Years ago,  I learned an important lesson about the difference between anger and hatred.

I was thinking of turning some unethical attorneys in to the California Bar, when a friend and colleague of mine, an attorney disciplinary expert, told me:

“Well, one thing you should know is that the first thing that will happen is that they will now hate you.”

Until then, I hadn’t really thought about the difference between fighting with adversaries – anger and aggression — and hatred.  I began to study hatred.

Hatred and Its Rewards: A Psychoanalytic Perspective

A psychoanalytic perspective is often helpful when dealing with issues of hatred.

The following are some excerpts from an article, Hatred and Its Rewards: A Discussion,” I found particularly helpful.1

Hatred as a Developmental Capacity

[T]he hatred scenario is a later development in childhood that requires central nervous system maturation and critically important cognitive capacities. . . .

To hate is to hold on to an internal object in an unforgiving way. . .2

Hatred as Attachment

[H]atred binds the patient to the hated object. While rage tries to remove the object, hatred forges an unbreakable bond between object and self. . . .

In many patients where intense hatred is center stage it does not exist as the opposite of love but as a substitute for it. Being hated and hating may be far more preferable to being ignored or abandoned…3

The Difference Between Aggression and Hatred.

Aggression can be ventilated at the world in general. Hatred is specific and relational in nature.4

While rage tries to remove the object, hatred forges an unbreakable bond between object and self. . . . Both vitalize internal deadness. Both can soothe a person before going to sleep. Both can bring extraordinary pleasure to an otherwise empty life.5

Practical Differences: A Note From Elizabeth

In my experience, it is helpful to recognize the difference between angry and hating people.  For intensely hating people, as I have discussed in my article, Emancipation from Hatred and Trauma in Mediation, any discussion of forgiveness may feel like an attack, or at least as lacking empathy. Gabbard makes this point as well.6

Beyond the psychological and technical reasons for this, let us not forget that many people who hate have been deeply traumatized.  It is not our place to suggest they forgive the attacker.

People with a lot of hatred, such as borderline personality types,7 are also more likely to attack us, even when it is not justified.  Paradoxically, they may also swing between hatred and “love” or idealization.8 This makes for a confusing relationship.

If they do attack, a deep level of bonding and trust may have to be established beforehand to ward off these attacks  — and this strategy may or may not work.

Learning to recognize people who are in a place of hatred can help us internally to take the sting out of the attacks, that is, to take the attacks less personally. This is called survival.

Or, sadly, to simply refuse to deal with them, which may not help them in the long run but may be necessary for us.


  1. See Glen O. Gabbard M.D. (2008) Hatred and Its Rewards: A Discussion, Psychoanalytic Inquiry (hereafter just Hatred and Its Rewards), 20:3,409-420, DOI:
  2. See Hatred and Its Rewards, page 411, citing Gabbard, Technical approaches to transference hate in the analysis of borderline patients, Internat. J. Psycho-Anal., 72:623-637, doi:; and Gabbard, Love and Hate in the Analytic Setting (1996) Northvale, N.J.
  3. See Hatred and its Rewards, page 412.
  4. See Hatred and its Rewards, page 411.
  5. Id. (emphasis supplied)
  6. Hatred and Its Rewards, page 415.
  7. On the Borderline Personality Disorder, from the National Association on Mental Illness website,

    Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

    People with BPD experience wide mood swings and can display a great sense of instability and insecurity. Per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual diagnostic framework, some key signs and symptoms may include:
    • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment by friends and family.
    • Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization (“I’m so in love!”) and devaluation (“I hate her”). This is also sometimes known as “splitting.”
    • Distorted and unstable self-image, which affects moods, values, opinions, goals and relationships.
    • Impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes, such as excessive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse or reckless driving.
    • Self-harming behavior including suicidal threats or attempts.
    • Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days.
    • Chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness.
    • Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger—often followed by shame and guilt.
    • Dissociative feelings—disconnecting from your thoughts or sense of identity or “out of body” type of feelings—and stress-related paranoid thoughts. Severe cases of stress can also lead to brief psychotic episodes.

  8. Id.