I rarely mix therapy with politics, but we are at a very dangerous precipice in our international history.
Hate has always existed. This has always mystified me. Why? And what are the predicating factors involved in the creation and sustainability of hatred? What is it about, really, and what can be done to diminish its destructive power?
By now we have all heard about the tragic events in Charlottesville. The ugliest head of hatred rose up again toward individuals simply because they were “other’’ and this resulted in violence and death. This incident has been hashed and rehashed in the media and will soon fade away like so many similar horrific incidents in our recent and not so recent past. The ongoing phenomenon remains. Hate and violence don’t seem to go away.
Carol Anderson, professor of African American Studies at Emory College, posed a very interesting theory in an interview I saw recently. She suggests that perhaps hatred is an addiction. At first I was adverse to the idea because it hasn’t been mentioned in addiction literature that I’m aware of. But the more I listened, the more it made sense to me. Just as rage can have addictive qualities, so might hatred share many of the same qualities. Both are based on irrational thinking; they both share adrenaline-related proprieties and appear to be based in victor mentality.
The question remains, though, how does this human emotion-driven behavior get treated? What, if anything can those of us in the mental health field do to effectively respond to or treat this infectious and devastating malady? There is no definitive answer to this and may not ever be. But I believe that the question remains valid and worth our ongoing pursuit. I think we have the best shot as a profession, to provide some answers.
In response to the most recently publicized display of targeted hatred, President Obama shared the popular tweet, “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…”
I believe that therapists have an unique opportunity and skill set to help engage clients in the experiencial understanding of love in its purest form, respect. We can provide the path necessary to begin shifting the paradigm of hatred to genuine caring, kindness and respect toward others.
Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.