PETER MICHAELSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many haters of Barack Obama claim his policies are stifling their freedom. In fact, they dislike him because he's a shining example of what they refuse to become—a civil, considerate, rational, and powerful (in his own self) human being. They want to tear him down so he doesn't make them feel so personally inadequate.
It's like this the world over. Many Pakistanis resent 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who won the European Union's human rights award after surviving a Taliban assassin, because she campaigns for women's educational opportunities. A friend of hers said, "Here in Swat, we have seen the hell that is Taliban rule. And yet, some people still say they would much rather side with the Taliban than Malala. Sometimes people never learn."
Stubbornly resentful people like these hang out in the company of a tenacious trio: denial, resistance, and willful ignorance. They cling to their limited sense of self, embrace the status-quo, and stifle their own inner growth. They are inclined to dislike if not hate anyone who, unlike them, is not suffocating from closed minds and hearts.
Hateful people are beguiled by self-image and diminished by self-centeredness. They can't bring themselves to step out from behind an ego-centered mentality that cuts them off from an appreciation of (and emotional connection to) their own deeper humanity and the people around them. Their ego, which demands allegiance to its self-importance, is experienced as their core or essence. Their only reverence is for the sanctity of self-image. Their hatred is for those who discount this "religion."
They're willing to sacrifice you—toss you out of their life—rather than meet you halfway. They're prepared to destroy democracy and civilization rather than humbly accept their place in the family of humanity. In defense of their intransigence, they sometimes say words to this effect: "Look, I am what I am. Either you like it or you don't. Take it or leave it."
Such a statement is defensive, evasive, and cruel. Yes, of course we want to accept others as they are, faults included. But often stubborn people can be very difficult to like because of their emotional remoteness, negativity, and self-defeating behaviors. Acceptance by them is conditional: we have to swallow their crap. We would like to see them change for the better. Yet they refuse to let go of the conflicted, self-pitying perceptions that produce their misery.
Stubborn resentful people often harbor the impression that they're not accepted as they are. But because they're not connecting more deeply with their authentic self, they are, in this sense, not accepting themselves. They experience distress and anxiety as a result, often in the form of self-doubt and inner fear. Yet they stubbornly cling to what they know best, namely their suffering self: "Better the little self I know than the mysterious stranger I don't."
How do we deal with them? We need to be strong and insightful. Don't let them get away with the "I-am-what-I-am" refrain. Let them know their position expresses fear of encountering their own better self. Don't let them get away with expressions of hatred. Let them know that beneath their rage they're determined to indulge in feelings of being shortchanged, overlooked, insignificant, and defeated.
(Photo: TSGT James Burnette)
Peter Michaelson is a psychotherapist in private practice in Plymouth, Michigan. He blogs at www.WhyWeSuffer.com.