The Snares of Self-Hatred

In The Moral Psychology of Hate. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 53-74 (2021)
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Abstract

As with certain other self-reflexive emotions, such as guilt and shame, our understanding of self-hatred may be aided by views of the mind which posit an internalized other whose perspective on oneself embodies and focuses a set of concerns and values, and whose perspective one is in some sense vulnerable to. To feel guilt for some transgression is not solely to feel the anger that one would feel toward another’s trespasses, now directed back onto oneself as an object of that anger; it is at the same time to react to that anger – perhaps, for example, to accept it as deserved, or to welcome the lashing of one’s bad conscience. To feel shame before oneself is not just to see oneself in some compromising way, it is to feel compromised by one’s own gaze. Likewise, the person who hates herself does not feel the hatred that she might have for another, simply taking herself as object of that attitude. She is not merely the seat of an internalized hostile voice and perspective that she may, for example, react to with indifference. She does not only tell herself that she is “worthless” but, will typically feel herself so in response. And her suffering may not just result from pain she is inclined to inflict, but suffering that, in some sense, she is inclined to suffer. But how is this so? How, in self-hatred, does one become not only subject to, but vulnerable and even receptive to one’s own hostility?

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Vida Yao
University of California, Los Angeles

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