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Are Self-Hate and Prejudice Against Others Different?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

In recent weeks all of us have seen how hatred against the religious beliefs of others can have devastating results. A few people who hate Muslims put together a short video that was then released on YouTube that expressed ridicule for Islam and for those who follow the teachings of Islam. In this closely knit world, Muslims instantly became aware of and watched the video. The result has been rioting and death. Can this angry explosion of Muslim feelings result from feeling not only insulted but humiliated as well?

In an interesting study published in the September issue of a journal called “Perspectives on Psychological,” Science,” September 2012, research shows that there might be a strong relationship between feeling depressed and racial, religious and other types of prejudice. In other words, the underlying ways of thinking engaged in by prejudice people and those who are prejudiced are similar. In addition, those who are prejudiced are responsible for some of the depression felt by minority groups.

The way this works is that, all of the self-hatred thoughts are similar or the same as those who hate others. For example, a depressed individual might think, “I really hate myself,” can be replaced with “I really hate another those who are Jewish, or those who are Black or any other group. The underlying cognitive pattern of thought is the same. The thoughts are stereotyped and automatic whether they are directed at the self or others.

The same concept works on a societal level. In this case, in Nazi Germany, if everyone hated Jew, that hatred, directed at Jews, would cause them to feel depressed. It’s been argued that this concept is part of the reason why  many black Americans have a difficult time reaching their full potential as human beings. In this case, American society’s attitude of prejudice against black people causes them to feel depressed which then makes it difficult for many of them to get out of the ghetto. The same principle works with other groups who are targets of prejudice such as people who are gay, latino, Jewish, etc.

The importance of this concept is that this is a different way of looking at the causes of both depression and hatred. In other words, the causes or not caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain but by ways of thinking and by social pressures. Another way of stating this is to point out that there is a lot of stress experienced by those who are the targets of hatred.

Other studies show that those who are targets of prejudice may have more health problems than others. According to this line of reasoning black Americans, who have a higher rate of blood pressure problems, may suffer that physical symptom as a result of prejudice. The same would be true of other groups. The physical problem for other groups might not be blood pressure but some other set of medical problems.

Of course it is not enough to know these things. Therapists and other health clinicians can use this information to help people by using cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT). CBT helps people change patterns of thinking that result in feeling depressed and can be used to modify prejudicial thinking by helping the patient examine how unrealistic and stereotyped their hatred for others really is.

In a world where distance is reduced so that all of us are instantly get news about distant parts of the earth it is really important to learn how to accept one another and to not fall prey to depression resulting from the negative attitudes of some other people.

The answer to the question posed at the beginning of this article is “yes,” the angry passions expressed by the Muslim world can be and probably is a result of feeling humiliated by the attitudes of prejudice and hatred expressed by some people in the Western World.

In a similar way, if you are a member of a minority group that is the target of prejudice and you feel depressed, the cause may result from that prejudice.

What are your opinions and comments about this issue?

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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