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Thread: Self-hate

  1. #1


    Anybody got any good advice for overcoming a nasty self-hate problem? I've been working under an insidious dark cloud of self-hate for about 22 years. I'm just now starting to recognize that, and to see some of the effects it has had on my life. Now, I'm a father of a 6 year old girl and a 4 year old boy, and I'm under a lot of stress, taking a lot of it out on them through a perpetually pissy mood, and I really don't want to burden them throughout their lives with the self-hatred that has shackled me in mine. All of this, of course, not to mention the impact it's having on my relationship with my wife... and myself.

    Anyway, has anyone worked through this before? Any tips?

    I'm sure sitting would help, or mini-sits, like momentary steps into the meditative perspective when the shitstorm is raging. However, I haven't sat in quite a while (a bit disappointed in myself for that :roll: ), so, while I know that technique will help, I can't trust myself to rely on it exclusively, so I'm looking for any tips at all, not just "Zen tips". For example, I'm considering journaling more, as that seems to help, and, perhaps putting pithy reminders of some kind on a cork board on my desk, somewhere where I'll see them when I start feeling angry or depressed.


  2. #2

    Re: Self-hate

    It may sound like a cliché, and a bit simplistic, but just remember that there's no "you" to hate...


  3. #3

    Re: Self-hate


    Welcome to the club. I think a lot of people who suffer from self-hatred are attracted to Buddhism (especially westerners for some reason).

    There were two things that helped me with this problem when I first started exploring Buddhism. The first is that I love the term "practice". In Christianity, it often seemed to me that if you broke the commandments, got was because you were succumbing to evil. In Buddhism, if you suffer or cause suffering, your try to understand the root of the problem and work on that. In Christianity, you are basically bad and doing good is an indication that you are saved. In Buddhism, you are good (you are a Buddha) and suffering is caused by delusion. Your practice is trying to see and experience reality (and in Zen that is achieved through zazen). This switch in mindset really helped me to start addressing my self hate (How can you hate a buddha, after all. )

    The second thing that helped was sitting itself. Zazen helped me strip away the delusion to see what is really happening. For me, a lot of my self-hate centered around fear. Sitting, coming back to the now, helped me see what I was feeling more clearly. And it helped me separate the emotion from me (realize that I am not the emotion). That last part is probably confusing. Perhaps others in the Sangha can explain it better.

    Now, I don't know if any of this is correct from true Zen practice but it reflects my funky path so far.

    To paraphrase Will, "keep sitting". It takes a while to get to the truth of things.



  4. #4

    Re: Self-hate

    Oh yes, I think this is a big one for a lot of us. I went on a solitary retreat last summer during which I expected, because of how much my zazen had deepened, to be going into all these deep states of concentration and bliss, and instead, I spent a lot of it wrestling with my own complex of self-loathing, which I dubbed "the Beast." In my imagination, it looked kinda like this:


    First, when you are dealing with self-loathing, I could not recommend any reading material or source of Dharma instruction more than Pema Chodron's books, especially When Things Fall Apart. She speaks to self-loathing directly, offers warmth and a kind voice without being treacly or placating, and also uses cool logic to dismantle the psychological and intellectual supports for self-loathing. She's as funny and uncompromising as her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa (whom I admire despite his many faults), but kinder.

    Also, I highly recommend experimenting imaginatively with finding ways to extend compassion, kindness, and love to yourself. This does not mean engaging in a project of trying to validate your ego, but almost the opposite: instead of trying to deny the things about yourself that you dislike or wish weren't true, engage in an imaginative exercise in which the compassionate part of you sees this part of you that is so wretched, but then sees that it is lonely and afraid, and needs your care because no one else will care for it. Like a stray puppy or kitten that's just as vulnerable and needy as any puppy or kitten, but that's not cute enough for anyone else to pick up and hold. Maybe it's a little scarred or deformed, missing an eye or a leg. And imagine that you are holding this little creature and feel so much love and tenderness for it, knowing that the larger world may or may not love this creature but it is as deserving of love and kindness as any sentient being. In your arms, though, it is safe. Or you can imagine yourself being held in such a way in the arms of Kannon:

    The point being to go beyond ideas of what you are or are not or should or shouldn't be, and instead the simple, direct experience of extending love to all corners of the universe regardless of how your ego judges them. Because the idea that you do not deserve love or kindness, or merit hatred and scorn, is entirely based on the "picking and choosing" function of the ego and has no ultimate reality or validity.

  5. #5

    Re: Self-hate

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    Anybody got any good advice for overcoming a nasty self-hate problem? I've been working under an insidious dark cloud of self-hate for about 22 years. ...

    Anyway, has anyone worked through this before? Any tips?

    I'm sure sitting would help, or mini-sits, like momentary steps into the meditative perspective when the shitstorm is raging. However, I haven't sat in quite a while ...
    Hi Kev,

    Much of the other advice here is very wise and practical. But the old doctor must take you back to "basics" as the most effective medicine for these ills. You can't escape what needs to be done, says the doctor.

    We sit without judgment, dropping both "self-praise" or "self-hate", and all other "good" or "bad" comparisons of life. Now, some folks may be led to the conclusion that what then results is uncaring, ambivalence, emotional numbness. Well, if you truly understanding the Practice, far from it!

    What should arise instead is a complete embracing of everything "just as it is", including your "self" ... and an involved, alive, passionate, intimate equanimity for life's twists and turns. This is a very good medicine for the "hate" portion of "self-hate". Yourself is perfectly just that, perfectly yourself with not one thing to change or fix (... even as you might fix the odd thing here and there too on the "other channel").

    And with regard to the "self" portion of "self-hate", we also see that "self" as a trickster, filled with judgments and categorizations and thoughts of separation. In fact, we drop that idea of "self" with all the other ideas too. Seeing the illusion of the individual "self", what "self" is there to hate?

    In our sitting, we also learn to recognize thoughts and emotions as they arise ... and we do not chase after them, or get tangled in them. This is excellent practice for recognizing thoughts and emotions as they arise in day-to-day life ... and learning not to chase after them or get tangled in them. We learn that thoughts and emotions are nothing more than passing clouds, not real. Thus, when "self-hate" arises, we can learn to say to ourselves "now I am feeling 'self-hate', but it is not permanent, just what I feel right now. Let me not breathe life into it. If I just stand back, and do not give it energy or stir it up more, it too will drift away."

    We learn that we make our own Karma, and how we can unmake it too.

    So, yes, I recommend that you sit "just sitting". And when you feel these emotions arising, yes, practice with them right there. See if you can stand back, see them as the mind's fiction, allow them to drift away.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Self-hate


    I have no advice but I can certainly relate. I particularly like Jundo's post. Thank you for the reminder, Jundo. During times when my practice has been strong and consistent, I have experienced what he's talking about here.

    My best to you,

  7. #7

  8. #8

    Re: Self-hate

    How fearless of you all to discuss such an unpleasant subject so openly! And John, thank you for the book tip - I need to read several of Cheri Huber's books...

    I have been wondering how easy it is for me to appreciate the deeds and personalities of other people - and although I know I'm a good person, too, and have done a lot of good in my life it seems almost impossible for me to accept myself. On the level of thoughts I can understand myself, and appreciate many of my qualities. But on another level I constantly work against myself - and loathe myself for doing so and not showing my true nature. I fear this is a little more complex than having a well-defined sense of self-hate. This loathing is a vague, ever-present cloud, related to depression.

    I hope sitting will help.

    G, p

  9. #9

    Re: Self-hate

    Hi Kevin,

    If you are not looking for "Zen tips", have you considered therapy (again cliché but not knowing how serious it is I would still suggest it, at least something to start with).

    Although sitting in itself may give you some insights the point of sitting as I understand it is not about solving our therapeutic problems (we actually have to drop the self and the ideas of the self on the cusion, no matter how broken or self-hating it is). Therapy is about making something dysfunctional into functional and can be of great help.

    Maybe getting in touch with other angry dads and talking to them?
    Good luck!


  10. #10

    Re: Self-hate

    Try this – not at first with an acute bad mood, but rather when you become aware of a minor irritation:

    If sitting, sit tall and upright. If standing, stand tall and upright. If moving around, stop and stand tall and upright. (This physiology bit is important.)

    Then take three deep breaths. Not just any old breaths. Deep breaths, really deep. All the way in, and all the way back out. ... hingEx.htm

    You may find that it grants you a space in which to choose how to act, what to do next.

    After road-testing it on the “small stuff,” you can gradually extend it to more difficult situations. Don’t expect miracles overnight.

    I've been there, and it helps.



  11. #11

    Re: Self-hate

    Hi Kevin

    hmm self hate - I know what you mean. Ok tips (to take or leave )

    - Analyse: where you in the wrong? if you were make amends & drop. If you weren't - forgive (them & yourself)
    - Action: Do something - run, walk, be busy - it changes you mind set
    - Correct: & identify broken thinking. Recognise repeating themes. Be gentle on yourself. Find someone to talk it through with.
    - & finally if all else fails - have a pint

    Kind regards


  12. #12

    Re: Self-hate

    Thank you all for your wonderful tips and comments, your empathy, and your willingness to share your experiences.

    Linda - I know what you mean about Christianity vs Buddhism. As a Roman Catholic from birth to teenage years, and a recent Mormon, I know full well the guilt-ridden base for Western faith. I find Buddhism far more loving (Christ-like?) and practical for providing details that lead to actual improvement. On your second point, I understand completely about the emotions being separate from the "me". Sitting on a rock on the side of a lake, watching the wind whip waves in the water... that's the image I've carried with that.

    And, Kirk, it's true that there is no "me" to hate. But, I find it hard to let go of the illusion, sometimes, though I know full well it is only an illusion. This is especially hard when my practice lapses (which is seems to do more often than not, and has lately), as Keith also mentioned.

    I've always found it hard, Harry, to feel an emotion and stop myself from expressing it in any way. I can stop from acting out without restraint, thank goodness, but I still usually show it on my face or carry it in my body somewhere, usually in my stomach (leading to chronic stomach problems, incidentally). Not easy, indeed.

    Stephanie, thanks for the tip on the Pema Chodron book. I've been listening to the audio of Don't Bite the Hook, and I've found her logic and humor helpful in deconstructing the pathways to anger. Seeing reality for what it is, as Jundo says, is so helpful to breaking down entrenched illusions, dragging demons into the light of day and seeing them for the cowering bullies they are. I've read a few of Cheri Huber's books, too, and I've found them helpful, as well.

    Irina, I've been through some therapy and found it useful. I got one piece of this puzzle from my therapist, where he reminded me about my ability to step back and gain "perspective" on my "problems" (they're not problems, really, but learning tools). When I finally understood what he meant by "perspective", I understood it to be the same as the all-embracing acceptance and detachment that Jundo wrote about. I can't remember how or when that lesson sunk into me so deeply, but I stood within it for a long time, then somehow forgot about it and dropped back into my illusions again. Joining the Mormon church felt good because it brought me a feeling of community and acceptance, and brought me closer to the familiar faith of my youth, but I could never reconcile the judgment that goes on with my knowledge of the truths underlying Shikantaza practice.

    Jools, Mike - thanks for reminding me of those tips, too. I have found, too, that posture makes a big difference in my moods. Also, motion helps me. I find it hard to sit sometimes, but I can enter that state of mind more easily if I'm moving around, on a walk or the like - nothing too strenuous, though .

    And, Chugai, I've got a spoon that I've been wanting to give a piece of my mind for a while now, and you've finally given me a chance .

    I've noticed in the last few days that simply recognizing that I hate myself, noticing it without indulging it or dropping into the emotion, and noticing all the ways in which it affects my emotions, thoughts, and actions, and also noticing when I'm dropping into it inadvertently throughout the day has helped me feel lighter, more positive, more energetic, etc. I hope I can find a way to consolidate these gains so I don't slip back again, but I think there's an awful lot to be said for simply shining a light on these murky negative feelings and seeing them for what they are. Really, I think many of these practices are different ways of doing just that.

    I suppose the next step is accepting that these facets exist within me, and still continuing on without letting them derail my plans.

    Thanks again, everyone.



  13. #13

    Re: Self-hate

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Traditional medicine has long realised the connection between anger, aggression and stomach disorders.
    OTOH, "traditional" medicine - at least the western type - long equated ulcers with stress. Until some intrepid Australian scientist made a discovery and fought big pharma to get the medical profession to accept the (now-proven) fact that most ulcers are caused by a bacterium...

    I'm just saying...


  14. #14

    Re: Self-hate

    I'm just reading...


  15. #15

    Re: Self-hate

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Traditional medicine has long realised the connection between anger, aggression and stomach disorders.
    OTOH, "traditional" medicine - at least the western type - long equated ulcers with stress. Until some intrepid Australian scientist made a discovery and fought big pharma to get the medical profession to accept the (now-proven) fact that most ulcers are caused by a bacterium...

    I'm just saying...


    this bacteria is called helicobacter pylori, and yes it causes a lot of the ulcers in the stomach. but there are such things as duodenal ulcer and even the gastric ulcer itself isnt caused only by that bacteria.

    it has long been proven that stress elevates the amounts of hcl ( acid in the stomach ).
    in my hospital almost every person who is in the hospital for a while receives drugs to lower the secretion of hcl in order to avoid ulcers.
    but that is just the medical training talking...

    anyhow kevin i cant give you much advice because i think everything was said already...
    but what i found useful with my hate long ago...
    is to just sit zazen and the thoughts that arise i do not judge them but i see them. and by seeing and understanding them and where they come from and why i think the way i did really helped me to understand myself and actually admit things to myself about me i didnt want to face.
    by facing it and accepting them i could start working to change them... it is a process that never ends i believe.

    hope you are doing better... and remember everyone here is there for you ( although we are all very far from each other )

  16. #16

    Re: Self-hate

    Hey Kevin
    I almost have "self hate" for taking part here, but I think another point of view may be helpful at least in making more clear how points of view are just points of view and nothing more. So here:

    The self hate issue is nothing but a self love issue. Let's put aside for a second the "real self" Zen notions and devote to the small self or Ego. While it is unclear exactly what you call self hate, it is likely to be this phenomenon: you hate not being all you think you should be. So there is Mr Ego basking in the spotlight, showing himself and others how he wishes to be more or better according to this or that standard. Mr Ego, the star of the show, "unhappy" with himself and trying really hard to reach some lofty ideal state.

    Self hate is Ego love, is surrendering to the little self dictating just how the world should be. Self hate is the name of a coat that your beloved ego wears because you have to show yourself (and others) that you ain't self centered, that you are valuable and that's why you strive to be all that.

    Don't get me wrong for sounding sententious: My intention here is to give you support and encouragement because I know exactly what you're talking about, and that's some of the stuff I've found in my dissections of the guy that goes by my name.

    I just think that the self-hate issue cannot be addressed by any method that reinforces the notion of a self to be hated or loved or improved. All that will leave you exactly where you were. Furthermore, and since you mention how the family gets hit, when I tried to dump on my Zen practice the responsibility of turning me into a better father, I realized that I was immaturely trying to delegate a responsibility that doesn't require any esternal help. So if you find yourself yelling to the kids don't expect anything or anybody to come and correct that. It's all up to you, and that is a fantastic, unique opportunity.

    So I guess the best policy is not to hate that self, but just to watch it, not to judge it but to accept it, not to feed his tantrums but to let him be. In not trying to control that self the real Kevin will take over. Say, what's going on in this very instant? Don't think about it, just look around. Where is that guy you claim to hate? Staying in the moment is the best recipe to dispose of all our fictions.

    Best wishes,

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