Freud believed there are two basic forces that drive us as people. Eros and Thanatos. Eros is the instinct for life, love, and sexuality. Thanatos is the instinct for aggression, destruction, and death. We can also think of them as love and hate. While later theorists have refined this perspective and we now have a more sophisticated understanding of psychic forces, I believe Freud observed something very important about human nature. That is, we each have within us the deep desire and capacity for love. At the same time and just as potent lies the desire and capacity for hate.
These are two compelling and powerful forces. The energy of love compels us towards creativity, sexuality, nurture, and benevolence. Hate compels us towards self-preservation, setting boundaries, confronting injustice, and fully engaging with others. In reality, these are not two separate and mutually exclusive drives. They are connected and they work together. When we cannot acknowledge hate, we inhibit the flow of love. Love does not flow fully without the partnership of hate.
Many of us find it hard to accept and contain within us those two life forces because they feel contradictory. They don’t fit together. Hate precludes the authenticity of love. We find it hard to allow space within us for both. One is feared or unacceptable so the other prevails. One is acknowledged and liberated within us while the other is disavowed.
Part of the fear might be the sentiment that “If I allow myself to feel hate, it will automatically lead to destruction.” Feeling is not distinguished from action. But in therapy, we work towards allowing ourselves to feel the range of our emotions and to know we can feel something without the danger of taking action on it. One of the tasks of psychotherapy is to say everything and to do nothing.
So if we’re talking about the emotional experience and not the action, what if both love and hate are valuable and life giving? What if there is synergy when both are embraced? Both are certainly within us. What would it be like to embrace both love and hate and to know there’s no inherent conflict in doing so? There is enough room in love for hate. In fact, the fullness of life may be found in allowing both to flow freely within us.