Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Hate Diet

I'm driving to work. I've only been awake for about 35 minutes, yet I'm already seething. My knuckles are white, and my fingers are wrapped tightly around the steering wheel. My jaw is clenched. My eyes are squinting.

No one has done anything to me this morning. I am simply revisiting past wrongs. The person who committed these wrongs is no doubt not thinking about them at this moment, but I am absolutely chained to them. Where is this hate coming from?

I call my friend, and let it all spill out.

Luckily, my friend is wise. She doesn't fan the flames of my anger or assert the righteousness of my position. She states to me that my hatred is mine, that it is something inside of me that is always there, and that it is always looking for something to attach itself to and feed on. The person who hurt me did not give me the hatred that I carry. The hate was there before the wound, but when it saw the wound, it moved fast. It latched on. It fed. It expanded itself.

So where did the hate come from?

I guess for everyone it's different. For me, some of it was absorbed through various environments I have passed through in my life. We are social creatures, and we pick up some of the traits of those we socialize with. Tribal adversaries and codes get absorbed through our pores. Some of it was cultivated by me. Wounded pride, resentment, missed opportunities, failures, fears...they all get mixed up together and solidify into hate.

These adversities in and of themselves do not act as properties of hate, but the mismanagement of these adversities do. Adversities pass through everyone's lives, but not everyone ends up carrying around this amorphous hatred. It's the way we look at things. It's the way we process them. Maybe we were raised by and around people who respond to adversity with hatred, so hatred is our natural tool for translating these events into our being. But we are not bound to this tool. There are other tools. Stoicism. Understanding. Empathy. Self awareness. These tools work too.

At work this month, we're doing a 'biggest loser' contest to see which staff person can lose the most weight. As I was talking to my friend during my hate-drive, I thought, maybe it's time to try another kind of diet. I'm going to try a hate diet.

I have plenty of hatred in me. Some of it is fairly easy to identify, and some of it is relatively easy to imagine recontextualizing and parting with. But I love some of it. Fantasies of revenge and justice are intoxicating. The power of hatred is singularly focusing, and there is a weird kind of protectiveness one can develop in regards to their sense of grievance. I have some hatreds that would cause me to lash out at a person who challenged their legitimacy. I am capable of taking the deepest offense at someone who is unwilling to acknowledge my sacred victimhood in certain areas. To point out a common humanity that exists between myself and my enemy, to impartially explore the possible motivations of my adversary...these are deep blasphemies.

I want to challenge these hatreds. Even the ones I love. Even the ones that have come to define me. There's no scale I can step on to tell me that I'm succeeding in my Hate Diet, so measuring success will be difficult. But I feel like I have methods. I am going to unchain myself from this spiritual weight before it irreversibly consumes me. I am going to conquer this disease before I spread it on to my own children.