Don’t Let Anger Turn to Hate

By Katherine Baker, Courier & Press, January 20, 2015 —

As a school social worker, I often work with individuals whose past resentments escalate from anger to hate. Unresolved anger can affect you and those around you. Your ability to reason and think clearly can be clouded by the anger you feel.

American society promotes anger in many ways. We are taught to be super competitive. Others are sometimes viewed as rivals who are trying to defeat and destroy us, and we are taught to be on guard.

According to Ron Potter-Efron, author of “Angry All the Time — An Emergency Guide to Anger Control,” hate begins as anger. It may follow this scenario: You feel upset about something. You blame someone else for causing the problem. The problem doesn’t get solved, and you get angrier. You can’t stop thinking about it.

You begin to resent the other person and dwell on what they did to you. The injuries feel unforgivable, and the resentment turns into hate, like slowly hardening concrete. Your attitude toward the other person becomes rigid, and nothing they say or do makes a difference. Hate provides a perfect excuse to stay angry.

For anger to turn to hate, the following elements must be present:

1. Strength. Hatred is strong. You don’t hate someone a little.

2. Great emotion. The person who hates is dealing with an emotion as powerful and demanding as love.

3. Threat. The person we hate seems to be a major threat to our lives, our values or to what we own.

4. Time. Hatred builds up over time. Once built, though, it lasts. Sometimes it sticks around a lifetime.

5. Inability to let go. Hatred hangs around like an unwanted dinner guest. It’s awfully hard to get rid of.

6. Desire for revenge. People who hate feel wounded. They often want to hurt others as much as they have been hurt.

7. Interference with normal life. Hatred takes up a lot of energy. Driven by hate, you can’t think of anything else and may do things that don’t make sense.

The single most common cause of severe anger is an angry home. Parents model how to get angry, when to get angry and how much anger to display.

Forgiveness is a choice and the way to let go of hatred. You have to want it. You have to work for it. It doesn’t just happen.

The following are tips for forgiving and preventing resentful feelings.

1. Stick to the issue.

2. Ask yourself what the problem is and what you can do to help.

3. Throw away old score cards; concentrate on today.

4. Get help. Seek mental health counseling.

5. Take responsibility for your own happiness.

6. Don’t turn a disappointment into a disaster.

7. Don’t let yourself think, act or feel like a victim.

8. Don’t dwell on what the other person is doing to you.

9. Don’t go back to old games.

10. Don’t judge the whole person because of one thing you dislike.

Hate can take over your life and destroy your peace of mind. It keeps you stuck in the past, nursing old wounds. You can’t grow or change. If you are holding on to anger and hate, do what you can to make things right as soon as possible. You may have to forgive yourself as well as others. Hate is a luxury you can’t afford. Work to heal old wounds so you can get on with your life.