If you inquire into hatred, itself, it transforms into power. You want to feel hatred, be open to it, welcome it, see what it is about. Where did it come from? What is it trying to do? …That, by itself, unfolds it to reveal the truth lying within. – Hameed Ali, Diamond Approach, Spacecruiser Inquiry
These days, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the hatred coursing through American’s political landscape. Progressives and Democrats are the first to point it out in the raucous, contemptuous, racist chants at Trump’s rallies or in his daily twitter missives aimed at the opposition. Around my progressive hometown, posters are scattered in front yards and on main street store windows with the words: “We Stand United Against Hate.” When we look at the damage and cruelty being wielded by so much of the hateful rhetoric today no doubt all this concern with hatred is more than understandable.
However, the moral stance against hatred needs to be met with a strong degree of self-honestly from those of us who are quick to vilify it. Many of us, many, are lugging around boatloads of righteous hatred ourselves. In fact, that’s one of the things the right tends to hate about us – our hypocrisy about hate.
I’ve always thought of hatred as born in the moments of utter heartache where anger, pushed to its furthest limits, is thwarted and gives up. Hatred isn’t the negation of anger, it’s high-octane, compressed anger, the combustible, incinerating power of the darkest, blackest coal. Rather than quickly hot, however, hate has an air of coolness and restraint about it, just like a deceivingly innocent piece of coal that takes time to reveal its real capacity to char the crap out of something. In this way, hatred hides in thoughts and projections that appear harmless but can crush another’s subjectivity with one, seemingly simple ‘idea’ (witness racist ideology). As such, hatred can be a wicked weapon and one that has devastating capacity when linked with mechanisms of power that seem innocuous but can have a devastating impact on people’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
But back to the troubling hypocrisy among liberals… hatred can live quite comfortably in the people who hate the haters – people whose hateful parts would – in all honestly – wipe those powerful hating assholes out in a heartbeat if they could without consequence. Hatred can operate in slick ways like this; hiding in a sense of pride and victim entitlement and, unlike anger, can more easily live outside our awareness. Like a sleeping giant, it sneaks out when we issue utterance about someone despicable who disgusts us. Before it becomes action, however, hatred is a feeling. It is not a bad feeling, but an all-too-human feeling, one that may cause more trouble when we forbid it, or act it out, than it would if we found the space and support in our lives to actually feel and explore it.
Much as anger can metabolize into strength, I learned at a new level in the first two years of Trump’s presidency that hatred – experienced with presence and awareness – has a transformational capacity. It’s not the negative 8Chan capacity that transforms lonely people into mass murderers, but something very, very different…
As I have witnessed it in myself and others, unlike anger, which can give us the strength to set boundaries, when hatred is woken up with presence, curiosity and awareness, it holds the power to dissolve boundaries all together. All-too-improbably, the conscious experience of hate is a transpersonal gift that opens a door to a profound love. Beyond the particularities of our personal history it calls us to the doorstep of humanity and to the dynamic experience of Life – of Being – writ large.
What Does Hatred Feel Like?
Some days I am more wolf than woman. And I am still learning how to stop apologizing for my wild. – Nikita Gill
After all, let’s be honest. During the first two years of Trump’s presidency I was more than angry. Way more. As each new day revealed the depth of the GOP’s silent concession to (enabling of) Trump’s dark forces, the deepening gaslighting undermining America’s grasp on the truth, caverns were getting carved out inside me packed with dynamite. Stored inside these caverns were contemptuous thoughts and feelings I barely had words for.
It wasn’t hard, though, for me to connect the dots. Hatred was a feeling sadly familiar to my childhood where gaslighting was the cultural norm of family-life. There was never a way to fight back with my father – only a mind-numbing, infuriating confusion that left me thoroughly undone. Had anger been an option in these circumstances, and my father less insecure, it might have helped me set a boundary, but instead, when my anger was expressed it was turned back towards me: “Why are you being so defensive?” my father would say after referring to me as a “human tragedy.” “I’m just trying to give you a little feedback.” These are the circumstances that compress anger into hatred – hatred was a ‘safer’ home for that energy, lodged in an encyclopedia-sized number of cynical, caustic and resentful thoughts. By the time I was in my mid-20s, I knew what it was like to hate one’s own parent… deeply.
When working with my teacher, I brought to this territory of hatred the same commitment I had given to exploring anger. Have felt enough of her support, I also explored these direct experiences on my own, cultivating my awareness of them in the car, in traffic, or during short spells of time alone during the day… sensing, looking, inquiring. Getting space from the judgments was key, (“thou shalt not hate” is a big one, no?). So, too, was focusing on my direct experience more than on the ‘others’ I hated. Having learned to trust that no experience is a ‘bad’ experience, only something asking to be seen with presence and awareness, I forged forward.
As I did so, I felt directly into how I sensed the hatred. I noticed the spite I could feel behind my eyes, the searing, pointed bitterness of it. It is not easy to feel, but continually coming back to my body, settling into the sensations, I began to see its everchanging forms.
At times, when the content was set aside, I could sense the sensation of hatred itself as a still, slick, exquisitely quiet space of pure, empty intensity. At other times it was different. It slowly billowed into eruption like a thick, black, voluminous lava swallowing anything up with its voracious, enveloping force. At other times, it felt like a pure and velvety stillness, almost impossible to describe without being dissolved in the very act of trying.
Again, in these inquiries, the McConnells and Kavanaughs surfaced, but again, I did not give them center stage. The political context was significant in bringing these feelings up, but it became less significant the more I chose to place my experience in the foreground.
Only because I had developed a sense of strength and comfort with these dark feelings was it possible to fully surrender, then, to what arose. The more I trusted the experience without judgment, the more I stayed present, the more the experience revealed itself… the more deliciously I could go mad. And I did…
A Woman’s Hatred: Kali, Maleficent Fierce
Had I lived in earlier times, I could have been burnt at the stake many times over for simply being myself. Women who rebel against what is considered normal by society—even unintentionally—have been labeled as unnatural, weird, wicked, and dangerous. Wicked women are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse. – Angelina Jolie
During one session with my teacher, deeper into the exploration of hatred, I encountered something you could describe as archetypal. Amidst the inquiry, I had the feeling of being aligned, somehow, with the energies of the darkest, most vicious witch. It’s something, in writing this, to see that the words I have to describe this encounter were that I felt “visited” or “possessed,” or like I was “channeling an energy.” We know what happened to women in the past who felt this way! But I wasn’t a witch. I was woman feeling her hatred.
And I let it happen.
Kali-fierce and teeming with destructive intent, I surrendered to this force with a ferocity coursing through my ravenous jaw and throbbing in my hands as if spells were firing off my powerful fingertips. Laugh, ye, not! I was ALIVE! Tapping into the intensity of feelings about what was happening in America, I had no trouble driving these feelings home. So powerful, all the more, to be feeling this in the company of an allowing woman, a woman who no doubt had met this energy in herself in some way, and who supported me in giving myself to the experience. There was no cheering on, no political agenda, no conscious “rallying of the sisterhood” but just pure, unflinching, grounded support for me in being with the truth of what was already here and present in me.
In this witchy state, I won’t deny it… I wanted to kill – I wanted to kill anyone who had ever hurt a woman. I wanted to kill my father for serving his ego at the expense of my dignity. It was a dimension of me that would have fought to the death to save my life (is that not understandable in a woman?) and I let that be OK.
To be clear, I had no intention to act out any of this murderous rage, but, by feeling it directly it wasn’t coming out sideways, either with veiled indignation. Anyone observing would be pressed to acknowledge I wasn’t hurting anyone, I was simply letting myself feel, in a safe context, what I felt. And, let me tell you, the pleasure in letting this dark, powerful force have its way can’t be measured! The ‘witch’ I became was pure fury, purer than fire and I let myself feel this energy spread through me in full vindication, entitled to every roiling wave it brought.
Becoming the intensity and fullness of that dark archetype – continually eradicating any judgments that (re)surfaced along the way – amounted to standing at the center of a cyclone I had feared would kill me (or someone else) my whole life. But it didn’t. No one died. In letting myself simply feel the feeling in awareness, I had survived. No, scratch that. I had mysteriously more than survived.
I was overcome in this process by something far greater than anything I could claim to be my own. Beyond the archetype or image of the witch, was the experience of riding a current of dark, powerful energy that no longer felt like hatred. It felt more like power. I felt like power – like a power that was somehow dissolving some of my deepest held beliefs about right and wrong, good and evil. It didn’t make sense. How could all those important distinctions no longer matter? But ordinary, rational, mental sense wasn’t the logic of this space. Another sense was arising.
The Women Who Then Came
I became familiar with this deep current of powerful energy, taking my time with it. Entering the domain of the witch continued to delight, but another set of images began to come forward in my mind’s eye. Images of women, like waking dreams, women of all skin colors from different parts of the world, from different times in history, emerging out of the blackness. Perhaps they were the women in the wall.
While they were not women I had personally known, they were women I somehow, at the same time, ‘knew.’ I knew they carried in them the lineage of memories of being discarded, humiliated, raped, violated, dismissed, controlled, terrified or silenced. They were women who knew hatred and had lived with it over centuries and were all too familiar with how easily it could turn against them into corrosive self-doubt.
But in their eyes, I didn’t see doubt. I could see their skin, the sheen of moisture on their forehead and cheeks, the light on each face distinct, glistening, our eyes focused on one another, one by one, in mutual recognition. These women had not been weakened and destroyed by their history and neither had they lost themselves or hardened in spite and cynicism. They were alive, powerful, richly so, validating something between us that I could feel deep in me, with me, by me, as me.
When I reflected on this experience later, and others that were similar, it seemed as if these women came to me, (or did I somehow find them?), in some energetic corridor of time and existence. It was like entering the current of red-hot strength and dark, determined power where all that unprocessed fury had been stored for hundreds and thousands of years.
In spite of the hard history I knew these faces carried, however, what I saw in these women wasn’t horrific. I could see and feel strength and beauty both in them and in myself. Without words, we saw the very definition of value in each other’s In spite of the hard history I knew these faces carried, however, what I saw in these women wasn’t horrific. I could see and feel strength and beauty both in them and in myself. Without words, we saw the very definition of value in each other’s eyes, reflecting it back on to the other.
A process that had started, then, with an inward turn towards my childhood and all the angst and fear I felt about a bombastic, domineering Donald Trump and the whole catastrophe of our times had eventually blown me wide open into something I could have hardly anticipated that touched into so much more.
The recognition came to me first faintly, but impacted me profoundly…
Compassion: The Essence of Grief
Somehow as the power in the hatred continued to dissolve distinctions, breaking down boundaries between love and hate, I become all to clear that it wasn’t just the women I had seen who had suffered through centuries of history. Rather, anyone who had not been able to see the beauty of these women, the beauty they knew in themselves – a beauty that connected to life’s beauty – had suffered like their victims. Anyone who could not see the essential dignity in the essence of these women, their vulnerability, generosity, the love and tenderness of mothers, daughters, women, wives, rape victims, servants, anyone who had disregarded their value and sanctity, had gravely denied something essential in themselves.
The knowing was immediate in that moment that the failure in any man (or woman) to see this value, this fierce, abiding human, love of our true nature reflected a failure to see the value, beauty and dignity within themselves and, furthermore, within life, itself.
It is a perplexing thing to the ordinary mind to take in that in feeling hatred I ended up finding myself connected through some deeper substrate with all the haters I had ever hated in life. Paradoxical, too, that surrendering with openness to the experience of hatred led me towards a tenderness for those whose hatred I had experienced. Somehow my father’s cruel behavior all began to feel so terribly human, so desperately rooted in his own profound insecurity as a man. His behavior was understandable from here because the love I was feeling carried so much more power than anything he may have said or done to me. It broke down the barrier between us, swallowing us both up with its indiscriminate love. It was as if I was looking through the eyes of some benevolent force seeing how all the hatred and its kissing cousin, anger, was just a desperate attempt to protect something so precious and innocent that it had become too dangerous in our ordinary functioning as humans to even acknowledge.
And this was how the experience I had with hatred transformed into something beyond ordinary boundaries and started to feel both personal and transpersonal. Something that had started with a turn towards my personal history as a girl and a woman led to this realization, a truth that was opening up through me that felt like it belonged to all of humanity and all of life. And this woman’s body? The history within it was a portal, a vessel for the expression of something boundless but, while it came through me as a woman, I felt clear that it did not belong to me because I was a woman.
This was a powerful recognition. This pure and powerful love was infused, it seemed, with all of life’s creative potential and was so ravenous, it devoured and rebirthed not just women, but everything. It was simply inconceivable that this love might discriminate based on sex or gender, race or nationality, age or ability, plant or animal! It was an equal opportunity employer – impertinently infusing everything with the gorgeous, sometimes stiller than still, sometimes fuller than full, dynamic, ever-changing aliveness of Being. It saturated everything and everyone with the purest value of Life itself, in all physical and energetic forms. In fact, there was nothing here in this experience but value – pure value. Life, my preciousness, Mitch McConnell’s original preciousness, the tenderness and openness to life I am all too aware of in my 10-year old boys, the effulgent, irrepressible birth of spring each new year, and the beauty of the current I was riding on that was revealing all this. All this Being and its enfolded wisdom was palpable – experienceable – immanent – ubiquitous – beautiful – the definition of value, itself. Seeing this, knowing just how much we have all hurt each other over time and across difference, how broken the world has felt, opened the flood gates of grief and compassion.
Tears for Homecoming
The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity. As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. – Joanna Macy
The impact of this final recognition is not easy to describe in words. Seeing the innocence, this ineffable power of life and love and all the hurt and misunderstanding that divides us, just shattered my heart. The tears that fell felt like they came from the source of all tears ever wept, welling up and overflowing in surrender to these universally human, precious and painfully penetratingly truths.
How much hurt there was in my childhood! In my father’s childhood! So much of what he had learned about how to be a man was mistaken, disconnected from his real humanity. So much distortion existed in the the childhoods of Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, their mothers and fathers, to resist the respect for this beautiful vulnerability. These feelings weren’t pity or some desire to ‘mother’ these men into salvation. Rather, from a standpoint of knowing my own strength, power and value, they amounted to the capacity to see more of them than they were able to see in themselves.
In these recognitions, it was like I had contacted an exquisitely sensitive, universal human wound that literally felt like a slash across my heart. It told the story of our loss and separation from our real value, the value of existence and consciousness, of inter-being as it lives in humans, animals, plants, mycelium, cats, parrots, boys and girls, all variations of gendered expression and skin color, immigrants from everywhere, oak and fir trees, savannah grasslands and the currents of wind that carry the rain clouds to the oceans and rivers and back again. How many years had I spent shrunken in self-doubt, negating this truer interconnection, separated from knowing, this power, as myself, in myself, present in everything! This truth the tears were bringing me back to was my birthright – not only the strength to be me, but my reconnection as value, as myself, in myself, inseparable from everything.
The tears and compassion that accompanied these layers of recognition overtook me, cracking open my heart again and again. But it wasn’t only grief. There was joy in the sadness, crying the tears of homecoming. From this tender place, the daily news feed felt utterly and tragically absurd. It wasn’t that I suddenly felt we should all join into some kumbaya moment, now, but rather that, with newfound clarity about the real nature of reality, everything looked and felt completely different. Beyond political platforms, feminist agendas, or activists marches, I found myself, changed, and asking a question in a way I had never asked it before: How in these crazy times, when the seasons were scrambling not to lose one another and children were being shot at school with assault rifles – how had we become so terribly lost?