I get some interesting emails as a columnist and psychotherapist. Here’s one on a subject you might not expect:
I’m a hater. I really hate the religious right, most Republicans and all those Focus on the Family morons. I try to be a “spiritual” person and see the best in everyone, but these people are just plain evil. And I really hate all those right-wing, old, white hetero male war-mongers on Fox News. What can I do to stop being such a hater?
Fed Up in University Heights
Dear Fed Up:
I rarely get letters as conscious as yours…most people just enjoy creating a scapegoat for their wrath and wonder why they are so angry and tense. I applaud you for your self-awareness and wanting to “stop being such a hater”.
The first place to stop the insanity is in your own thoughts. And it ain’t easy when you listen to the news. With all the death, doom, disaster and homophobia out there, this world needs all the kindness and wisdom it can get. Sounds good, but how do we get from feeling pissed off at Fox News to being kind and generous to even the folks at Focus on the Family, bless their (deluded) little souls.
Albert Camus said: “We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, our ravages. Our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to transform them in ourselves.”
Unleashing our hatred only brings us misery; while the people we hate are probably off at the beach, drinking margaritas and having a good time. If you find yourself starting to “hate” someone, try this exercise:
- Realize that you’ve chosen someone to scapegoat. This allows you to focus on what they are doing wrong so you don’t have to look at yourself.
- Have compassion for your hating little self; you’re a good person AND you feel hatred at times. This is normal. Allow yourself to consciously feel it and physically express it so you get it out of your body and mind. Try the gym, running, dancing, yelling in your car, hitting pillows or screaming along with your favorite angry song. Get that hatred out of your body!
- Once your mind and body have released some of this “hatred”, now you have some mental space for something else.
Have you ever been tempted to send some politician an a hateful email? Me too, but, I realized, it wouldn’t accomplish much. So, I swallowed my bile, hit the gym (hard) and then sent some version of this:
Dear President/Senator/Difficult Person:
I write to you regarding ——————–.
This issue is important to me because —————-.
While I respect your point of view, please consider —————–.
Close with something gracious, like “I send my best regards to you and your loved ones” or “Thank you for considering my opinion.”
I use this format to email politicians and anyone in power that I want to communicate with. I try to embody the qualities that I hope they will come to embody.
If we want to stay sane and calm while staying connected to and involved with the external world of news and politics, we need to find ways to quiet our mind and open our hearts.
Releasing hatred and finding peace doesn’t mean that you just stop caring about changing the world. But, how can be bring about positive change if we’re not living that change in our own lives? We can’t create scapegoats for our wrath and then congratulate ourselves on how loving and kind we are. That’s not the way it works.
We can help to stop all the wars in the world by quieting the wars that we start and encourage in our own lives, with our friends, family and coworkers.
Ask yourself: what can I do as a member of my community/city/country to bring peace in these war-filled times? It might be registering people to vote, or working politically, or making our LGBT vision heard in organizations of power. It might include working with children, or helping to create a local business climate of responsibility and integrity, or tending to homophobia, poverty and racism in our own community.
Don’t be a hater, it doesn’t help you or the world. Stop scapegoating people and find a way to bring peace into your own life, into your community and the world-at-large. You have nothing to lose but your hate (and your high blood pressure).