The Covid-19 is a thermometer of who we are. We live in an extreme situation and people react in very different ways. There are those who bring out the best in themselves: they show solidarity with their neighbors, applaud those who are leaving their skin to save us, donate money or work overtime to make masks, or whatever is in their hands. But there is also the other side of the coin. In extreme situations, the instinct for physical or economic survival is awakened, any hint of collaboration vanishes and appears fear or rage.
We have seen it these days with aid between countries. Some block shipments of medical supplies. It also happens on an individual basis, which has fueled the outrage on social networks, where messages loaded with deep anger spread like wildfire, along with other beautiful and hopeful people. The general impression is that the haters (haters in English) are making their August: they have time and the coronavirus has given many reasons to complain. Digital rancor runs wild (especially in those networks like Twitter that favor anonymity). We may be angry or outraged, but for our own sake we should not fall for acidic or generic criticism, let alone hatred. It is one of the most devastating emotions that exists, says researcher Agneta Fischer, dean at the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Amsterdam.
Hate is short-sighted and does not have a good memory. When Fischer analyzed who people hated in conflict zones, 80% referred to groups, not to specific individuals (obviously, when an abusive situation has not been experienced or trauma has not been generated). When hate is focused on someone, as it happens on social networks, it is not so much because of something that they have been able to do to them personally, but because it responds to certain stereotypes or prejudices. In other words, hatred is directed at specific groups.
However, anger and hatred are different. While the first one alludes to something specific and responds to a specific reason (I get angry because what you told me bothers me), hatred is more ambiguous and highly contagious. In fact, it can be learned within families or communities. This is what happens with certain confrontations in soccer, between cities or between ethnic groups. And the most terrible thing, hate contributes little to emotional health and remains in time. Hating wears out, especially in times of the coronavirus, where one must take care of his personal energy to the maximum. If the remaining time of confinement is still long, it is better to reduce those emotions that wear out. But how do you get it?
The first thing is know the mechanisms of hatred, to dismantle them. We have already explained that this feeling is driven by stereotypes (of course, there are exceptions that respond to a traumatic lived experience). Let’s ask ourselves, what has that particular person done to me? Is there anything positive you can detect in him or in the group he represents? The second part, insofar as we can, is knowing who we hate beyond what bothers us about that person. For example, the best strategies for approaching positions in terrorist conflicts are to sit the representatives of each side and make them live together for a while. This is what happened in Israel or Northern Ireland during the peace negotiations. When you live with someone you hate because of what you represent, you begin to see through different eyes. We can do the same. What else can we know about who we hate? Has family? What are its origins? What really moves you? What would happen if we learned to collaborate?
We can be upset, outraged by the situation, but avoid falling into hatred. It is an emotion that remains in time and that, today, is not of much use. If we park negative emotions, we will get the best of ourselves.