Let me describe some everyday situations. It’s 7:50 AM and I need to be at work at 8:00 AM. My boss will definitely be angry if I’m late, and I’ll also get angry at him if I’m late. I’ve been stuck in traffic for half an hour, and I won’t be able to get out of it for at least another half an hour! I was right; I’m probably being unlikable for no reason. My boss made me feel that way in the afternoon when he embarrassed me in front of my colleagues and pointed out all of my beginner mistakes at work. He could have waited until later or talked to me privately. It was a betrayal. On my way home, a car honked at me just for fun. I could hear them laughing. In the evening, the news reports another suicide attack in the presence of dozens of people. Oh! And what’s this? Another news report informs me of incest committed by the father of two little girls. How could he! I’m really angry! I’d better go lie down.
Wouldn’t you also feel your blood pressure rising and feel really angry in these situations? There’s so much injustice in one day! And we’re still “little” to perceive all the injustice in the world. In some situations, we could call it hatred or anger, bitterness that arises within us. However, these emotions are often associated with negative and unwanted personality traits, and are also negatively evaluated. However, I think they can be a gift, and so does Italian psychologist Laura Tappatà. She wrote a book called “Il dono del rancore,” which can be translated as “The Gift of Hatred” (or animosity or “heavy heart,” and the word “spite” could also be considered very appropriate, but less commonly used). I will refer to this emotion as hatred in this article, but imagine it as an emotion associated with a certain sense of justice, pain caused by injustice, against you. Nowadays, we can imagine the anger that our reactions to prisoner escapes, corruption, terrorism, suicide attacks, or even common situations, as described above, cause us. What remains for those of us facing these situations full of injustice? According to this psychologist’s opinion, we usually choose one of these two paths: we either constantly get angry and let ourselves be consumed by hatred and this negative emotion or we give up right away and “forget about everything.” Neither pole is entirely healthy and okay. But more on that below.
Hatred, animosity, or “heavy heart” are often associated with anger. Let’s first define what we mean by the term anger. Charles Spiegelberger, a psychologist studying anger, argues that anger can occur at various intensities and can boil over into rage. A specific person or event (traffic jam, canceled flights, etc.) can make us angry. Like other emotions, anger is accompanied by physiological processes, in this case, changes in heart rate, hormone levels, and so on. Although it can be perceived negatively in society, it is a natural and instinctive way for humans to adaptively respond to perceived threats. It is often accompanied by strong aggressive emotions and behaviors that urge us to fight and defend ourselves. A certain amount of anger is necessary for our survival. However, of course, we cannot physically attack every person or object that disturbs our balance, as Neanderthals did more than 100,000 years ago. After all, there are still laws, social norms, “common sense,” and personal limits that dictate how far our anger can take us.
In contrast to the reactions of the Italian psychologist mentioned above, Spiegelberger speaks of three anger responses: expression of anger, suppression, and calming down. Assertively (rather than aggressively) expressing anger is the healthiest way to do so. But how can one learn to do this? By constantly learning how to express one’s needs and acquire them without harming others. Being assertive doesn’t mean being intrusive and constantly demanding something. On the contrary, it means being respectful to oneself and to others. Who can we call non-assertive? Precisely those who put others down, criticize everything, and are full of cynical comments. Do you have such people around you? If so, it may mean they have not yet learned how to constructively express their anger (or it may be the result of “psychological” wounds so that we don’t “throw everyone in the same bag”?). Perhaps this is why there are many unsuccessful and failed relationships, not only romantic ones, but also friendly and familial ones.
Even a professor of psychology at Hofstra University in New York and director of the Institute for the Study of Anger and Aggression argues that despite anger being perceived negatively, it is part of our biological history and is often an appropriate response to injustice. This is demonstrated by events both present and past, such as social movements for equality of black people, the elderly, women, and so on. Anger also helps in business negotiations and activates increased motivation to fight against the injustices we see in the world.
To return to the “gift of hatred” (anger, resentment, or a “heavy heart”), psychologist Laura Tappatà describes it as the most human and revitalizing feeling of forgiveness. If you find this absurd, read on. If we want to translate these words to more deeply experience and be present with this emotion, we can say that the word “rancor” comes from Latin and means lamenting, craving lament, “rancere” – bitter, sour smell of spoiled food and “rancore” – unpleasantness, bitterness, deep resistance, aversion “nested” in the soul as a result of an insult received (Devoto Oli). On the other hand, “per-dono” (literally pre-gift, in Italian forgiveness) means a gift of peace, harmony, language of the Christian religion. Why then call hatred a gift? Precisely because, as the author says, there is more nobility in conscious hatred than in forgiveness given for moral conviction. Hatred and anger are necessary to realize the pain experienced, which cannot simply be erased from consciousness. On the contrary, with the harm caused, energy full of enthusiasm, passion, and interest can be born with this emotion. However, for this emotion not to penetrate into a very negative bitterness, which can also turn against us in the form of pessimism, “captivity” of unforgiveness and hatred, it requires awareness, analysis, differentiation from anger and revenge. So, the answer to well-analyzed hatred and anger can be authentic, real forgiveness or motivation to fight for good things. 🙂
Psychotherapist Giancarlo Diamaggio also offers guidance, or so-called “measures,” on how to forgive. He argues that those who forgive “earn” spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being for themselves. However, premature forgiveness is not good either because it can be harmful and undermine the “wound” caused by the injustice. Hatred, on the other hand, colonizes the mind, ties it up, and as mentioned above, limits a person’s freedom. So what is the best recipe? Remembering the insult and the pain? Initially, yes, there is nothing wrong with it, but on the contrary, it is human and, to some extent, useful. It is important not to serve hatred hot. With the help of others, psychologists, and one’s own thinking, many people can understand that yesterday’s pain does not necessarily persist until today. Life goes on, the pain diminishes, and hatred may no longer be necessary. On the contrary, it can grow into good things! ?