The anthropology of love and hate

By Emily Felder

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The anthropology between love and hate is a fine line, and one I am only now beginning to fully grasp as I have dealt with what seems like a never-ending wave of experience, both good and bad. What compels us to change our perception of our experiences as time passes and as their initial impact moves further from us and new experiences arise? You know the feeling: after something bad happens you are upset, emotionally damaged, embittered, cynical, unforgiving, and perhaps enraged or disillusioned. And the more you think about it, the angrier you become not only at the source of your own anger and pain but also  at, the constant reminder of your victimization. Your pain has evolved into one of not only external reflection on the aggressor but an internal one on your ability to handle it as well. If you know that you have been wronged or that you have made a mistake, then why think more on the matter? Why waste another moment or use of your brain power thinking and replaying that bad experience over and over again like some broken film reel in a cheap movie theater?I am starting to feel that as a species there is something innately primitive in our formations of love and hate. On some primordial level, deep within our brain, the determination of our species to survive has enabled us to form strong bonds and kinship affiliations with others. Once that bond is severed, whether intentionally or not, our chemical transition is a slow “healing” process. I only say healing in the sense that it can be painful to “get over someone,” but what you are really doing is altering your brain chemistry to one of emotional detachment. Just as one bangs their knee – the pain of the blow will subside eventually, but the bruise remains and takes a longer time to repair itself. Emotionally damaging experiences have similar transitions. It is no easy task to bear the changing emotions caused by the forced chemical alterations of attraction. Think of magnetism and the bonds you can feel even as you attempt to pull two attracted poles from each other.



Perhaps recognition of this makes it all the more frustrating. Even in our evolved, cognitive state, our social and cultural constructions of what things are good and bad for us do not really matter in terms of chemistry.  If someone has wronged us, we should, as supposed rational beings, be able to detach ourselves. And we certainly do in an ideal world –the break of communication, the cessation of physical intercourse or contact, the removal of traces of your relationship and even the confirmation of the wrongs done by friends or relatives as a positive notion. You try to justify the bad experience as a good one, and it most likely is, even though your brain wants to continue its emotional pursuit. You and your subjectivity cannot break the bond, and probably never fully will, though there certainly have been rare exceptions. Maybe knowing this process and understanding that this is why you feel the way you do will help alleviate your frustrations.

Emily Felder is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at