Hatred is a relatively stable feeling of intense dislike for another person, entity, or group. Hatred is distinct from short-lived feelings such as anger and disgust. While some forms of animosity may only manifest briefly and mildly, hatred is a form of active, ongoing hostility that often uses up significant emotional energy. When someone feels hatred for another person, they often spend much of their time fixating on their anger, contempt, or dislike of the other person.
Why Do People Hate?
Hate is part of the range of human emotions. Some researchers believe all people have the capacity to hate, while others believe true hatred is uncommon. What does seem clear is that hatred tends to emerge as a learned emotion that flourishes in the absence of compassion.
Feelings of hatred or intense emotional dislike develop for many reasons. People might begin to hate another person or group when they:
- Feel envy or want what the other person has. They may consider it unfair that someone has what they lack.
- Have contempt for another person or believe them to be inferior.
- Learn hatred from parents, their community, or other social groups.
- Are humiliated or mistreated by another person.
People also hate when they feel powerless. Rather than turning their anxiety and shame inward, they may project that negativity onto an external target. In some cases, people who experience bullying or abuse may grow to hate the person who harmed them.
In other cases, a target is hated more for what they represent than for specific actions they have taken. Individuals may believe the target of their hatred has harmful intentions toward them and would hurt them if they could. However, the target may not necessarily have hostile intentions, or the hatred may be disproportional to the injury.
For example, a student may hate a teacher who failed them in a class. The teacher may not have any hostility for the student and could simply be doing their job. However, the student may use the teacher as a stand-in for their frustration with academia as a whole. This hatred may prompt the student to try and harm the teacher, perhaps by spreading false rumors or sending a vicious email.
Hatred and Dehumanization
Studies on hatred suggest it tends to persist. Prolonged hatred may lead to a desire for revenge or preemptive action against a perceived threat. Some people harbor hatred for others but never act on it. Others become energized by hate and express their feelings through violent acts.
Feelings of hatred that develop toward certain a certain individual may eventually be redirected toward the entire group that person belongs to. This can lead to dehumanization of individuals or groups. Dehumanization is the act of seeing a person as inferior, uncivilized, or less than human.
Dehumanization research suggests that when people see others as less than human, empathy centers in the brain deactivate. For example, people who commit mass violence, cruelty, or hate crimes often rationalize these actions by comparing the victims to animals. Individuals who would typically balk at murdering another person may find it easier to kill a “subhuman” enemy.
How to Cope When You Are Hated
Coping with hatred can be difficult, especially when there’s no apparent cause for the hatred. You may wonder how someone can have such deep, negative feelings toward you. Believing someone hates you can affect your mood, mental health, and self-esteem.
Remember that people make mistakes. Someone you’ve hurt won’t always be able to forgive you. However, if you regret the action, consider how to learn and grow from what happened so that you don’t hurt anyone else.If someone hates you because they feel wronged by you, it’s possible you want to reach out to them. You may wish to discuss their feelings, apologize, or make the situation clear. This could help when someone is merely angry with you, but when it comes to hatred, it may be difficult to have a calm, rational discussion with the other person.
Taking a trusted friend or loved one with you can help. Getting advice from someone unbiased (like a licensed counselor) can also help put the situation in perspective. Depending on the circumstances, it may be best not to engage the other person.
If a coworker’s hatred for you affects your performance at work or even causes difficulties outside of work, Human Resources can give you advice or direct you to workplace resources.
When you’ve been threatened, or even if you just feel unsafe, you may want to seek advice from law enforcement. If you’re working with a therapist, it may help to start by talking through the situation openly in a therapy session. Your therapist can help you explore helpful solutions and offer support.
Internalized hatred can cause significant harm. In some cases, internalized self-hatred results from experiencing prejudice (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc.). Negative beliefs become a part of your internal experience, leading you to judge and criticize yourself according to the stereotypes society assigns you.
Self-hatred can also result from mistakes you’ve made. If you’ve hurt a loved one and lost a close relationship as a result, you may feel painful regret. You may also come to develop hatred toward yourself.
Many people judge themselves harshly, especially when feeling guilty for something they’ve done. If forgiveness from your loved one isn’t possible, or if you’re afraid to seek it, your feelings may intensify. Self-hatred can contribute to depression. It could also factor into self-harm or other attempts to punish the self.
Remember that people make mistakes. Someone you’ve hurt won’t always be able to forgive you. However, if you regret the action, consider how to learn and grow from what happened so that you don’t hurt anyone else. Just as compassion is the key to overcoming hatred, self-compassion can help heal self-hatred.
Developing self-compassion isn’t always easy. A compassionate counselor can help without judging you for any mistakes you may have made in the past. Therapy can help you find support and healing for all types of hatred.
- Blaszczak-Boxe, A. (2017, March 7). How the dehumanization of certain groups leads to a ‘vicious cycle’ of hate. Live Science. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/58154-how-dehumanization-leads-to-vicious-cycle-of-hate.html
- Fischer, A., Halperin, E., Canetti, D., & Jasini, A. (2018, August 2). Why we hate. Emotion Review, 10(4). Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1754073917751229
- Gaylin, W. (2003). Hatred: The psychological descent into violence. New York, NY: PublicAffairs Books.
- JonesPatulli, J. (2017). Why we hate others. Human Systems Dynamics Institute. Retrieved from https://www.hsdinstitute.org/resources/Why_we_hate_others.html
- Navarro, J. I. (2013). The psychology of hatred. The Open Criminology Journal, 6(1), 10-17. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273482719_The_Psychology_of_Hatred
- Prelinger, E. (2004). Thoughts on hate and aggression. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 59(1), 30-43. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16240605
- Resnick, B. (2017, March 7). The dark psychology of dehumanization, explained. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/3/7/14456154/dehumanization-psychology-explained
Last Updated: 05-13-2019
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DonnaAugust 15th, 2019 at 9:07 AM
I have a friend who hates another person with a passion because of a racial comment he made two years ago regarding Jews and she is Jewish. The comment wasn’t directed at her, he was talking to someone else. She heard it and interjected with a comment. Needless to say she has been harboring this hatred toward him since then. My husband and I have no ill feelings towards this man and his wife. I don’t agree with what he said and I think it was a rude and stupid thing to say. Anyway, 2 years have passed and her hatred is like a poison. My husband and I went to dinner with this man and his wife. When we came home she came over to my house and started berating me at the top of her lungs for going to dinner with “that man”, asking me about loyalty in friendship. We have been close friends for 45 years, our children grew up together and are still in contact with one another. I went to her house to try and talk about it and all she did was scream about how horrible this man is. Her husband said this is not a good time to talk about it. I went home devastated and just broke down crying. Her friendship means the world to me but I’ve never been a person to harbor hatred. I don’t know how or what to say to her and I’m looking for help.
CLETUSSeptember 4th, 2019 at 9:59 PM
KateMay 23rd, 2020 at 7:50 AM
Can’t we respect people’s hatred?
IcestormshadowAugust 2nd, 2020 at 5:04 AM
That’s like asking someone if they can respect a thorny greenbriar vine wrapped around them, taking it off and yeeting it away from you is the least harmful to said person. Similarly, the way to “respect” it would be to remove that person from your life
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