When Nelson Mandela was leaving prison after twenty-seven and a half years a reporter approached and asked Mr. Mandela if he was still hateful towards those who were responsible of putting him in prison for so long. Mandela replied that he had been angry and hated them a lot because they were not only responsible of putting him into jail but also kept him away from his wife and children, whom he did not see growing up, having spent the best days of his life in prison and suffering abuse at their hands. He further said that as he got closer to the car that would take him away, he realised that when he went through that gate, if he still hated them, they would still have him. He said he wanted to be truly free, so he let go of negative emotions.

Hate and anger are amongst the most negative emotions that ruin one’s personality and have the potential to destroy one’s life. Many of my clients come full of anger and speak hatefully of others. They talk about the person whom they are hateful towards in such a raging manner, like they are going to eat the person alive within the confines of their imagination. Such destructive emotions are so strong that a person begins to feel heavily burdened, most of the time unnecessarily, and the negative power of the emotion does not even let the person consciously realise the reality of getting affected negatively by their own anger and hate and the mental vulnerability that eventually causes.

The origins of negative emotions could be different, ranging from being victimised by someone or for an unknown reason a person starts hating oneself probably because of a blunder he has made in his life or due to deep insecurities. Hate and anger can either turn outward (explosion) or inward (implosion), but it is guaranteed that both these emotions engulf your whole being, consume your mental energy and damage your mind up to an amazing extent. Some people think that they look or feel dominating and in control when they are in an angry state, but then these are the same people who do not understand why they have started having mood swings, disturbed sleeping patterns and cannot stand people even on a very minor misstep.

Life is life and mental peace is all that one chases throughout their living existence. Negative emotions are what prevent you from living in comfort and since we all are connected with each other somehow, it is society as whole that experiences the most ramifications of the negative emotions.

Buddha once said; “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” We have to let go of our negative emotions. The solution is to get involved in cognitive restructuring where we consciously confront ourselves, challenge our irrational hateful thoughts and replace them with rational and calmer thoughts, starting by asking ourselves a simple question: what is the one single advantage I am going to get out of this hate or anger emotion? Sometimes the only target is to satisfy the false ego, which we are not aware of mostly, so we are already in trouble without being conscious of it.

Giving way to negative emotions in a way that they become beneficial for you is the only way that they do not remain destructive. Be honest with yourself, talk about what and why they existed firsthand, write them out, talk to a therapist, realise what you have lost in the whole process, learn the ways to tackle them if they arise in future again and use the high energy of these emotions for better purposes. And finally, practice self-compassion - you are only human, and it’s important to remember not to get angry at yourself either.

In most cases, human sufferings start from destructive emotions as anger gives way to violence. And if you look around yourself, you can well understand the cause of all sufferings, fights and disputes. Everyone thinks the other person should take the first step to fix things - another way that our false ego entraps us. This mentality is how we remain entangled in our problems. We all need to start with ourselves, make individual efforts and contribute in the collective process of combating destructive emotions. Otherwise we are bound to keep disturbing ourselves and hurting others.


The writer is a consultant psychologist.