Discovery Fit & Health
In some far-off monastery, perhaps a lone monk enjoys a life of peace, without a single hateful thought ever crossing his mind. For most of the rest of us, thinking some hateful or negative thoughts is a fact of life. According to some psychologists, we may attempt to suppress or control these thoughts, but they likely are natural byproducts of our pasts. For thousands of years, humans have relied on aggressive and brutal tactics simply to survive. Aggression and hate for people outside of one's tribe made it easier to compete for scarce resources through any means necessary [source: Hanson].
Today, most of us no longer face this level of competition for survival, so we instead apply those feelings of aggression toward anyone we perceive as different, or people who get in the way of our goals. These hateful thoughts are not only unpleasant, but also unhealthy, and can lead to increased stress and anxiety [source: UCF San Francisco].
So how can we tame our thoughts and improve our well-being? Research shows that repression doesn't work. In fact, the harder you try not to think about something, the more likely it is to pop back into your thoughts. This rebound effect is particularly common with emotional concepts, such as hate or love [source: Dean].
Research in neurobiology suggests that the human being may have a distinct hate center within the brain. In the future, it may be possible to control hateful thoughts with medication directed at this hate center, or by simply changing the way neurons associate with this part of the brain using therapeutic methods. Based on our current understanding of the brain and neuroscience, however, these techniques are beyond the capabilities of modern medicine [source: Glaser].
For now, the best way to overcome hateful thinking is through the use of inclusion and empathy. Evolution has led us to hate people who are not members of our tribes, or those who we perceive as different. To cut down on hateful thinking, focus on the things you have in common with others, rather than the ways in which you're different. Try to see yourself in the people you dislike or distrust, and recognize that any aggression you perceive on the part of others is likely based on their own evolutionary fears. This can help you to empathize rather than to hate.
Of course, some hateful thinking is unavoidable. If you've been wronged in some way, forgiveness can be the key to inner peace. If hateful thoughts reappear from time to time, acknowledge them, and then let them go. Just as you don't have to accept hate and negativity from others, you can choose to not hold on to these thoughts in your own mind.
Hatred has been proven in studies to have negative effects on your physical well-being. Physical problems, such as high blood pressure, a lowered immune system and migraines have been attributed by some experts to feelings of hatred. Realistically, we will never be able to rid ourselves of all hate-filled sentiments. Still, there are ways that hateful feelings and thoughts can be minimized in our day-to-day lives. One way to counter hatred, according to many religions, is through the practice of love and forgiveness. Another way to battle feelings of hatred, according to some psychologists, is to isolate the root causes of these feelings. Such psychologists urge people to figure out whether or not these hateful feelings are based on real circumstances. The cliché of "forgive and forget" is another key to being able to overcome hate-filled thoughts and emotions. Also of value is the ability to admit the serious emotional and physical toll such feelings exact.
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