Hate is Not a Mental Illness

by Orna Rawls
Marriage & Family Therapist, LMFT

In the weeks leading to Halloween and the election, a friend of mine spotted an effigy of one of the presidential candidates with a knife sticking out of his chest. It was adorning a front yard in a peaceful, bucolic Fairfield County town.

I don’t think it matters which candidate got the knife; what matters is that such a demonstration of blind hate sends a message legitimizing hate and violence to all who pass by and beyond.

Is hate a mental illness as many feel? The American Psychiatric Association concluded that hate is not a mental illness. People consumed by hate may be fearful, unhappy, resentful, chronically angry and/or ignorant. They tend to gravitate towards hate-mongering and racist leaders, but they are rarely mentally ill. Hate, however, with its cousin racism, is a social malaise.

Hate and racism are learned behaviors, best summed up in the lyrics from Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific musical:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

Since hate can be taught, it can and should be untaught. 2nd District Councilperson Kaitlyn Shake suggested the council pass a resolution regarding racism as a public health emergency. I’d add hate, hate-mongering and hate crimes to the resolution. And ideally tack on some programs to teach all ages about alternative emotions.

I’m no Rogers and Hammerstein, but here is my valiant attempt at rephrasing their lyrics:

You’ve got to be taught
To be thoughtful and kind,
You’ve got to be taught
Your neighbor to mind,
You’ve got to be taught,
From year to year,
With compassion and goodwill

The “otherness” to cheer.

 

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.