A confession: I used to hate hatred. It’s not that I enjoy hate now, but I see it differently.
I wanted to offer you some reflections on this with the hope that they may be of use to you when you are facing your own or others’ hatred.
A paradox in my Enneagram Type 9 pattern is that if there’s one thing I’m fundamentally intolerant of, it’s intolerance.
I still feel hatred when I witness hate being acted out- to me it looks like a wounded heart in such despair that it’s creating more wounds in its helplessness. I hate the misunderstanding, the assumptions, the harm, the seeing others as vile, and the cold disconnection that accompany hate.
I see how raw rage, and the pain under it, make it almost impossible for the other to turn toward it with love or understanding. It is heartbreaking to me that in our despair, others are repulsed by us. And in my heart of hearts I just want it to stop.
Maybe my Nineness makes it comparatively easier for me to access compassion for the rage and pain I see underneath it— these feelings seem to always spring from somewhere very elemental, human and vulnerable in us. It’s like my values, my worth and what is dear to me is being insulted, trod upon, harmed, sometimes even murdered, and I must rise up to protect.
But personally, I felt stuck in my rejection of the hate. It felt like a dead end where I was remained activated and helpless. I wanted another way.
What is Another Way?
I knew that denying hatred or trying to bypass it doesn’t work. It is usually driven underground and leaks out in unconscious and destructive ways. I knew that being animated by hatred polarizes people more and can cause great harm. What were we to do with this fierce, cold place in us?
So, I felt relieved and empowered when I found a different way to try to work with my own and others’ hate. Through the Diamond Approach, I was shown how hatred is a very natural human emotion that comes after we’ve felt so disempowered and angry for so long. In it, we want to obliterate that which feels like the source of the harm. This makes sense.
I came to understand that anger is the personality’s frustrated attempt at strength.
And that hate is the personality’s frustrated attempt at power.
Of course the personality is a self-defending structure that doesn’t understand true strength or true power, or how to access them. This is found on a level beyond our ordinary thinking.
So while hate makes sense from a personality standpoint, in the world it doesn’t get us the kind of power we’re truly after.
Love and Hate
A couple of weeks ago I had set out to write and share things about love relationships and the Enneagram. But circumstantially I have been surrounded externally by reflections of division, despair, hatred, fear, arrogance, rage, bafflement, and righteousness. I felt most of these in my own ways too. They still swirl in me to be honest. So it was hard to focus on love or relationships in the way I expected to. It felt incongruent.
And then I realized that maybe it wasn’t so different after all. I saw what was around me like a collective exaggeration of embittered, contemptuous lovers in a fight:.
“You’re supposed to be there for me!”
“You have terrible values!”
“You’re so selfish you never think of me!”
“It’s like I don’t matter to you!”
“You see me as a threat- it’s so insulting!”
By now, most of us have heard the notion that love and hate are not opposites.
When you see the other as full of intolerance and contempt, maybe they are denigrating your identity, your people, your values, what you hold dear. If the other is someone you have felt love for and have looked to for support, the hate and helplessness can be even more intense. It becomes a personal insult or attack.
If you can suspend for a moment your usual frame of victim and perpetrator, consider the helplessness both parties feel in a domestic violence situation where they supposedly started out by loving each other. Those whom we look to for support have more power to activate us. That we can resort to violence with loved ones suggests a deep sense of powerlessness and an inability to get our needs met.
From that feeling of elemental harm or rejection, it’s easy to want to denigrate the other in return. This is where bigoted thinking springs from: from a primal place of feeling that we have been wronged or that we are seen as wrong. And there rises up this need to refute it.
Feeling Versus Acting
When we act on feelings of rage and hatred, we can do deep damage that makes reconciliation feel very unattractive. Laughable even.
Acting out our rage and hatred also tragically increases the other’s rejection of us. When we cut off from others, it engenders more hatred in them in their sense of being denigrated and rejected.
But these feelings point us toward something terribly important, no matter which side of the argument we’re on. The truth is that most of us feel helpless. Most of us feel mistreated and unvalued. Most of us feel shame about that. Most of us feel frightened about the others’ values. Most of us feel unsupported and diminished by the other.
Shame and helplessness may be culturally more underground or it may be more in our faces depending on our demographics. Even people with the most privilege and “power” in the world have these feelings in their core. Whether they can acknowledge them is another question altogether. Those who have been more insulated by circumstance from facing these feelings tend to be more helpless when faced with them.
So, what if feeling hatred is not the problem? Maybe it’s there to point us toward what is sacred to us. Maybe It can also point the way to a type of true power that supports us to be with what’s happening in the fury and the swirl.
The Heart Underneath Hatred
As I deepen my understanding of hatred, I am not more OK with acts of hatred in the world. In fact, this understanding clarifies in me that I can and should stand up against hatred, injustice, and abuse being acted out— including in myself and with people who seem like-minded to me.
I actually feel more balanced than I used to in moving to interrupt the destructive energy because I’m also in touch with the deeper heart underneath hatred.
It can feel intolerable to sit with feelings of oppression, helplessness, rage, unworthiness, shame. That’s true for all of us. And I think increasing our ability to digest these feelings and acknowledge them is required if we want a different world or a different relationship than the one we live in now.
If hatred can help us clarify what is sacred to us, and to stand up for it, it may be doing its job. But if it has us by the neck, then we are strangling ourselves, while strangling others, while cursing their strangling us.
Hate has an important role to play to help us wake up and make change. But believing the personality’s interpretation of who or what we hate tempts us into a fistfight in a narrrow, dark alley that no one wins.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. –Martin Luther King, Jr.
How Can We See it Otherwise?
Regardless of your Enneagram type, I encourage you to get more in touch with what’s underneath your hatred.
- How do you participate in the same human reactions that you despise in your “enemy”?
- What are the values you feel are being defiled?
- Can you imagine into what might be the other’s experience of shame, vulnerability, or helplessness?
And regardless of your Enneagram type, I invite you to be curious about whether there could be another way of companioning these charged thoughts, feelings and sensations.
What if I could be here for myself in such a way that I could allow a direct experience of a dose of my hatred, or vulnerability, or fear, or hurt, or helplessness, or shame?
I know, sounds like a bad idea, right? Why go toward such things?
Well, because if I can’t, they will possess me instead of my being able to understand and host them in line with my values.
It not only feels like a bad idea to most people to consciously enter the territory of aversive emotions, we are afraid it will make us bad or wrong if we admit to having them.
We are also afraid that feeling such feelings will leave us overwhelmed and helpless, that we won’t know how to deal with them, that we’ll be swamped. We are afraid that they will grow bigger and take over. We are afraid we will do damage or be rejected if we express them.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Instead of letting these potent emotions narrow my vision through a sense of fear and threat, and/or instead of trying to move out of them through denial, distraction or my favorite material or spiritual escape route, the opportunity is to have an inner truth and reconciliation process.
I offer here a 5 step approach to integrating hatred in a useful way that you might try:
1. Can I Get Here?
We can’t open easily to a new way of thinking or feeling from a place of reactivity. So it is good that all of us have the innate capacity to pay attention to ourselves and to plug into the present moment. When, we are here with ourselves, new things can happen.
Invite yourself to feel your feet on the floor, your breath rising and falling, your heart beating. Invite the wholeness of you to be welcome.
2. Can I Tell the Truth?
Can I tell the truth to myself about what I keep hidden from me and others?
How might it be true that I am hateful, ashamed, righteous, vulnerable, destructive, etc.?
In which ways can I own my own darkness?
If I say to myself “I’m not a ___ person. I’m a ____ person.” What are examples in which the opposite is true too.
3. Can I Accept My Experience?
Can I accept this as an aspect of me without having to believe it, act on it, or assume it’s who I am?
What is the energy like in my body when I acknowledge its presence?
4. Can I Welcome Presence?
Can I bring my breath, presence and attention to where this is showing up in me?
Can I keep myself grounded and present while I allow this to affect me?
Can I keep paying attention instead of abandoning myself to habitual stories about me and about the world?
Can I stay with myself past temptations to analyze, blame, judge, check out, act out, or numb out?
5. Can I Open to Something More?
When I am here with the complex truth of my experience and I open toward it, unexpected things often happen.
Our job may simply be to prepare the way for the mystery of presence to show up in us and touch the particular dilemma we are in. It can seem when we find our way to this, that things just unfold or happen that help us experience ourselves and our situation in a new way.
From this kind of contact with our truth and with presence, the question of how to act in response to hatred and shame takes on more dynamic and responsive possibilities. The rigid understanding of what’s possible according to the personality gives way to something new, something larger. It is from this kind of place that we can experience a kind of power that is untouchable, and the kind that has the power to touch us and others even in the face of hate.
Asking for Support
If you don’t have experience hosting difficult emotions without turning them either into rocket fuel or into trap doors, it is kind to ask for support for yourself in this. Trying to do this kind of work by yourself when you’re not sure how to plug into the ground of being, or how to regulate your nervous system, can make it hard to get the fruits of this practice. It can even sometimes intensify your suffering if you’re not sure where to go with it.
I encourage you to reach out to those in your life who are experienced with the inner life, people who understand shadow work or how to include all aspects of their humanity.
If you don’t have people in your life who know how to facilitate this, consider scheduling a time with me to learn about how to be with yourself in a new way. I love supporting people to access their inner resources and to tap into true strength and true power.
May the tumult and churning of the world continue to wake us all up toward our true nature.