Not thinking the word “hate” is something that I do most of the time. Since “hate” is not a subject that comes up in my life, I have no reason to think or use the word. Nor do I use the word instead of “dislike”. The few times that “hate” did enter my thoughts were usually when I read certain titles. For me, calling a movie “10 Things I Hate About You” belittles the emotion itself, especially when “dislike” is the emotion being emphasized.
To be told not to think about the word “hate” for a week became a different matter. In a famous experiment, people were told not think about something as obscure as “white bears”. Of course the only thing that people constantly thought about was “white bears”. Therefore being instructed to eliminate “hate” from my thoughts for a week backfired for me. The word “hate” entered my mind all the time. I would push the word away, but it became burdensome after awhile. Eventually I gave up and decided to note the times when “hate” came up. Also I wrote down in my journal, phrases and code words for “hate” as well.
While I perused my Facebook messages, several of my friends referred to “Strong”, a campaign ad by Governor Rick Perry (R. Texas) (Note 1) as hate speech. Since the ad went viral and exploded in my face, I decided to examine it, and as well as the concept of “hate speech”. (I personally found the ad to be illogical, and factually wrong.)
Then the next day, I was enjoying listening to the Christmas music on the radio. The song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was featured. Derived from “The Christmas Bells” (1864) a poem by Henry Longfellow (American, 1807-1882), this carol includes the words “For hate is strong and mocks the song, Of Peace on earth, good will to men.”
Since I could not escape these conversations about hate, I decided to meditate on this emotion for a week. What is it? Where does it come from? Why does it produce such a visceral reaction in our bodies? Why is it ever present? Hate encompasses a range of distasteful emotions, which include “abhorrence, enmity, hostility, rancor, and revenge.” What is the focus of these feelings? Are they from the early days of humans when strangers meant danger?
“Love” and “hate” are the twin emotions that oppose each other like analogous colors. Each revolves around identity – should red mix with green? Love encourages the embrace of the stranger. In love, we offer hospitality to the wanderer to come inside and warm themselves by our fire.
Meanwhile, hate asserts the boundary between us and the stranger. Hate protects and defends us, so we can push the unknown stranger away, who could be a dark trickster trying to destroy us. Instead of welcoming the wanderer to our fire, we bar our door against them.
Hate also separates our shadow selves from our accepted selves. Hate enables us to do things that we are usually reluctant to do. Hate gives us the laser focus to move our darkness onto someone else. Once we put these feelings outside of ourselves, we can live comfortably.