Linda Lewis Griffith

How do you let go of hate? SLO therapist shares ways to break the cycle

I’m baffled by the concept of hatred.

I watch the actions of white nationalists and other hate groups on the evening news and wonder how they can harbor such loathing toward a race, religion or lifestyle for extended periods of time.

Sure, we all have our preferences.

There are folks I’m drawn to more than others. Some I look forward to hanging out with, while others I’d just as soon avoid.

But the act of despising a group of humans for my entire lifetime, even wanting to eradicate them or do them bodily harm? That thought process escapes me. I can’t begin to compute.

We’re all familiar with anger. It’s a human response to frustration, a kind of baby sister of hatred.

It’s a short-term, flash-in-the-pan reaction when things don’t go our way. We might slam a door, break a vase, yell or even threaten to inflict harm.

But when the dust settles and we regain our cool, we usually see the error of our ways. We may even feel remorse.

There’s no guarantee we won’t repeat the pattern. Still, we hit the emotional reset button. We’re back to our personal baseline.

Hatred, on the other hand, is with us for the long haul. It invites itself into our psyches, then takes root like an invasive weed.

We identify a group with different values or appearance and imbue its members with a host of despicable qualities. We tell ourselves they pose a threat. We repeat that mantra until it’s synonymous with fact.

The hate morphs into an obsession and clings like flypaper in an old cartoon.

We tell ourselves that the only solution is to get rid of the perceived offenders. Their extermination becomes our life’s work.

That’s where I am flummoxed.

Haters spend so much energy loathing others, they squeeze out space in their lives for love, joy, tranquility and happiness.

They can terrorize, even kill, their identified targets. But I think they inflict even more harm on themselves.

Under normal emotional conditions, emotions pass through us as a breeze through trees. One moment we feel irritation, another moment we’re pleased as punch.

But hatred is like a perpetually gripped muscle. It requires non-stop psychological tension to maintain it.

A person cannot be relaxed and hate-filled at the same moment.

Hence, hatred impedes the normal range of emotions in the same way a spasmed muscle is unable to move.

To make matters worse, haters pass along their beliefs and behaviors to their offspring. They guarantee the next generation will be equally stifled in their abilities to live emotionally expansive, nurturing lives.

I suggest that haters relax, take a few deep breaths and tune in to the gripping in their hearts, faces and hands.

I would urge them to replace odious words with a different story: “I send good thoughts to all humans.” “I can feel joy.”

If negative messages resurface, they can say, “I control what I think.”

The change won’t be instantaneous. They have years of negative messages to undo. But they will be starting on the path of increased compassion and empathy.

And that makes more sense to me.

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