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What is Misanthropy? Causes, Characteristics and Consequences

“The more I know people, the more I love my dog”, “the human being is the cancer of the world” or “humanity is useless” are the typical phrases that a misanthrope would say. And it is that misanthropy consists of a rejection of the human species in general, regardless of the social group to which the other belongs, or if they know it or not.

What is this condition due to? What are its consequences? In this regard there are several doubts. Therefore, below we will address more about this concept and detail what are the characteristic features of misanthropes.

What is Misanthropy?

Etymologically speaking, the term misanthropy has its origin in the Greek words mīsos, which means hatred, and ānthropos, which refers to man. In this way, it represents hatred, aversion, distrust or contempt towards the human species, its behavior or essence.

It is pertinent to emphasize that it is not classified within the diagnostic criteria to consider it a disorder. Rather, it refers to an attitude or philosophy of life that has behavioral implications. In fact, the scientific literature suggests that it is a life decision.

However, although it should not be confused with psychopathy or sociopathy (which do represent clinical entities), misanthropy is sometimes related to psychopathic traits, since, if they can obtain personal benefits by exploiting others, there is no moral obstacle to prevent it.

Causes of misanthropy

A person can be misanthropic for a variety of reasons. We emphasize that it is not a defined clinical condition and that many people can take this position in life for different reasons, which will depend on the experiences and beliefs of each person. However, some relatively common causes can be identified. Let’s see.

1. Abuse and mistreatment during childhood

Some misanthropic people were abused or mistreated during their childhood, a crucial stage for the development of personality and worldview. In this sense, the abuse may have triggered hatred or mistrust of others.

2. Tired of dealing with others

Another common cause of misanthropy is the fatigue that interaction with other people can generate. This can be due, many times, to bad experiences in relationships, which contributes to a general aversion towards humanity.

3. Extreme ideals

People who belong to extremist movements (especially in the political or religious sphere) can develop a rejection of humanity. This is evident in those dangerous sects or terrorist associations that threaten the lives of hundreds of people and generate mass murders.

Characteristics of misanthropic people

The rejection of humanity does not manifest itself in the same way in people, so different degrees or levels of misanthropy can be appreciated. In general, the most common characteristics of misanthropes are those discussed below.

1. They feel superior to others

Misanthropic people believe that they are better than most of the people around them. They consider themselves smarter, more sensitive, and more capable than others. Furthermore, they assume that they are morally superior and that the world would be a better place if there were more individuals like them.

2. They are manipulative

One study found that there is a significant relationship between misanthropy and Machiavellian behavior, which is based on the belief that “the end justifies the means”. In this sense, they can take advantage of others at the expense of their own benefits.

3. They enjoy being alone

Misanthropes are very introverted people. However, it is important to note that not all people who prefer to be alone and are introverts are also misanthrops.

4. They disregard the rules

Another characteristic of people with this trait is that they do not tolerate social rules, precisely because they were created by human beings. For this reason, it is difficult for them to accept the orders of a boss, a parent, a pair or the government of the day. Despite this, they do not usually break them.

5. They have a moral system of their own

This means that they themselves constitute their ideas about the world, as they have their own belief and value system. In large part, this is because they believe they are morally superior and set their own rules, based on their perspective.

6. They have affection for other animal species

Misanthropic people can feel attached, but they tend to do so towards other animal species.

7. They are indolent to the misfortunes of others

Misanthropes do not care about empathizing with others, in fact, nor do they care. Therefore, they are not able to feel compassion or understand the suffering of the other.

8. They do not tolerate social gatherings

They also invest a large part of their free time in activities that can be done alone, or in the company of animals. This is because they dislike the company of others, so it can become a nuisance.

Consequences of misanthropy

Some misanthropic manifestations can lead to harmful behaviors. For example, certain murderers have personality traits associated with misanthropy; contempt for the life of others, lack of empathy or feeling of superiority.

Likewise, the deep aversion towards the human condition can be harmful on a psychological level, since it can generate a lot of discomfort or promote social isolation.

Philanthropy vs Misanthropy

To conclude, we present the opposite notion of misanthropy; the philanthropy. It consists of love for the human species and everything that concerns humanity. This is usually expressed through selfless help to others.

For example, a philanthropic action can be collaborating with a non-governmental organization (NGO) or volunteering in an institution to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable people. Which one do you identify with?

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