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Is self-hatred common to all sorts of people? - Input Junkie
April 5th, 2012
08:17 pm

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Is self-hatred common to all sorts of people?
osewalrus has suggested that it is, but I'm not sure he's correct. All I've got is snippets and hypothesis, and I'd be grateful for information about research on the subject.

Snippet 1: A story about a Lama or Rinpoche who was asked about the common American problem of self-hatred. [Pause for discussion between the translator and the Tibetan.] Finally, the translator says, "How do you do that?"

Snippet 2: Hearing that there was shift in Europe sometime in the middle ages between people confessing to sinful actions and sinful thoughts-- I think there were records of penances. Getting actions right is at least somewhat more possible than having a perfect state of mind.

It seems plausible to me that there are cultural influences which can at least amplify the risk of self-hatred, and that those influences are not of equal force in all times and places. Religions which put a lot of emphasis on the state of one's soul, narrow definitions of psychological health, and high demands for success and/or ideal appearance are all plausible candidates. So is viewing aging as a defect rather than a reason for being respected. See also demands for perfect motives. And don't forget the possibility of simply viewing oneself as not good enough because of being part of an outgroup.

This is a list off the top of my head of deleterious mainstream American influences. It wouldn't surprise me if there are bad influences in other cultures that I don't know about.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/537350.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:whswhs
Date:April 6th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
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I don't think I've had the experience, or at least not often enough for it to be a vivid memory.
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From:heron61
Date:April 6th, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
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Almost all of the cases I know of where someone is dealing with significant self-hatred issues are from people from an oppressed group. In addition to women and people of color, it's also an exceedingly well known problem in both the queer and the transsexual communities. From what I've read, this correlation is supported by a number of studies. Oddly, I've also seen this problem fairly frequently among Jews (both men and women, but also somewhat more commonly among women) - which might well be a legacy of the fact that while very few Jews I've known have had any direct experience with overt or frequent prejudice, almost all of their parents did, and almost all of the Jews I know report tales of parents doing their best to teach them fear of outsiders and the existence of potential threats.

Also, FWIW, I've also known almost no straight, white, non-Jewish men who have serious issues with self-hatred. I have known one or two, but it's clearly less common.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 6th, 2012 05:00 am (UTC)
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I was a very bright kid with almost no social skills or interpersonal intelligence (not uncommon in fandom, I know), and I was harassed and bullied for nearly my entire public school career. It doesn't seem to have led to self-hatred. I don't know if this can be attributed to my being white, male, and heterosexual, or if it's a result of something psychologically distinctive about me as an individual. Abstractly it might seem as if being a target for bullying could lead there, but perhaps there's something different about being targeted as an individual rather than as a member of a disvalued group.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 6th, 2012 05:22 am (UTC)
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As noted, I have significant problems with self-hatred. I'm Jewish, but my parents didn't overtly teach me fear of non-Jews. I don't think I'm less comfortable with my non-Jewish friends than with my Jewish friends.

The holocaust wasn't much a topic of conversation in my family (my great-grandparents left Europe in the early 1900s), though this certainly hasn't kept me from obsessing on the subject.
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From:sodyera
Date:April 6th, 2012 10:30 am (UTC)
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Self-hatred is common in this culture becuase the culture has built it into its basic marketing infrastructure. If you don't feel ashamed of something in you or about you, then how else can They get you BUY SOMETHING or VOTE FOR {NAME HERE} to ameliorate it? OBEY. MARRY AND REPRODUCE.
But once you become aware that you're being manipulated you can ignore the fnords being e-mailed to you every day. I'm still looking for the schmuck who put me on the mailing list for Viagra® and penis enlargement aids. As the popular graduation speech said, "Stay away from beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly."
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 6th, 2012 12:37 pm (UTC)
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People will make each other miserable for power and/or fun, not only for money.
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From:sodyera
Date:April 6th, 2012 03:13 pm (UTC)
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Wanna bet? People are slaughtering each other over their real estate, and not just in the US.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 6th, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
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We may be talking past each other.

I think that on-going cruelty doesn't require a commercial culture.

It's plausible that advertising makes it worse in the US, though I don't think this has been tested.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 6th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
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As I understand the matter, anthropologists are now looking at the statistics of tribal, stone age cultures and saying that though you don't often see killings, that's because the base population is so low; in fact, the violent death rates are higher than in the worst American urban neighborhoods. Despite the twentieth century's achievements in industrialized mass murder (largely carried on by cultures that despised commercialism, from Germany—where one of the big foci for hatred of the Jews was their reputed commercial success—to Kampuchea), recent studies apparently are tending to show that violence has been on the decrease in recent centuries. Steven Pinker's recent A History of Violence actually attributes much of the decrease to, on one hand, the concept of the "rule of law," and on the other, to commercialization, on the basis that trade and exchange are positive-sum processes that make one person's existence a benefit to others rather than a threat.

Of course, there are forms of cruelty other than murder (and its corollaries, torture and slavery). But deaths by violence strike me as a plausible metric for overall levels of cruelty. Though I suppose a society might have such endemic envy, resentment, and humiliation that people were chronically driven to suicide by them—which would not show up in "death by violence" statistics.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 6th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
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It wouldn't surprise me if self-hatred shows up in the bones by way of posture and habitual movement leaving traces. On the other hand, I'm just thinking about submissive posture, which might or might not be felt as self-hatred.

On the other hand, I haven't heard of any research on this-- just the effects of repetitive work on skeletons.
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From:st_rev
Date:April 6th, 2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
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The majority of the human species appears to find dominance and submission behaviors reassuring and validating. I find them horrible and dehumanizing myself, but that may just indicate dysfunctionality in myself rather than others.

Edited at 2012-04-06 08:28 pm (UTC)
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 7th, 2012 06:43 am (UTC)
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The thing I find bleakly fascinating isn't just ordinary dominance and submission, it's the way people engage in dominance behavior (bullying, harassment, abuse) which goes way beyond anything which serves goals other than the dominance itself, and which actually interferes with other goals-- I'm thinking of bosses who damage their businesses because they're abusing their employees, governments which impoverish their countries to hurt some of their citizens, and parents who make having grandchildren less likely because they're mistreating their children.
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From:sodyera
Date:April 7th, 2012 05:19 pm (UTC)
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The very dominance-oriented behaviour you're talking about here was endemic in the lead characters of "The Office", a series that I could never tolerate watching.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 8th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
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One more for the list-- people spend astonishing amounts of their time on trolling and griefing.

Edited at 2012-04-08 02:00 pm (UTC)
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From:sodyera
Date:April 7th, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
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It's all sub-rosa. The cruelty is never overt, otherwise those they are trying to market to will catch the clue and run away.
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From:richardthinks
Date:April 9th, 2012 08:23 am (UTC)
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there was shift in Europe sometime in the middle ages between people confessing to sinful actions and sinful thoughts

This is a hobby horse of mine, and tangential to your main point, but I'm going to use this forum to complain about it anyway. Sorry. I've read quite a few sweeping statements about how Modern Man is Fundamentally Different from people of... erm... well, over 400 years ago (give or take 200 years) and I still don't know if I buy it. I'm not convinced that the evidence we have for the psychology of medieval people (psycho-sociology?) is conclusive at all. The Cheese and The Worms is a great book, but like most humanities research it's a fund of good ideas rather than reliable knowledge. IMHO.

OK, that out of the way, where do thoughts come from? I still sometimes feel guilty about thinking things, but given that I can't answer that question, I'm starting to imagine that I can't be responsible for them.
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