Why we hate the ones we loved

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It’s something that many of us experienced, both in the active and in the passive phase. Ending up hating the person you loved for so long and not knowing why you have such a strong feeling, despite promising to stay friends. Or the contrary, receiving that hatred unexpectedly after a relationship ended in an apparently peaceful way. They are alienating sensations, which can make us feel guilty when we act that way, or unfairly approached if we are the ones getting them passively.

There are several scientific and psychological bases that explain why this happens. Even neurologically, it has been proven that the areas of the brain that get activated in case of hatred (the putamen and the insula) are the same active in case of love. This would explain the ancient theory according to which love and hate are two faces of the same human emotion.

Psychologically, hatred takes over when love is no longer returned or when the expectations towards the one we love have been disappointed. It’s the acknowledgement that that relationship is to be considered over, at least on a rational level. Except that we humans are not just made of rationality: ​​we have a strong emotional component, which in these cases is stronger because we have invested a lot in that relationship, in terms of time and emotions. And this also applies in cases where love has never been returned: even if it developed just on one side, love remains a relationship in which you give, create expectations and receive. And if expectations are disappointed, if the other person turns out to be different from what we believed, it’s normal to hate.

Hatred therefore becomes an effective defensive mechanism to survive a new phase of our life. We realized that that person won’t be the one who will be next to us in the way we thought, so now it’s up to us to reduce the importance that person has in our life. And if there is still a strong emotional component within us, rationality won’t be enough to rebalance ourselves: a second emotional component will be needed to help us in resizing the image we have of that person. Hate has just this purpose, and the more rush we have to reduce the love we felt, the bigger hate will be. Always seen according to the neurological bases we said before: our emotional structure chooses to experience an emotion which is similar to love for intensity and aspects involved, but which allows us a much greater lucidity to manage life in the near future.

This doesn’t mean that we must freely hate and happily marry the consequences of hatred, that’s clear. It only means that if we feel hate, we must be indulgent with ourselves. It’s something natural. Over time, when we feel stable again, with our emotions under control, we will have the strength to recognize the other person’s freedom, to respect his/her identity and choices, perhaps even to understand why he/she wasn’t the right one for us. We can forgive that person, and that’s the first step to having again a balanced relationship with that person. In extreme cases, it could even happen that we walk the way back and see love reborn, even months or years later. Emotions are often inexplicable, but equally often understandable. And the only thing we can do is to know them and to accept them.

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