I'm a bit confused. I had a rather crappy childhood. Very disfunctional family and lots of bullying and abuse both at home and at school. It kind of made me very distrusting of people. I learnt at a young age that people would hurt me, let me down, abandon me and could not be trusted.

Many people seemed to not like me for no particular reason other than that I was not a stereotype of how a boy should be in the culture in which I grew up. It really knocked any confidence out of me and I ended up hanging out with other misfits, fell into the wrong crowd and had a drug habit for many years from my teens to my late 20s.

I had a string of failed disfunctional relationships and seemed to have an inability to form healthy supportive ones not only on an intimate level but also friendships. I eventually met someone who stuck around for longer but they left in the end which really broke my heart.

Half way through that relationship I started practicing insight meditation the kind that Joseph Goldstein and others of that ilk teach. Its been approx 7 years now I think. So anyway I thought that buddhism might help me to be a happier person, more compassionate, more kind, more accepting etc but the truth is I don't feel any of those things.

I'm actually a recluse now at 50 years old as I cannot tolerate most people. I've cut out any friends I had and I can't stand my family at all. My niece is getting married but I'm not even going because I don't want to be around people and all the crap that is involved. I'm actually very lonely and think about how nice it will be to die sometimes. I hate my work because I feel im capable of so much more but because of my lack of confidence and self belief I don't try to do something else. I have been this way for so long that it's virtually impossible to get any decent work now because I have this really sketchy work history and people don't give me a go and so I never can get anywhere financially. No money, no friends and hate my family. So what is the point really in continuing on. It's all just this never ending uphill struggle and I'm sick of it.

What im confused about is how I can appreciate the teachings of Buddha and practice meditation but at the same time be this miserable lonely misanthropic person. I realise I have created these conditions but they are the result of my reactions towards people and how I felt and still feel so unsafe because of abuse etc. I have lived with maladaptive coping mechanisms that have protected me on the one hand but ruined my life on the other.

I wish I could leave the city and live on some beautiful land somewhere surrounded by nature but it's not possible because of money. I feel like a caged animal just waiting for my time to end. I do have some nice calm moments and feelings during sitting sometimes but I don't feel free. I don't even want to practice metta etc because I just don't like people. Only being honest. I feel completely different about animals. I love animals and feel very kind and compassionate towards them but people just annoy me with their egotism, vanity, superficiality, stupidness, ignorance, need I go on. So my question is how can I utilise buddhism and meditation to effect some real positive change because so far it's not working. I seem to be getting worse.

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    Arturia, hopefully you can find here the answer you're looking for from the Buddhism perspective. But in your question you mention quite a few other things to give some background - which would be off topic to discuss here. If you felt it might be of a benefit to talk to someone about them - for example you wanting to die, one option would be to write to Samaritans ([email protected]), this is a UK based charity, but at least e-mailing will be fine from anywhere.
    – Ola M
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 10:41
  • You don't have to like people but you do have to love them. That is, one needs to separate superficial personalities from underlying consciousness, sentience and humanity. The first requirement is to like yourself. If you cannot do this then liking others will be difficult. Buddhist practice should sort all this out in the end but whether it will take a week or a decade will depend will depend on the individual. I've been accused of liking trees more than people so I know what you're talking about.
    – user14119
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 13:25

8 Answers 8


The topic is too big to do proper justice in one response, but to summarize my thoughts very briefly:

  • Every crappy childhood is unique and every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way - but believe me or not, these type of issues are a lot more common than you realize. Pretty much every Russian person I know had alcoholism and violence issues in their childhood families. Many were subjects of bullying at school. I was one of them. Not saying mine - or others' - problems are equal to yours, we are all "unique" - but just like with snowflakes there are many similarities for sure.
  • Surprisingly, much real-life Buddhism (not the Buddhism you read about but the Buddhism you come to face when you talk to live Buddhist teachers) is dedicated exactly to solving these types of mental/emotional/circumstantial issues that come from messy karma passed on through generations. All this stuff you're talking about is completely normal, completely standard, and is bread and butter of Buddhist teachers. This is good, because it means there is a whole system in place for 2600+ years that was designed exactly to deal with these issues.
  • Of course the problem is with you, or rather, with bad karma you inherited - so the difficult part is meeting a teacher you can connect with. This basically means, meeting a teacher that your bad karma will feel good about. A teacher whose manner of expression will make sense to you (and to your bad karma), a teacher you (and your bad karma) will trust enough to hang around for a long time. And of course, the issue with bad karma is - it shapes your life in such way that you can't possibly get in touch with a teacher let alone establish a long-term relationship. Who knows, it may never happen - or it may happen tomorrow, it is useless to worry about this, another source of dukkha.
  • So meanwhile, start where you are. There is absolutely no way to jump somewhere where you are not. The only way to get somewhere is to work with what you have and then slowly slowly it will build. So start by learning to feel good about what's already good. You're a recluse? Fine! Buddha said, "enlightened person's mind inclines towards seclusion". You don't like people? Fine, most yogis did not. See? I just rotated your coordinate system in such a way that you can feel good about these things. That's the trick. Feelings depend on perspective. When you feel bad, that's because you're stuck in a perspective that says that something is wrong with you. Stop letting it chew you. Learn to be in control of perspective. First, learn to feel good about where you are. Stop comparing your present moment with some imagined life in the mountains etc. Stop worrying about friends, money etc. We only worry about this stuff because we heard it must be so good and now we compare ourselves with that idea. Stop doing that to yourself. You are here. The biggest achievement, the sweetest Nirvana, the highest Goal, the purest happiness - is to learn to be happy wherever/however you are. There is nothing, nothing, NOTHING higher than that. If you can do that - you are much better off than living in the mountains, or having friends, or money, or anything else you can think of.
  • The skill of feeling good about the present moment is called "standing on your two feet". It is something you must learn, like a baby learning to walk. Then, once you can stand on your own and walk around without losing the balance - only then can you start interacting with other people.
  • Most problems you list with people (egotism, vanity, superficiality, stupidness, ignorance etc.) are absolutely real. The world is pretty messed up. It's not you, it actually is a mess. However, as others pointed out, it is not because those people are awesomely strong and super intelligent and just chose such a life as their ideal way of living - no, not at all. It is exactly because we are weak and ignorant and are desperately trying to survive and get on top of each other - that we created and are maintaining this messy world. So once you can stand and walk, and keep your balance when pushed - then perhaps you can go and help some of them, so going forward there is a little more harmony and a little less mess.

I know it's hard. I am just like you, I was just like you, and now I'm just a bit ahead of you in that I can (mostly) stand and (sometimes) walk on my own. I know it's possible to learn this skill. I know and see it directly, from my own experience. If it weren't possible to learn this skill, I wouldn't say it's possible. So try to stop your head spinning with all these thoughts about the world, the people, your life, your childhood, what's wrong about all that - and try to focus. Drop all that, and learn to be stable and happy with nothing special. Learn to be happy when lying in bed, when taking shower, when eating, when sitting and doing nothing. This Peace is unsurpassable. If you master it, you win. Then slooowly, slooowly start moving around while learning to keep that peace. If there are any doubts/questions/confusion - ask here. There is nothing else that you need.

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    Hi Andrei, thank you for your in depth but simple answer. It's what I need to hear. Most people just link me to some rambling suttas that I never read or quote some scriptures. I appreciate that they take the time although it's usually not helpful but your answer spoke to the core of the issue. I'm going to re read and then re read it again when I'm having doubts.
    – Arturia
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 21:20
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    @Arturia - You're lucky to receive such a good answer. I would add only that if you wish to avoid the sutras (as it seems) then there are some great teachers on Youtube.who address these issues directly. It's a little weird that YT has become such a good source of teachings.
    – user14119
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 16:05

When you feel like you don't like people because of their "egotism, vanity, superficiality, stupidness, ignorance", you can use this opportunity to cultivate the brahmavihara of compassion (karuna).

The primary purpose of cultivating compassion is to cure this strong aversion that you have of other people. Aversion or hatred (dosa or dvesha) is one of the three poisons that will prevent your progress. The secondary purpose is for you to regain a healthy social connection with the people around you.

Why are they the way they are? For e.g. if your grandmother who has senile dementia lashes out at you in anger or doesn't behave like normal people do, would you be judgemental or contemptuous against her? No. You would be compassionate towards her, because you understand that she has senile dementia.

Similarly, you can generate compassion by trying to understand that other people are suffering and there may be genuine underlying reasons for their suffering and condition. It could be their life situation (e.g. poverty or undergoing divorce) or even mental states (e.g. ignorance, or clouded by anger or other negative emotions).

Instead of playing the role of a victim or a contemptuous person or a hateful person, you can become compassionate towards others by recognizing that people who demonstrate "egotism, vanity, superficiality, stupidness, ignorance" are actually suffering.

By tending to your own renunciation, you may be feeling more calm, but by cultivating compassion, you can create the balance needed in dealing with others. Renunciation and equanimity is how you deal with your own suffering. Meanwhile, compassion is how you deal with others' suffering.

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote in "The Balanced Way":

Like a bird in flight borne by its two wings, the practice of Dhamma is sustained by two contrasting qualities whose balanced development is essential to straight and steady progress. These two qualities are renunciation and compassion. As a doctrine of renunciation the Dhamma points out that the path to liberation is a personal course of training that centers on the gradual control and mastery of desire, the root cause of suffering. As a teaching of compassion the Dhamma bids us to avoid harming others, to act for their welfare, and to help realize the Buddha's own great resolve to offer the world the way to the Deathless.

Considered in isolation, renunciation and compassion have inverse logics that at times seem to point us in opposite directions. The one steers us to greater solitude aimed at personal purification, the other to increased involvement with others issuing in beneficent action. Yet, despite their differences, renunciation and compassion nurture each other in dynamic interplay throughout the practice of the path, from its elementary steps of moral discipline to its culmination in liberating wisdom. The synthesis of the two, their balanced fusion, is expressed most perfectly in the figure of the Fully Enlightened One, who is at once the embodiment of complete renunciation and of all-embracing compassion.

Both renunciation and compassion share a common root in the encounter with suffering. The one represents our response to suffering confronted in our own individual experience, the other our response to suffering witnessed in the lives of others. Our spontaneous reactions, however, are only the seeds of these higher qualities, not their substance. To acquire the capacity to sustain our practice of Dhamma, renunciation and compassion must be methodically cultivated, and this requires an ongoing process of reflection which transmutes our initial stirrings into full-fledged spiritual virtues.

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    That's advice but it must be hard to practice as a young child, hard to act as "the adult in the room".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 23:25

On the essential level, Buddhist practise brings equanimity. The modern world isn't really a place that inspires much appreciation. While it sounds like you have had difficulties in your life, even if these difficulties didn't occur, the world would be similar because these difficult experiences are symptomatic of the world. For example, for the last 7 years, proxy terrorists have been attacking the Syrian people and, now, since the the terrorists have been defeated, first the USA and today Israel is bombing the Syrian people. No one cares! The Western world has no more moral values. People just engaged in self-absorbed narcissism. These are opportunities to give up attachment to the world. But that you appreciate the Buddha; that is the best & something potentially of great value. I often talk to the Buddha. Its like the Buddha is my only true friend. When I talk to him; he replies with his wisdom (which naturally is just what I have read in the suttas).

When Buddhist preach all this condescending stuff about "compassion"; forget it. Its just non-sense. See the world clearly, develop equanimity and be beyond the world (per the Lokavagga).

I think we discussed leaving the city, before. You can always try here; even just for a day or weekend.

  • Hi thanks for your comments. I had a look at the Lokavagga but like much of the suttas I don't get it. It's written in this kind of mystical way that makes it impossible for me to get the underlying message. I get that it's saying to not be drawn in to the ways of the world but that's about it. I had forgotten about the wat so thanks for reminding me.
    – Arturia
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 7:25
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    Actually quite some people care about Syria, which is also why the US entered reluctantly and at least claimed to do so to support suppressed people. That being said, this seems like judging people, which wouldn't speak for having reached equanimity. I'd leave all the modern world bashing aside, it's simply a distraction. Your perception may explain why you'd want to reach a detached state, but not how you do it or how OP should. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 16:12
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    You seem to not understand what equanimity means. Equanimity requires an object. When you see an immoral world, you become dispassionate towards it. This is exactly what the Buddha taught, namely, to see evil and then become dispassionate towards evil. Please do not reply to this comment because the purpose of the comments section here is not for debate. I provided my answer. Please respect my answer. Thank you Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 22:31

The truth is there is not so much thing in an ordinary human that is to be liked. If you can see that it can be a sign that you see the nature of reality more clearly and you're moving in spirituality quickly. It is better for you to either live in solitude or find a sangha, surround yourself with meditators who are at least have some degree of awareness that make them different then the ordinary people who are just enslaved by the evil nature of humanity.

I may be wrong, but as I remember Thich Nhat Hanh said that an ordinary person is like a "dead person". Who don't have awareness. I think "dead person" means "dead body" here. Because the being that leaves the body after death have awareness but the "body" don't. An ordinary person is really like a dead body or like a tree who don't really have awareness and living in complete darkness. So you can literally see an ordinary person as "mentally ill" and there is nothing wrong in that. This way of looking to the human world can grow compassion, understanding and equanimity in you. But the environment, society and the culture that effects the person makes a difference. There are places/cultures/environments in the world that really not so much different than "Mordor" LOL. If a person lives in a Western country or in a Buddhist country he/she can be grateful for living in "relatively" more sane societies. Also, in these countries you can build a "Sangha", which makes a huge difference in peace of your mind and your success in the Buddhist path of freedom from suffering.



I'm not a very experienced in Buddhism, but here's my 2 cents...The people you are talking about might turn out to be pretty decent people, given the chance, but your imagination is making up assumptions, thus provoking a negative reaction towards them. So you guessed it right, you (your thoughts) are causing this problem to manifest. How does this help you? Well you already know the reason for this to happen, you only need to ask yourself this - if I had a choice to change this would I want to, or would I rather let fear make this choice for me?


So my question is how can I utilise buddhism and meditation to effect some real positive change because so far it's not working.

Hi there. I thought i'd try to answer your question.

I'd like to start by making communicating to you that the situation you find yourself in is preciously the situation for which the Buddha taught. This is stated explicitly in the Tissa Sutta.

Suppose, Tissa, there are two men, one of whom does not know his way, and the other does. And the man who does not know his way asks the other to direct him. He replies: 'Yes, friend, this is the way. Go on for a while and you will see that the road forks. Don't go to the left but take the right-handed path. Go on for a while and you will see a dense jungle. Keep going, and you will see a great sunken swamp. Keep going and you will see a steep precipice. Go a bit further and you will see a delightful stretch of level ground.'

"I have made this parable, Tissa, to help you to understand. This is the explanation. 'The man who does not know his way' denotes the worldling. 'The man who knows the way' is the Tathaagata, the Arahant, the Fully Self-enlightened One. 'The road-fork' is the state of wavering. 'The left-hand path' is the false eightfold path, that is: wrong view... wrong concentration. 'The right-hand path' is the Noble Eightfold Path, that is: Right View... Right Concentration. 'The dense jungle' means ignorance, 'the great sunken swamp' denotes sense-desires, 'the steep precipice' denotes anger and despair, 'the delightful stretch of level ground,' Tissa, denotes Nibbaana. Cheer up, Tissa, cheer up! I am here to advise you, help you and teach you!

Stumbling between the jungle, the swamp, and the precipice is indeed exhausting, and unpleasant, and by your answer it seems that. having taken a right turn at the road-fork you have been stumbling through all three. That is why it is much easier when one sticks to the "path" that is, the noble eight-fold path.

  1. Right view
  2. Right resolve
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

You sound like you are working very hard on being a good person. Unfortunately, it's not just about how hard you work, you also need to know where to go - how to stay on the path.

If you were to ask my advice, i'd be concentrating on developing Right view, while continuing to maintain your meditative practice as a support for that. Right view is said to be, by the Buddha "the forerunner" to the other 7 aspects. I see "Right view" being the one that allows you to develop the other 7. Right view is given by the Buddha as follows:

There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.’ This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

With reference to you, i'd say this means the following:

  1. The hard work you're putting in is worthwhile, not just in this life, but also in your future lives and also in the future of this world.

  2. Spirits, deities, hell-beings, Brahma, Mara, other varieties of special beings; they're really there.

  3. There are people like Jesus Christ and others, with whom, while we might be disagree on the details, are very right on the general structure of this life and the next.

I think I could write more, if you think it would help you. I wish you well.

  • Ok so here is the thing. I often read about the 4NT and the 8FP and I understand the concept and what it's saying but I guess one can't just force it. My understanding is that insight is meant to happen and then it can deeply penetrate. I just don't feel happy in this society and system. I feel trapped by it. Thinking to myself well everything is impermanent and unsatisfactory etc so no point in clinging doesn't change how I feel nor stop me wanting more financial security, better friendships, a partner, a nice place to live, my life to be different to what it is.
    – Arturia
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 20:41
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    What I need is some solid advise about how to put this information into practical use in every day situations. Otherwise it's all just religious claptrap and means nothing.
    – Arturia
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 21:40
  • Thanks Arturia. Yeah, i was thinking the same thing about the post myself when i was taking the bus home. Okay. I'm gonna write a fair bit now, with a totally practical perspective. I'll make it another answer, i hope this one will work better for you. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 23:11
  • Okay I wrote another post. I could introduce you (electronically unless you live in London) to my friend Stuart. He's lived a bunch of his life homeless, and he uses a Zimmer frame to get around at (45?). Injured army vet. Happy as Larry he is. He could tell you how to make a comfy tent and fire out of a tarpaulin, some bent branches and some tin cans. The way he tells it it's Santa's Grotto. Anyway i reckon he'd be a great friend to you if nothing else. He's looking for someone intelligent to talk to to. Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 0:00
  • Btw, you seem to me to be a mentally strong and quite capable person. It's good to remember one's virtues from time to time, and you seem to have quite a few judging from your post history. Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 0:03

Practical words from a guy. I hope it helps.

When i was in a similar place, i use the following visualization to get out of it: I imagined my mind was landscape with one or more old and ruined buildings. My thoughts would dwell in the various broken and decrepit houses, with each house representing a particular station/pattern/system/logic of thoughts. I would imagine all those thoughts in the ruined buildings, and i would set up a campfire (representing the breath, the body, and mindfulness of breathing meditation, or whatever meditation makes you happy) and invite all of the thoughts to site around the campfire and sing campfire songs. Eventually, when all of the thoughts i could see were sitting around the campfire, i would construction of a small shack around the fire, bringing in material from nearby decrepit buildings. Even though the decrepit buildings are much bigger and more complex, they are decrepit, and let the rain in. I disassemble the buildings until they can no-longer be lived in, and use any good material to build this shack, which is now looking more like a cabin. I invite as many thoughts as i can to visit or live in the shack, and i try to keep them there as much as i can. Night after night when i go to meditate i invite the thoughts to my fire/shack/cabin/house and try and keep them there as long as possible, building up the good building and disassembling the larger but broken building where the thoughts had previously been staying. Eventually, i build up a new and happier way of living based on mindfulness of breathing.

(This is really what i did and it really worked for me. Sometimes, not often enough, i come back to it. Sometimes i would do this visualization so hard, i would come out of it sweating.)

I hope that helps you.


Thank you, that is so well written. I can almost picture myself in your situation. I think there is a Buddhist perspective that might help, but first I'll have to state plainly that the pattern you describe is classically the product of early childhood trauma. There's some videos from within the Mindfulness community that address the psychology of this, and it's very new, cutting edge stuff. But first I want to share with you a few things, so you will understand I don't take this at all lightly.

I remember at age 4 or 5 telling myself "I can endure anything" - that's what my childhood was, enduring lots of trauma. I started failing in school early on. Everyone ignored my problem. No one engaged me, it was considered to be all my fault. But the attitude was still the same one directed at me from age 4-5. Nothing had changed. My best friend in junior high school committed suicide. I got involved in drugs naturally later on. My close friend in high school committed suicide. We all had the same basic problem. I struggled through life with this grim mentality, relationships were bad until i met my wife. I was very fortunate, yet even still two more very close friends also took their lives. I wondered what my connection to these guys was, why do my friends all end up this way? Yet I could totally identify with their life stories and their struggles. For whatever reason, i refused to become depressed, i knew i had to endure much. In my case, as it often is, the healing process was possible later in life.

I've practiced Buddhist-sourced meditation almost 20 years now, and i've learned to control these thoughts. I've learned what motivates the people who prey on the weak. Blame and shame tactics, toxic relationships to be sure. I have developed compassionate response to them. They suffer in their own way too. The important thing here is this, I've learned emotional self-defense with a mindfulness approach.





more on the channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/PsychAlive/videos Dr. Allan Schore

This is for your knowledge, but in your situation I suggest doing what I've done and seek help.


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