I recently listened to an episode of the “Divorce Devil” podcast in which the host noted that while you might want to get past the emotion of hate after divorce as quickly as you can, a little bit of self-hate for a little while (I’m paraphrasing here.) was acceptable.
I disagree as I’ll discuss below.
I also recently watched the news in which the latest shooting was labelled a “hate” crime.
There is, indeed, too much hate in America today.
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 have discussed the Emotions as Tools Model in numerous past posts and 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. Your perception of another person or situation doesn’t get much worse than that which elicits hate.
So, your emotion motivates you to eliminate the object of your hate.
Hate is a very strong emotion that is usually reserved for people whose actions you view as unacceptable, evil, despicable 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 you view with such animosity and disdain.
This is not, however, what frequently happens.
Let me digress here for just a moment.
In this post, I am addressing the emotion of hate. This is so strong an emotion that its presence and the actions it elicits are cletarly recognizable, if not always correctly labelled.
So, I am not talking about how the word “hate” is often used in every day conversation.
Indeed, when we say “I hate Brussels Sprouts.” the word hate is the same word as that used for the emotion and “hate” crimes.
The meaning and intent, however, of the word in the latter instances are very different.
To be accurate, while you may say that you “hate” Brussels Sprouts, in reality you just dislike them. Indeed, you may even dislike them a whole lot. (By the way, I did not like Brussels Sprouts as a kid because of the way my mom cooked them. Now, when they are served in butter with bacon, I have to make sure I leave some for every body else.) So, while you may dislike Brussels Sprouts, I really doubt that you are emotionally attached to them.
With the emotion of hate, however, your actions are the exact opposite of what you’d expect. Instead of being repelled from the object of your hate, you bind yourself to the person or situation just as powerfully as if you were in love with them.
Let me give you an illustration of what I mean.
Let’s look at love.
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 the person you love and they are with you all the time.
Now, let’s look at hate.
Imagine that you are now standing back to back with this person with both of their hands firmly in yours. As you can see, you are now opposite to them.
This is the basis for people believing that love is the opposite of hate.
But, let’s take a deeper look.
Indeed, with hate, you are just as securely attached emotionally to the object of your hate. Wherever you go, they go with you. And, they are with you all the time.
If you truly hate someone, you need to understand that you can be consumed by your hate. Just as you can be consumed by your love.
This may or may not be okay with love. It definitely isn’t okay with hate.
Anger and Hate
To the extent that you are dealing with a person or group through the emotion of hate and you see this person as evil and a threat, you also are most likely 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. Anger prepares y0u for war.
To mix anger and hate together can be very dangerous. The hate tells you that this person is evil and reprehensible and it emotionally binds you to that person. Your anger motivates y0u to take destructive anger to eliminate this perceived reprehensible threat. Under these circumstances, logic and thinking about consequences often are overwhelmed or eliminated.
Think about hate groups, hate crimes, extreme discrimination and prejudices etc.
Avoiding Hate (Not easy, but doable)
This is why you might want to avoid hating another person.
“Huh”, you say, “What do you mean?”
Well, as I said above, hate is a very strong emotion which when you are under its influence can hijack your critical thinking and result in your not taking the important step in mastering your emotions as tools of assessing your situation and the validity of the message your emotion is communicating to you.
Thus, with hate (and anger), you should assess both whether the object of your hate is, indeed, demonic AND whether the actions you are about to engage in (such as shooting someone) will improve the situation in which you find yourself.
So, what are your options?
First of all, when you experience the emotion of hate, force yourself to step back from the situation and take a very deep breath.
This is part of the Emotions as Tools Model.
Once you have calmed down, remind yourself that hate is not an emotion you want to stay engaged with because it can be consuming and elicit actions you may later regret.
With some distance between you, your hate, and the “hated” object, assess the degree to which this object is, indeed, terrible, reprehensible or demonic. If they are also dangerous, use the energy of your anger to take evasive action.
If you are not in danger, then choose to see them as disgusting and disdainful.
The message of disgust is that you should act to avoid to dispel the disgusting object from your life. Think of Brussels Sprouts as disgusting.
The message of disdain is that someone or something is unworthyof one’s consideration or respect; contempt.
The point here is that, as you are not emotionally intertwined with the previously hated object, you are now in a position to choose how you want to interact with that object.
Getting back to the divorce podcast….
From the above perspective, would you, as a counselor, really want to green-light self-hate (or other-hate) after divorce in your client?
My answer is “No”.
While the individual who has just gone through a divorce might engage in self-blame (They do need to assess their role in the divorce.) seeing themselves as demonic or reprehensible, probably won’t help them to get past the divorce.
Hence, no self-hate.
Hating the spouse (tho they might be reprehensible) is not healthy as they need to become emotionally independent of, not emotionally bound to, the now legally separated spouse.
Hence, other-hate is not appropriate either.