Jun 9, 2012

"Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It’s that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive"*

I have a hard time with disliking people. Almost harder than not being liked. I’m not talking about disliking horrendous human beings . Just….you know someone you’ve gotten to know only to discover, somewhere along the way, that some of their qualities offend you, irk you or incense you enough to move past passive lack of affection and into active dislike.

I get this guilt, shame, a sense that I am not trying hard enough to see their good points. That only a needlessly shallow or judgmental would discover they really don’t like someone that is, basically, a perfectly decent human.. Do other people have this issue?

 The other day I posted the above on facebook.
And I got a lot of response. Mostly not to what I thought I posted. Most responses were around what to do with such emotions. How you treat people you don't like. How you get space from people you don't like. 
Very few approached the essence of what I thought was my point, which was more to do with how I process dislike, internally, than what I do with it externally.
And although they are undeniably linked, to confuse one with another gets you into some very unsavory business. And how not processing one can lead to handling another very poorly.
I will back up. I don't enjoy disliking people. Not just because of how I act. But because of how I feel. Yes, it stands to reason you wouldn't, and probably shouldn't like everyone. Affection is special, and expecting yourself to like every human worthy of affection is an unfair burden on yourself. 
In fact...I would conjecture that acknowledging when you appreciate, but do not enjoy anothers company goes a long way towards choosing the company you would like to keep, and keeping the appropriate, polite and considerate space from those who you may be forced to know, but might not like to foster intimacy with. 
But I am speaking of a certain ambivalence here. People who you neither like, nor dislike, but have had the privilege of getting to know. Maybe you have nothing in common. Maybe you have everything in common and a vast social circle of interconnected friends but simply lack chemistry. Who knows. And, indeed, being forced to spend lots of time with people you are ambivalent about under the pretense of affection can have other, more soul sucking and frustrating affects, but that is another post.
So there is affection. And then there is ambivalence. And then there is something far more unpleasant: active dislike. annoyance, hate, ire. Whatever you want to call it. 
It my general belief that most people are not worthy of actual hate. I mean, seldom do we break bread with Genghis Khan. Infrequently are we forced to work with or share a home with someone truly dangerous, actively evil, or even inherently so selfish and mean spirited that your average tribe would exile them. What I mean is: few seem worthy of revulsion and expulsion evil may require.
So this feeling. This feeling of active ire and dislike towards someone who just happens to process, prioritize or communicate differently....well, that strikes me as a failing of my own. I mean, yes, we may be talking about someone with true and actual character flaws. But if I were to be honest I love more than a few people with true and active character flaws. And I couldn't care less about a whole lot of other people who exhibit, well, unfortunate priorities and preferences. So, what is it about me that grows disaffection towards someone who should reasonably just foster ambivalence? What is it in me that turns frustration with a characteristic or two towards dislike for the whole individual?
I don't know. But I do know I enjoy it so little that my first instinct is denial. I try to abandon the reaction and create an effort to find empathy. I engage deeper. I get closer and closer and closer to the fire and hoping to see its beauty and hope I don't get too hot. Bad. idea.
When this fails I move onto bad idea #2: : justify all these swirling mean emotions by blaming them on the individual. Consigning greater blame to their actions and attributing greater danger to their presence. Starting, in short, a battle in my own mind in which I am the hero, and my anger is the righteous fodder. That is where things...tend to go badly.
The other day I made a mistake. in my estimation a fairly large mistake.No, not a huge mistake in the scope of my life. I didn't gamble my savings. I didn't cheat on my husband.I didn't commit a felony, gamble big and lose big.
I am speaking in a more holistic sense. I made a big mistake in assessment, I exhibited poor judgement, and effectively I exhibited a bit of cruelty.
It was not that expressing myself was wrong, or that my intentions were less than kind. It was that I left myself see myself as righteous when I was, in fact, fueling partially on good intentions, and partially on my own unreconciled distaste for another. I let my judgement of someone's behavior deprioritize their emotions too greatly.

Which is to say, I let myself consider her hurt reasonable fallout and did not even consider if there was another, better way. Something I never would have done to someone I like, or even, really was mostly ambivalent about.

Which leads me to a final thought. 
I do not believe that it is ever, ever okay to inform someone of your dislike of them unless it is the only way to get space and protect yourself. 

I do believe it key to find ways to get distance, important to establish boundaries and incredibly necessary to remove yourself from harms way. I am not saying you should bed down with those you hate.

But I do not believe that communicating your active distaste towards another needs to be, generally, part of this process. I do not believe anyone gains anything by understanding they are personally disliked. I think it is hurtful, cruel experience for most people that hinders their ability to understand what they have done by making the distaste their chief experience. And I think expressing that dislike is a way of displacing the emotion instead of truly examining why that person gets to you as much as they do.

But still I circle around to a key question again: how do we reconcile the swirl of negative emotions? How do we process distaste in a healthy way? There must be value in such reactions and a way to acknowledge the emotion and engage in self reflection and personal protection without growing the aversion?

If I knew the answer, I would be a much much finer person.

But I will say this: be wary of the part of you that wants to give action to your antipathy..that wants to blame another ...well, for anything really, but certainly for the swirl of negative emotions they produce. Go inside. Tame that beast. Because it has an appetite, and the ego will feed it if it is allowed to grow endlessly.

 *Vonnegut, Mother Night


jennifer anderson said...

great subject but a bit wordy and long. dumb it down at shorten it lol.

daff0dil said...

well,umm,...glad you could almost enjoy it