If love is said to come from the heart, what about hate?
Hate” is one of those words that gets thrown around recklessly in everyday conversation, but sometimes when we say it, we mean it. But, what is hatred and why do we feel it? Is it an emotion unique to humans? And why does hatred often lead to violence?
Like it or not, we – in the Western world lead the world in crime. We have the greatest number of murders, muggings, robberies, violence, divorces, domestic brutality, etc.
And, the number of hate groups in America has been going up for years, rising 54% between 2000 and 2008 and driven largely by an angry backlash against non-white immigration and, starting in the last year of that period, the economic meltdown and the climb to power of an African American president.
In my opinion, we use the word “hate” and “love” for that matter, far too freely. I hate getting up early. I hate tailgaters. I hate turnips. I hate hate crimes. That’s probably why the word gets such a bad rap. But, what if the truth about hate is entirely different? What if hate is a perfectly natural human emotion—and one that has its place?
Love and hate are intimately linked within the human brain, according to a study that has discovered the biological basis for the two most intense emotions.
Evolutionary psychologists like Richard Alexander and John Hartung give us ample evidence to understand why humans are so, to put it mildly, thoughtless in their interpretations of things and the world. In-group morality and intergroup competition were staples in the evolution of human consciousness, thus, humans have been hardwired to see the world binarily: Us vs. Them. This hardwiring is not based on logic or analytical thinking, but rather on an animalistic tribe mentality. We are predisposed to think of ourselves in one group and vehemently against another.
Neurobiologist Semir Zeki, of University College London‘s Laboratory of Neurobiology, led a study that scanned the brains of 17 adults as they gazed at images of a person they professed to hate. Across the board, areas in the medial frontal gyrus, right putamen, premotor cortex and medial insula activated. Parts of this so-called “hate circuit,” the researchers noted, are also involved in initiating aggressive behavior, but feelings of aggression itself—as well as anger, danger and fear—show different patterns in the brain than hatred does.
Certainly loathing can spring from positive feelings, such as romantic love (in the guise of a former partner or perceived rival). But love seems to deactivate areas traditionally associated with judgment, whereas hatred activates areas in the frontal cortex that may be involved in evaluating another person and predicting their behavior. Some commonalities with love, however, are striking, the study authors note. The areas of the putamen and insula that are activated by individual hate are the same as those for romantic love. “This linkage may account for why love and hate are so closely linked to each other in life.”
The balance is a precarious one needing to be preserved by constant watchfulness and effort.
For the most part, we don’t hate people. We get along with most folks, pleasantly, smiling, and with warm greetings. That’s neighborhood America. That’s England, that’s Canada, that’s Australia, that’s New Zealand, Europe, etc.
We don’t run around, looking at someone and saying: “You’re not a Christian – and you don’t belong to my religion,” and then you pull out a gun and shoot them. That’s NOT the American or any civilized way.
This is a nation that does its best to tolerate all peoples of all nations, colors, and creeds. Ostensibly, we’re a peaceful nation who tries to love our fellow man.
Unfortunately, we have too many flies in the soup . . . .and this hatred is taught – ever so subtly, but it’s taught nevertheless. And it’s taught in schools, the standard media, and especially in places of worship.
Maybe it’s because we fear our own possible fate: the thought of being blind, deaf, paralyzed, senile, chronically ill, or “losing our mind” can be terrifying. And we also dread the way we might be treated if we experienced any of these conditions: the social alienation, disapproval, exclusion and rejection we might face from our community, peers, families and friends. We are horrified by the thought of being repulsive to others, because we recognize our own sense of revulsion and knee-jerk reactions to the “funny-looking” and the “abnormal.”
Perhaps we avoid identifying with those on the margins of society. And, we mentally push these ‘others’ as far away from us as possible by categorizing and stigmatizing, dehumanizing and devaluing them. Our society is becoming so alienated and dehumanized that we hide away our elderly, incarcerate mentally ill children, and deny pain relief to poor, uninsured women during labor.
Anger can be cured by time; hatred cannot… Much may happen to make the angry man pity those who offend him, but the hater under no circumstances wishes to pity a man whom he has once hated: for the one would have the offenders suffer for what they have done; the other would have them cease to exist.” —Aristotle
Maybe as humans we prefer to judge the world, rather than analyze it. “Judgement is being passed everywhere, all the time. Perhaps it’s even one of the simplest things mankind has been given to do.”
So, who is to blame? Perhaps it would be more profitable to look deeper into the past.
Hatred (or hate) is a deep and emotional extreme dislike that can be directed against individuals, entities, objects, or ideas. Hatred is often associated with feelings of anger and a disposition towards hostility. Commonly held moral rules, such as the Golden Rule, oppose universal hatred towards another.
In psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud defined hate as an ego state that wishes to destroy the source of its unhappiness. More recently, the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology defines hate as a “deep, enduring, intense emotion expressing animosity, anger, and hostility towards a person, group, or object.” Because hatred is believed to be long-lasting, many psychologists consider it to be more of an attitude or disposition than a temporary emotional state.
But, it’s important to ask ourselves, when we think, are we even thinking? Or are we just operating off a combination of assumed truths and surface emotions? Who among us has actually read the legislation of the politicians we support?
How many of us, on either side of the spectrum, has thought through these things with any sort of intellectual vigor? Is the political, or the cultural for that matter, just a big soap opera of primitive impulses masquerading as a higher calling?
It is almost inevitable for us to be hurt when we feel targeted in these ways. Sometimes we express our hurt by avoiding our enemy. Sometimes we laugh when he trips or embarrasses himself. Sometimes we act in kind, going out of our ways to be difficult with him; we may even celebrate his misfortunes.
What is much harder is to understand why an enemy acts the way she does. This person may enjoy privilege or status that you don’t, and yet takes pleasure in pressing your “not good enough” button.
We want everything to be pleasant, comfortable, and satisfying all the time. This behavior simply reinforces our perception of duality and separation. Hatred or anger thrusts us into a vicious cycle of always finding conflict and enemies everywhere around us. When there is conflict or perceived enemies around us, our mind is neurotic, never calm; we are endlessly occupied with strategies of self-protection or revenge.
We can also create conflict within ourselves when we have an aversion to our own uncomfortable feelings. With hatred and aversion, we deny, resist, and push away our own inner feelings of fear, hurt, loneliness, and so forth, treating these feelings like an internal enemy. With the poison of hatred, we create conflict and enemies in the world around us and within our own being.
But if your enemy truly believed that she was in some way better, she would have no need to make you feel less than. Such interaction is only possible because your enemy is deeply insecure. The sense of who we are is constantly under attack—the most wonderful day can be degraded to a waste in our minds when we get a bad test grade, pressing our “not smart enough” button. A break-up presses our “unlovable” button, unleashing a Pandora’s Box of voices screaming ceaselessly about how worthless we are. And, for many people, the only way to feel good about who they are is to feel that they are better than someone else.
The symptoms of hatred can show up as anger, hostility, dislike, aversion, or ill-will; wishing harm or suffering upon another person. With aversion, we habitually resist, deny, and avoid unpleasant feelings, circumstances, and people we do not like.
Prejudice, it seems, is a standard fare of life
Greed, hatred, and delusion — these are the three bad roots in us. Conversely the good ones are non-greed (i.e. generosity), non-hatred (love), and non-delusion (wisdom). All our troubles and suffering stem essentially from the bad roots while our joy and happiness come from the good ones. It is important to know and understand these roots if we are to make an end of suffering and attain true peace and happiness.
A philosophy of hate has spread across the world like a pandemic which seems to cover everything, calling into question whether humans are thinking beings of superior intelligence. Love has been pushed to the side and must struggle fiercely to show itself, in public as well as private social relations. Intolerance and violent confrontation reign in modern life.
To set out today, on the basis of these distant events, to fuel passions and hatred and call for political or religious crusades only serves to demonstrate, as Albert Einstein put it, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity”.
Love cannot be felt when there is no space for it. We must vibrate the self-hate feelings, loosen guilt and let it leave, and then – WHEW – there is space to love, and feel loved.
When we study any theory, it is important to distinguish between a “cause” and an “excuse.” The difference is not difficult to recognize:
When one thing causes another, if we remove the cause, the effect should vanish. If, on the other hand, one thing is an excuse for another, then even after taking away the excuse, the effect will remain.
The best way to deal with an enemy is to try to understand him. Use your points of contention as a window into his particular insecurity. His criticisms of you may point to jealousy. But more often, the things that we can’t stand about other people are the things that we hate about ourselves.
Ever roll your eyes at a gossipy floor-mate, but find a reason to exempt yourself from judgment while walking the fine line between speculation and fact? It is much easier for us to identify these flaws in others than to see them for what they are—opportunities for us to look at ourselves, to grow and evolve.
According to our Constitution (First Amendment), we can all worship as we please, and that promotes peace and harmony among all. Who cares what we all choose to believe? It doesn’t matter. It’s the undercurrent or hatred for anyone who thinks different. That’s the problem.
Hopefully, when our buttons are pressed, we know to call a friend or otherwise restore our sense of worth. But many people lack these healthy coping mechanisms, and when pressure from these buttons builds without healthy release, their fears, anger, and sadness erupt onto someone else.
Imagine if everyone worked to see his enemy’s pain instead of taking offense. From our neighborhoods to our nations, we would be happier, safer, and stronger when we transform another’s hatred into understanding. If we could extend this level of compassion to an enemy, we could change the world.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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