October 4, 2006

Where Does Hate Come From?

This year, 2006, the Jewish High Holy Days coincided, as they often do,
with the Muslim Ramadan and Hindu Navaratri/Dasera. This "coincidence"
in a time of cross-cultural misunderstanding (someone once said that
coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous) was not lost on the news
media this year and was so very apparent in my own life, when both a
dear Hindu friend and a beloved Muslim business associate wrote to wish
me a happy Rosh Hashonah.

When did we humans start to resent each other...and why?

Robert Sternberg, a Yale psychologist known for his work on wisdom,
love and creativity, began a study of hate in 1999. He was motivated by
his own family history, as the son of an Austrian Jewish survivor of
Hitler's Final Solution, and by reading a book about the Rwandan genocide.
He wondered why human beings are getting smarter (on the average, our
IQs worldwide are rising as much as 3 points per decade), but not
kinder. If we are so intelligent, why do we promote intolerance and wreak war
and terrorism?

Sternberg came up with a triangular theory of hatred. One side of the
triangle is passion: impulsive rage excited by fear. Another side is
what Sternberg calls "negation of intimacy," which is basically a feeling
of repulsion or disgust. The third side is "cold hate," a cognitive
commitment to hatred, such as the learned, conditioned prejudices that
many societies have regarding homosexuals. He calls a combination of these
three kinds of hatred "burning hate," which expresses as a need for
annihilation. And all hatred, Sternberg proposes, arises from a story;
there can be no hatred without a tale of woe to tell about how the hated
one "done us dirty."

We human beings tend to love our hate stories. We don't want to lose
them. On an individual level, this could result in revenge killings, in
spite of the consequences. When an entire nation wants to be right,
other nations may perish. Entire worlds can disappear...and have.

On a less grand scale, the hate story can lead to a lifetime of stress.
A "bad mommy" story may result in a lifelong hatred of women. A bad job
can mean anticipating every work situation will be undesirable. When
women laughingly say "All men are pigs," there's bound to be a painful
paradigm behind that sentiment.

Hate stories, Sternberg points out, are always factually wrong. All men
are not pigs. Jews do not have all the money. All Muslims are not
terrorists. All Christians do not vote for conservative political
candidates. True wisdom, acknowledging all perspectives, all stories, would help
all stakeholders reach saner conclusions. But it appears to be much
easier to follow the conventional "wisdom" than to question one's beliefs.
It doesn't even occur to most of us to do so.

Until all governments, all nations, all people are committed to knowing
the truth, it is likely that wars and hate crimes will continue. But if
I think the world needs self-inquiry, I'm confused. Am I willing to do
what I want them to do? It's a lot to ask of others who have endured
suffering, loss and injustice. It can seem insensitive and unkind. Can
you imagine asking a Palestinian, "You need your ancestral land, is it
true?" Or an Israeli, "Can you absolutely know that it's true that your
child should not have died in a suicide bombing?"

So, for now, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
If I wish for hatred to cease, I must unceasingly look to my own hateful
impulses, however seemingly insignificant, and meet them with

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Where Does My Hate Come From?

Driving home from Yom Kippur services the other night, my male friend
expressed dismay at the egalitarian service we'd attended together. He
noted how overwhelmingly female the attendance was and indicated this
was because there was a lot of male-bashing going on there. I was amazed
that I hadn't noticed.

"It was so blatant," he said.

"You mean because of the gender-neutral or feminine translations of the

"No, for years it's been sexist in the opposite direction, so I don't
have a problem with that. There are just these remarks...like when the
two men couldn't figure out why the door wouldn't open and a woman
noticed there was a U-lock on the other side, and she said, 'It takes a
woman to unlock a door.'"

Then I remembered. There was laughter (I guess from the women). I
didn't think it was funny, so I didn't laugh. I also didn't think it was
significant because of my cultural insensitivity around how men might hear
and experience women's "little" jabs.

I love and appreciate so many men in my life. I like to think that I've
"done my work" about men and that I am not sexist. I mean, I stopped
sending around those male-bashing jokes in the email years ago, realizing
that it felt violent to perpetuate that kind of "humor." However, my
friend's remark helped me to see that I am far from a done deal in the
Mars-Venus department.

I sat down to write a brief list of beliefs about men...the kind that
might fit into Sternberg's "negation of intimacy" category.

*Men are insensitive.
*Men are too sensitive. :-)
*Men are clueless about women.
*Men always have to be right.
*Men are enigmatic.

Then I sat with each one and asked myself, "What is my earliest memory
of holding this belief?" "From whom did I learn these beliefs?" In this
way I was able to question the validity of my beliefs from the place
where they first occurred to me: as a small child learning from my
mother, as a little girl interacting with other little girls, as a teenager
among other teenagers awkwardly moving towards a new kind of intimacy,
successfully or not.

What "hate paradigms" are you still holding onto? Even if it's only 1%?
When did you first feel this way? Does the feeling bring peace or
stress into your life? How would you live your life differently if you never
again saw people in terms of racial, cultural, political, religious,
class or gender traits?

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

The Power of Willingness

We already know about the power of resistance; we're experts at that. Resistance is the mind's way of protecting itself from ever appearing wrong or unsure. When we are challenged to move from our comfort zone -- and the worst depression or the fiercest rage can be comfortable if that's all we've ever known -- the mind offers resistance in the form of "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," in saying "no" instead of "yes" and in proclaiming "I know" instead of "maybe I don't absolutely know."

Transformational Inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie is a way of opening the mind through answering questions and exploring alternate perspectives. It is not the questions in and of themselves that are so powerful -- they are really quite simple. The power of inquiry lies in your willingness to answer to these questions with penetrating honesty. The effectiveness of Transformational Inquiry depends on a willingness to know the truth, as opposed to an insistance on being right. The results can be quite amazing...and I know this from my personal experience of using inquiry in my own life and work.

For the better part of 43 years, my middle name was "No." Because of this stubbornness on my part, I suffered to the point where it was difficult to get out of bed and face each day. I was an unhappy and very willful child. In my teen years I suffered from massive depression, turning to food and sleep to dull the pain. I had been in therapy for all of my adult life, and for several years I needed medication in order to function at all. I had my own home, I had relationships, and at one time I had a very successful home-based business...but each day, for many years, I was plagued by feelings of hopelessness. In my thirties, I was diagnosed with biochemical depression, and a respected psychiatrist told me that I would need therapy and drugs for the rest of my life. Something in me rebelled at hearing that...something that I now see as a willingness to be okay.

When I finally learned about The Work of Byron Katie, I knew it held the key to my freedom...and still I was resistant. Being right had served me very well for many years. It was a protection, and an excuse: if I knew I couldn't do better, then I didn't have to keep trying so hard, and it wasn't my fault. Resistance saved me from having to face my fears, and as a wise person once said, fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing as Real.

With willingness, I might have had to see that I'd always had at least a small part in my own failures and disapointments. With willingness, I had no one else to blame, not even God, my ultimate whipping boy and scapegoat. However, with willingness, I would also have had to consider that everything that had happened in my life was for a reason, there to teach me something, to nourish me, to put me on the path to self-realization. That was the carrot I lusted after, because deep down I knew that God didn't love me less than the rest of creation. Beneath the clutter of my sad stories, I knew I could be okay...more than okay.

The process of The Work's four basic questions -- "Is it true?" "Can you absolutely know that it's true?" "How do you react when you believe that thought?" "Who would you be without this thought?" -- is a way of getting very honest with onesself. When the questions are held in the mind the answers come from the heart, and the answers can be astounding. One of my cherished life-long beliefs was that I was a failure. I had a long, long list of proof for that one: I wasn't married, I wasn't a mother, I didn't have a million dollars in the bank, I didn't go to an Ivy League college, I hadn't written and published a bestseller.

Now, I could think of many, many examples of successful people who aren't married, or parents, or millionaires, or Ivy League grads, or bestselling authors...but, you see, I was SUPPOSED to have done all of these things by my 30th birthday. This is called, "being at war with reality."

At first, when I approached the questions, I would answer them out of the mind's habitual thinking, very quickly: yes, it's true, yes I can absolutely know that I'm right, and I react with depression, duh, how else should I react?...and I have no idea who or what I would be without this thought because I have always thought it and believed it because it's TRUE!

What I noticed was that it felt terrible to approach self-inquiry out of a place of resistance. And that noticing the feelings was the beginning of willingness. How much longer did I want to feel like the living dead? Not one second longer.

So I would ask myself the questions again...or, when I felt too afraid or resistant to do it alone, I would ask someone else to ask me.

"I'm a failure, is it true? It sure feels that way right now."

"I'm a failure, can I absolutely know that it's true?" And I'd wait, and I'd let the heart answer. "No. No, I cannot absolutely know that it's true. I have succeeded in many ways, great and small. I am successfully sitting here and answering these questions now."

"How do I react when I think that I am a failure?" And I'd revisit the way I'd lived my life...how I'd batted away praise, spurned affection, missed opportunities out of fear, lived in the past and the future but never in the present...how I'd let my health suffer...how I'd shamed myself...how much joy I denied myself as a result of believing this incredible lie.

"Who would I be without this thought?" I realized that with a little willingness, I could visualize myself without the "failure facade"...and I saw a woman who just keeps moving...who celebrates her successes of all sizes...who doesn't say "I can't" or "I'll never"...who has no regrets...and who feels comfortable in her own skin. I could see a lover, a listener, an available partner, a friend, one with open ears and open arms and an open mind. I could see someone with an immense and contagious sense of humor. With practice, I came to see that, without my tales of woe, I already was that resilient, loving and courageous woman. You can't even concieve of it if you're not it. The person I was without the belief in failure was - is - a more peaceful person. And peace is our true nature.

When I feel resistance now, it might stick around for a few days at most. In my life, willingness has become the conjoined twin of resistance, always on the other side of it, closer than close, sharing its life's blood. While once it was the weaker twin, having flexed its muscles, it is now the stronger one, and it will have its way.

Many clients show initial resistance to the process of self-inquiry, and what they -- what all of us have in common -- is this powerful willingness that ultimately brings us home. It is willingness that allows us to relax...to listen...to wait...to stop defending...to stop needing to know everything...to stop trying to manipulate the world to conform to our idea of perfection. Willingness is what turns nervous wrecks, hotheads and sadsacks into lovers of reality. Willingness is what turns enemies into friends, tragedies into comedies, crises into opportunities, fear into courage. Willingness is the "yes" on the other side of "no." Willingness brings you your own answers to the questions the heart has been asking forever. It is within you, waiting to take birth. I invite you to give it its life.

Click here to hear Carol repeat this message at EmpoweringMessages.com.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.