Why We Hate Some People
Hate and Love Are Complex Emotions
Love, hate, anger, happiness, sadness, etc. are all part of the wide spectrum of human affect. Hate, however, is a complex emotion and in many ways similar to love—they both impair our judgment to some level. This intense emotion often comes in handy as a tool for self-preservation, yet it is truly a time bomb ticking away towards destruction. It is important to understand why we hate people as it helps us understand ourselves. Hate is often an outward reaction to an inward state of inadequacy, fear, humiliation, jealousy, etc. We use the word 'hate' rather loosely in our daily parlance, often substituting it for dislike or anger. Thankfully, hate is not as common as it seems. Studies show that people on an average hate 5-6 people in their whole lifetime.
In time we hate that which we often fear.— Shakespeare
Understanding Hate as an Emotion
We often find ourselves liking or being favorable towards some people while we instinctively dislike, distrust or even hate others, even before we have had a chance to know them sufficiently. This seems strange and illogical at the outset. It is normal to hate someone who has hurt us or betrayed us, or damaged our integrity in the eyes of others.
Hate does not always arise from a simple action—it is often the result of a series of actions and our emotional responses to them. We process our experiences while sifting through a variety of emotional, experiential and learned choices. It is amazing how these processes occur in the background and almost instantly without any conscious effort on our part. At this juncture we need to realize that it takes two to tango, the fact that we hate a person is never because of the person’s flaws alone, it is important to understand how we contribute to this whole chain of reactions.
To hate someone is to believe that the person is so debauched and that they cannot change for the better. It is to assume that it is impossible to adopt a constructive approach towards the person while treating him/her as a rational human. This is the beginning of an emotional annihilation of the other.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.— Carl Jung
Why Do We Hate someone?
There are many reasons behind hate or dislike, even if it doesn’t seem very apparent at the outset. If we dig deep enough we will find why some people fill us with a strange loathing. As the eminent psychologist, Carl Jung notes, hate could be the most important cue to our understanding of ourselves and our emotional development as individuals. Nothing really disturbs us which does not deeply reverberate within us.
Hate as a Tool of Self-Preservation
- Fear of others: It is a normal reaction to 'fight or flight' when we recognize/perceive a threat. If the person you hate is your boss, then you are stuck with an option of quitting or find another job. In real life situations like this, it is often impractical to engage in flight or fight. The simpler and seemingly safer option then is to put on a mask of hatred for the other person who is perceived as a threat. This act helps one build an emotional distance from the person even when it is not possible to physically distance oneself. This is a simple intuitive act of self-preservation. It is important to recognize that our mind is not always very logical or impartial in its judgment. Our perception of others is often highly colored by our emotions.
- Fear of self: Dana Harron, a clinical psychologist from Washington, D.C. notes that what we hate in ourselves, we hate in others. Consider this, you may hate someone at work because he or she has some major insecurities, and it makes you squirm when you see them acting out those very same feelings you try so hard to hide. Logically speaking, when I hate a person who has some specific traits I hate in myself, I feel better, because I disassociate myself from those traits that worry me. It takes a lot of work to maintain inner peace.
- Reducing the impact on self: To hate others is to energize yourself. Yes, it is an action-packed emotion, albeit being negatively charged. We love to be busy, emotionally and physically, because busyness keeps our thoughts and action focused elsewhere. It is comparatively less traumatic to direct this intense emotion towards others, rather than having them fire within. Having to deal with the problem internally would mean firstly accepting that we have a problem and secondly having to deal with issues of lowered self-worth and self-esteem.
- Finding a scapegoat: It is more rewarding to divert our negative emotions towards someone who pins us down for our incompetence. We feel outraged when we are accused of something and react strongly to keep feelings of guilt and shame away. It’s easier to find another scapegoat than ourselves to bash up. The war is on to usually fix the blame on someone other than ourselves for our failures. This action takes our mind off our flaws and shame. Hate fills us with a sense of power and gives us a seemingly fair amount of control in the matter.
- Bonding: The other side of scapegoating is bonding. Often people who have uneasy/troubled relationship find a scapegoat/a common enemy whom they can fight against together. This often helps strengthens their personal bond at least for a while.
- Moral uprightness and the quest for emotional balance within. We detest those who morally or ethically (with their behavior/words) correct us or judge us. We dislike being treated as lesser beings. We normally do not like any form of correction. If you don’t believe me, observe how babies respond rebelliously when you say the word ‘no’. We hate correction from the time we are little babies, our brains are wired this way. We like to be our own masters. Hence, when others morally or ethically police us we hate them with a hatred that simmers deep within. Consider how teens hate being told to behave appropriately—they take it is an insult to their judgment and self-determination even though they might know that they are at fault. All of us desire to appear morally upright and never flawed. This illustration makes it easier to understand the love-hate relationship between children and their parents. Hating others keeps you feeling like you are wronged though you may be the one in the wrong.
- Rejection: “From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”—Socrates
It is the worst nightmare of any human to feel rejected—this is truer when one is rejected in love. No one can say this better than William Congreve in his play, 'The Mourning Bride.' A woman scorned turns feelings of worthlessness and despair into hate—this is true of men too:
"Heaven has no rage like love to hate turn,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned".
It is surprising to see how quickly emotions of love turn to hate. Hate, here, is another important tool for self-preservation. It helps preserve the person’s sanity, it protects their feeling of self-worth and gives them a reason to continue living.
Hate as a Result of Misplaced Emotions
- Baggage from the past: Past experiences often cloud our perception. Experiences are not just about what we have been through, but they are also about how we ‘felt’ in those situations. We usually carry feelings/emotions from the past into the future. These emotions from the past often attach themselves to the present even though the current experience may not be anything like the one in the past. This could be the reason why we attach emotions of dislike or hatred to those we hardly know.
- Resentment and envy: Occasionally, we are filled with resentment and envy towards individuals whom we consider smarter or better than us. This may be true in the work environment or in love. These individuals become our arch enemies who (we assume) threaten to usurp our position or place in the social milieu, be it our workplace, home or other social groups. To deal with fear within (which is very anxiety provoking and sometimes even immobilizing in nature) we embrace hate. Hating someone who is perceived as superior could make it difficult for us to put them put them out of our minds, maybe we are even obsessed with them, but we might find it hard to acknowledge that we envy them. To admit envy/resentment is to feel inferior and worthless.
- Bias: Once in a while certain racial or cultural bias/es that we carry from the past (not necessarily because we feel it but because it has been passed down to us) creeps into the present. We normally fear that which is not like us or alien to us. It tends makes us feel uneasy and puts us out of our comfort zone. This again is a primitive act of self-preservation. Biases develop into prejudice, which in turn grows into intolerance, discrimination and even violence if it goes unchecked. These are the very same emotions that gets a mob into a rage.
Have you ever hated anyone in your life?
Hate Hurts You More
Hate is not the solution to complex emotional problems. Hate indicates emotional immaturity and lack of understanding of self. Having said that, it is possible most people at one time or the other have felt some hatred towards another. We need to find better ways of conflict resolution and gain a fair amount of self-awareness to tackle this intense emotion of hate that simmers deep within.
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