Is there an antidote to hatred? Spoiler alert! The answer is a definite “Yes!” And, it’s contagious. Chances are you’ve even been a carrier. So, what is it? And what makes people so hateful?
Especially here in the United States, with last week’s first anniversary of the racial altercations in Charlottesville, Virginia, hate, especially hate rooted in racism, has been a big topic of conversation and media attention. And it’s not only those deemed racist who are capable of hatred.
Somehow in all of this mess, hating racists has become a virtue to some who would never condone hating anyone else. And, ironically, they don’t even recognize they are exhibiting hatred themselves.
What Makes People So Hateful?
That’s what happens when we humans fall prey to fear, or to any emotion that is so negative it triggers our fight, flight, or freeze reaction. Poof! Without even realizing it, we have moved into the amygdala, that part of our brain that perceives everything as a lion, or some other deadly predator. Yes, we 21st century humans are reacting to hatred like our earliest ancestors reacted to tigers and bears. Neuroscientists will tell you that this natural reaction was designed to keep us safe. But now, left un-checked, this reaction threatens our civility and some say our democracy. So, how do we move out of the amygdala?
The Antidote to Hatred
Well, assuming there is no real threat to physical safety, we consciously shift from fear to an emotion with a higher vibration, like love, or appreciation, or compassion. Yes, it is that simple. And with practice, it actually can become fairly easy. Research from the Institute of HeartMath™ shows that when we focus on the area around our heart, think of something that evokes a feeling like love or compassion, and imagine we are breathing that positive emotion through our heart, our elevated heart rhythms shift us into the pre-frontal cortex, or the part of our brain that can see things more clearly.
A Heart Centered Practice
The Institute even offers a free e-book, “Science of the Heart” that explains the process. HeartMath research also shows that these positive feelings are contagious, which means a person who is feeling hate could catch your feelings of compassion more quickly than a cold. And, not only are positive feelings contagious, so are negative emotions, which I suspect you already knew. This is exactly how basically loving people find themselves hating “the haters” before they know what’s happened to them.
So, if compassion can move us into the clear-thinking part of our brains, can it also have an impact on racism? Well, according to former white supremacist leader Christian Picciolini, the compassion of his customers was key to his ascent out of Neo-Nazi hatred.
In his TED Talk, Christian tells us how he wasn’t born into hate, but found his way there thanks to a white supremacist who filled the void unintentionally created by parents working multiple jobs.
He explains that at 14 he felt marginalized and bullied, and this guy gave him a sense of belonging and identity. And he describes his way back – his redemption — and how he now allows compassion and “pot holes” to guide his work coaching others to leave the white supremacy movement.
Change Begins Within
So, it turns out that the Beatles are right. Love is all you need. Yes, peace on Earth really does begin with each of us. And, compassion is an antidote to hatred that spreads one heart at a time. We just need to be carriers — whether we know we are in the moment doesn’t seem to matter.
Are you ready to live your life with more lightness and freedom?
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