Our planet has a population of seven billion people. And everyone is unique. Our varying genes, environmental influences and our own set of experiences shape our physical and mental disposition in different ways. On one hand, our differences are a good thing; they create diversity and make this world an interesting place to live in. On the other hand, our varied opinions, preferences, and perspectives could create rifts and cause disharmony.
In personal relationships, our differences could be based on life philosophy, beliefs, habits, and social behavior. All remains well if two people agree to disagree and respect each other’s views. If not, their differences begin to take a toll on their relationship. Tension and aggression mounts and they get caught up in power struggles and ego clashes. In all possibility, the two people who perhaps once liked each other could even end up hating one another.
On a bigger scale, our differences could be based on our nationality, ethnicity, skin colour, faith, political views, gender, and sexual orientation. These differences create rifts between sections of society, and even between nations. They manifest as intolerance, but can eventually turn into hatred. And when this emotion is expressed outwardly, it often takes the form of violence, terrorism, even war.
Hatred, when unleashed, causes destruction. So, why do we hate? More importantly, why do some of us act on that hatred? Human behaviour expert and clinical hypnotherapist Dr Patrick Wanis has written extensively about hate in the articles The Psychology of Hate and The Psychology of Hatred, published on his blog. He writes: “Hatred begins when we believe that an object/person/group is not valuable, insignificant, unworthy. Next, we become fearful of them, believing that they are a threat to us or our survival.” And in response to our own fears, we begin to harbour feelings of hatred and hostility towards them. We even progressively start believing that we are justified to eradicate and eliminate them.
Hate, which is one among the unpleasant emotions, requires expression. The more we learn to acknowledge and respond (not react) to hatred, the better we can understand our likes and dislikes.
In short, our own unwarranted fear of someone or something different sows seeds of hatred within us. It could also stem from deep-rooted insecurities and an inability to accept our imperfect selves. Oxford University Philosophy Professor P J E Kail writes about this in his book Projection and Realism in Hume’s Philosophy. According to him, whenever we stumble upon an undesirable quality within us (say, we hate someone), we feel a psychological discomfort. To shield ourselves from this unwanted state of mind, our self-defense mechanism kicks in. We then start projecting our undesirable quality onto others and hate them for it. As Kail puts it, “My hatred makes me think something else hates me.”
Clearly, hate is a complex emotion. When expressed, it often manifests itself as hostility, anger and aggression. It then brings about a plethora of side-effects. A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information presents health risks that hostility, anger and aggressiveness can pose. The study explains that anger results in excessive release of corticosteroids and catecholamine, which in turn causes vascular problems and irregular cardiac rhythm. It thereby increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Clearly, hatred is a double-edged sword. Besides destroying the object of our hate, it destroys our own health and peace of mind, when left unchecked. Some of us attempt to suppress this emotion altogether. But according to counsellor and psychotherapist Prachi Dixit, hate, like any other emotion, must be dealt with. “Hatred too must be allowed expression in a controlled environment. There are non-destructive ways to express hate. One can simply become assertive, for instance,” she explains.
Throughout the day, we feel and express a plethora of emotions–pleasant and unpleasant–in response to a variety of situations. Hate, which is one among the unpleasant emotions, requires expression. The more we learn to acknowledge and respond (not react) to hatred, the better we can understand our likes and dislikes. The key lies in making sure hatred does not overwhelm or overpower us, but merely finds a healthy outlet.