Existential Psychology

Love And Hate

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“Psychoanalytic investigation has shown that in mental patients excessive affection often turns to violent hostility.”
– Karl Abraham

How often have you heard of couples who started out passionately hating each other only to fall madly in love? And how many divorcees, once madly in love, now hate each other with a violent passion? How many people, once good friends, are now the bitterest of enemies? The line between love and hate is blurrier than many of us like to think, and actually neuroscience is showing that the same neuropathways are used for these seemingly polar opposite emotional states.

From an existential standpoint it makes sense because what we are really dealing with, in cases of intense love and intense hatred, is passionate involvement with the object of your emotion. In this sense love and hatred are similar entities and their opposite is  disinterest, a non-caring attitude where what is going on with the other doesn’t overly concern you.

If someone has irrevocably wronged you, then paradoxically the best revenge is probably to disengage and stop caring about them completely rather than holding on to a burning hatred, because your hatred signifies that they are still very much alive in your mind and heart, that they still exert a strong influence on how you think and act in the world. They still walk beside you even if they are no longer in your physical space.

Is it better to feel hatred or nothing at all? Actually when you consider that the same neuropathways are used for love and hate and that both signify passionate engagement with the other, another path opens up to you, one that all the spiritual teachers have taught in one form or another, which is to love your enemies. It might not be as hard as it seems on the surface because there is something about them that draws strong passion out of you and depending on the circumstances you might find that love is the more appropriate response.