Loathing and loving are twin emotions. To experience one is an ever-present reminder of our human capability to equally experience the other to the same intensity and degree. These two emotions touch every part of us—our engagement, energy, and performance at work and in life, our family connections, and all other relationships, including the one you have with yourself. Indeed, these emotions, and the amount of time and depth you spend in them, have a significant impact on your physical, mental, and spiritual health, not to mention the degree to which you feel fulfillment or frustration.
This begs a question or two: What is the trigger that trips you from love to loathing? And what is the trick to get you back to love when loathing appears? The answers to both are so simple that your adult mind may easily overlook them, in your attempt to navigate the complexity of associated emotions.
The trigger that takes you out of love, and leaves you either with loathing of self or others, almost always begins with judgment. “You should…” or “I should…” quickly elicits a spiral of negative, self-preoccupied emotions, which unknowingly are triggered to protect the vulnerable self behind those judgments. The feelings may not start out as “loathing” per se, but the longer you stay in them, the more likely it is that you will feel this emotion emerging. For example, you may feel loathing of self for the failure to be or do something that matters. Or, maybe you’ll experience loathing of others for their failure to show up in ways that are important to you, or do the things that define love, trust, or respect according to your perspective. You may not have thought of it as loathing, in either situation, but if you pay close attention to it, the emotion that shows up is definitely not on the “love” side of the loathing-love continuum.
Unknowingly, the real culprit behind both kinds of judgment is actually fear, whether or not it feels like fear, or whether or not you’ve ever defined it in quite this way. Loathing of self often has its roots in the fear of not being enough in some way; or the fear of failing, or being seen as “less than.” You know, the kind of fear likely created through numerous life experiences where someone important to you communicated a message that went something like this, “I am so disappointed in you.” Or, maybe there were few, if any messages at all, leaving you to wonder if the absence of information came because you simply were not valuable enough to warrant someone else’s time or attention.
These kinds of experiences, rooted in your conscious or unconscious memory, can easily trip you into “protective or preemptive judgments” of others. You may judge that others will judge you, even before they do! Thus, you look for evidences in their behavior that you are accepted, sufficient, valued, and lovable (or not!), and this analysis is accompanied by “You should…” beliefs that define what you are looking for as proof. Never mind that the way you want to be loved, or the way you frame trust or respect may be defined completely differently than others around you. And, that they may not actually understand how to deliver what is important to you, based on the way their perspective or lens differs from yours.
The Trick to Getting Back
The trick to getting back to love from loathing is so simple that a child can do it. Indeed, the precious little ones in our lives model the way forward all the time for us—which ironically comes as we step back into the childlikeness that once was ours. We once understood, at a soul-level, what it meant to give and receive grace, to unconditionally offer forgiveness. Before we learned shame, or to harbor resentment as a protection, we knew how to let go and say, “It’s okay—I forgive you!”
And the truth is that, whether or not you know it, if you knew it once, it is still in you! Enshrouded by your life experience, underneath all the layers, there is this simple childlikeness in you, which says to both self and others, “It’s okay. I forgive you!”
At some level, you know that you or the others in your life who are part of your loathing-related story, simply didn’t know what they needed to know, or they didn’t know at the level that was needed in order to perform differently. They were blind. You were blind. Would you punish a blind man for stepping unknowingly on your toes—even if it hurt? If you are like most people, you would offer grace, because you understand why the pain happened. Just like with the blind man, you make up the story about why the pain is there, and at any time you choose, you can purposefully make up a different story. After all, it’s just a story! “They (or you) didn’t know, or didn’t know enough,” is the beginning of letting go. It is the trick to moving from the loathing side of the continuum back toward love.
Though the little arms which may have readily engulfed another in a loving hug to seal the forgiveness, are now grown longer and stronger—the tender, open heart which accompanied that warmth is still there inside of you. What if you, today, chose to purposefully liberate it? What if you could say gently first to yourself: “It’s okay. I forgive you!” Then, what would happen if you could say it to everyone in your life, so that you may turn the loathing within you to the love that is you. Love, after all, is who you are at your core. You came from love. When you align with it again, you come back to your truest and best self.
And, sometimes, you must go back in order to go forward. Or to turn a complex adult confusion, like the choice to love or loathe, into something so simple that a child could show you the way. And maybe, today, the child that shows you the way will be the one that is still inside of you. That little child knows how—still.
If you want to learn more about this idea and other People Acuity strategies for navigating work and life, download the first chapter of People Acuity™ – Revolutionizing Results and Relationships.