Random Attack

I try not to give any energy or focus to ‘negativity’; it seems to have enough power already. Also, I don’t want any of it boomeranging back to me if I can avoid it. Having said that, it’s a fine line between avoiding hateful people and situations, and feeling the urge to say something. Maybe…just maybe…by saying something, could words become a pebble in a pond, sending ripples out to those who need to hear the message?

As I write my Blog posts, and re-read what I write, I realize how important humility is. In the writing process; in the whole Interweb atmosphere (which I’m still learning); and in the Life Experience arena. Like that insane (because it seems to be everywhere) YouTube advert that starts with, “Who am I, to write a book?!” Downplay self-doubt, believe in what you have to say, and hope that others will want to pay for the pleasure of reading your writing. Which makes Blogging so liberating for me:  it’s a forum for self-expression and sharing what might be common themes in Life, for others to learn, or get a smile from. The satisfaction is not in payment or props (and might never be, which is “ok”).

So this was the mindset behind a recent trip to another social media site, where the discussion in progress happened to be Relationships. (In my view, Relationships are the Center of the Universe.) I made a short entry on the site, which had to do with the all-important-relationship that we have with Ourselves. Self- Love, and Self-Care.  Not a new concept, but so under-estimated in value. “For me”, anyway, which is always my disclaimer when I share thoughts about sensitive topics.

Surprisingly, there was an immediate ‘chat’ back to my Post. Astonishingly negative, hateful and sarcastic. The icy-aura that television ghost-hunters say they walk into, in an empty, but so unhappy house. It  surrounded me in a swirl of cold colors that felt like a nasty bruise:  the deep-tissue, really painful kind that transition from purple to red to yellow. I was the one getting cyber-punched in the face, and I suddenly said out loud, with only the cat listening, “So…this is a ‘Troll’. This is what’s ‘out there’; this is the utter misery in the hearts of some people. This ( social media) might be the only outlet for this person’s incredible pain.”

I’m not naïve. In my career, I’ve had many instances where unhappy (and clinically ill, on several levels) people have vented toward or at me. I can think of only twice where I knew that actual harm could be inflicted if I didn’t take some action. On social media, however, an ‘attack’ is somehow stranger and more disturbing than an angry face and loud voice in real time. The quietness of written expression, but the screaming of the words themselves. Even though I knew what I’d written was benign, it was a clear Trigger for the person responding. A reminder for me of several things; but, most importantly, never to assume we’re all on the same page; or even in the same book, when it comes to the Human Experience.

I didn’t apologize; there was no reason to. I didn’t keep ‘talking’; there was nothing to say. But I came away from the experience feeling like I’d traveled to a new country, ventured into a sketchy part of a major city at twilight, let my guard down, and experienced the consequences. I can full stop and call the World ‘crazy’, or appreciate what just made me a better Traveler.

Leave Hate Alone

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I can still remember the day my teenaged son screamed “I hate you!”:  three words that totally gut-punched me and shut down the argument we were having about his extremely poor choices (for the record, the kind that threaten life and limb). I was standing my ground, holding firm, sticking to the tenets of Tough Love. Until those three words eviscerated me. Feeling almost mortally wounded, I retreated. I’ve never forgotten how that felt.

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Whether we’re on the receiving end of Hate, or delivering Hate, the result is the same, as far as our bodies are concerned. In his book, “The Biology of Belief”, Dr. Bruce Lipton talks about the mind-body connection and the changes brought-about on a cellular level by negative emotions (giving or receiving). Lipton’s not the first (and won’t be the last) to connect the dots between human emotion and overall well-being.

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Anger – whether it’s impulsive, or becomes a lifestyle – is particularly harmful in the way it slowly corrodes our delicate internal systems. Lipton’s studies are too fascinating, too important, and much too data-detailed  (he’s a scientist, first and foremost) to summarize here. Instead, I’ll just share that Lipton’s one of my main Go-To’s,  when I’m struggling to understand hateful people.  

Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) is another ‘giant’ in this area. Although she’s probably best known for her theory of The Five Stages of Grief, what I often — especially lately, here in the United States– “consult” (in my own head, anyway!) with her on is this:   when it comes to human emotions, there are really only two:  Love, and Fear.

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We know a lot about Love:  what it feels like, what it can do in our lives and in the World; how our bodies ‘float’ when we engage in pure acts of love toward other people, animals, Nature and our own Planet Earth. There’s no mistaking authentic Love. Even the superficial, media-created (think: films and TV) versions of ‘Love’– often cheesy and formulaic – can still be charming and sweet in their attempt to ‘copycat’ the Real Thing. What is harder to get a handle on is Fear, because it wears a few disguises: Hate being one of them  (Kübler-Ross, by the way, adds ‘anxiety’ and ‘guilt’ as other “masks” worn by Fear).

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When I consider the times in my life that I’ve encountered Hate, of course it’s always been a hateful person or hateful people:  animals don’t hate. That may seem like an idiotic observation, but I mention animals to make a distinction between what happens when Fear dons the mask of Aggression, versus when it shows itself as Hate. Fear can cause animals and people to feel threatened and go into offensive-mode.

But Hate is entirely different:  hate is a choice. Hate takes the normal survival-instinct of Fear and shoots one thousand volts of aggressive current through the body so that ‘fending off a predator’ is no longer the primary goal:  mental, emotional and even physical annihilation is.  And great suffering is a desirable part of the process.

How do we cope with hateful people? Is there a way of reaching their hearts, soothing their fears, disarming their need to inflict pain? I can only speak from experience and share what I know about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of this thinking. In my own family relationships, I came to the conclusion that, sometimes – regrettably — Fear appears more powerful than Love.

actor Malcolm McDowell as the despot Caligula

The Roman emperor Caligula, known for his extreme sadism and brutality, is supposed to have said, “I don’t care if [the People] love me, so long as they fear me!”  Some people, it seems to me, would much rather be feared than loved. Instilling fear in others equates with power, for these types. When powerful people (who have the ability to influence your happiness, sense of safety, stability and general welfare) decide to mobilize their own insecurities in hate-filled ‘attacks’, there’s really no reaching them.

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Kübler-Ross says that Love and Fear are mutually-exclusive:  they can’t co-exist at the same time. We must always – therefore – choose to operate from one or the other. In countering Hate, it seems to me that the only strategy is to acknowledge (actively, demonstrably) that Love is the better option. But since Hate is in full-body armor in our World today, Love must shield itself also, while remaining fully ‘present’ and steadfast, in a genuine struggle for Survival. It really doesn’t matter to me if you’d prefer to call Love’s armor God, the Universe, Allah, Jehovah, Divine Spirit, Gaia, or something else. As long as we stand together under one of Love’s many names, I’m with you.

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