By Aimee Lewis Reau, MFA, CoFounder of the Good Grief Network**
I know I’m not the only one afraid to read the news. It breaks my heart. And when I see people in power lying to us without remorse, or I see people knowingly benefit from the suffering of others, it stirs violent feelings bordering on hate. I hate hate. I used to think this was an appropriate response. I now understand that it only reveals how complex and deep the emotion runs. Hatred is what helps us dehumanize others. Dehumanizing Is a way to disconnect from another person. We do this, because it’s a lot easier to hurt or kill another being remorselessly when we don’t empathize with them. If instead we see an enemy as just another wounded, breathing human being like ourselves, then it hurts to hurt them.
Hating hate only reminds me that I’m not above it. I wish I could be. Being human is hard. And as far as I can tell, hatred is a human response that comes from hurt and fear. For example, I felt rage and maybe hatred while watching clips of Trump on Youtube. Rather than focusing on that hatred and internalizing like it’s a part of me or thinking I’m a “bad person,” (because hate is for “bad people,” right?) I recognized that I was feeling such strong emotion, because I’m hurt and afraid to see a violent, angry man encouraging violent, angry masses.
A shamanic practitioner that Laura and I worked with used to say if anything bothers you more than a 2 or 3, on a scale from 1–10, then it reveals an area that requires more self-work. This relates to a lot of Carl Jung’s work about “shadow features.” He wrote that anytime a person — or a particular characteristic in a person — upsets us, it is because they are reflecting something about ourselves that we either: a) don’t like or b) deny and repress altogether.
I once had a conversation with Laura Newbern, a beloved mentor of mine. She has a delightful poetry collection called Love and the Eye. I asked her about the title, and she said how loving someone means seeing them, really seeing them. I agree. It sounds simple, but it is challenging. It requires self-awareness and humility. In order to minimize (and ideally eliminate) the projections we carry — the ones that cause us to see someone as we think they are instead of who they actually are — we have to acknowledge that we see the world and others through our projections in the first place. This is ultimately admitting that you see some things distorted or incorrectly.
Yoga classes often end with a bow and the word namaste. While it’s not the literal translation, I’ve heard namaste explained as something like I see the light in you is the light in me. It acknowledges we’re interconnected and our connection to the divine. There is debate over the translation, in addition to concern about it having been appropriated. So it’s easier for me to think about this idea in a different way. In the film Avatar, the characters say I see you to one another as a form of acknowledgement and respect.
Carl Jung wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” That means we can’t eliminate darkness by pretending it’s not there.
Part of me feels shame when I catch myself hating something or someone. My first instinct is to stuff it down, repress it, and pretend it didn’t happen. That way I can pretend “hate is for bad people” and think of myself as good. To admit that I’m capable of the same feeling that leads to extreme violence reminds me that hateful people are people too. When I remember that, I can’t really hate them. But such compassion requires slowing down for me to realize that, and slowing down is hard. Acknowledging my own feelings of hatred is actually what helps me combat hate. In acknowledging my own hatred, I understand the unruliness of such a destructive emotion. It helps me better empathize with the haters.
This gets me thinking about how the opposite of this Americanized yoga version of namaste (which is something like the darkness in me is the darkness in you) might be best understood with a bit of math magic. In math, a negative number times a negative number equals a positive one. If I recognize the darkness in you as the same darkness in me, does that equal more light?
Maybe this sounds too easy or overly simplistic. Maybe this sounds too hard and soft at the same time. It doesn’t really matter how it sounds. What matters is that we acknowledge that hate has power in all of our lives. We either consciously give it power, surrendering to its violence, or we subconsciously give it power by denying it. I think reducing the power of hate in our psyches depends on our ability to see it for what it is. And to see something as it is is to love it. So the cure for hate is Love? How obvious and infantile to say. Yet, I don’t think I understood the sophistication of that idea until recently, and it’s one that continues to amaze me.
**The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the individual author and are not necessarily representative of the views of Good Grief Network.