Some people can’t stand the presence of others and show an aversion to the human species: they are misanthropes. Like Alceste, the central character in Molière’s play Le Misanthrope, they reject others and seek solitude. What are the causes of misanthropy and how to treat it?
What is the definition of misanthropy?
The etymology of the word “misanthropy” evokes the Greek mîsos, which means “dislike/object of hatred“, and from ánthropos, which means “To be human”. “We could sum up misanthropy by a emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dynamics characterized by the rejection of the human speciesin the broad sense, that is to say without distinction of gender, religion, social level“, explains Matthieu Fynes, psychologist. “It’s a moral, ideological posture and not an incapacitating fear of the other that we find in social phobia“, he completes.
What is a misanthropic person?
In contact with others, a misanthropic person feels unpleasant emotions such as sadness, anger, disappointment or disgust. “In the cognitive sphere, she generally thinks that the other is not trustworthy, that he lacks quality or intelligence, that he is not capable of beautiful things. The misanthrope often thinks of himself as superior to others. In memory, we find a predominance of negative, unpleasant or dramatic human actions“, explains the specialist. At the behavioral level, the misanthropic person will tend to seeks loneliness and isolation. “She is critical of others, can be critical, frequently evokes the injustices of the world and the immoral behavior of her peers. Social norms can be transgressed since, built by men, they have no value“, he advances.
What are the causes of misanthropy?
According to Matthieu Fynes, misanthropy can be the fruit of past traumas, educational learning from childhood, underlying societal anxieties (war, disease, climate, etc.). It can also be the visible part of other psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety or personality disorders.
Is it a disease?
Man is a social being. Thus, contact with others is important to our well-being. “We are facing a significant operational difference between what is defined as “the norm” and misanthropy“, confirms the psychologist before adding. “However, the question of treatment is inseparable from the notion of disease. However, misanthropy is not considered as a pathology in traditional nosographies“. According to him, more than one “treatment” aiming to “come to terms with it“, it seems more relevant to question the personal dynamics of the individual (or those around him) and to move forward on the question of the suffering experienced and/or the motivation for change.
A psychotherapeutic approach may seem appropriate. “Each therapy can be interesting in the sense that it necessarily questions the (human) link between the therapist and his patient. The construction of a good therapeutic alliance is essential in order to build the first alternatives to the negative patterns raised“, emphasizes Matthieu Fynes. It is essential to identify the underlying factors to misanthropy in order to provide an appropriate therapeutic response. “The theoretical context and the tools inherent in cognitive and behavioral therapies, for example, can make it possible to identify the dynamics in a concrete and visual way. The scientific contributions that one finds there are as many tracks which make it possible to initiate exchanges relevant to the difficulties mentioned“, indicates the professional.
Thanks to Matthieu Fynes, psychologist.