Human Hate Continued: Knit Ourselves Together or Tear Ourselves Apart?

”Only through solidarity and cooperation within one’s own group was it possible to raise children and survive when competing against unknown and rivaling groups for scarce resources in pre-civilized times…”*

There it is, folks. This could be what we are up against when we wonder why, why, why, after all this time, in this day and age, inter-group hatred still rears its ugly head. Some would say, like it or not, we are hardwired to huddle with our own against the ones we think are not us. Us versus Them. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. Two things:

  • The human brain (aka the “social brain”) got bigger and smarter over time due to living in – and allowing us to live in – larger and larger communities. The social brain is now considered flexible and therefore shaped, not just by our genes, but by the environment in which it lives as well.
  • New research suggests that xenophobia, (or fear/disgust of people who are different), can be reduced and altruism increased by oxytocin and social pressure.

So it’s not hopeless. And we are not helpless. We can change. And it appears that oxytocin + social pressure can help us to do just that. Social interaction increases Oxytocin, which then brings pleasure and trust to that interaction. Cause and Effect. So let’s just hang out – with more and more people different from the ones our primitive brain picks out for us. And let’s be sure to do it out and about to create the social pressure that interaction with people who do not look exactly like us is how it is and how it is going to be more and more over time. Period.

But I am talking to and about adults here. Because infants don’t need to be told that we are all one. As per Obama’s tweet of Mandela’s quote: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Maybe love is not even more natural than hate. But it is natural enough, and every single one of us can do something to help knit us together, one stitch at a time.

As only one example, one client,** a black man, told me he fought back the urge to pick someone who looked more like him to work with, and picked me instead because I am white. We have worked boldly on racial identity issues together, in ways he tells me would have been less possible and less fruitful for him had we both been black. Each and every one of us can catch it and counter it, just as he did, to choose someone different instead of too often someone who is same, for the sake of same and same alone. If this is your tendency…try something different. Try someone different. You might like it. And the world will thank you for it. Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Universität Bonn. “Oxytocin and social norms reduce xenophobia.” ScienceDaily, 14 August 2017,>.

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.




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