Monday, 7 May 2012
Why so much anger and hate are directed at those who stand out?
We all have very high standards for ourselves and we don't like to see ourselves as not meeting our own expectations. We naturally try as hard as we are able to meet our own goals, so "trying harder" is not a solution. We certainly don't want to lower our expectations either, so instead of living with the feeling that we haven't reached our true potential, and feeling powerless, people tend to adjust their image of themselves instead. This temporarily solves the crisis; our expectations are intact and we don't have to try and improve our behaviour and performance to a level above what is possible for us.
Unfortunately, this image shift has some rather undesirable side-effects. Whenever we have thoughts or feelings that do not fit in with our superior self image, when we are ashamed of our thoughts, we shove those thoughts and feelings out of our conscious attention. We are afraid of such thoughts, they threaten our self-image at a fundamental level.
These thoughts do not go away, they are still in our minds. Thoughts have their own energy whether we are paying attention to them or not. Similar thoughts attract one another and form structures. People who are involved in creative mental tasks experienced this constantly. When they work with related thoughts and ideas, these thoughts begin to form themselves into hierarchies and patterns. Thoughts that we fear are no different; they create mental landscapes of what we fear the most within our own minds.
When something reminds us of these fearful thought structures, we experience a sudden surge of hatred, fear, or disgust as our conscious attention is momentarily focused on our unacceptable thoughts. Because we cannot accept these thoughts as part of ourselves, we assume that the feelings they generate are coming from whatever or whoever reminded us of them. This is called projection. Anyone that seems vaguely menacing can cause us to project our own suppressed anger onto them. This anger seems to be separate from "our own" thoughts, making it easy to believe that the anger or threat is coming from the other person. Someone with different ideas or customs can prompt us to project any anti-social or simply unconventional thoughts of our own that disturbed or disgusted us, making the person before us seems disturbing or dangerous. Depending on the force of our suppressed feelings, people who are in fact harmless can appear to be capable of bringing down civilization.
Well, that was a long exposition, but it boils down to this. The more you accept your own thoughts as normal and natural, whether they offend your sense of decency or not, the more clearly you will be able to see the world. Convincing others of this could be a problem, however.
When the projection turns to violence.
There is one thing that makes people feel enough rage to commit violence, and that is a feeling of powerlessness. If people feel that they have no control over their destiny and environment, if they feel that they cannot act effectively, then they can reach a point where they believe that nothing short of violence can change their situation.
Acting effectively requires you to influence other people and to control your environment. To influence other people, they must respect you and be willing to listen to what you have to say. To control your environment, you must understand it, have the skills to affect it, and be permitted to act on it.
It should be clear that these conditions are not met very often in our society. Many people in our society are alienated from one another and have few opportunities to exert any real influence on one another. Many poor and uneducated people do not have any control over their environment whatsoever.
However, powerlessness is not the only ingredient in violence. The real question is not why people are violent, but why so many men are violent. Although women are just as capable of violence as men, crime statistics show that it is not women who are turning our urban environments into war zones.
Both men and women must abide by certain expectations. Even though people have few instincts and all of our adult behaviour is learnt, we labour under the misconception that men and women are biologically destined to behave completely differently. Women are supposed to be yielding, they are not expected to forcefully express their own wants and needs. Men are supposed to be dominant and commanding, and are regarded as weak if they express any tendencies to yield or to behave in a "feminine" way.
As psychologists have discovered, however, the most mentally healthy people express emotional and behavioural characteristics traditionally assigned to both sexes. The fully functioning human can be either forceful or gentle, commanding or submissive, strong or yielding, as the situation requires. Unfortunately, the acceptable range of emotions for men is rather narrow, and what happens is that men must express all of their emotional energy through the few emotions available to them. This leads to rather exaggerated expressions of strength and virility.
Now, couple this self-image men have of strength and domination with the feelings of powerlessness rife in our society, and you have a recipe for disaster. Men must express their exaggerated sense of dominance, but they are rendered impotent by their inability to act with any effectiveness. To these men, violence seems to be the only way to affect their environment.
This will continue to be a problem until men are raised differently, or do the Great Work.