Recovery from hate

Considering the level of violence in our world today, it’s easy to succumb to feelings of anxiety, apathy, depression, or hopelessness.

This is especially so because the military-industrial complex, war profiteers, hate-mongers, fear-promoters, bigots, NRA bosses, and various extremists have become increasingly successful in promoting those reactions.

When people are bombarded with messages instilling fear and anger, and promoting moral disengagement, they may choose violence and other extreme solutions in the effort to regain a sense of security.

The knee-jerk approach to a sense of threat is to retaliate, terrorize, scapegoat, and stereotype. These are not the only choices, however. It is simply not true that the only way to deal with “some people” is to get them before they get you.

Even people who have been deeply caught up in violence against others can convert from war to peace, hate to love, cruelty to compassion.

Visit, for example, the site for Life After Hate, an online magazine founded by “reformed white power skinheads” and their friends.

Read about the books available through the site—e.g., FourBears: The Myth of Forgiveness, described as “not a simple memoir,” but rather “a graphically illustrated guide from tortured child, to remorseless beast, to healing and change.”

Visit also the site for Against Violent Extremism (AVE). This group of former violent extremists and survivors of violent extremism work together to resist extremism, prevent the recruitment of “at risk” youths, and spread their anti-violence message.

To meet members of AVE and learn more about them and their goals, please watch the video above.

If former violent extremists can devote their lives to building peace, what can you do to help achieve this end?

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

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7 Responses to Recovery from hate

  1. Gold Dust Twin says:

    I followed links in this article and found it gratifying to learn that so many groups are working toward healing and forgiveness. My small involvement is to join AVE and to continue following this inspiring blog, Engaging Peace.

  2. Lia says:

    I very much agree with your perspective on hate and violence as a product of society and moral disengagement. As much my personal instinct is to automatically write off every murderer, torturer, or sex offender as a “bad person” and let them succumb to the consequences of their actions, I simultaneously find myself curious as to how these criminals grew up and under what umbrella of morals they were raised. Moreover, when dealing with criminals legally, should we take their background into consideration? Could past traumatic abuse warrant a less severe punishment for the criminal who has experienced it? Indeed, there is evidence that those who become abusers either experienced or witnessed abuse as children; “individuals abused in childhood will be at risk for later abuse of their own children…men who observed their fathers abusing their mothers will be at increased risk for abusing their own wives…and…young adults who observed and experienced aggression in childhood will be more likely to be in abusive relationships with their partners (Malley-Morrison & Hines 2004). In this sense, most people become abusers through moral disengagement, modeling and justifying their behavior through the actions of others who have also abused. Although it is becoming growingly apparent that most abusers were victims themselves, they are ultimately still held responsible for their committed crime, and are thus pushed into an endless and terrible cycle of abusing and being abused. The whole situation is a huge catch-22, because while the abuser is so often a victim and should receive therapy and help themselves, they also caused pain and suffering to someone else and need to be punished for that. I think that some of the most hateful people are these abusers, and in all honesty I understand them. They are abused as innocent children, are then often deprived of psychological aid, resort to violence and abuse due to their own trauma and moral disengagement, and are then severely punished and stigmatized for the rest of their life. At that point, they have no reason to not feel hate towards themselves, their lives, and their past abusers. I am by all means not in favor of tolerating abuse or abusers, but I do understand why hate is so prevalent in our society. I believe that our main target of interest as a culture should be prevention of abuse, bullying, and violence and immediate aid and nurturance to victims. Hate functions as a cycle, and the only way to stop it is to cut apart the circuit.

  3. Lydia Hogan says:

    This was a very interesting article. Just the opening sequence of the video alone, where it states, “In June 2011 the Summit Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) brought together former gang members, right-wing extremists, jihadists, militants and survivors of violent extremism” was enough to grab my attention. The fact that this diverse group of people, all of whom had experienced or inflicted violent extremism, can come together and learn and grow and spread knowledge advocating against such violence truly is a remarkable and beautiful thing.
    I began to think of other such programs on a smaller scale that exist in the United States today. An example that stuck out to me were intervention programs for batterers who have abused their wives or significant others. As stated in Family Violence in the United States “the goals of batterer programs tend to be ensuring the victim’s safety, changing the perpetrator’s attitudes towards violence, and teaching him nonviolent methods of resolving conflicts” (Hines and Malley-Morrison 187). Although many of these programs are court mandated, they still provide alternatives to violence to perpetrators of violence. I feel as though former violent extremists and batterers would have to go through similar changes, such as the shift from “power and control” to “anger management” (Hines and Malley Morrison 188). Violent extremists are often raised in a culture of hate and aggression, and know nothing else from the time they are born. As stated in the article “they use violence and other extreme solutions in the effort to regain a sense of security” – a mindset that is common in batterers, who, in the case of wife rape, “use rape to punish their wives and to assert power and control over them” Hines and Malley Morrison 181). Both batterers and violent extremists alike need to learn to abandon the desire for control and channel their anger into something positive.
    Just as violent extremists promote moral disengagement in order to cope with the atrocities they inflict upon other humans, so do many cultural norms in the realm of wife abuse. For example, as stated in Family Violence in the Cultural Perspective, “ there is a saying in Latin America that ‘a man who is manly and macho enough to beat is wife is not really a man if he doesn’t do it twice’ (Zambrano 1985)” (Malley-Morrison and Hines 152). This quote is based on the cultural value of “Machismo”, which “denotes the man as head of the household” (Malley-Morrison and Hines 152). Although this may be taken positively, in a negative sense, this gives a man the right to treat his wife in whatever manner he thinks fit, which can include beating and sexual assault. Women are viewed as inferior, a notion coinciding with moral disengagement, which allows men to validate their transgressions against their wives. It is very difficult to break cultural values such as these, but it is just as necessary in the case of Hispanic/Latin culture as in the case of violent extremism to promote moral engagement rather than disengagement. If humans view each other as equals, it will be much more difficult to transgress against each other.
    Moral engagement is a value that should be embedded in intervention programs for batterers. I also think intervention programs for batterers should adopt a similar creed to that of the Life After Hate organization, which reads as follows: “Life After Hate is an organization dedicated to basic human goodness, which is the innate and natural desire to live an open and honest life while treating all other life with compassion and respect.” If batterers can tap into their basic human goodness and learn to treat their spouses/significant others as equals, the cycle of wife abuse will dissolve.

  4. Quanesha says:

    After reading about “Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA)” in Denise Hines and Kathleen Malley Morrison’s Family Violence in the United States (2005), I found myself disgusted with how any person could have sex with a child. Children are typically viewed as precious and innocent, and I was completely baffled that anyone would be able to violate that and destroy that view in such a detestable way. In reading the blog “Recovery from Hate” by Kathie Malley Morrison, the way in which one could commit such a heinous act became clearer. In her blog post, Malley Morrison states, “The knee-jerk approach to a sense of threat is to retaliate, terrorize, scapegoat, and stereotype. These are not the only choices, however. It is simply not true that the only way to deal with “some people” is to get them before they get you.” In analyzing the case studies in the Family Violence in the United States text, it was overwhelming how many cases of childhood sexual abuse were perpetrated due to the absence, mentally or physically, of a socially acceptable sexual partner. One example of this is the case of Ann and Marie, two sisters that were both sexually molested by their father simultaneously from the ages of 4 and 5, until they were into adolescence. The case goes on to state that each of the girls felt guilty once they had exposed their father, and felt as if they should defend him, but why? Further investigation of the case unveils that their family was “characterized by an unhealthy marriage and the parentification of the children” (Hines and Malley Morrison, box 5.1 and 5.2). The parentification of the children assigned roles to Marie and Ann that neither of the girls was mature enough to fill. It can be assumed that because their parents’ marriage was unhealthy, the rift between their parents and the lack of communication that plagued their household would make it seemingly easy for their father to behave with them in ways that were not acceptable. I would consider this the “knee-jerk approach to a sense of threat” that Malley Morrison speaks of in her blog post. Had the girls’ father not felt threatened by the state of his disintegrating marriage, the belief of society that a man is the “King of his Castle,” and the lack of sexual pleasure from his wife, the appropriate source, he would not have viewed his daughters in an incestuous, inappropriate manner.
    Another example of this same type of reaction is seen in the case of Lynne Marie, who was sexually abused by her mother in the absence of her father (Hines and Malley Morrison, box 5.4). Lynne recalls her sexual abuse dating back to her infancy. She states that her father was absent a lot of the time because of his work. Feeling neglected, and lonely, Lynne’s mother sought her out, as an infant, to abuse her. To fill the void that she felt, she acted incestuously with her daughter, and tortured her to ensure that these infidelities remained their secret. Lynne recalls, “The first time I remember being sexually tortured was when Mother took me into a wooded area and fondled me, had oral sex with me, and inserted her fingers into my vagina. I cried and screamed because of the severe pain. This only made Mother angry; so to shut me up and to threaten me, she picked up a large stick and shoved it inside my vagina. This incident taught me the lesson of silence and to turn off feelings of pain” (Hines and Malley Morrison, box 5.4). Lynne’s mother began to terrorize her to help her cope with the despair and depression she possibly felt from her husband’s absence. Malley Morrison states in her blog, “Considering the level of violence in our world today, it’s easy to succumb to feelings of anxiety, apathy, depression, or hopelessness.” In light of these cases, perhaps this trend is reciprocal. Malley Morrison suggests that the level of violence leads one to succumb to anxiety, apathy, and depression, but I believe that these cases make it evident that those feelings can lead to violence, which adds to the cycle of violence and depression that is prevalent in our society today.

  5. Christina Fonts says:

    I think this post is very important in dealing with so much of the hate and violence that make up our world. Sometimes it is so easy to succumb to all the assertions made by the people we are taught to trust, who are not looking out for our best interests and not see that the people we are taught to hate may be people that have been victimized their whole lives. Learning about psychology, research and clinically based, equips us with the fundamental knowledge that enables, and more importantly, calls us to forgive. Unfortunately, empathy is sorely lacking in our society and with that loss of empathy for others comes a separation of human beings. People start to close their minds off to possibilities of differing circumstances as well as the possibility of common and shared experiences. A war supporter would have all his/her beliefs called into question if he or she strived to realize and understand that an innocent family, with children and parents and friends like their own, are being killed for this so called “cause” for freedom. Never will we be able to achieve freedom by imprisoning and killing others, it is spiritually impossible. This lack of empathy has become a foundation for our daily judgments: Judgments of women, of children, of minorities, and of criminals. To give an example of a criminal that, if you weren’t studying psychology, very well might negatively judge and condemn this person for their actions. The people that judge them damn sexual offenders, specifically child sexual abusers. However, we know according to Hines & Malley-Morrsion that, “28% of child sexual abusers report being sexually abused as children.” This does not include the unreported abuse as well as the physical and emotional maltreatment that could have occurred in their lives. They also tend to have “arrested psychological development, such that they experience themselves emotionally as children and can therefore relate better to children” (Family Violence in the United States pg. 117). The research on the child sexual abuser is relatively new but the information that has been concluded about them can lead us to an understanding of their criminal and destructive behavior, which allows us to make a goal in creating solutions to these issues; Because that is the main point of understanding someone. We must understand in order to empathize, and then we can move on and find solutions in helping those who need assistance from accepting people. Hatred only leads to misunderstanding and more hatred.

  6. Alex Jundanian says:

    Very recently, strong research regarding orientation towards apology, forgiveness and reconciliation has been published. For example, in Andrea Mercurio and Majed Ashy’s findings, they reveal that factors such as age, secure attachment, religiosity, tolerance for governmental aggression, and advocacy of non-violence are important facilitators in increasing willingness towards apology and forgiveness. On the other hand, Mercurio and Ashy discovered that fearful attachment style, religiosity, tolerance for governmental aggression, and advocacy of non-violence were important aspects in the interference of an orientation directed towards apology and forgiveness. There seems to be an overlap in societal aspects such as advocacy of non-violence that readily predicts how willing people are to ideas of reconciliation and forgiveness. As well as this, childhood aggression was also seen to interfere with beliefs associated with apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation. In a world where impoverished children are going to war at younger ages, it is important to understand how environment can largely influence the minds of the morally disengaged. Recent networking such as this research has allowed people on opposite sides of the spectrum to develop reasoning behind the consequences of violence and the impact of forgiveness.

    Mercurio and Ashy’s Article can be accessed here:

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