Hate is like a fire, given the right conditions, the fire rages and spreads uncontrollably. Yet, understanding the psychology behind hate is the most effective way to stop it. Understanding how and why hate happens and four ways to stop it.
By Erin Leonard Ph.D. | Psychology Today
Hate primarily has two origins. The first is an unconscious defense mechanism referred to as projective identification. The second cause of hate stems from an individual’s experience of feeling dehumanized. Ironically, projective identification is what compels an individual to devalue or dehumanize another person, so a cycle exists.
Breaking the chain of hate requires an understanding of both projective identification and the experience of being dehumanized.
Projective identification is an unconscious defense mechanism which guards a person with an extremely fragile ego. The person does not appear to be insecure because they compensate with a multitude of defenses such as narcissism, grandiosity, and projection. Like The Wizard of Oz, the person hides behind a grand façade of smoke, mirrors, and bravado in order to protect a weak ego.
This person is unable to tolerate parts of his or her self, so they project the hated parts onto someone else, which allows him or her to feel entitled to blame, control, dominate, punish, and humiliate the other person. In other words, the person gains their security by making someone else feel inferior.
For example, a lead dancer, who has a fragile ego and thus pathologically projects, and who can’t jump high, may black ball the best dancer at try-outs, claiming, “They can’t jump.”
The identifier, on the other hand, is usually someone with a deep emotional constitution and a conscience. Typically this person is insecure, but unlike the projector, they are aware of their insecurities. In essence, they are secure enough to tolerate their own insecurities without having to project them onto someone else in order to feel better about themselves.
Yet, it is their less rigidly defended and open heart that makes them vulnerable to the projections. They unknowingly absorb the projector’s material (identification) and immediately feel small, inadequate, and confused.
If the projections are extremely toxic and they devalue and dehumanize the identifier, understandably, the identifier feels enraged. After several experiences of being dehumanized, the person may feel hate for the projector.
Yet, because the identifier has an active conscience, he or she rarely acts out against the person who pathologically projects, and if they do, he or she feels immense guilt and ends up blaming themselves.
Also, because they have been traumatized, the identifier is less equipped to send empathy, compassion, and love into the world, so hate begins to eclipse love.
Four ways to end the cycle of hate:
1) Education about projective identification.
2) End gossip if it attacks someone’s character. Gossip is great if it is positive. Spreading good news is fun and exciting. However, if people are broadcasting information that ruins someone’s reputation, but will not address the individual they are talking about in person, it is likely a projection. Do not participate. If the information directly impacts you, handle it privately not publicly.
3) Stop the bullying. If you see or hear of someone being purposely excluded or exiled from a group, stand up for them.
4) Regarding children, empathize with their feelings, but correct their behaviors. Never correct feelings. Feelings are the absolute essence of who humans are. When a child is told not to feel the way they do, their sense of self is negated. If a child is told that what he or she is feeling is wrong, they are stripped of some of the essence of who he or she is. Feelings are never wrong. It’s how a child acts on their feelings that may need to be addressed.
Examples of empathizing with feelings, but correcting behaviors:
“You are disappointed. You have every right to be. I would be too, but you can’t slam the door.”
“You are mad. I get it, but you can’t throw your back-pack. Please go pick it up.”
“You’re hurt. I would be too. I understand, but you have to go to school.”
“It’s hard to see someone do something you aren’t able to do yet. It hurts. I felt the same way when I was your age, but you can’t pout. Keep trying.”
Honor the child’s feelings but feel free to correct their behavior when you need to. Raise kids with solid egos who spread love instead of hate.