Monday, 12 January 2009

When is it ok to hate?

Living out here in Egypt on the edge of the current conflict between Israel and Palestine, we are deeply affected by the images we see daily on the various news channels. It is particularly interesting to compare the news reporting on the different channels - BBC World, Al Jazeera, CNN - and the 'hidden biases'.

This is not, however, the point of this post. Someone on a forum that I belong to asked the question "When is it OK to hate?". I thought about this long and hard and I think it makes a good coaching topic. First you need to clarify whether your hatred is of a SITUATION in which it can be a good motivator to action to rectify that situation, or of a PERSON or PEOPLE where I can't think of a single situation where it serves a good purpose.

Hatred (of people - assume I mean this for the rest of this post) is a very strong emotion and can either hold us back by keeping us emotionally buried in the past, reciting a continual ritual chant of all the wrongs the other person did to us, or by motivating us into some action that goes against our own inner code while 'under the influence' of the need for revenge or vengeance.

This is my view:

When is it OK to hate?

My initial answer is: It is never OK to hate. It is a painful, destructive emotion that eats at your soul. (By the way, I have done my share of hating so I’m not holding myself up as some kind of Mother Figure here who glides in a loving, positive-thinking cloud through life!!!)

Then I guess I have to qualify this - it is not ok to hate people but it is ok to hate a situation.

If you hate a situation - then this can be constructive if it leads you to do something positive to change it - eg global warming or some such.

However, I think what we are discussing here is hatred of people.

Hatred of people comes from feelings of anger, fear, jealousy, betrayal, to some extent because we believe that in the same situation we would certainly not have behaved in the same way as the subject of our hate has behaved.

However, it is also NOT ok to DENY your true emotions because that too can lead to problems. Hatred is a completely understandable emotion, but I think if you are feeling intense hatred, then eventually you have to stop yourself from constantly revising the litany of actions etc which led to the hatred. It won't help anything and just continues to drag YOU down - not affecting the object of your hate.

It is not OK to act on your feelings of hate, put brain in charge of heart - acknowledge your feelings, acknowledge that actions carried out while you are feeling like that may not be the best thing to do - you may inflict some harm on someone who is innocent in feelings of revenge and then when your hatred abates suffer enormous guilt over it and realise it was a wrong action by you.

If your personal inner belief and value structure is geared around 'an eye for an eye' then let it be the correct eye - the eye of the person WHO CARRIED OUT THE ACT (or their 'Lord and Master' if they are obeying orders), not on a random person who shares the same creed or race.

EG current conflict in Gaza, many thousands of Jews around the world (including some Zionists) are against the actions of Israel - yet they will all be hated 'en masse' for something outside of their control.

During the 1970s many innocent Irish people were abused and reviled by British people because of the vile actions of a few in the IRA.
Ordinary Americans are hated because of the war in Iraq - again over which they have no control.

There was a very interesting documentary on the BBC a couple of years ago called ‘Five Steps to Tyranny’ showing how ordinary people can be manipulated into complicit groups. How all of us who say ‘we would never have let it happen’ are probably wrong and we probably would have.

Step 1 – Us and Them YouTube video of Step 1 - start distinguishing a ‘different’ group of people

Step 2 – Obey Authority YouTube video of Step 2

Step 3 – Do Them Harm YouTube video of Step 3

Step 4 – Stand By (Apathy) YouTube video of Step 4

Step 5 – Exterminate YouTube video of Step 5

When you become aware of the steps, then it is scarey to see it happening – when you observe how the reactions, statements of friends and family who are really nice people by the way! - start to follow down this path. Should they be hated because of this?

Ranulph Fiennes wrote a fascinating book called "The Secret Hunters" which explores some of the ways in which the German people were manipulated during the second world war and compares this to how ordinary people were manipulated to becoming complicit in the Rwanda and Cambodia mass-exterminations.

The Secret Hunters by Ranulph Fiennes

So, in summary, I guess I am saying - no, its not OK to hate people. However, it is a perfectly understandable emotion/reaction to things going on. Acknowledge your true feelings. Do not act upon them in an irretrievable way that goes against your own inner values and beliefs.

So what do I do if I feel consumed by hate?

I've been thinking about this aspect, too. I've devised a '10-step plan to deal with hate' - see below.

Well I guess if you were revelling in and 'enjoying' hating you wouldn't be worried about this at all so I'm going to assume that you are at a point where you are willing to consider giving up your hatred but don't know where to start.

You could do this over a number of days:

1. Acknowledge your feelings

First off acknowledge your feelings. It would be an injustice against yourself to deny what you are feeling and if you try to mask them totally (including from yourself) could lead to all kinds of problems later on - physical or mental. Write them down if you feel the need (as long as you burn the list afterwards and don't post it anywhere!) HINT if you want to write it as an email, put your OWN email address in the 'to' box before you start - just in case you accidentally press 'send'!

2. Examine your physical feelings.

Examine the physical symptoms you have. Work along your whole body - what does your skin feel like, how are your muscles, what postures are you adopting - how does your stomach feel, your head? Are you muscles clenched and tight, is your head hot and full?

3. Examine the thoughts in your head.

Examine the thoughts in your head - try and stand apart from yourself and objectively look at your thoughtstream.

4. Consider the evidence.

What exactly is it that the 'other side' did that got you feeling this way? Write it all down.

5. Assess the evidence.

From each item that you noted in step 4 - what can you personally do about it? Your initial answer may be 'nothing'. For example you may feel fury at the actions of another person remote from you. Initial answer - nothing. Is there anything you can do either to try to prevent that action taking place again, or to alleviate the effects of that action? You may feel pretty powerless at this point, but let it sink in. Think about charities or causes you could sign up to, protests you could make. These things can and do add up in an incremental way to affect government or big countries.

6. Examine hatred for an individual

If you feel hatred towards a specific individual, how does your hatred of them affect that individual? Do they know? Do they care? How does it affect YOU?

7. Review your physical symptoms

Pick one of those that you would like to alleviate. Suppose you are going round clenching your left fist. Try to become aware of each time you are clenching that fist and make a conscious effort to unclench it. Massage your wrist too if it helps.

Work on them one at a time - each for a few days.

Alternatively, start making a conscious effort to spend 15 minutes a day doing relaxation exercises. In coaching we use techniques called 'state management' to try to change your state of mind. For example stand with your shoulders back, your head erect, smile and say 'I'm so unahppy about all this'.. what do you notice?

8. Review your thoughts.

Write the thoughts you have down (if you haven't already). Pick the one you think it would be easiest to tackle. From exercise 5 - what can you do about this either to stop it now, prevent it happening in future, or deal with its consequences? Try working on that now. Again, one at a time, each for a few days.

9. Itemise your 'reasons to hate' list.

List them all down on a piece of paper - you're probably reminding yourself of the list every day in your head anyway! Look at the list. Find the easiest thing to deal with. Examine the reason every which way, as in exercise 8 what can you do about it? Now, let it go. Cross it out. If you are the sort of person who finds rituals help, maybe design a 'letting go' ceremony for yourself, write the item of hate on a separate piece of paper and either burn it in a candle flame or send it off down a river somewhere!

10. Find one good thing about the hate object.

Rack your brains, google, whatever - find one good thing about the wrong doer, write it down, and hold that thought in your mind for a moment or two. Even if its as trivial as 'she has nice blue eyes' or a more meaningful 'their doctors helped the wounded on the other side'.

Find one new thing a day until you have a list of 10 good things. Review the list 2 or 3 times a day - maybe keep it on a card in your purse or wallet. You can do it in a code known only to you if you like if you would be too embarrassed for anyone else to see it!

11. Write and tell me if this works as I only just came up with it.

email me

1 comment:

Piper said...

This is a great post, B.

"An eye for an eye" means just that. Before the New Testament's "turn the other cheek", the wisdom of the Jewish Old Testament (and the ancient Babylonians before them) said "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". That is, NOT one hundred eyes for an eye. And NOT an eye for a tooth.

This phrase came to mean an offer of reparation is to be EXACTLY equal in severity and likeness.

Notice also, it isn't a taking of an eye by the victim, but an offering of an eye by the violator.

Wise words.

I am currently working on your steps. I've been validating my own feelings and fully feeling their extent. I have been ridding myself of a lot of anger and jealousy in private, so that it works its way out of my system.

Good post.