The fear prelude.
A wise and powerful old alien once said that “Fear is the path to the dark side.” You know, because fear leads to anger then hate then suffering and all of a sudden you’re wearing a creepy black breathing apparatus or shooting blue lightning from your fingertips and trying to blow planets to bits.
I’ve been mulling over this idea of Yoda’s for some time, attempting to write this grand essay crushing the evil force that is fear…but I couldn’t, try as I might. First I thought, “Well, you obviously can’t write something about conquering the Fear Menace because you’re a sissy and have no place writing about something you can’t fully grasp.” (That was an interesting stage for in my life). Then I realized the truth: I couldn’t write an essay that hinged on destroying fear when fear isn’t usually a bad thing. Fear is simply a chemical reaction in the brain, one of our most primal functions biologically devised to keep us alive and fully functional. It’d be like writing about the terrors of feeling hunger. Sure, some people overdo it with their food intake but all in all knowing when you should nourish yourself ain’t half bad.
Fear is inherently a necessary or even good thing, but loses much of it’s usefulness in the part it plays in two specific areas. The first is as an inhibitor in one’s quest to become their ideal self. This is the sort of fear that keeps you from approaching that sexy vixen on the other side of the room; the fear that figures you might as well settle for one school because the chances are so absurdly small that you’ll even get into your dream school that you don’t even try. It’s really easy to blame poor ol’ fear, but the true troublemaker is a lack of self-esteem or an unclear idea of one’s goals. The second area in which fear becomes a problem is as a springboard toward hate. But as with the example above, fear is not completely the issue here (I’m the last guy who will question the wisdom of Yoda, but dude’s oversimplifying). The origins of hate are more a matter of psychological processing than a simple emotional reaction. I’ll spend the remainder of this prelude looking at these origins and the part that fear has to play.
The Anger Suite.
Before we go diving headfirst into hatred, I think it’d be beneficial to define it. And to do so I’d like to compare it to its close buds anger and rage, the three main components of what I like to call “The Anger Suite.”
On one end of the suite is anger itself. Anger is a strong, but basic reaction to a perceived wrongdoing; a person, place, thing, or event that has provoked the other into a feeling of discomfort and great displeasure. It can be overwhelming to the point of negatively effecting one’s rational thought processes, often causing one to act out against the catalyst (or anything within reach, really) in varying levels of vengeance.
Like fear mentioned before, as well as sadness and any other feelings falling under “emotional pain,” it’s a natural human response meant to alert you that something is wrong and a resolution is needed in order to return you to a state of contentment. This works identically to physical pain where the sharp sting of holding your hand in a fire is your body telling you to get it out of there. And, like physical pain, allowing anger to linger results in escalating and sometimes irreparable discomfort.
This is where hate comes in. Hate is what happens when one hangs on to the anger. The anger plants roots and becomes less of a passing warning and more a constant presence in one’s life. Hatred runs deep. It’s got all the downsides of anger but even more so. Maintaining it results in a constant flow of stress and frustration which causes more anger which inflates the hatred. Where anger provides negative motivation in the moment (to throw something or punch someone in the face), hatred births constant motivation that borders on (and might eventually achieve) obsession. The catalyst and its removal or transformation to something more acceptable are never far from the forefront of the hater’s mind. The greater the hate, the greater the lengths one will go to achieve this goal.
Finally, rage. Summoned by a catalyst that causes an especially high level of anger, rage comes on powerful and reactive. Blinding in that it cancels rational thought and a clear sense of time and space, rage causes the sorts of situations that leads people to plead “temporary insanity” in courts of law. Due to the amount of energy this emotion needs to erupt, it tends to have the greatest short-term destructive potential of The Anger Suite but lasts the shortest amount of time. Rage isn’t the most common thing out there, but it’s worth mentioning in that it’s a very real concern and feelings of hatred brings the threat of it closer to boil.
Hate me. Fear me.
Hate based purely in anger is a pretty easy concept to grasp. You hate the guy who murdered your fiance. You hate yourself for having never really applied yourself, resulting in a life you are wholly dissatisfied with. The solution here is forgiveness of self, of others. I talk about this at length in my last post, Forget-Me-Nots: The Art of Letting Go.
Our friend Yoda tells us that fear leads to hate, but how? I mean, the very biology behind fight or flight offers a very simple choice: fight OR flight. Anger OR fear. One doesn’t lead to the other. They are polarized options…right? Initially, sure, but anger is a reaction to a perceived wrongdoing…and the thing that pushes one into a state of fear is, more often than not, perceived immediately as “wrong.” Sure we’re afraid of the guy in the ski mask coming at us with a chainsaw , but we hate him for it, too. We hate him for disrupting the relative good that our existence allowed us. We hate him for exposing our perceived weakness (read: fear). Dealing with is it like dealing with any hurt you feel (I direct you once again to my last post). Of course, making sure you’re out of continued harm’s way comes first. It IS a man with a chainsaw after all.
Perceive it. Believe it. The end?
Perception is everything. Molded by nature, molded by nurture, it can be guessed at based on one’s biology or society (sometimes quite accurately so), but is inherently a very intimate, personal thing. How we perceive something dictates how we interact with it; react to it. Skydiving unlocks exhilaration in an adrenaline-junkie and utter terror in an acrophobe (someone afraid of heights). Going a blind date excites lovers of surprise and produces apprehension in those who fear the unknown. A guy with a chainsaw would cause most to wet themselves, but it’s really no big deal if you’ve got Yoda’s skill set.
How you perceive something shapes your feelings toward it. And in the vein of this essay, perceiving something as alarming will cause us to fear it and whether that fear grows into terror or hate (both are no way to live) is up to us dealing with it in a way that does not exacerbate the fear or anger, but instead removes it from the entire equation. Understanding and compassion are the key.
Onto the main event…
This is just the intro. I focused heavily on some basic ideas and lightly touched upon the ones we’ll hit in the main event coming up. A major part of a society, of a culture, is the existence of a moral code; a general consensus of what’s right and what’s wrong. This significantly shapes the perception of its people and therefore shapes their fear- and anger- triggers as well. This becomes quite interesting when one member of society is viewed as “wrong” or “different” by certain others for various reasons. Maybe they’re an axe murderer or from a different race or alcoholic or gay. Some people can’t see the moral differences between two or four or any of these descriptors and so the seeds of hate are sewn.
Of course, the axe murderer is willfully destroying other people. He is wrong. The alcoholic is willfully destroying his or herself. He is wrong. But animosity toward those of a different race, gender, sexual orientation, certain cultural traditions…this sort of hate is another thing altogether. And so we call it prejudice, a human trait wrongly perceived as wrong…and so a grave wrong itself. It is a great destroyer of things. Of lives. Of peace. Of love.
It is the sole focus of the remainder of “The Origin of Hate.”