Research Shows the More You Love Someone, the More You Can Hate Them
Hatred is blind, as well as love. ~ Oscar Wilde
It is said that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but rather apathy. Love, being such an all encompassing emotion of deep passion, and apathy being a complete lack of interest or regard.
When I was a little girl, the word h-a-t-e was a dirty word. Hate was one of the four letter words we couldn’t say because it was bad, it was mean, and we were taught that it was a “sin” to not only say it, but to act it or even feel it. We weren’t punished, but we were encouraged to say “ I don’t care for” or “I don’t like.”
I remember a time as a teenager when I stormed out of the room and said to my mother “I hate you!!!” I wish I had a great story to share along with it, but the truth is that the word was so strong in my mind, that all I can remember is the awful sinking feeling of heart and regret I felt when it was too late to stuff those words back into my mouth. You can’t unsay anything once it has been said.
The word “hate” has innocuously moved into my lexicon
Nowadays, the word hate has innocuously moved into my lexicon with regard to anything I dislike that is inanimate. You know, things like pumpkin spice anything. Or yoga (don’t judge). Putting gas in my car. But as a rule, I don’t use the word to refer to important things, or people. That’s just, well, what is it?
Love and Hate
The polar opposite emotions that happen to be two of the strongest sentiments a person can experience. If you’re human, you’ve likely felt both. The strong, deep, passionate love that inspires songs, movies, poems, and plays. When this love bond is broken, however, these blissful feelings of love and affection can quickly morph into a hate so strong you might wonder how you ever felt a love so strong.
If you’ve ever been in love, you know that it’s absolutely, one-hundred percent possible to hate them, as well. Although these emotions are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, the two happen to share a very complex relationship. Some scientists even speculate that the deeper one’s love is for another, the deeper their hate for that person can be.
These two emotions are intrinsically linked together and the relationship between them (especially in the context of romantic love) can be explained from several different angles. The reason the relationship is so strong? It could be because some of the same neural circuits that are responsible for hate are some of the same neural circuits that are triggered when a person experiences romantic love.
The Intimate Relationship Between Love and Hate: Two Distinct Regions of the Brain Associated with Both Love and Hate
In 2008, scientists discovered there are two distinct regions of the brain associated with love and hate. The putamen and the insular cortex. Both are part of the brain’s sub-cortex…and both have been dubbed “hate circuits.”
The putamen is known to play a role in the perception of contempt and disgust. It is also believed to possibly be a part of the motor system that’s activated when a person has the desire to take action about something.
While the putamen plays a big role in feelings of hate, it’s also associated with feelings of romantic love. MRI images show the putamen to light up when people are experiencing feelings of romantic love for another individual.
It’s speculated that this could be why love and hate sometimes lead to behavior that is strikingly similar. Are “acts of passion” somehow related to these distinct areas of the brain? Researchers believe, “the putamen could also be involved in the preparation of aggressive acts in a romantic context, as in situations when a rival presents a danger.”
The Insula (Insular Cortex)
Brain scans of people who are deeply in love show increased activity in the insula, sometimes referred to as the insular cortex. While research on the insula and the role it plays in human behavior didn’t even start until the 1990s, neuroscientists who now study this area of the brain, say it can lead to profound insight of what it’s like to be human.
Being human, as we all know, is associated with countless emotions we experience. We love. We’re happy. We hate. We’re angry. The insula is connected to several of the emotions we associate with love and hate. Lust. Pride. Embarrassment. Shame. Guilt. Empathy. Anger. Disgust. Loathing. It’s no wonder it lights up when someone is socially rejected and that damage to the insula is associated with increased apathy.
Aside from its association to emotions of love and hate, it’s associated with both anticipating and feeling pain. It interprets both hunger and craving, keeping the desire alive for both food and drugs. Loss of libido can also occur when the insula is impaired.
Love and Hate: A Look at Rejection, Vulnerability, and Jealousy in Romantic Relationships
There is a deeply complex relationship between love and hate. Especially when it comes to romantic relationships. In one study, when participants were presented with negative events from 3 different target people, they had the most hate for someone they had previously loved the most.
- Rejection: When we’re rejected, it’s easy enough to understand how love and hate can be tied together. When our partner lies or cheats on us, our love can quickly spiral into loathing. Have you ever felt a deep love for another, but when rejected by them found your emotions veer in the opposite direction?
- Vulnerability: It’s easy to hate someone we love who hurts us…at least for a little while. But we can also feel hate for someone we dearly love that reciprocates this love. Think about the vulnerability you might sometimes feel in a relationship. Being vulnerable can be scary. We’re opening up our innermost selves to our partners. If we open up to this vulnerability with our partner, whom we dearly love, and don’t get the reaction we were hoping for, or were somehow rejected or shunned, we can easily feel animosity instead.
- Betrayal: Being betrayed is something that makes it easy for most people to understand the relationship between love and hate. Have you ever been deceived by someone you deeply loved and found yourself suddenly seething with anger and hatred? Once betrayed, hate can be felt stronger than love, but love can still dominate. Hate experienced in the context of betrayal is a reflection of the sadness and disappointment the person betrayed can feel. This can explain why people experience intense pain when their lover deceives them, and sometimes why some breakups hurt deeply to the core.
- Jealousy: The relationship between love and jealousy in relationships has been studied intently. The more one person loves another, the more jealous they can become when they perceive a threat in the relationship. In romantic relationships where one partner is emotionally jealous, these emotions are believed to represent the fear and anger of the person in love. Jealousy is associated with the cingulate cortex and the lateral septum, both of which are associated with pair bonding and social pain. These findings, researchers believe, could lead to a deeper understanding of why jealousy can sometimes lead to violence in humans. Experts say, “Understanding the neurobiology and evolution of emotions can help us understand our own emotions and their consequences. Jealousy is especially interesting given its role in romantic relationships, and also in domestic violence.”
Love You Most…Hate You More?
Hate and love, it seems, are both involved in the neural processing of what’s sometimes called “the arousal effect of emotion,” which refers to the arousal of strong emotions and emotional behavior. An emotion with a high arousal effect can rapidly turn from positive to negative.
There’s a deep connection between what’s going on in our brain, and the love and hate we feel for another person. When it comes to romantic relationships, it seems that the more we love, the higher our capacity for hate.
If you’ve ever been betrayed and felt a deep hatred for someone you once loved, now you know this hatred is associated with some of the same areas of your brain as the love that once swept you off your feet. This could very well be the reason the hate you felt came on so strongly.
I still prefer to use the word “dislike!”
Please join me at Love is Medicine on Facebook where we regularly discuss topics like this, and more, all the time. Understanding the intimate connection between our emotions, the body, and the brain can give us a deeper understanding of what it truly means to love and how we can use this love to transform our world.
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review, which has been in print since 2005, and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry , join her Love is Medicine group to explore the convergence of love and health, and find more Love is Medicine podcast episodes here.