The fight or flight effects of adrenalin clearly kick in without our permission. But the next thoughts or feelings once that biochemical reaction has occurred are, in my opinion, purely optional.
I have two ex-husbands. Both of them cheated and subsequently married their paramours. I know a little something about how hate feels. For me it felt like temporary insanity; like a ravaging form of emotional flu; like my body was invaded by aliens drunk on adrenalin. Thank goodness I decided to let it go, to send it to my emotional recycling bin.
Hate is a dangerous emotion. It has the potential to end lives. It can consume its host and render her useless – to herself and to everyone around her. It can interfere with clear reasoning and cause seemingly normal, rational individuals to make self-destructive decisions, some from which they might never recover.
Mix hate with any one of the other major emotions and watch the chemistry combust. We’ve always heard there is a fine line between love and hate. Sometimes they seem almost indistinguishable. Ask anyone in a long-term relationship. They’ll know what I mean.
Of all the emotions available to humans, there is one we must refuse to mix with hate, ever. That’s fear. I’m finding it pretty stupefying to watch the explosions caused by the mixing of fear and hate happening all over the world and right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. The land of the free and the home of the brave. Not so much, lately.
I believe there is a causality between these two emotions. I believe hate is a by-product of fear, rather than a stand-alone, self-sustaining emotion. Here’s what I mean:
- I feared losing what I thought “belonged” to me – my husbands. I feared what their straying said about me. Would people blame me for their indiscretions? Would they assume I wasn’t taking care of business at home and thus drove these cheaters into the arms of another? Those fears created my ability to actually hate the women with whom my derelict spouses broke their vows. I knew them both, albeit it not well enough. My hatred, however misplaced it might have been – after all, it was my husbands who broke my heart, not them – somehow gave me a way out of looking inside myself for a way forward. But what a toll that hate took. Weight dropped off my body so fast I could almost watch it happen. My stomach rejected all food and opted instead to make me bleed internally, landing me in a hospital for a week. I had to let it go. I had to accept the reality of loss, forgive myself and everyone else involved and focus my energy on the future.
So when I say “hate is a dangerous emotion,” I’m not just talking about danger to the people who might become victims of our wrath. I’m also talking about danger to the hater herself. It could have been deadly for me.
- Certain Americans have spent the better part of the past seven years hating the very air President Barack Obama breathes. The rabidity of their displeasure with this first black national leader has been shocking, even to me. I figured there would be some backlash from outright bigots, right-wingers and/or the Christian right, but I never imagined the lengths to which these so-called Americans have gone to denigrate, nullify and marginalize this man. No holds have been barred. Every insult available has been hurled toward Obama and his family, over and over again. And, I submit, it has all been caused by that debilitating emotion we call fear. If I were forced to single out one overarching cause of that fear, I could easily refer back to my own brief time in the state of hate and point the finger at the fear of losing what they think belongs to them. White supremacy at all levels of American society is what they mean when they say “I want to take my country back.” Back from whom, I always ask when I hear this familiar mantra. No one ever just comes right out with the truth, but it is a good bet they are thinking of liberals first, then black and brown minorities who they regard as leeches on their country. Without white supremacy, most of these folks would not know how to exist in this world, and they are terrified of losing it. So they actively hate those they fear.
We Americans are all only human. No individual or group or nation is immune to the frailty that comes with our existence. Fear, after all, is not an emotion we get to say “no, thanks” to when our DNA is cooking us up in utero. We can and do feel it when confronted with a threat, real or perceived. The fight or flight effects of adrenalin clearly kick in without our permission. But the next thoughts or feelings once that biochemical reaction has occurred are, in my opinion, purely optional. We can either default to hate or choose to shut it out. We can choose introspection, spirituality, increasing knowledge about that which we fear or just plain old love of self.
Hate looks horrible on a face. Have you noticed? The American media know this all too well and have chosen to demonstrate it by choosing snarling, unflattering photos of certain politicians running for President. Hate changes even a highly attractive countenance to stark ugliness. And some of the actions fearful people chose to take can be downright hideous.
If anyone who is consumed by hate would loosen their grip long enough to actually listen to me, I would advise them to knock it off, if for no other reason than real self-preservation. That one body s/he was issued at birth is the only one they are going to get. It should not be needlessly subjected to stresses that are purely optional. Instead, I’d urge them to learn as much as they can about the object of their fear, whether it be a person, a religion or a group of other humans. Study to learn the lesson we all need to understand: while we are all human, we have a limitless number of ways to exist in this life. My way is not the best way, nor is it the only way.
Peaceful co-existence. What ever happened to that idea?
Lezlie Bishop is a mixed-race woman in her early 70s who has fought racism her entire life. After retiring from her corporate public relations position in 2000, Lezlie blogged on the now-defunct Open Salon and is a regular contributor to The Broad Side. She is a co-author of the book Talking to the Wall and a contributor to a new book Love Her Love Her Not, The Hillary Paradox, published November 2015.
To read more of Lezlie’s blog posts, go to her personal blog, Senior Moments of Clarity.