Hate is learned
It seems like 2020 is on a downward spiral these days and just like a train without breaks, it is picking up speed at every turn, going downhill. As a society, we are hyper focused on everything media throws at us these days. The pandemic lockdown, drastic slowdown of our global economy, absence of travel, events and social outings, all allow us to be laser focused on the issues projected on screens. Our attention is hardly occupied by anything, let alone anything positive these days, so it's no surprise we have the time to be sucked into the vortex of negativity out there. However, it is in our power to create a better outcome than that of a dumpster fire that 2020 has proven to be so far. So let's start by breaking it down in a savvy way.
Why do we hate?
There can be many answers, but the main one is fear. Of which there are several types.
Fear of ourselves. Fear of others. Fear of the unknown.
Fear of being different and not being accepted.
Behavioural researcher Patrick Wanis, cites the in-group and out-group theory, which basically states that our primal instincts instruct us to create groups for protection. In-groups are the ones we identify with, and which help us survive when we feel threatened by perceived outsiders or out-groups. Wanis explains, “Hatred is driven by two key emotions of love and aggression: One love for the in-group—the group that is favoured; and two, aggression for the out-group—the group that has been deemed as being different, dangerous, and a threat to the in-group.”
For many people, the act of hating provides a somewhat satisfying feeling of being in control. It also serves as a distraction from other issues and provides an outlet for inner suffering. Hate is a powerful feeling often overpowers many other negative emotions like shame, failure and powerlessness. It is a Band-Aid to one's emotional struggles that only temporarily takes away pain.
Hatred towards a specific group allows a person to find belonging in an opposite group.
Often, it doesn't matter what each group stands for, the sense of community, regardless of the quality, trumps the painful experience of loneliness. Hate gives a person a false sense of purpose and contribution to a "greater" cause. Cognitive dissonance can be often observed in these situations. It is a state of discomfort when modes of thought, ideas, and beliefs contradict each other. The clashing cognitions and actions are justified by the brain creating natives that make everything fit. Because doing something bad for a seemingly good cause isn't bad.
Hatred is learned.
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. - Nelson Mandela
Hatred is learned either consciously or by your subconscious being influenced by the world around you. Whether it is in school, home, or community. A person can hate something or someone just because he or she were taught or shown it was okay to do so since childhood, and there was never a reason to question the learned beliefs and ideas.
Hatred can be also rooted in personal experience or trauma. Hurt people hurt others applies here. Mistreating others can stem from fear of relieving painful experiences or out of fear of becoming different and being mistreated just like other marginalized groups.
Often prejudice and judgment come from lack of self-compassion. The phenomenon know as projection coined by Freud, makes us recognize what we deem as "bad" in others and attack it in the hopes of becoming better ourselves.
What can we do about this?
Hatred is learned. We are all capable for aggression, as well as compassion. Education in schools, homes and community that focuses on unity, justice, equality and equity is the way to create better societies. It is important to understand how we have been exposed to and influenced by biases and start re-training our minds to think differently. It is also important to teach children from a young age to embrace diversity, to be vulnerable and compassionate towards others and let go of fear of being different.
One of the reasons why people hate is because they are taught that in order to thrive and prosper, there has to be competition. The good old "Us vs. Them" stereotype that comes from the mentality rooted in a sense of lack. Shifting your thought process to abundance is key. There are enough opportunities for everyone. Someone else's equal rights and freedoms do not prevent you from fairly succeeding.
We all want to be accepted. The best way to start the process is to work on yourself. According to Freud's projection phenomena, we thrive to become better by eliminating in others the qualities and traits we personally deem as "unacceptable". Perhaps, a good start would be to evaluate those "unacceptable" qualities and see if they are as bad as we think they are. The next step would be to learn to treat ourselves with compassion, so we can show the same curtesy to others. Once we are okay with ourselves, we see others’ behaviours as ‘about them’ and can respond with compassion.
In reality, the issues we are encountering are not new and have been in this world for a long time. Let 2020 be the year of transformation as it present a great opportunity for change, self-reflection and improvement.