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6 Upsides of Hatred

Hatred hurts, but it can also help us in surprising ways.

Do you hate anyone?

Not just dislike them, but feel sick seeing or hearing them, wanting to scream, your skin transforming simultaneously to both fire and ice?

Do their crimes scroll across a screen inside your head, on permanent repeat, as you sit wondering which god made this monster and why?

This is not ordinary rage but unquenchable blazing mega-rage: Does it make you feel less yet more than human, launched yet frozen, flaring in your chair?

But does anyone know you feel this way, especially the hated one? Admitting, even to ourselves, that we harbor such "primitive" or "negative" emotions can be scary and embarrassing.

If others know you hate someone, do they say: Stop! Dissolve, dispel, deny, disappear your hatred because heaven hates haters, because hatred is Neanderthal and will render you ugly, empty, evil, criminal, consumed? Do they declare: But your hated one has redeeming qualities! She is a virtuoso (and drunk driver)! He fought fires (and hit his kids)!

Dismissing your feelings and evidence, do those naysayers aim to shame or even hate you out of hatred? Do they say a hateless world is not only paradisiacal but possible?

It's not. Hatred is hazardous but also natural—creating its own unique neurobiological pattern in the brain—and purposeful. A hateless world is one in which cruel beasts commit atrocities for fun, funds, power—unprotested and allowed.

Hatred is not a moral crime. It hurts, yet hatred is often our guardian, defender, friend. Even in silence, hatred speaks for us. It tells our truths. It cannot be bought off or placated, however hard—in fear or self-doubt—even we try to betray it. Hatred is a form of suffering that reveals our priorities, philosophies, limits, and quests. It's often stronger than the rest of us. It burns. It knows.

Here are six ways in which hatred may help us.

Self-awareness: Our hatreds reveal what matters most to us. Does (or did) your hated one abuse, assault, rob, cheat, maul, terrify, deprive, endanger and/or destroy you or anyone you love or even strangers you feel compelled to defend? How do those crimes affect and drive you now?

Directedness: Determining which human acts hurl us into the hell of hatred impels us to never do those things—and aim to do, however possible, the exact opposite. A keen sense of purpose helps us battle depression, live authentically, and maybe make positive changes in the world.

Intensity: Although hatred spurs painful physical and emotional sensations, those sensations are wake-up-calls in their blazing, unmistakable intensity—kindly reminding us and others that we are fully alive, neither detached nor numb but deeply capable of feeling and caring.

Justice: If vile acts went un-hated, they would likely continue unabated. Although often ineffective, hatred —manifesting as blame, rejection, ejection, or punishment—can form a force that hobbles vileness and supports justice. Hatred makes us take a stand.

Gratitude: Just as hurricanes and illness can make survivors unprecedentedly grateful for wellness and stillness, the hot talons of hatred can make us more grateful for all that we don't hate. Things and people we took for granted before, much less loved, shine dazzlingly in comparison.

Happiness: One recent study found that happy people—who have a strong overall sense of well-being — are those who most frequently experience the emotions, positive or negative, that they want to experience and that feel right and justified, including love but also including hatred.

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