America, today, is portrayed as a divided society. In the news, we read read “hate” groups and “hate” crimes on a regular basis.
So, let’s look at the emotion of hate.
The Emotions as Tools Model notes that each emotion informs you about how you perceive your surroundings. This is the message of the emotion. I discuss the Emotions as Tools Model in my book Emotions as Tools: Control Your Life not Your Feelings.
The message of hate is that you perceive a situation or person as extremely negative, or even demonic. Hate is a very strong emotion that is usually reserved for people whose actions you view as totally unacceptable, evil, or reprehensible. Presumably, you would want nothing to do with this person because he, she, or it is extremely toxic, negative or hurtful.
Logically, you’d think that your emotional reaction to hate would be to cut ties with or avoid the person or situation you view with such disdain. This is not, however, what frequently happens.
I need to say something about how we use the word “hate”.
While we may say “I hate Brussels sprouts.”, the word “hate” is the same as used in the word “hate” crime but the intent expressed is different. To be accurate here, while you might say that you “hate” Brussels sprouts, in reality, you just dislike them. (By the way, I did not like Brussels sprouts as a kid because of the way they were cooked. I now like them a whole lot.) If you really do not like Brussels sprouts, you wouldn’t order them in a restaurant. And, while you might dislike them a whole lot, you probably are not emotionally attached to them.
With hate, however, what you tend to do emotionally is exactly the opposite of what you would expect. Instead of moving away from the object of your hate, emotionally, you bind yourself to the person or situation just as powerfully as if you were in love with them.
Let me show you what I mean.
Imagine that you are facing a person and you are firmly holding both of their hands in yours. Everywhere they go, you go. And vice versa. Think of this as love. You are emotionally connected to the person you love and they are with you all the time.
Now, let’s look at hate. You can visualize the emotion of hate by standing back to back with your partner and then firmly taking both of their hands in yours. As you can see, you are now opposite them in the sense that many people consider hate to be the opposite of love.
But, and this is the important part, you are just as securely connected to them as you are with love. Where they go, you go. And, they are with you all the time.
If you truly hate someone, you will realize that you can be consumed by your hate. Just as you can be consumed by your love.
This may be okay with love. It isn’t okay with hate.
When you truly hate someone, you might find yourself engaging more deeply with them perhaps to get revenge on or to hurt them in some way. When this happens, you are most likely also experiencing anger. The message of anger is that you perceive a threat to your values or sense of right and wrong and you believe you can “eliminate” the threat by throwing enough force at it. Hence, you are motivated to take forceful action against the person (or people) you perceive as a threat.
To mix anger and hate together can be very dangerous. The hate emotionally binds you to the person (or object of your hate) and the anger emotionally energizes you to take destructive action. Under these circumstances, logic and thinking about consequences often get eliminated. Think about hate groups, hate crimes, extreme discrimination, and so forth.
This is why you might want to avoid hating another person.
“Huh”, you say, “what does that mean?”
Well, as I said above, hate is a very strong emotion. When you are under the influence of hate, you tend not to take the next step in mastering an emotion which is to assess the validity of the message the emotion is communicating to you. Thus, with hate, you should assess both whether the object of your hate is, indeed, demonic AND whether the actions you are about to engage in (moving toward rather than away from that which you hate) will, improve the situation in which you find yourself.
So, what are your options?
If someone or something is, indeed, terrible, reprehensible, or demonic, you can decide to feel disgust toward them. The message of disgust is that you need to avoid or dispel the disgusting object. Think of Brussels sprouts as disgusting. If you find the actions of this despicable person as reprehensible and as a threat to your values or safety, you can use the energy of your valid anger to develop and execute a plan to neutralize this individual. You are now engaged with, but not necessarily irrevocably emotionally bound to, the person or situation.
I discuss anger and the anger cycle in depth both in my book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool.
By the way, you can download the first chapters of both of my books for free without opt-in by scrolling up to the “Welcome” post and clicking on the links.
I welcome your comments.