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What Is Hate?

Image of storm clouds. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, hate, Katherine Broadway

Love and hate have a magical transforming power.

They are the great soul changers. We grow their exercise

into the likeness of what we contemplate.

- George William Russell

More often than not, love and hate are misunderstood and confusing emotions. They are siblings, born from the same family but with different characteristics. In the next few weeks, I am going to explore each emotion, their relationship to one another and how they impact us.

What is Hate?

Hate is many things at once. It is an emotion, a belief, an action, or a policy. We can feel hatred for people, places, things and ideas. We can act in hateful ways and committee hate crimes. We can have a belief system that is based on hate and we can have policies that promote hate. In modern history, the National Socialist German Workers Party represented hate in all its forms. Be assured that this is only one of the many organizations in the world where hate is represented and even endorsed. It can be seen in the actions and words of individuals, families and organizations. Hate is as common as humans. That is because, as much as we may not want to admit it, to be human is to hate.

Hate as an Emotion

As an emotion, hate is defined as a feeling of dislike so strong and so passionate that it demands action. We can try to hide behind the language, but using any of these words means you're talking about hate: to detest, to loathe, hostility, animosity, aversion, antagonism, antipathy, abomination, or abhorrence.

Hate is a complex emotion that seldom stands alone. It is often intertwined with feelings of love, shame, rejection, betrayal, helplessness, anger or denial. This complexity contributes to how difficult it is to process and deal with feelings of hate. Hate is often a visceral and overwhelming experience for the person who is feeling it and for the person who is receiving the emotion. It carries with it humiliation. Even in its milder forms it can leave lasting emotional wounds.

Hate as a Belief

When an idea or opinion is accepted as true, it becomes a belief. It is a subjective internalized interpretation or explanation for experiences or events. Beliefs are needed to analyze and organize data. They are symbolic, intellectual and emotional, based on what is considered right by an individual or a group. However, it's good to note that they may or may not be accurate.

Hate can be manifested in rigid thinking, absolute certainty, absolute truth and dogmatic belief. It leaves no room for any other perspective, belief system or opinion. It comes out in judgment of others; who they are, what they believe, how they look and how they behave. It is the belief that if you are not a part of my group and belief system, you are wrong.

The origin of most dogmatic beliefs is unconscious and unknown. It is called “truth” because it has always been that way. Even so, those beliefs influence how we think, what our are perceptions are, and the decisions we make. Once they become ingrained, it is difficult to recognize and change them.

Hate as an Act

Today's climate draws a distinction between hateful actions and acts of hate. The former refers to actions taken by individuals in everyday lives that are informed by a feeling of hatred. The latter is now used to speak of more extreme acts, often including violence or a threat of violence, could be classified as hate crimes under current laws and potentially prosecuted.

Hateful actions can be both conscious and unconscious, deliberate or passive. They can be personal or impersonal. They can be done to an individual or a

group. They are acts that are cruel emotionally, physically, mentally or socially.

Acts of hate can be deliberate and direct, ranging from hate crimes and atrocities to simple mockery and slander. These acts have a specific target and their purpose is to cause suffering and take away the dignity from a despised person or group.

Acts of hate do not just happen between strangers and on a large scale. They happen in homes and families, at work with co-workers and between friends. They are done with purpose and they are done through passivity. They happen when we witness mistreatment and do not speak. It happens when we join in “meaningless gossip.” They occur because of active aggression and they occur because of indifference, ignorance, and even habit. They happen because we are not paying attention to what is occurring in our lives and the lives of those around us at a deeper level.

Hate Causes Division

However you see it, hate is an emotion that separates us from others. It causes us to use poor judgment and to do things that will lead to pain and destruction. Hate causes stress, depression and anxiety, if left unacknowledged and treated it can lead to physical problems and destroy relationships.

We like to think that we are not guilty of acting out of hate, that we have grown past that. We may even work to be kind and caring toward others, but hate is a subtle and sneaky emotion. It leads us to deny that we feel it, and that denial allows it to grow and fester.

It is important to accept that to be human is to hate. Hate is not evil. Like any emotion, it exists to bring us information. Our goal should not be to banish hate, but to acknowledge it and listen to the message it brings us. How we act on that emotion and that message matters much more than the fact that we felt hate in the first place.

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