I Don’t Feel Human

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What kind of therapy can help someone who feels as if he is not human, knows what he is, and is traumatized by it everyday? - Not Feeling Human
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Dear Not Feeling Human,

Since I don’t know you or the details of your life, I am going to answer your question using what I have learned from my clients who have felt and expressed similar questions.

Most of the individuals I work with who have felt as if they are not human have endured rather painful and cruel experiences. Oftentimes, these experiences were ongoing and occurred in relationships or situations from which the individual could not easily exit. While I don’t know if you have had experiences like this, I am going to talk a bit about how I help these individuals heal.

The first piece of this healing has to do with educating my clients that their experience of being ‘un-human’ is understandable and explainable, and the outcome of what once was an effective coping skill. Here is what I like to teach my clients:

  1. You, as a human, are built to survive, and if you cannot physically exit painful and cruel experiences, then you will do the next best thing and learn how to distance yourself from your own feelings, thoughts and sensations connected and related to the unavoidable experiences.
  2. Unfortunately, the human experience functions a bit on an all-or-nothing principle, meaning that if you cut out one part of your human experience you lose access to most of the other parts. Disowning your pain might mean you don’t hurt, but over time, it also means you don’t feel joy, happiness, meaning, etc…
  3. Eventually, the more parts of yourself that you disconnect from, the more you will begin to disconnect from your inherent sense of humanness, and your sense of belonging to the human collective will begin to fade.
  4. While effective in the short run, (i.e. you don’t feel pain), the overall ‘price tag’ of this coping strategy is just too much. So, learning how to let go of this coping strategy in favor of alternate coping strategies is critical.

Thankfully, therapy is just the place to engage in this type of learning, and the good news is that it is not the specific type of therapy, but rather the specific therapist that is most important. By connecting with your therapist, your therapist can teach you how to reconnect with yourself, and this reconnection with yourself allows you to regain your sense of connection with your humanness.

The big question then becomes, what type of therapist should you be looking for? You will want to connect with a therapist who embodies, i.e. lives, the following key attributes:

  1. Warmth. You want a therapist who expresses and displays warmth towards you, has genuine compassion for you, enjoys working with you and possesses enthusiasm to be your therapist.
  2. Understanding. You need to have the sense that your therapist gets you, that your therapist can understand who you are and how you tick. In addition, you want this understanding to be linked with acceptance – that your therapist accepts you just as you are and welcomes you to engage in the therapy process just as you are.
  3. Genuineness. You should link up with a therapist that you perceive to be genuine with you. Someone who will be authentic with you and someone you can be real with. This genuineness will allow you to build trust in your therapist, so that you can be open, honest and share 100% of who you are.
  4. Even though these traits are the most essential part of your therapist search, here are a few buzz words you might want to ask about: attachment theory, and a client-centered approach. You will want a therapist who agrees with these concepts and at a minimum lines her/his work up with the overall spirit of these approaches. Finally, if there are traumatic experiences in your past, then you need a therapist who has specific training in working with trauma.
  5. Ultimately, you will need to locate a therapist who creates a space where these approaches come alive and are embodied and applied to your therapy. I applaud you for reaching out with your question, and I encourage you to locate a therapist that can help you reconnect with yourself. Don’t worry if the first therapist isn’t the best match – it sometimes takes a few tries. Just don’t give up: You deserve to feel human, and you have the inherent ability to do so.

Kind regards,

Susanne Dillmann
Susanne M. Dillmann, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist based in Enscondido, California, where she specializes in posttraumatic stress/trauma. She has worked both abroad and within the United States, where she has applied a collaborative approach in helping trauma survivors grow and heal.
  • Leave a Comment
  • Ashley

    Ashley "Cat"

    July 11th, 2012 at 5:57 AM

    How sad and how great an understanding you have. Having met many individuals in my life that appear to be something other than human I wonder is there is a trancendence in their behaviours to what you have described above. Could it be that we mis-understand the interactions as mean and cruel when in reality they are simply a function of their environment?

  • California girl

    California girl

    July 23rd, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    What is human exactly and how does one feel human. I often times wonder exactly how we have defined these feelings and then how we identify with them. Many times I feel closer to my cat than I do to the other humans in my life. Does this mean that I am not human?

  • Olaf


    March 2nd, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    I heard a patient saying that during lots of years he had not felt human; he became a Marine as his brother did too. They went to Vietnam and his brother died there. During funerals he could not feel anything but stiffness and cold in his chest. He regretted that very special day because of not being able to hug his mother and father, he could he was a soldier (his words). Looking backwards he realized that he had not felt human for many years; numbed, isolated, out of his body many times. What a part of him wanted was to protect himself and others from becoming hurt by him because of his angry outbursts. Therapy made him human “again”. He no longer felt the necessity of disconnecting to feel safe.

  • SofiaNRage


    May 11th, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    I’m not disconnected from me, I know what I feel and think, but looking around me I soon realize that I am not like the humans around me.
    The brightest humans are at best ignorant Neanderthals, they lack intelligence, reasoning, and logic. They base their actions on lies and emotions. None of them have a capacity to think. They survive and prosper by sheer number and their bizarre breeding that is contrary to nature, the poorer and less access to resources that can support them the higher number of offspring breeding pairs will birth.

  • C.


    September 20th, 2017 at 12:29 PM

    my constant thought
    “their bizarre breeding “

  • joshua


    February 18th, 2018 at 6:25 PM

    I understand exactly what you mean. But you are not alone. I am honestly wondering if we, as a species, are at the cusp of a divergence. It does seem that the intelligent among us are ever becoming an endangered species, and the dim are breeding out of control. I had a bit of a crisis with this notion in high school, and with far too much free time, I began to explore the world of thought, and often found that even my teachers were unable to keep up. I learned that sometimes it is not a bad thing to keep one’s own council, but at the same time, one cannot isolate themselves either. One must endeavor to find others with which one can share the perpetual joke that is the human experience, and remember that your experiences may vary…

  • Antithesis


    August 31st, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    SofiaNRage – I know exactly what you mean. I have found that even among those considered “successful” or “intelligent” they become like a deer in headlights when confronted with something they do not understand and need reason to figure out. I have also noticed people tend to feel an emotional reaction first, and rather than tempering it with rationality, they start twisting the facts and their thoughts to support their feelings. Properly, one should assess a situation for what it is and then decide how to feel.

    Susanne – you sound like you fit the bill of your own description of a good therapist for me. Have any colleages in Austin, TX you might recommend? As much as I abhor the current state of humanity, I still see so much potential for them. I know I will never truly be one of them, but if I could just connect with people, maybe I can help fix this mess of a planet.

  • Anna


    February 24th, 2017 at 8:00 PM

    Well said I know exactly how you feel. It’s difficult to feel like the outcast amongst humans and it is difficult to interact with people who simply can’t wrap their brains around the concept of the “freak” or the data point that doesn’t quite fit the standard curve. Most “intelligent” or “successful” simply lack the ability to accept someone who is who doesn’t fit the mold of humanity. A “dear in headlights” is a good description. That particular reaction leaves me with the feeling of not being human.

  • Richard


    September 30th, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    I don’t feel human. I love people and I don’t feel like I can solve problems better or faster than any other person I know. I do notice robot like features in the random people I meet. it breaks the connection I should feel being a human. I don’t like looking at people because even though their mouth is moving I see something else. the mouth is a poor way to translate your true being

  • Tube


    November 30th, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    It seems we are all predisposed to emotion… and we may question whether we need to be. Yet we are numbed by the ever pressing machine of what it is supposed to look like, and always given reinforcements in our daily lives of templates to illustrate something that resembles it. Although for those that can still feel authentically it does nothing more than advertise an a illusion of being human.

  • monster


    January 14th, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    Im living proof that being separated from your little sister can destroy you everyone I care about is either cruel or was taken away from me,what do I do now.

  • hurt


    January 14th, 2015 at 11:33 AM

    Its a cruel reality but I’ve met you,you seemed happy, what happened
    (I know you because of your name)

  • Christine


    August 4th, 2015 at 12:31 PM

    I googled I don’t feel human and found this. I thought I was the only one. I’m an alcoholic and had been sober for a couple years. I don’t know why I relapsed but I believe it’s in part to escape my humanness. I sometimes want to leave this world but I can’t because I have kids. I don’t go around depressed, I’m sure I appear normal in the surface but I’m not.

  • Tony


    December 18th, 2015 at 4:08 AM

    I’m shocked to find other people in this situation…I googled it as a joke. I’m convinced I’m not human, and the word I’ve come up with for myself is “human substitute”. My skill set and ability to accomplish ridiculous tasks are quite high yet I’ve had over 26 jobs in my life. I was once let go and told that I was fired because I’d always be ok. I work for peanuts yet I got money. I’ve been kicked out of everywhere so now my employment is usually in conditions without food, light, water ect…while in these conditions my phones going off all day with ppl dumping their emotional problems on me. I’m in therapy for bipolar and GAD and seeing doctors and they won’t help/prescribe me anything. Everything I do is on my own, I have to carry everyone, and I’m treated as if I were a machine. I take my family out and enjoy that but otherwise going out just doesn’t make sense; it feels out of place. I feel like this planet is not my home yet I’m here to support human beings who wouldn’t care if my life (more like a microprocessor) ended abruptly. There’s so much more than that but I’m rambling and digressing…my advice? Sometimes it’s fun being a robot…learn to love it

  • Stephanie_G11221


    January 5th, 2016 at 9:33 PM

    I have the ability to love people and appreciate even awful personalities. My brother and dad are both alcoholics, my mother is strongly dependent on both of them, and I am here alone in the middle just bearing with their “abnormality.” Sometimes I feel like I HAVE to be the strongest person and give advice to damage people. No one ever pauses to ask how was my day, or even consider my feelings and state of mind after a long day from work. I feel like I am the forgotten one and forced to look out for my own. This is why I feel I don’t have enough confidence as I should have in everyday life, and sometimes I feel guilty of trying to pursue a life because my mom has always made it ALL about what my brother and father does. I don’t want to pursue them, it gets tiring to tell them to stop drinking. Even more so, they refuse to get any help and make absolutely no effort to reduce their drinking. It’s pretty irresponsible of them to always go on with their life without pausing to think whether the rest of the family is okay or needs something. This is why I feel that I will need to distance myself from them for a while and live life. I am twenty-five and I have not yet moved out of the house because, my dad or mother doesn’t encourage me to move out and set me free from the bird nest like every regular parent would do. This is why I always have to do initiate things on my own, because no one will ever give me words of encouragement. I need to feel human. I need to build my own personality. Right now, I am looking for a room to finally move out and hopefully I can afford the cost of living as an adult. It is because I push myself that I feel alright still and safe from the neglect of my parents (their silence and lack of encouragement). I live in NYC, hopefully I will be able to move out successfully and afford a room. In the meantime, I will need to have a very positive mind and not let these relative folks get to me. It’s all about oneself, always.

  • Thomas t

    Thomas t

    January 23rd, 2017 at 9:48 AM

    Hi Stephanie
    When read your post, I felt I could relate to what you wrote. Im a little older than you.
    But in my childhood and early adulthood, I always feelt in the middle in the family, and I have to be the understanding person, who has to hear complaints and of the other familymembers. Today i struggle with anxiety and sometimes wierd unrealfeelings.
    Take care
    Ps: English is only my second language, that’s why some grammar error.

  • Vanessa


    January 21st, 2016 at 7:18 AM

    Whilst I too have been through my fair share of trauma…. I actually haven’t felt human from day 1. It’s not that I’m dis-connected from humans, although I’ve given up trying to figure them out; I literally associate more with Nature and Animals. To the point that I grew up spending more time with Animals and Nature then I did with people. Have never felt human and hope to understand why some day.

  • Giordano Pillarella

    Giordano Pillarella

    February 7th, 2016 at 11:15 PM

    I’m only 17, I know I have a lot yo learn but it feels like I already know how the Universe works, I know everything but I don’t at the same time. I walk around school everyday, analysing people and their body language, I see them laugh and I try to understand if it’s real or not. I think man kind is just a breed of different “Man”. Almost as if there’s a Hybrid to our kind somewhere else in the Universe. I feel like the people that say they’re robots aren’t really robots, they just feel different because they’re different, literally. Something in their genes separates them from the rest making them feel guilty for living on earth but in reality, these people can change the world with their wide imaginations. What do I know, I’m only 17.

  • Maila


    April 27th, 2017 at 6:05 AM

    Dear Giordano,
    I cannot express how good i understand you. I am 17 as well and I too think that I’ve the whole Universe figured out. I cannot explain it – but since very little, I’ve wondered about things. Many things. I was 8-9 when I just looked around when I was outside with my mother and wondered where am I. Like, what kind of reality is that? Is it really truthful?
    I was actually often considered strange and different. In the primary school I’ve been bullied and without friends. Since 6 or 7, I’ve had a strange condition: doubling of the vision. It’s called heterophoria as far as I know. It is an inability of your eyes to create a 3d objects – two parallel objects get formed – one real and one irreal. Other people didnt understand me. No doctors were able to fix the problem. And one year ago I got so desperate when I realized I have -7 Deupter and 1 astigmatism I got crazy. I didnt know what to do. I was feeling extremely desperate.
    Thats when I started reflecting on Life. Why exactly did that problem have to happen? Was I to be blamed? Was it my fault.
    And then it happened – I started writing a diary. And expressing my thoughts on a paper, I really felt better, and I somehow got to understand myself better.
    Till yesterday I believed that everything is possible, with the power of Human’s Will. But actually I realized – what is the sense to know all of the Universe truths when you do not need them? I feel desperate. I feel lonely not because I am alone, but because I feel different. Other people are just not like me and I doubt I will meet someone who thinks the way I do. Glad that I saw your post – at least I do not feel crazy for going through those Life questions that age.

  • Red


    April 19th, 2016 at 2:32 PM

    Ever since I was a little girl I’ve felt out of place. I’ve never felt human and its exceedingly rare that I am able to fit in anywhere. I despise ‘small talk’ and other seemingly meaningless activities. I enjoy time alone and dread going out, even though I’m lonely. Being around people for whom I have to put on a ‘good face’ drains me…SO much!
    I want to feel like I’m part of the human species, but everywhere I go I’m so aware of every tiny little thing that every single person around me is doing that I become exhausted.
    Just yesterday my boyfriend and I were talking and he was trying to think of a word to end his sentence but couldn’t remember it, when I casually gave him the answer. He looked at me in a funny way and so I said “What? You know I’m a psychic. Did I forget to mention that?” I was joking, of course, but then he asked me what he was thinking now, and I told him. And I was right. He did it one more time and again, I was right. It freaked him out and I wish I hadn’t done it. And it had nothing to do with reading his mind. Obviously I can’t read minds. It had to do with how well I know him.
    Anyway, point is, being this observant is draining. I do seek to separate myself, even though I get lonely, just to have some relief. So yes, I also know what it’s like to feel separate from the human race.

  • Rachel


    August 7th, 2016 at 1:27 PM

    Please help me this is unexplainably beyond any torture/suffering/negativity/illness/curse to say the fuckinh least I’m not making excuses in begging even further yet in a much shorter way than usual time is ticking I’ve already caused suffered endured asked begged failed photographed videod screenshotted voice recorded embarrassed experimented existed prayed visualised affirmed believed thanked questioned contradicted wronged suffered shouted screamed slammed stressed suffered banged threw broke wasted away and many other awful things to say least more than enough its all hidden and unrewarded uncontrollable undesirable unexplainable unpleasant pointless to say least a cant perfectly detail explain describe etc although of anyone or anything is interested feel free to contact me and browse through all of the recorded forms of evidence but God or whoever is source or creator etc only knows everything every second minute hour day week month year action intention happening thought vision sound every vibration frequency awareness reality of my damaged beyond repair lif in spite of all the obvious and seeming blessings and everything I don’t feel normal or human or like anything works out rightly in my favour and I always have too much extreme unexplainable thoughts visions sounds feelings memories fears ideas synonyms opinions numbers letters imaginations happenings awareness of everyone and everything all the time and it’s beyond unexplainably bad yet I choose to force gratitude positivity faith trust the timing etc but I’m 21 in a few days and I’m unemployed but not lazy I get accused of lying and many others things but actually in the most honest real person I know and my honesty got me in trouble with police and other and o can’t fuckinh deal with the constant overwhelm enbarassment negativity as its not just me it affects my three innocent family members and maybe even my poor next door neighbours I shouldn’t have to kill mysekf I’ve tried endured suffered existed survived too much sh#t and reached this age now and damaged beyond repair its beyond f%cking waste yet I don’t give up who lknows how and why it’s excruciatingly unproductive despite all the free time I’ve been given like no other and including all the unpaid years of daily overwhelming mad Internet research like no other amongst many other practical efforts actions experiments etc I’ve not progressed at all I’ve got worse in evey at and none of my efforts sacrifices prayers actions hygiene studying research practice meditation healthy lifestyle begging praying believing and many other things ever come to fruition whatsoever and here I am further asking world please it’s quarter past nine on 7/8/16 time is ticking I’ve failed beyond explanation and achieved nothing help me God Angels Jesus Allah Bhagwan whoever and whatever I’m supposed to worship I’ve already privately begged more than enough silently loudly recorded and non recorded God or source or whoever and whatever only know I don’t claim to be special or superior or anything but I definitely am extremely damaged and different wherever I go whoever I’m with whatever I do believe think etc .Failing extremely bad and it’s bad enough having all the unlike any other mental physical emotional internal external issues that can’t be defined in some near tick boxes or diagnosed trust me I’ve contacted all sorts of people and places every day online offline by phone in person using various devices silently loudly angrily respectably in house outside with other people alone all sorts of religions phrases synonyms words situations personalities overwhelming reality of everything wgether real Or imagined social media school college work volunteering locally nationally globally all aorts of things in great detail everything in between to bigger picture of eveyone and evey thing and time is tickng im still here alive existing not making excuses beyond confused overwhelmed failed yet trying being acting normal not fitting in thoug and unemployed failed bullied accused hated and still being optimistic but another wasted overbriwsing eating drinking researching shouting picking hitting punching throwing breaking watching listening recording analysing writing typing studying not progressing wronging failing asking enduring questioning contradicting existing praying talking being etc how why why why please Bhagwan help give me well deserved contentment amongst only the best in every way forever starting from right now and past present future because I am truly very worthy of victory thank you thank you thank you.

  • Peter


    October 21st, 2016 at 9:56 AM

    I actually get a lot of positivity from life. People talking to me. checking up on me. trying to help me. I’m an altruist so I also have a great desire to help. but I don’t know how to. it seems I take everything for granted cos I don’t know how to greet people ask about them help them. I want to but I just do not posess the ability. This is the first time I have ever brought my problems to anyone anywhere or anything I cannot speak from the heart. people call me a robot. anything I say is void of emotion even though I have intense emotions. Find it hard to say thank you goodbye hello. Impossible to say I love you. I have never said it. My last two girlfriends told me first but I only replied via text. on the phone its like m a different person – emotionally literate. currently in love with a girl who mutually has a crush on me and I die when other guys talk to her but I can’t my self. I call her and text her but can’t talk real life.

  • Graham S.

    Graham S.

    November 10th, 2017 at 2:50 PM

    I think I have just learned something today. Thank you :)

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