Watch What You Hate

"Peace, peace is what I seek, and public calm;
Endless extinction of unhappy hates."

Matthew Arnold

"When we practice meditation and contemplation the dark side within us is washed to the surface of consciousness by the purifying energizing effect of these exercises. The ability to deal with these emerging dark impulses is a basic skill which must be mastered by every practitioner."

William Carl Eichman in Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature, edited by Jeremiah Abrams and Connie Zweig, Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1991 

Most of us would agree that there is too much hate in the world. We can identify the big time haters – the racists, the fascists, the killers, the abusers. We look scornfully upon these others who seem to value hate and who are driven to evil because of it. Those of us who value love and who want to be good people are repelled by the haters and their evil ways. Perhaps we even hate them.

Hating hate, we may cover over our hateful thoughts and feelings with the blanket of unconsciousness, so that we can go on perceiving ourselves as good and loving people. Here is danger. When our hate lives in us unconsciously, we may act it out without awareness and in contradiction to our conscious intention.

This is how we sometimes hurt to ones we love. When we fall in love, we don’t so much find a perfect person as focus on the perfect in the beloved. The future mate has flaws, but we tend to overlook them. In time, the glow of courtship is likely to fade and the flaws become more noticeable. Perhaps we marry and find ourselves giving up relationships and activities that used to give us pleasure. The marriage brings obligations we might gladly give up, but can’t, and then there are the inevitable conflicts that arise in any close relationship. Growing within our heart we may find an ugly collection of irritations, resentments, and frustrations. Mixed in with our love for our mate may be hate that we would rather not admit, even to ourselves.

Parents too will naturally develop hate thoughts and feelings for their little bundle of joy. Even in the womb a baby is a liability. It causes discomfort and threatens the health of the mother. The baby interferes with the normal flow of life, so that valued activities and relationships may be lost. Infants are messy and do things that in an adult would be extremely disgusting. So while a baby may be lovable, it also arrives with a bag of parental "hate" that is unconscious, and not socially acceptable. When things go as they should, the parents sublimate their hateful feelings for their child and act out of the love they also feel. When things don’t go so well, the child gets payback for the pain and suffering their existence has caused the parents to endure.

If we are to be truly loving persons we must become more aware of the residue of hate that we carry along in our unconscious. We must become conscious of our ambivalence and sort out the difficult thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t help to deny we carry hate in us, rather we must observe it and de-animate it by consciously choosing to act out of love.

To live in joy one must learn to love without reservation. Love must flow even into the low dark places of our heart where we have stashed away our packets of hate. We must acknowledge our aversions, loosen our grudges, and enable forgiveness. The more we bring our ambivalency to light the more capable we are of acting helpfully, lovingly. Bringing our disdain into consciousness we can integrate it and attain wholeness.


Take time to look deeply into your heart. Sit quietly and examine your thoughts and feelings about people and life in general. Notice the mix of attractions and aversions in your thoughts and feelings. Focus your attention on the aversions. How do you cling to hateful thoughts and feelings? Try to be objective. Don’t get lost in the feelings, but examine them as if they belonged to a friend.

Acknowledge that it is natural to have negative feelings even for people you love very deeply. Remind yourself that as you are imperfect, so are they imperfect. Seek to forgive yourself for harboring hate in your heart. Seek to forgive those that you have burdened yourself to hate.

Love absorbs and transforms hate as light transforms darkness. Let the love in you shine into the darkness of your hurts and resentments. Let love illuminate the shadows of your animosity. Where you find hateful thoughts and feelings, invite loving kindness to soothe your mind.

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© 1998-2002 Tom Barrett