Human nature... any hope on that front?

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Mind over easy, modified 8 Years ago at 9/24/13 9:11 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/24/13 9:08 PM

Human nature... any hope on that front?

Posts: 239 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
I got to thinking about human nature today (and in general, the past few days). On one hand, I do think that people's general instinct is towards happiness, but that the means to achieve that are often very distorted. But on the other hand, I can't help but feel a little pessimistic about people and their nature. I've noticed that:

-People want to express their pain and sadness, and they will readily spill this to you in so many ways. Not that this is so terrible of a thing, but it really doesn't at all seem like anyone wants to hear about your own pain and sadness. I have some great friends, I can't doubt that, but almost always, no matter who I meet, there is a sense that no one really cares to hear about my own troubles. I just moved in with some friends, some of whom I haven't really spent much time around. I've had some really heartfelt conversations with a few of them already, where they are expressing a lot of pain, sadness, unsureness, and doubt in life. I've really tried my best to listen, and I actually do think about these people quite a bit, really hoping they know I care, and really hoping they can find a way to be happy. But I'm painfully realizing that none of these people are interested in hearing me in the same way I hear them. It's like when I mention any of my sadness, it turns them off or something. I've never really even gone much into depth with it or droned or anything like that. I'm usually fairly happy, and quiet, and usually all ears. But I've noticed that when people ask how I am and I even briefly say that I'm so-so, or not having a good day (and trust me, I rarely respond like that anyways), people get turned off or something and change the subject.

-People love to talk, but they hate to listen. Most people I have ever met will always be shifting the conversation towards expressing their own feelings and thoughts, and people will really only be drawn to talk about in things that related to them, their lives, their interests, their thoughts.

-There is something so dog-like about human socialization. If you're being energetic, upbeat and happy, people will "let you in" to the circle. Even if you're not acting sad though, especially with a big group of guys, just being quiet and not engaged in whatever "shooting the shit" is going on, they seem to single you out, shoot down the few things you say, ignore you, not wait for you when the group is moving about, and in general get really uncomfortable with the only person or people who are not meeting the group on energy level. There are times when I'm in great form and I can "shoot the shit" all day, be a social wizard and all that, but there are also days where I'm quiet, preoccupied with something, have some kind of issue on my mind, etc... Must those who are quiet and reserved always suffer alienation and degradation? Must they learn to be energetic and socially acrobatic, always filling in quiet spots with whatever junk comes to mind? Do people even realize the extent to which they segregate and alienate others based on simply following the social order of the group?


When I'm happy, everything is great, I fit in fine in basically any social setting, I empathize well with others, and people seem to genuinely like me. But when I'm sad or even just quiet or reserved, it seems like people just let go and lose interest, like they want nothing to do with me or just don't really care about me when I'm not at my best or most energetic. The problem with this is that I so strongly feel the urge for others to care about me when I'm not feeling well, but it seems like when I'm not feeling well, others let go. Must quiet and reserved people adopt artificial aspects of personality in order to have better social lives or something? Why is listening so rare? Is the outlook on human nature really as pessimistic as I'm making it seem here? Have I just really, in my 20 years of meeting so many people, never found the right friends or something? Is there something wrong with me, or is my natural, unforced personality too detached from social norms for people to care to bother? Must people force some artificial persona on themselves in social situations in order to make friends? Or maybe there is something I'm expecting from friendship and people in general that I can't get?

These questions are all floating around in my head. I don't know if any of them are important, or if maybe I'm missing some important premise, leading to my own sense of something being wrong in human nature when maybe human nature is not as bad as I'm making it out to be.
Adam , modified 8 Years ago at 9/24/13 10:24 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/24/13 10:08 PM

RE: Human nature... any hope on that front?

Posts: 613 Join Date: 3/20/12 Recent Posts
When I'm happy, everything is great, I fit in fine in basically any social setting, I empathize well with others, and people seem to genuinely like me. But when I'm sad or even just quiet or reserved, it seems like people just let go and lose interest, like they want nothing to do with me or just don't really care about me when I'm not at my best or most energetic. The problem with this is that I so strongly feel the urge for others to care about me when I'm not feeling well, but it seems like when I'm not feeling well, others let go. Must quiet and reserved people adopt artificial aspects of personality in order to have better social lives or something? Why is listening so rare? Is the outlook on human nature really as pessimistic as I'm making it seem here? Have I just really, in my 20 years of meeting so many people, never found the right friends or something? Is there something wrong with me, or is my natural, unforced personality too detached from social norms for people to care to bother? Must people force some artificial persona on themselves in social situations in order to make friends? Or maybe there is something I'm expecting from friendship and people in general that I can't get?


Maybe it is actually that when you are happy you just feel like you are more connected and fit in better? And this very interpretation/belief/narrative is what allows people to connect to you more easily?

I have lately been experiencing that when I am most myself, with as few defense mechanisms as possible, when I am open and vulnerable then I both like people and am liked by people. Even when people do something obviously suggesting dislike or not listening or whatever, if I am in an open and undefended state of mind I feel connected to them. I would recommend questioning alot of these ideas about how people are, how you are, how people should be etc.

Is it really true that people don't listen to you because you are sad? maybe you shut them out when you are sad.

Is it true that people should deeply care about you when you are quiet and reserved? maybe you should care about them.

Try going into a social situation undefended by a set of ideas about what people are like and how they should be. These things are just defense mechanisms. We categorize everyone and everything to avoid meeting them truly and deeply because we are scared. Sit in front of the void uncertainty at the core of yourself that you cover up with all these beliefs and ideas.

Is this making sense?

edit: a few more thoughts.

Even if you're not acting sad though, especially with a big group of guys, just being quiet and not engaged in whatever "shooting the shit" is going on, they seem to single you out, shoot down the few things you say, ignore you, not wait for you when the group is moving about, and in general get really uncomfortable with the only person or people who are not meeting the group on energy level.


Try honestly feeling what you are feeling, defenselessly and authentically. If you are feeling sad then don't try to cover it up, equally don't try and get sympathy. Both of these are defenses against the feeling. People will deeply appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable if you don't chicken out. This doesn't mean necessarily directly saying "oh I am so sad" it just means be natural and honest with yourself and them. It is truly amazing in my experience to relate to people like this. Something I haven't experienced since I was a kid. I am 20 also btw and hang out with groups of guys as well. emoticon

just be totally vulnerable and honest as a general attitude towards life
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago at 9/24/13 10:28 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/24/13 10:28 PM

RE: Human nature... any hope on that front?

Posts: 1656 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Wow this echos so much of what I've been thinking about in the last few years. It's also a reminder that no matter where you live people encounter similar things. I've always been ostracised for being introverted and I've naturally never liked envy or understood it. I understand it much better now.

With some insight it appears that the ego is just a little drug addict looking for dopamine and other pleasant chemicals. I would love to see what studies could be done on what chemicals are leaked out when we self-reference (whether sad or feeling superior to others, narcissism, etc).

The reason why quiet people are so off putting to these people (maybe extroverts) is that reserved people can't be manipulated so easily. Also I found that as I got better at the practice I felt more compassion. The less irritated you are the more potential for compassion to arise. If I'm angry there is less compassion. People are also probably projecting a shitload of judgments and mental scripts on top of your equanimous face. Remember, their thoughts are self-referential, fast, and addictive. They are playing stories of their life in their minds over and over and over again.

Think of people who are addicted to visiting doctors when they are really not sick. What are they looking for? Attention. When people receive caring and attention they like it. It's the same when you show your friends listening and consideration. It takes something else to GIVE caring and attention to other people. Now that people have essentially abandoned religion in the modern world they threw out the baby with the bathwater and let their addictive personalities run wild. Ironically some of the most selfish hostile people I've met at work have commented on how selfish people are. Even selfish people don't like being at the wrong end of this hostility. emoticon

You're not alone in seeing this. What regulates these people is when they go too far and hit an impasse and then they dial down. It's a bit barbarian and like mountain goats locking horns but there it is.

This is where envy comes in. If you are happy people want some of that but because they don't know how to get it they constantly get agitated and maybe would like to see you more sad just so they can self-reference that they are still better than you. I've had people at work envy my lunches. I've had people envy me simply for being unagitated. I've had people who were sick on my last vacation who envied that I wasn't sick like them. (She drank bad water and couldn't handle the heat).

I remember this one guy I didn't like because he was brutal at work and treated people like toilet paper. He had just finished his education and the boss was celebrating with a little champagne. Despite not liking him I didn't envy his skills but when I looked at the faces of other people around him it was clear they were massively envious. Imagine smiles where the corners of the lips droop downward with envy. Imagine noses bent out of shape. Just try boasting a little bit about what you did on the weekend and that sometimes can be enough to start people. It's like I never left the school playground.

I don't have an answer for you right now on how to deal with this because it's a challenge. It appears we have to be able to be friendly to people and deal with the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" and continue on our goals and probably we may have to fight once and a while for our livelihood. Imagine having children and sending them to school with all the insane brats with no discipline. To live in this world we have to not be doormats. Even if you become a monk I'm quite sure there is plenty of politics to deal with. This has always been the case. You just have to read history to see how different personalities dealt with each other. Hermits existed. Ego-maniacs existed. Look at the Greek and Roman histories and it's clear human personalities have not changed. Yet philosophers pointed the way with better habits and emphasis on virtue.

I also recently made a large post on how the brain goes negative naturally and how the wiring makes it easier (because of evolution of course) and how long it takes for the brain to register positivity.

Negative bias

So if people naturally tend towards negativity and addiction with little respite inbetween it's amazing they aren't even more neurotic. They take things for granted.

Positive experiences have to be held in awareness for more than twelve seconds in order for the transfer from short-term memory to long-term memory to take place.


People are looking for "warm and fuzzies" and other stimulants and when they can't get it they (without much thinking or awareness) move onto the next hit like a bee looking for pollen.

Basically deal with humans like you would people with mild drug addictions and you'll be less surprised by how they treat you.

For social understanding I'm waiting for my Myers Briggs book that talks about different types and how to work with them. I'm also interested in doing a FIRO-B test to look at my needs because I do desire being included and do desire feeling accepted:

FIRO-B

We thus end up with the six dimensions as follows:

Expressed Inclusion (eI): "I initiate interaction with others" (High: "oversocial"; low "undersocial")
Wanted Inclusion (wI): "I want to be Included" (High: "social-compliant"; low: "countersocial")
expressed Control (eC): "I try to control others" (High: "autocrat"; low: "abdicrat")
Wanted Control (wC): "I want to be controlled" (High: "submissive"; low: "rebellious")
Expressed Affection (eA): "I try to be close and personal" (High: "overpersonal"; low: "underpersonal")
Wanted Affection (wA): "I want others to be close and personal with me" (High: "personal-compliant"; low: "counterpersonal")
Adam , modified 8 Years ago at 9/24/13 10:46 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/24/13 10:46 PM

RE: Human nature... any hope on that front?

Posts: 613 Join Date: 3/20/12 Recent Posts
I am going to try and elaborate more on this, because I have been thinking about it alot lately, in fact contemplating/inquiring about this issue of vulnerability and authenticity has been what my practice has focused on entirely for a little while now. Let's see if I can adequately put it into words...

For me what is essential to this whole thing is honesty. To be honest that you really have to admit all these "deficiencies" like sadness or confusion or whatever. When you are honest with yourself about this, you are honest that actually you don't have it all figured out, then you make contact with a visceral and deep fear. It is a fear that without all these things you have attributed to yourself, all these self-definitions you have tried to fit you will end up being nobody, totally anonymous and unimportant. If you really are just this ordinary run-of-the-mill dude who doesn't have it all figured out... well what then?

This scary "now what?" is the beginning of being totally unworried in your naked vulnerable authentic self expression. You won't be able to go back to deceiving yourself (at least I haven't been able to) so you will have to make do with what you have and it suddenly won't seem so terrible as it used to. In fact it will be incredibly freeing. There will be so much energy freed up for a curiosity and wonderment, if you no longer have to pretend that you already have it all figured out then you can inquire and pay attention and interact like a little kid. If you are an expert on life then you are barring yourself from open attention. "I already know" is a very tight and limiting attitude.

Also you can just interact without guile or falsity. People might even start to be nice to you like "oh here is a guy who doesn't quite get it yet, maybe i can help him out." And you can just openly listen to what they say and consider whether it has any real truth to it. People will be so happy to connect to you because it is so safe for them to know that the won't be judged. To unlock this if you are interested just be honest with yourself and admit that you don't know, return to a beginner's mind.
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago at 9/25/13 12:03 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/25/13 12:03 AM

RE: Human nature... any hope on that front?

Posts: 1656 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
That works for me to a certain extent in that one has to recognize that I desire inclusion and I desire recognition but maybe because of my western training I can't forget Plato. I want to be beginners mind while participating in the world.

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.


I remember some dharma talk years ago where Gil Fronsdal said that he was working in some place and he knew he cared too much what people thought of him. I think that's the key. We give too much weight to what people think so even if we meditate and do well we might still be clinging onto relationships. We shouldn't be blamed for feeling this way because the brain does react quickly to the people around you and that's one of it's main functions. If you are around negative people it would take super powers to be able to be happy when around such people. Equanimity is probably all that's possible.
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Bruno Loff, modified 8 Years ago at 9/25/13 1:14 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/25/13 1:14 PM

RE: Human nature... any hope on that front?

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Other dark things I have noticed:

— People will have a tendency to prey on the weak. You might think that, if someone is physically or psychologically weaker, that their friends and acquaintances would tend to be more friendly towards this person; or, at least, not to be less friendly to this person in particular. Actually what happens is the opposite: people who are weaker get bullied on. If the weakness is physical, they will be more often targets of physical violence. If people are weak psychologically, they are more often targets of psychological violence (insults, condemnation, and inferior standards of treatment) and tend to be treated more harshly than otherwise. Often it is the case that the weaker person gets beaten on simply because of being weaker, rather than because being weaker led this person to do something badly.

Conversely, if someone shows more power than usual, he or she tends to be treated with deference, and in general people are more lenient to this person's mistakes. Often it is the case that the stronger person gets praise simply for being in a stronger position, rather than because of having used his or her strength to do something laudable, and even in spite of having used his or her power to do the most fowl deeds.

This attitude can be seen and felt throughout the whole spectrum of human society.

— People have a tendency to think very well of their own intentions. The consequences of their actions are not analyzed with any kind of impartiality, instead there is an innate tendency to be lenient in evaluating these consequences ("that isn't bad, or if it is bad then it's not because of what I did"). In the rarer case when someone is not lenient with himself, he nonetheless is favorable in the interpretation of his intentions ("I may fuck up sometimes/all the time, but I mean well").

In fact, there is a clear social advantage in believing that we ourselves have good intentions — that way you fool other better... and who can prove you wrong, really? (particularly given the almost universal assumption that we have direct access to our desires)

Hmm I could continue but I quickly grow tired of this exercise, I have done it obsessively throughout the last few years. If you do it thoroughly you will inevitably move closer and closer to power: what it is, when it happens, what moves it... both on a local, personal scale (people manipulating other people through one-on-one conversations), through the social scale (status etc) all the way to the global, economical scale (our economy is built on greed and violence). And therein lay the most hideous aspects of mankind that I know of.
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago at 9/25/13 7:13 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/25/13 7:13 PM

RE: Human nature... any hope on that front?

Posts: 1656 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
I agree with this. Power is addictive. Just think of Gollum. But there's always a hypocrisy like you mention. People don't want to deal with the consequences and to learn to develop virtue and truth is still the best thing. People need to strengthen themselves as best they can and then operate with the basic morality that's common to many people. The jerks can't win forever and then there's this death thing that gets in the way, even if you think you're the master of the universe, at some point...

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