'd rather relearn the basic process of talking to people I might not view as A+ friends than give up this income. I kind of need to relearn that anyway to be a functioning part of society.

Volunteering is a thought. I'm also a horror nerd, and there is a sort of community of those here. So maybe humbug's comment was something I misread and should not have dismissed so easily.

Anyway, thanks for answering and being nice.

Weirdly, I love pretty much everyone on MeFi. Even if I don't like you that much, I probably think of you like an annoying cousin I'd still walk through fire for.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:48 PM on July 13, 2022 [20 favorites]

Yo, so....if it helps to hear, first of all, I feel like I was one of those humans who probably pissed you off over in another thread, and I've been having similar "dang, why was I such a dick" conversations with myself after the fact. I mention to give you at least one anecdotal bit of evidence that if you have gotten into conversations recently where people have sucked and you're both kinda digging in on your position and snarking at each other....they may be thinking that their fuse is short too, and they may be having similar thoughts.

And maybe reminding yourself of that from time to time can help. It's something I try to remember - I didn't know your whole scene when we got into that thread, and you also didn't know mine, and if we knew each other's whole backstory we would very likely both get "oh, okay, now I get why you think what you do, and I maybe don't agree but I definitely understand how you would get to that point now, it's all good." It's like that adage about how "be kind to everyone because everyone you know is fighting a hard battle"; maybe the dude who snarks about Biden just got a phone call from his kid's teacher about YET ANOTHER parent-teacher conference and his wife's sick so he has to miss work to go and he's just worried about it and is trying to Be Strong when he's really worried about his kid, or something like that is going on.

There's a couple songs I hit up to remind myself of that, and a whole genre of films - things that kind of remind me of the whole Common Humanity kind of vibe. The best one is the INXS song The Stairs - it is exactly about this, about how we are all each of us living these whole rich lives with joys and sorrows and worries and concerns and fears, all of us with our own private STUFF going on, all around us, and most of the time we don't even know it ("story to story, building to building, street to street we pass each other"), and that that's kind of beautiful ("Though all are different, all are great").

As for the films - I have a soft spot for those non-narrative documentaries, like Koyaanisqatsi, where it's just clips of Stuff Happening around the world juxtaposed and mixed all together set to some kind of new-agey soundtrack. Although you may want to avoid the Qatsi films if you're going to do this, and instead go with Baraka or Samsara; the Qatsi films tend to look at how "technology is interfering in shit", but Baraka and Samsara have more of a common-humanity approach, like showing a series of clips of different religious practices or a series of wedding customs or what have you that kind of underscore the "we're all just people all caring about shit like the universe and our kids and love and food and dancing and home and our parents and stuff".

There's also a number of photojournalistic books that can emphasize this too. Back in the 1950s MOMA did a huge photo exhibit called The Family of Man, with these kinds of Images Of Common Humanity all collected and assembled. Somehow I got my hands on the exhibition book, and it's another reminder of this kind of "At our hearts we all have a common humanity" thing.

That helps me, anyway. (I watched the film Chronos by the Baraka team yesterday, in fact, and I'm listening to The Stairs as I type this.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 PM on July 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

Society can put us through traumatic stress. The marks of traumatic stress are those train tracks of expecting pain to come your way and your body doing things that have worked in the past to protect you.

The mindfulness meditation, the choice in each action to lean towards and promote compassion, the breathing through 10 or 20 second of anger, these are all strategies for the moment.

For the longer term? While I can still dream...

I want a truth and reconciliation commission to help me understand the time in my country since 2008. Especially Brexit, but also Quantitative Easing and enforced austerity that means we have families using food banks.

We could use something which does justice to how we came to be where we are now, on an unavoidable national level.

The communal truth matters to our civilisation, and how-we-come-to-believe-true-what-we-believe-true is important communal and civilised machinery. This also needs us to make brave choices for justice when people would rather destroy is than share the world we're in.

tl;dr -- some thing still matter, find people to spend time with to do those things, and get by on the rest of your exhausting life.
posted by k3ninho at 4:17 PM on July 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

When was the last time you went on a real, restful vacation away from work and away from home? Do you have the ability to do that with your family? I'm glad you love and (I hope) are loving on your family. You sound super burned out at work. I also wondering what you're doing when not working to cultivate rest and leisure. It's very easy for me to get sucked into my phone and waste a lot of time doing nothing much. Spending time outside, with people I enjoy and/or in nature, is incredibly restorative. Taking intentional leisure time is incredibly helpful.

I do find that people find the energy they bring to the world. You sound burned out and miserable, and I suspect that's making it more likely that people are getting that energy from you and reflecting it back. It's a terrible cycle.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:26 PM on July 13, 2022 [8 favorites]

To somebody else, you’re part of “people” — and you’re not half bad, right?
posted by panama joe at 5:01 PM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Coming back to read - so much good advice for me to take from these comments, too.

OP, given that this job is where it’s at for you right now, I wonder if there are communities of practice for people in your position to discuss ways to deal with this kind of stress in the prospecting process - a brown bag with folks in this role at your company, professional association webinars or discussion boards, a mentorship session with someone you admire, an AskReddit? Like, is there an underlying assumption from your clients that you can only earn social capital with them by paying the emotional costs of listening to them gripe?

I feel a perverse, gamified sense of joy when I’m able to derail a derail at work, or win over someone who initially doesn’t believe in my skills. Would it feel good/be feasible to develop scripts to defuse and redirect when people bring everything-is-awful stress into your business encounters with them, in a way that reinforces that this company is great and that you are great at your job?
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 5:46 PM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Haha if you look at my post history, I reached this point a few years ago. I still feel occasional bursts of misanthropy because our socio-political reality suuucks right now, but it's more manageable than it was. The answer turned out to be three-pronged in my case: I was burned out (from the unpaid work of trying to stop some of the political dumpsterfire), I was drinking too much, and I needed a complete career change. I addressed all three of those problems, however imperfectly, and my life has subtly improved and assholes have stopped occupying so much of my mental real estate.

Anyway, you're not wrong, people are really showing their rough edges out there. I think there have even been documented increases in fights, disruptive outbursts, etc, in public. But every person alive right now is the survivor of a pandemic. Survivors are usually not very kind and cuddly.
posted by coffeeand at 7:02 PM on July 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

You can read the Murderbot series of books. It features a misanthropic human/robot that constantly snipes about what idiots humans are while somehow managing to like some of them. Murderbot also has agency against oppressive, capitalist forces and gets to kill bad guys in satisfying ways. It is making me feel better these days. The books are short. I got the last one from the library as an audio book to make it last longer.

Also exercise, sleep, good food and art (either make it or enjoy it or both).
posted by Cuke at 7:41 PM on July 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I love all of you nerds.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:00 PM on July 13, 2022 [9 favorites]

Good question. Thanks for asking.

A few years back, I inherited a dog. A very nice dog who likes people and other dogs. Last year, we relocated from our isolated rural location to a dense urban one. Every day, we make at least three forays into the neighbourhood so she can take care of business etc, which means over time, we've come to be part of an odd community within the greater community.

The dog people, and the dogs, of course.

Some of them we see pretty much every day, often more than once. Some it's less frequent but we've still gotten to know them. I personally know very few of the human's names ... but I know the dogs' names. Which is all I need really because the dogs are what we talk about. Or the weather. Or maybe the sewer drain rebuild that's been going on opposite the free-run park for the past almost six months. Neighbourhood stuff.

My point in all this, I like these people. I don't know their politics for the most part, or their religion (or lack thereof), or their favourite band, or where they stand on Jordan Peterson, or trans issues or climate change or ... .... What I do know is that they love their dogs and this is something I realize I can love about them. The world's a better place when people love their dogs.

I'm not saying get a dog. I am saying, maybe find something like having a dog that gets you crossing paths with everyday normal people who over time, you'll get to know in a friendly out-and-about neighbourly way. You don't need to become their actual "friends", get invited to their parties, meet their kids and significant others. It just helps (it really does) to have a few more people that you can smile at in passing ... and actually mean it.
posted by philip-random at 8:33 PM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Dogs are the best.

I too know the names of the local dogs. Don’t know the names of their owners though.

As Mr. Rodgers said, “look for the dogs”, or something like that…

Sorry you are dealing with this DOT. Some of us deserve your disdain. Some of us are with you though. Take care of yourself.
posted by Windopaene at 8:38 PM on July 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

>When I complain about my work, it's the "prospecting" part of sales I hate. The other part is great.

On the off chance you’re not already familiar with r/sales, there appears to be much discussion about how to automate (I guess via emails) or otherwise minimize this part of the work. No idea if it’s useful discussion but maybe worth a look. Or is there a way to contract this part out, or delegate it to someone else?
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:44 PM on July 13, 2022

I've noticed your posts on FanFare. If it helps a little, know that you are appreciated.
posted by SPrintF at 10:18 PM on July 13, 2022 [8 favorites]

Many years ago, I came up with a description of myself as a "sociable misanthrope". I still feel like it fits, and I feel like you might be one too.

People in general, I do not like. I feel much the same as you do. But when people are less generic and more specific, more individual, it's amazing how many of them I do like. Sometimes I think it may just be a corollary of introversion and not dealing well with groups. A conversation with 1-3 people? Fine, interesting, enjoyable! A group situation like a party? Hell no!

So part of it for me is to try to limit my interactions with groups of people, and also to limit my total interaction with people because I can only take so much - even of people I like - before I need some quality alone time.

Another thing for me is to try to remember that everyone has their own complexities and unexpected angles, even the people who seem the most like stereotypes. Everyone has their own dreams and problems, secrets and talents. One thing I've found helps is this YouTube channel where a woman interviews strangers or they anonymously answer questions. It just reminds me of how unexpected people can be underneath, and how paradoxically that creates points of commonality.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:16 AM on July 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

Remember to show yourself empathy and forgiveness. I struggle with most of what you posted, and I find that cutting myself some slack has a radiating-outward sort of effect.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:26 AM on July 14, 2022 [9 favorites]

I put a little sign on my computer that says, "be generous with your clients." It helped a lot more than I expected. Trying to cultivate that attitude out in the wild is harder, especially without a reminder, but I'm getting better at it. Sometimes.
posted by Mavri at 5:47 AM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

I haven't read all of the responses. When I've been in these moods where I don't want to talk to people it's usually because I've got nothing going on in my life that is especially fun or engaging, and I'm not sharing myself with others. I'm not doing much apart from reading the internet and feeling miserable and not exercising enough and isolating. I end up feeling alone and disconnected.

What helps me is not just being nice (I'm sunny and I'm nice and I listen like a robot), it's being kind plus sharing what's going on in my life. I think you have to actually talk to people about your life. It can increase feelings of connection and you might not view humanity in such a poor light. Also, having things in your life that bring you joy and inspire. For me, that is my hobby and gardening. My creative hobby allows me to research, plan, create, and then start again on another project. It's something to look forward to, and when I'm creating (or working in the garden) I'm not self-involved, blaming, or miserable.
posted by loveandhappiness at 6:08 AM on July 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

Do you go to spaces or hang out in communities where people are doing best-people-we-can-be things?

I want to second this comment by rrrrrrrrrt; it's something I actively remind myself to look for and be aware of. We're such a glaring mess of a species that it's all too easy to overlook how there's also this wonderful flipside to humanity, how we're also capable of decency, solidarity, generosity, fairness and sometimes actual dumbfounding sublimity.

Some suggestions to start with: go to a classical concert, theater play, dance recital, soup kitchen, a fucking improv performance. Witness how the individual effort, dedication, hard work, investment, courage, and love of many people can come together and combine, and the result is moving and beautiful and admirable. I've also experienced a similar kind of, I'm tempted to say relief, or at least appreciation, when I took my kid to a mass vaccination event, bowled over by the realization how people (as individuals and collectively as a society) had worked hard for generations, and the result was beyond what any one person could ever achieve.

It's a bit like that Mr Rogers advice to 'look for the helpers', but in the sense that our existence is also the catastrophe; we can cause each other such misery. And there's also something about the way our societies are built and function nowadays which creates a very fragmented experience of anomie and separation, pitting us against each other. (And I'm not hesitant to call that capitalism, YMMV.) But then there are also countless examples of people working very hard to alleviate it, to fix it, to make it better, even if for just a moment: to make another human being smile or laugh, experience art, stay healthy, or have a meal. The more you look for this, the more you see it. It's also in our nature.
posted by muuratsaari at 6:33 AM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

I am not unhappy on the whole. But I'm guarded, standoffish, distrustful, easily bored, not curious.
That uh...sounds unhappy, on like, the 75%, at least, if not the whole.

So here's a thing that helps me, but might not feel ethically or aesthetically ok to you: I've gone full-bore gonzo on the weirdness and the stupidity. Not the cruelty, but the "trifling and thick-witted" and the tacky and the epically silly. Where's the proof that I'm so all-fired smart, myself? Or anyway, if I am "smart" by whatever metric, what good has it ever done anyone? Empircally: none. The only times I've ever done anyone any good have had to do with being kind, funny, or generous. And a lot of people I used to look down on as less smart are running LAPS around me on the kind, funny, and generous fronts.

Einstein was smart and now we have a permanent threat of nuclear destruction. So fuck "smart."

I used to be a charmer. I can barely bring myself to say "Good morning" to people in the office I don't already know.

I am reminded of the Aimee Mann lyric, "When you're a charmer/the world applauds/they don't know that secretly charmers/feel like they're frauds."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:50 AM on July 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is a great thread with good insight from a lot of commenters. Thanks for asking it!

A small thing I’ve done on and off over the years is practicing radical empathy.

We have a tendency of seeing strangers out in the world and think they are acting as their peak selves at that moment. That makes sense, as the person you see/hear(/smell) out in the world is the one you have to interact with. Instead, I sometimes make myself take a beat and imagine that person as a child, in environments and situations they could not control.

In general, I believe in free will, and that I, as a person, have chosen to be kind, respectful, and thoughtful to friends/strangers/the environment, but I also believe that my parents and upbringing did a lot to set me up for success in that arena. (There are also a host of ways my upbringing failed me, and I’m struggling to correct as an adult, but that’s not this Ask/answer)

So when people piss me off and get under my skin (in an impersonal way) I work to think of them as children, and think of the events that formed them (or even hurt thrm) in their pasts. I don’t think about them being outright abused, but think about how children react to overwhelming situations/stress that they don’t have the tools to handle. It’s an exercise that helps me remember that even though a person is making choices I hate *now*, in the past they had a lot more choices I hate made *for* them, without their input.
posted by itesser at 7:05 AM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I put a little sign on my computer that says, "be generous with your clients."

I printed this tweet and put it on mine.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:12 AM on July 14, 2022 [17 favorites]

I used to get infuriated by the night-time noise of the aggressively overbearing dipshits in my neighbourhood but one day I noticed that birds and raccoons also make noise but it doesn’t bother me…so now I just imagine it as a big sloppy ecosystem of mindless fucking animals going about their routines and rituals.

This may or may not answer your question.
posted by brachiopod at 7:35 AM on July 14, 2022 [12 favorites]

I have a keyboard now, and wanted to say that my own examples of "make world less on fire" are often extremely tiny. Like, I think building local community is important, so I take fifteen minutes and pick up the garbage on my block and pull some weeds for my neighbor and smile at whoever walks by. A few times a year, I spend a morning pruning trees in curb strips with a nonprofit.

I do suggest finding a chill volunteer group doing something you kinda like, as you'll meet well-intentioned people who are likely to increase your appreciation of humanity a little bit. Activist groups are important, but the interpersonal dynamics tend to be fucked. You can deal with that when you're feeling better.
posted by momus_window at 1:06 PM on July 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don’t know your exact situation, but this may be relevant given that you mention team meetings over video.

I’ve been a mostly remote worker for a lot of years now, with occasional office visits. I mostly love it, but… the longer I go between office days, the harder I find dealing with people — even friends. I get impatient with them, work-shy, chunter about their email tone, and get generally less forgiving of perceived flaws in every possible way.

Then I spend a day or two in the office, enjoying their company and working together, and I’m good for a few weeks again. Turns out, I really need in person time — shared humour, frustration, eye-rolling, joy — to be a good friend and colleague, go beyond “coping with” and to actually like people.

I’m fortunate that I knew this about myself going into the pandemic (though it took me years to realise it, and I still can’t handle it any other way except getting that time in); at least I was braced for it. I have huge sympathy for people who suddenly went cold turkey on in person time for months or years… with no support for, or even understanding of, the emotional impact of that.

The weird thing is, I really don’t think of myself as a people person. I’m very happy with just my own company, and I find it strangely embarrassing that I am this way. But there you go, deep down I guess I am?
posted by breakfast burrito at 3:57 AM on July 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've spent the last three months volunteering on the Polish-Ukraine border. It's a complete shitshow, everything is fucked, we're trying to drain an ocean of need and pain one spoonful at a time -- but I have never believed in humanity as deeply as I do now. The people that come here from all kinds of different countries, whether for a week or for this whole time, whether they're difficult to work with or an utter joy, all feel like the best people in the world, and like the world might actually secretly be full of them.

Find a need in the world, and find the people trying to fill that need. I think it'll help you believe.
posted by Pwoink at 4:57 AM on July 15, 2022 [10 favorites]

I've had some success by bringing my internal spite to bear and deciding that, fuck you, world, I'm going to make some positive interactions out there just to spite [handwave at all of this].
posted by rmd1023 at 7:35 AM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I am coming to the conclusion that I'm not really out of the woods where depression is concerned. Instead, I have sort of rationed what bandwidth I have and saved it for the most important things. The thing is, the amount I have is still dwindling. I think that's why I hate people so much: I barely can manage to be good to my family and do the minimum at my job.

I'm going to lay off drinking a bit and see if we can't get my meds and therapy situation better sorted.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:22 AM on July 19, 2022 [9 favorites]

Just wanted to chime in here since I experience these same feelings, and recently have changed one specific thing and it has improved my perspective and quality of life drastically. I don't know if this applies to you, DirtyOldTown, but does your job involve a lot of either people-pleasing/kissing ass, or/and feeling like you have to say, "Yes" to everything even when you feel you don't want to actually do that thing? I understand that at work we have to simply do what our boss tells us (to an extent), but if it feels like a toxic or abusive work environment, a person will increasingly feel downtrodden and devoid of hope in a pattern like this; kind of just becoming a shell of a human with seemingly no actual feelings anymore. Then this may start to trickle into one's personal life, and they may feel obligated to say, "Yes" to everything there too, elsewise [insert negative consequence here].

So, the thing that I changed was to start saying, "No" to things I didn't actually want to do. In my work life, this has taken the form of only doing what is assigned to me in a given task; no more and no less, and not putting in any overachieving efforts. In my personal life, this has taken the form of declining invitations even from close friends to spend time together, because I just don't feel like being around anyone else other than myself at that moment. Even if it's something I *enjoy* doing (i.e., playing videogames), I have started choosing to be by myself and do that if that's what I'm actually feeling, instead of accepting an invitation to do it with a friend (and then being bitter/resentful later, and at first it feels like it's because of something *they* did, but really it's because I crossed a boundary for myself that I didn't know it was permissible to set). Sometimes it's simply too much of a social interaction or effort even with someone close, and learning how to become alright with declining these interactions sometimes has helped the healing process tremendously. I also have depression (and anxiety), so I completely understand how and what you're experiencing. Also love horror, woohoo!

In a nutshell, saying, "That sounds fun, but I really want to be by myself right now" is a perfectly healthy boundary that has been absolutely life-changing.
posted by Jangatroo at 1:12 PM on July 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: So it turns out this is most likely what autistic burnout looks like for me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:28 PM on May 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

Well, shit, that sucks. Glad you're able to identify it, at least. Good luck taking care of yourself and I hope things get better.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:52 PM on May 19, 2023

« Older Can these Teva cords be fixed?   |   Fraud on debit card eaten by ATM while traveling... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.