Why Are So Many of our Friends So Miserable? And What Can We Do about it?

Since I ventured into this crazy metamodern space of hackers, hipsters and hippies more than a decade ago, I’ve met an abundance of extraordinarily talented people; wonderful and kind individuals with great courage and fierce determination to make the world a better place—and with what can only fairly be described as correspondingly chaotic personal lives.

Over the years, I’ve met so many people who’ve completely crashed and burned despite having been quite functional and prosperous only a few years earlier. Oh boy, the things I have seen. I have seen people burning out, and in turn becoming chronically ill. I have seen people ending up poor and unemployed after years of dedicating their lives to projects that never lifted off. I have seen the typical problems with addiction and substances that follow from a hectic life filled with disappointments and lost chances. I have seen people getting lost in rabbit holes of misinformation and conspiracy theories. I have seen people leaving their families behind to join dangerous cults. I have seen people going crazy, behaving in weird and destructive ways. And I have seen people who’ve ended their own lives.

My book Nordic Ideology was dedicated to two friends who had killed themselves during the writing of the book. And I’m afraid that my next book is going to have similar sad dedications.

What’s going on? Why are so many of “us” feeling so miserable? And what can we do about it?

If we start with the whys, I believe there are three overarching reasons for the pain and suffering we find in our community:

1) Metamodernists Are Sensitive Creatures

The first reason is that metamodern folks tend to be highly sensitive people who’ve suffered emotional and spiritual trauma, not only from life in general, but also more specifically from the way modern society works.

It makes sense that many of those who dedicate their precious time and attention to the creation of a listening society do so because society is causing them, or has caused them, considerable pain and distress. After all, if life in the modern world had been a great experience, if things always tended to work out in one’s favor, and if things resonated deeply with one’s beliefs and values, why change anything?

The metamodern crowd is also more neurodiverse than the average bear. ADHD, autism, OCD, dyslexia, and so on, are all significantly overrepresented in the metamodern community (indicating that these far-from-equilibrium neurologies are conducive to metamodern perspectives). And there’s even an overrepresentation of people who’re gay, non-binary, transgender, or have other sexual orientations or gender identities diverging from the norm. As such, people are more likely to have had, and still have, difficulties in life. Accordingly, mental issues such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, and even psychoses are more prevalent in the metamodern community than in society at large.

But being sensitive and different is not the only thing that is making life difficult for many metamodernists; having vastly different values is in itself a root cause of mental unhappiness.

2) Having Vastly Different Values than Most People Sucks

In many ways, it really sucks to have values and perspectives that are, well, “lightyears ahead of the mainstream”, if we are to believe the metamodernist. Not only are you going to feel alienated and be misunderstood in many or most social settings of mainstream life, the same is likely to occur among the supposedly alternative and counter-culture folks. It’s not fun to be the only pomo in the village—but it’s even worse to be the only metamodernist in the metropolis. Or in the tunnel of postmodernist proselytes.

Metamodernists are so few and far between that adopting a metamodern mindset often becomes a very lonely journey. So, on the one hand, there’s the isolation from not being around others with similar values and perspectives, but there’s also the suffocating and alienating feeling that comes from living in an environment that subscribes to—in the eyes of the metamodernist—crude and stupid values and perspectives.

Both the isolation and the suffocation can make you sick. But that’s not all, it can also make you broke and unemployed.

3) Being Metamodern Makes You Unemployable in The Conventional Economy

Just think about it: Modernists won’t understand anything you say, and postmodernists will hate everything you say (unless you smalltalk or try to please them). And together with the earlier value memes, they make up around 97-99% or more of the population, depending on where you live. Obviously then, getting a job can be rather challenging, especially when you try to use some of your unique skills and perspectives in your work and no one understands or appreciates what it is that you do, or could be doing if you had a more accommodating environment to start from.

The thing is, value memes can’t be friends. And sometimes that even applies quite literally. I know people who have lost good friends after having become metamodern, or have started to have fights with their partners and loved ones over intellectual topics that never used to cause much discord before. People can generally be jovial about it if disagreement pertains to different points of view within the same value meme, but if you suddenly questions the entire ontology of someone else, and if that someone else can’t sufficiently argue back why you’re wrong, it can be difficult for the latter to keep the gloves on in the fight.

And that’s among trusted friends and family. Taking all that metamodern jazz out among folks who don’t know who you are and (surprise!) they probably won’t like you very much. In many cases they will actually hate you, but in both cases you can end up being marginalized economically unless you learn to keep your mouth shut.

Here’s a tip for you: don’t tell the professors at a university department where you want to work that there is this new way of thinking that is vastly superior to the one they have invested their entire life into. You probably won’t get the job (true story).

And if you thought metamodern theory would empower you since it enables you to more clearly dissect other people’s arguments and in turn propose new lines of thought most non-metamodernists cannot sufficiently counter. Shockingly enough, though, no one likes someone who always wins the arguments. And I guess you can deduce for yourself what the result of that is if that someone is in a position of power to give you a job, a grant or whatever. Yeah, woke is not the only bloke in town to go broke.

Gloomy words, I concede, but all hope is not lost.

If the game of life is set to “difficult” for metamodernists, these also tend to have more resources to draw upon when it comes to meeting the challenges and to transform them to wisdom, inner growth, and meaningful change. Metamodern mindsets, psychologies, worldviews, values, and sensibilities do not emerge from challenges alone, but equally from healthy and, in a deep sense of the word, privileged backgrounds. The greatest personal growth, the most complex worldviews, emerge where rather bad conditions are met by correspondingly high levels of support. Metamodernism grows from the barrel of misery’s guns, yes, but only on the most flowery of fields. Where education and support meets tragedy, that is where tragedy can be surmounted and growth be consolidated. This is the tale of guns and roses.

This is all a way of saying that metamodernists are a force to be reckoned with not in spite of their vulnerabilities, but because of them. And that, my fellow cocreators, is why metamodernists tend to be interesting people. Some bear that interesting quality more elegantly than others, but that’s not the point. The point is to look again at the misery and notice what’s glittering in the grime.

Not all of them can realistically contribute greatly to a positive and profound change—but when the metamodernist responds to their own predicament, they are also, in the very same move, finding ways to respond to the deeper tragedies of our time and culture. From that grows resolve, resilience, and, surprisingly, solutions to the ailments of the world that only a crazy person with very happy tears could have imagined.

Take stock, comrade, of your intellectual, social, and spiritual resources, and set forth on the learning journey life has pushed you onto. You are learning not only to turn your own life around, but to write new values on new tablets.

The following, which was originally posted on Hanzi’s facebook profile, has been added (29-02-2014) after the article was first published due to some of the reactions it attracted on social media:

Regarding the article I published yesterday:

First of all I need to add that I’ve also met an abundance of highly functional and very impressive personalities. Generally, people in this space are forces to be reckoned with. But with this caveat aside, I need to stress that when I used the term “metamodern”, I was in fact referring to the overall space that I seem to have landed in, whether people identify as metamodernists or not, be it the liminal space, integral movement, emerge network, and so on, or just people who’re simply into spirituality and psychological development. As such, I’m not just talking about people who read Hanzi books and think metamodernism is cool.

From the replies that I received, on this platform and others, I got the impression that people were quick to imply that “sure, no wonder those crazed Hanzi fanboys are going bonkers, but not me, and not the thing that I’m part of”. However, please look around, my dear friends, none of these spaces that most of y’all are participating in are immune to people crashing and burning in their strivings to develop themselves and live out their dreams to become changemakers in the world. Sadly, things go belly up again and again.

Finally, I also wish to state that I simply do not buy into the typical responses that I’ve encountered in this space sooo many times: that people are “stuck in their ego” (unlike ego-less me!), that they should do more x, y or z (usually the stuff the person is into themselves), or that there’s just something plain wrong with them. This is just bad social theory my friends.

I hope that together we can address the dire issue that people around us end up suffering and destroying their lives in their quest for personal growth and changing the world. People, and the world, deserve better.

For more leads on how to successfully lead a metamodernist life, visit the following links:

Neuroatypicality Is the Shamanism of Late Modernity: Neuroatypical people often have a mixture of very strong and very weak sides compared to the average. This puts them in a strange category besides the conventional hierarchies of society.



Don’t minimize conflict. Minimize resentment: AKA: “The scale of conflict resolution”.



Acceptance, not Tolerance, Is the Elixir of a Good Society: Growing the inner capacity to accept things-as-they-are may be the best investment ever for society—and no, cultivating acceptance doesn’t lead to complacency in the face of injustice.

Acceptance, not Tolerance, Is the Elixir of a Good Society


Real rebels risk disapproval: Fake rebels just stay on the safe side and “critique”. The irony and sarcasm of the last few decades just don’t carry any longer — it’s time for sincere irony, or ironic sincerity.



Why Quitting Is for Winners: Maybe the problem isn’t that you’re a quitter. Maybe it’s that you stay where you shouldn’t.



Your Social Status: A Reflection from the Stance of Sincere Irony: To “stand up straight with your shoulders back” is even one of Jordan Peterson’s rules of life, indeed, his Rule 1. That’s a good suggestion, I suppose. But the question is how one does that.



…and of equal importance, here’s a couple of articles about what not to do:


3 BS Traps when Working with Hipsters, Hippies, and Hackers: A list of the three most common pitfalls when entering the “saving the world” business of the creative class.

3 BS Traps when Working with Hipsters, Hippies and Hackers


How a Psychedelic Sex Cult Infiltrated a German Ecovillage: This is the story of an idyllic German ecovillage known as the ZEGG and its infiltration by a dangerous cult named Go&Change. It’s also a story about sexual abuse and two dead children.

How a Psychedelic Sex Cult Infiltrated a German Ecovillage

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian, and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and ’12 Commandments’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.