Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.
Hello friends! Today our question comes from Donnie Mershon of Beaufort, South Carolina.
“Dear Banaba,” Donnie writes. “I don’t think people like me. In fact, I think some people may hate me.”
To my new friend Donnie, I say simply, “After the overwhelming mountain of questions, I’m not sure I like you either!”
But that is me having a delicate joke at your expense. Apologies. Clearly, you asked no question at all, but I think I know what you may be looking for just the same.
Consider first that the human species is a complex and emotional animal. The simple determining factors of like and dislike are the root logic we use for virtually every decision we make.
Now consider that every person on the planet is wired with a unique mindset, a unique moral code, a unique capacity for understanding, learning, forgiveness, anger, mistrust and so on. And while clusters of us may have thoughts and feelings that are similar to other’s, what we bring to that commonality is less about how much we may be the same and more about what we need in our lives and what we are willing to do to get it so that we may better self-actualize. In other words, it is a reflection of how willing we are to reach out, tolerate, empathize, understand, forgive, give and more, according to what we need, to make our relationships work.
Clearly, not all of us are destined to get along, but not feeling liked, or feeling hated is a different dynamic than not getting along. Basically, humans have two emotional pathways that help guide our decisions and ultimately, our lives.
Our passive emotional pathway allows us to make effective like/dislike decisions with great efficiency and with little residual refection or consideration. Some refer to these as “no-brainers”. I dislike the cold, so I wear a coat. I like ice cream so I will eat it. I dislike dark alleyways because I feel they may be unsafe so I will avoid them. It is quite efficient until something disrupts our pathway and presents us with new factors to consider.
That is when our active emotional pathway kicks in. This allows us to further consider the circumstances we find ourselves in so that we might try and respond effectively, in our time and space at that moment, to resolve the conflict. It is an aggressive and reactive pathway which often creates new actions and counteractions that we must respond to that often fall well beyond the initial issue and often with assumed facts or notions of what we may believe to be true. I dislike the cold, so I wear a coat. But, my coat is not warm enough, so I need to buy a warmer coat. Even more so, I’m sick the cold and I should move to a warmer place. San Diego is warmer I bet. I should just move to San Diego. I’ll be happier there. And so on.
Despite our individuality and each person’s unique perspective. I like to think that we are all generally predisposed to liking something, in this case, people, over disliking it – or them. At a minimum, we should be able to ignore others without the least bit of disruption to our lives. We do this every day. If you do not know anyone in Billings, Montana, you are not likely to care much about them, even though they exist. I feel it is doubtful that you would hate them.
But, to not like, or to hate is an active, aggressive and emotional decision we make based on some level of bias that falls outside our level of tolerance or willingness to make the needed adjustments to turn the dislike into something more positive.
It takes energy, and there is a cost to our emotional currency to hate. And while it is frequently abused or at a minimum, misplaced, it is still a useful and sometimes necessary emotion because it defines for us the farthest boundary of our willingness to bend. I like ice cream, but I hate pistachio ice cream, therefore I will eat many, many ice cream flavors before I even consider eating pistachio.
Finally, know that hate comes with the weight of what it is. When someone hates, they carry the burden of that emotion with them. Even if they feel they deserve to hate. Perhaps they feel they have been wronged in some way or something dear has been taken from them. They feed it regularly. Small things can churn into rage which only serves to reinforce the hate. They cannot move beyond it, or resolve it so it festers as hate is prone to do.
So, what comes from this all analysis you ask? Well, people may dislike you. They may even hate you. It is also entirely possible that people don’t hate you but, they experience a level of frustration while interacting with you that they find upsetting enough for them to react the way they do to you, which you may define as hate. We are bad communicators to begin with. We are worse when feelings like hate are involved.
Your job is to understand what role you play in this particular circumstance. Ask the hard questions, but be willing to answer honestly. Are you kind? Are you rude? Are you understanding? Are you hateful yourself? Do you strive to hurt others? And so on.
Nobody is perfect. We all deserve the benefit of the doubt from others if we can honestly say that our general objective is to be the best people we can be. I’m certain the people whom you say may hate you, would want the same considerations should the tables be turned.
Lastly, you must understand that whatever hate another carries, even if directed at you, is not your responsibility to resolve. If you have taken responsibility for your own actions to the extent of your awareness, then you have done your part. The hate of another is something he or she will have to resolve on their own. It may be that they will find no way to resolve it besides extinguishing any association they have with you. That may not be ideal, but it may also be the reality. It is sad. You will likely wonder what you could have done that was so offensive to them that they chose to cut you away like that, but that is their choice. And if they hate you for no reason at all beyond the mere fact that you exist then they have many larger problems and you are better off for the distance.
Either way, in a way, such a choice is freeing in that it allows you to focus more on the things in your life that deserve your positive energy and proper attention. Should the day come that a resolution is possible, you must decide if you are open to re-establishing that relationship. If so, you must also be willing, and able, to set the past aside and move forward fresh and new.
By the way, I like you just fine.
Peace to you – Banaba
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