Why Do We Hate?

Posted on August 16, 2017

In the wake of news of violent incidences in Charlottesville, Virginia, and around the world, you may be wondering why and how a person can feel so much hatred to another person. Here are some factors that have been proposed to help us understand the psychology of hate.

1: Fear of the out-group.
We hate because we are afraid of things that are different from us, according to A.J. Marsden, assistant professor of psychology and human services. The in-group out-group theory is used by behavioural researcher Patrick Wanis to explain hate. The in-group are people we identify and share values with. The out-group are people we perceive to be different and dangerous to us. The theory explains that we turn towards our in-group naturally when we feel threatened by the out-group to protect ourselves. Wanis mentions that there are two emotions to hatred – love and aggression for the in-group and out-group respectively.

2: Fear of ourselves.
Dana Harron, a clinical psychologist, suggests projection is a factor that leads to hate. The term “projection” was created by Sigmund Freud to describe how we usually reject the things we dislike about ourselves. Hence, what people hate about themselves, are what they hate about others. They are not the terrible one, the other person is. According to Psychologist Brad Reedy, people “project” these inadequate feelings and “badness” about themselves onto the other party because of the need to be good. Projection is a defense mechanism as any negative traits we see in ourselves makes us at risk of being rejected or alone. Hence, we repress this “badness’ and project it onto others with hate and judgment. However, this does not absolve us of the negative traits. It can instead lead to mental health issues.

3: Lack of self-compassion.
Self-compassion is the acceptance of oneself. If we dislike a part of ourselves, it threatens our positive perception of self and we act out against others, according to Reedy. If we are comfortable with who we are, we view the behaviour of others as separate to our own. We can only treat others with compassion after we learn to view ourselves with compassion.

4: It fills a void and acts as a distraction.
Hate, especially when it leads to participation in a group, cultivates a sense of connection that may have been missing from the person’s identity, according to psychologist Bernard Golden. Hate distracts the person from negative feelings like helplessness, powerlessness and inadequacy. Hate usually stems from a perception of threat, which gives rise to the aggression towards the other party. It distracts from inner pain, and a person feeling hatred may think that the only way to gain control over the pain again is to be aggressive towards others.

5: Societal and cultural factors.
According to Silvia Dutchevici, LCSW, we hate because of the “war culture” in society, which promotes violence. Dutchevici mentions that competition is part of our life. We are afraid of connecting because it leaves us open to others. This creates an obstacle to discussions of hate and understanding. We are also taught to hate others who are different. She adds that we are more willing to fight than settle conflict peacefully.

Hatred is learned, according to Golden, and all of us are able to either be aggressive or compassionate. What we choose to be requires a conscious choice. Hence, education at home, schools and the community is important to overcome hate. Dutchevici mentions that we need to face the fear of vulnerability to connect and love. She suggests creating cracks in the system with simple acts like talking to your neighbour, or connecting with someone from a group other than your own. Doing these acts helps a person better understand hate and love.

Category(s):Aggression & Violence

Source material from Psychology Today

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