Robert J. Burrowes
If you have ever wondered why the global elite hoards their wealth instead of using it to help break down the violence and injustice in our world, I would like to suggest an answer to your question: self-hatred.
If you have ever wondered why weapons manufacturers make weapons to kill other living beings and destroy the Earth, I would like to suggest an answer to your question: self-hatred.
If you have ever wondered why politicians serve elite interests, I would like to suggest an answer to your question: self-hatred.
If you have ever wondered why a parent is violent towards their own child, I would like to suggest an answer to your question: self-hatred.
The explanation for violent and exploitative behaviors always includes self-hatred. Let me explain why.
Conscious self-hatred is an intensely unpleasant feeling to experience and, consequently, people who feel self-hatred learn to fearfully and deeply suppress their awareness of it when they are very young. Having learned to do this, subsequent opportunities for this self-hatred to be felt are progressively more easily suppressed.
I emphasise the word fearfully suppressed.
When we are a child, if our parents, teachers and/or the other adults around us are frightened by a feeling – such as sadness, anger or fear – that we are expressing, then they will use a variety of techniques to stop us expressing this feeling. They might comfort us to stop us crying, scare us out of expressing our anger (particularly at them) and reassure us so that we do not feel afraid.
Tragically, however, responses such as these have the outcome of scaring us into unconsciously suppressing our awareness of how we feel when, of course, evolutionary pressures generated emotional responses (some pleasant, some less so) to events in our life in order to help guide us into behaving appropriately at any given moment. And this suppression of how we feel is disastrous if we want children to grow up behaving functionally. This has been more fully explained in ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
So where does self-hatred fit into all of this? Well, if a child is angry in response to some violence to which they are being subjected (usually, of course, in an attempt to control their behavior), then they will attempt to defend themselves against this violence in an effort to persevere with their original intention.
However, if the child is then terrorized into submission by a parent or other adult (by being threatened with or experiencing some form of violence, often given the less accurate label of ‘punishment’) the child will be compelled to unconsciously suppress their awareness of the original feelings, including anger, that were generating their behavior.
Unfortunately, there is a heavy cost to this suppression because each child is genetically programmed to follow their own self-will (manifesting through such mental functions as thoughts, feelings and conscience) rather than to obey the will of another (whether it be parent, teacher, religious figure or anyone else).
Hence, if a child is successfully terrorized into not behaving in accordance with their own self-will, they will experience a strong feeling of self-hatred precisely because they have submitted, out of fear, to the will of another.
This feeling is so unpleasant, however, and because children are systematically terrorized out of expressing and acting on most of their feelings (which is why 100% of children go to school wherever school is available and compulsory), the feeling of self-hatred is suppressed along with these many other feelings.
An unconscious feeling does not ‘go away’ however; it is unconsciously projected onto something else. Suppressed self-hatred is virtually always unconsciously projected as hatred of someone else or some other group (usually of another sex, race, religion or class) often in imitation of the violent parent/adult. And this inevitably leads to destructive behaviors towards that individual or group.
Consider, for example, the case of Charles and David Koch whose self-hatred is readily apparent, and for good reason.
The best known Koch brothers are two of four brothers. Tragically, for the Koch brothers, their father Fred was a very violent man. See, for example, ‘Inside the New Book That’s Giving the Koch Brothers a Heart Attack’.
Utterly terrified by their father’s violence and understandably lacking the courage to resist him, the Koch brothers submitted to his violence. As explained above, this had the outcome of filling them with self-hatred. But given the unpleasantness of this feeling and with no-one providing a safe listening space so that their terror and self-hatred could be felt consciously (and thus ‘let go’ once they had been felt) they had no choice but to suppress their awareness of both their terror and self-hatred.
However, as previously indicated, no feeling can be suppressed out of existence: instead, it is unconsciously projected elsewhere and generates destructive behavior. So the unconscious terror and self-hatred of the Koch brothers are projected as fear of and hatred for other living beings as well as the Earth, and manifests as behavior that is destructive (of themselves, others and the planet).
So why do the Koch brothers ruthlessly exploit other people and the planet, and fund initiatives such as those related to climate denial?
Because they were terrorized out of being angry with their father when they were children, leaving them powerless against his violence. Consequently, they have been consumed by their unconscious self-hatred but now fearfully project this onto life itself.
Emotionally speaking, Charles and David Koch are badly damaged little boys who just got bigger and now look like adults. Unconsciously, they live every day cowering in terror and self-hatred from their father’s violence.
Unfortunately, as you might have realized by now, the Koch brothers are far from alone in suppressing and projecting their self-hatred. US Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are further obvious examples of individuals in this category. By now though you should have a clear idea of how to identify others for yourself. The tragic reality is that it takes very little violence to terrorize a child and this is why a substantial proportion of the human population is consumed by their own self-hatred. Consider the people immediately around you: many spend most of their time, consciously or unconsciously, abusing themselves, others and/or the environment.
Self-hatred is not easily avoided although it is not necessarily all-consuming. But to be free of it completely requires just one thing: the fearlessness to love oneself truly. What does this mean?
To love yourself truly, you must always courageously act out your own self-will, whatever the consequences. This requires you to feel all of your emotional responses – fear, sadness, anger, pain, joy, love … – to events, including impediments, in your life. It is only when you do this that you can behave with awareness: a synthesis of all of the feedback that your various mental functions give you and the judgments that arise, in an integrated way, from this feedback. See ‘Human Intelligence or Human Awareness?’.
At first glance loving yourself and acting out your own self-will might sound selfish. But it is not. Self-love is true love. The individual who does not truly love themself cannot love another. Nor will they feel such emotional responses as compassion, empathy and sympathy. Hence, this individual will not seek mutually beneficial outcomes in tackling conflict, will not seek distributive justice in resource allocation and will not value ecological sustainability. It is this individual, like the Koch brothers, who is so full of terror and self-hatred who will act selfishly.
If you love yourself enough to be part of the struggle to end the violence and exploitation of those who are full of self-hatred, you might like to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.
Those who are full of self-hatred never will.
Biodata: Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is [email protected] and his website is here.