Two people in a heated argument about religion...
Image via Wikipedia

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” ~YODA





Perhaps mankind’s oldest and most primal emotion.  If you can name one emotion most mammals share, it is fear. Fear is what kept our species alive for hundreds of thousands of years. Fight or flight. A survival mechanism to deal with immediate threats. Fear differs from anxiety as anxiety is a seemingly random response to unspecified stimuli. Fear deals with the confrontation with or avoidance of an immediate, identifiable threat. Anxiety seems to trigger without any notable stimuli and persist for long durations since the person finds the subject of their anxiety unavoidable  or uncontrollable. Though fear manifests during seemingly hopeless situations as well, that fear is still identifiable. Fear is very much a learned response from interaction with stimuli causing pain or the immediate threat of survival. But still fear is a part of human nature. I don’ t think it is surprising that numerous tests have shown that 2 of humans beings top fears are animals and heights. This is known as preparedness. It may have had  a strong effect on our evolution through natural selection since human beings who were quicker to fear dangerous situations wee more likely to grow up and make little humans of their own. “Knowledge” of these fears is in our genes. Natural fears that spring up over the course of human history have great effects in our culture. Not too long after human beings were granted the gift of awareness, they immediately became aware of one thing: They were going to die. Fear of death is  a common reason given for the influence of religion. The fear of a distant slightly ambiguous death could probably be better classified as  an anxiety though. If you are being held at gunpoint, then you are fearing death. If you’re thinking ahead 60 years,  you have an anxiety. Fear is also taught though. In tests conducted on fear, the same area of the brain that responded to “scary faces”, the amygdala, also responded to pictures of faces of other races. Fear can instill deep paranoia that many times lead to extreme dislike and distrust. Fear clouds certain conscious and subconscious processes that are involved with reason. After this, it is a short walk to the next stage.



Anger has existed basically as long as man has feared the unknown. And been angry about it! Anger and fear are considered 2 of mankind’s primal, innate emotions, along with joy and sadness. Anger is defined as: a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong. Anger can often times be about perception, which can be problematic since anger tends to skew your perspective. Lab tests have shown that the processes in the brain that increase anger also short changes our ability to objectively reason. But, like fear, anger can be productive. Anger can be considered cathartic. In a supervised setting, most commonly a psychiatrist’s office, anger can be used to effectively and productively sort through emotional turmoil. The problem is controlling the anger one unleashed. Not every person is equally capable of controlling it. Anger moves along a sliding bar from annoyance to absolute rage. The more it increases, the less we retain objectivity and self control. Anger seems to literally hijack the mind. When it reaches levels of rage it becomes incredibly difficult to subdue and wholly destructive not only to those around the person but to the person directing it. It drives the circulatory and neurological make up of the body to extremes and can very often result in heart attack and stroke. Anger seems to take a far greater toll on the body than most any other emotion. Still, anger can be productive. Anger has lent a hand in human survival. Anger can be mobilized to correct mistakes and address certain unacceptable grievances. Anger is not wrong. It is in fact healthy in measured doses.  But anger is intoxicating.  Anger appears to be a much more layered and dynamic emotion than fear. Fear can run deep and become progressively worse with extended exposure to the object of the fear, but seems to quickly dissipate when this object is removed.  Anger can build to incredible heights even if the cause of this anger appears to be resolved. The anger can coalesce and become hatred.



Fear, anger, humiliation, and envy can all lead to hate. Hatred is a deep and extreme dislike of an object or objects,  animate or inanimate. Various philosophical and psychological descriptions of hate have been written over the centuries by everyone from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud. Hate, like love, can cause you to form attachments to a person or object. But instead of wanting to insure their well being, you wish for their destruction. Since hate seems to persist for long periods of time, like love, some psychiatrists believe hate to be an attitude or disposition more than a temporary emotional state. Hatred of one’s self can also form in people with severe depression or psychological trauma. Hatred turned inward is terribly destructive emotionally, mentally, and physically. Many a person has left a suicide note claiming an intense hatred of the world and their place in it. Hatred, like many other emotions, can be taught or put in place artificially. Racism is a strong form of learned hate. An attitude in which a subject’s anger at a seemingly unconnected social or economic problem is directed toward a particular race of people, reinforced with negative stereotypes, and allowed to ferment into hatred. Hatred can be distinguished from rage. Rage often times leads to a state of severely decreased reason and decision making. Hatred can be manipulative, coordinated,  and very focused. Most people hate for seemingly unsound reasons but they are still, for the most part, in control of their emotional faculties. Rage most often leaves some sort of immediate mental or physical trauma in it’s wake.  Hate can arise and persist for long periods of time without a single incident. But, where as anger can be directed toward moral goals, hatred seems to be solely destructive on any level. Even if the hate is directed at a commonly agreed upon wrong, the bond becomes so strong that destructive means are often sought to obtain the goal, causing more harm than the original “evil”. Hatred at it’s strongest and most severe leads, more often than not, to intense suffering.


Suffering is a state of severe mental or physical unpleasantness brought about by harm or the threat of harm. Suffering is hatred played out to it’s ultimate conclusion, but it can also be brought on one’s self through your own actions, or the indirect actions of others that may have meant no harm. Disease and the pain of injury can also lead to great suffering.  For the purposes of this piece we will focus on suffering brought about by hate. Hatred can naturally lead to a desire to see someone or some group suffer pain. Emotional or physical. Torture and torment are the two most common tools used to inflict this suffering. This may involve physical pain inflicted to the body or emotional pain caused by a feeling of dread and hopelessness. Torture is a common tool of many military organizations and despotic regimes. Hatred has most likely already torn away any ethical or moral problems the person has with inducing this suffering. Even in military cases, a sliver of hate enters the proceedings when dealing with the recovery of information from “the enemy”. Suffering serves two purposes to the person inflicting it. It weakens their target mentally and physically, but it also ties into psychological warfare or the effort to spread dread through a large group. Many people have committed atrocious acts with the coolest of demeanor. Sometimes though, the attachment of hate can lead to great sadness in an individual when the target of that hate has been wounded or eliminated, causing them to question their motives.  It’s just a shame it usually has to come to that.


So when we address societal issues regarding hate and suffering are we really addressing what needs to be addressed? For the longest time I felt education and knowledge was the key to ending hate. Now I’m not so sure.  We are talking about deep primal emotions here.  The wiring of our brains and the history buried in our DNA. How can we apply rational solutions to an animal that, despite our most boastful claims, can be VERY irrational at the drop of a hat? We are attempting to control emotion. Willpower is a good thing but it is not equal in all people. Haven’t you ever felt fear or anger for no reason? At least one you couldn’t fully describe? A sudden rush of emotion that just sweeps over you and literally alters your whole way of thinking?

Are the Buddhists right? Is suffering a natural stage of existence? Even when we grow angry at the “right things” we lose a bit of our reason. As that anger grows our intellectual capacities decease. Anger is a very necessary emotion though. It mobilizes us more than any other emotion.  What is the balance? Is it silly to think we can achieve it? Our deep social attachments keep things from reaching a tipping point, but far too often these bonds fall away when intense hatred is introduced. And it is easily introduced my friends. Maybe technology is our answer. The day we no longer have inequality at any level, maybe the hate and suffering will end. Or maybe it will just become easier to hide.  It is hard to walk away from thousands of years of programming.



Leave a Comment

Please Login to comment
5 Comment threads
31 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
6 Comment authors
jkkFLwhatsthatsoundKillgoreTroutADONAIfoxisms Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

“Are the Buddhists right? Is suffering a natural stage of existence?”

Yes, the Buddhists are correct. When Siddhartha left the comfort and protection of his father’s palace, he saw sickness for the first time in his life. He saw old people that were close to death. He saw dead people too. He saw hunger.
Life does contain all these sufferings. Disease, injuries, starvation, the slow decay of the body through aging, and finally death. Siddhartha wanted to help rid people of their suffering. Life is not easy. We all get sick, we all age, and we all die. We suffer cold, and we suffer heat, we suffer hunger and injuries. These are all aspects of life.


I scanned the discussion below concerning education and the role it might play in moving societies into a more empathetic mode.

As someone that has taught people in various ways all my adult life, I can tell you all this…

The only way to get something to stick is to figure out a way to present the material in such a way as to convince the student/listener that the material is not only in their best interests, but will make their life easier in a practical way. People are essentially lazy, and want to take the path of least resistance. If you can show that something will make their lives better in a concrete way with little or no effort on their part, you are more than halfway there.

That is the challenge of liberals these days. Lower taxes and smaller government now (the stance of the right) versus difficult choices that will pay off down the road (the stance of the left). Which is immediate and concrete?


Unless, PW…the student comes already self motivated to be taught. Which I know is a rare bird…but I think if all of the talk here about evolution (and I think we’d all like to have a better word for whatever the phenomena we’re trying to put our fingers on) means anything, there seems to be more “rare birds” chirping about than I can ever recall before.
It’s hard to see that in children of school age because they so reflect the paradigm and the world they live in until they reach an age of reason, self sufficiency and independence.
But there’s something very wrong about a world that ignores individuality in it’s search to provide a one size fits all educational environment.
Once a person’s individuality is quashed it takes well into adulthood for any child to regain it and pick up where (and as who) they were born to be.


Using PW’s theory, what is the agenda of the right offering to people that will make their lives easier?
If it Increases their beloved talking point: deficit reduction, how do their constituants see that as beneficial?


jkk – all they are really offering is lowering taxes and deleting any government agency that might keep them from doing whatever the hell they want (EPA, Consumer Credit, FDA, all those alphabet thingies…). No matter what it means down the road, the “benefits” are immediate and take no effort.

They couldn’t care less about deficits. If they did, no taxes and deleting government agencies wouldn’t be their agenda.


Another good topic Adonai. I have said many times, here and on that other site [spit], that when our emotions take over, reason and logic take a back seat. Especially with anger.
In one of the many treatment programs I went through, the instructor of a class on anger made a very astute recommendation. This being that when you get into a heated argument, it is always best, (when possible) to stop and wait about 24 hours before resuming said argument. This gives a person time to “cool down,” and start thinking rationally and logically. I know it seems quite obvious that that is the thing to do, but it is easier said than done. Temporarily halting the argument is the hard part, when passion arises.


A great packaging of a very convoluted subject Adonai.
And while fear may be the well spring that we should explore for a number of societal uglies, I can only go so far in excusing fear as the inherent and unconquerable that gives us as humans license to remain in a primordial psyche.
I theorize that just as a group of otters, chimpanzees or hyenas could never dream of building a Brooklyn Bridge, let alone grasp the mechanics of using opposible thumbs to get the job done.
In much the same way these different species cannot hope or strive to overcome defense mechanisms that we humans too harbor (if not genetically then through some genetic memory)…We have specialized tools to allow us to over come our fears. We do. We posses these tools and we should have long ago put them to good use.
Just as we (homosapein-sapien) can design a combustible engine or build an Eiffel Tower we can also over come irrational or unfounded fears that chain us inside our current paradigm…or at least we were given such tools as to be able to free ourselves.
Not a religious person, I still hold to the belief that humans and humans alone have the means and the charge to create a heaven on earth. Unfortunately unlike yourself, far too few see that destroying the hell we are born to, requires conquering no devil, no evil spirit or any childhood fear we carry into adulthood. To accomplish what we need do in order to create what we seem destined to create, is conquer those fears you mention and open the doors and receptors for that which would rush in to fill the void.
Nature abhors a vacuum.


I agree, foxisms. Our education model focuses far too much on teaching us factoids, passionlessly drawn from textbooks and forgotten as soon as the test is finished.

Just think of the potential if we were to make ethics, role playing confrontations, discussions on why we want to hurt others – all tailored to the developmental stage of the child – a cornerstone of education. We live that to parents, and sometimes churches, and it ain’t working.

Education means to “draw out”. We focus too much on drawing out memorized data, and not enough on drawing out man’s higher qualities.


You are so right, wts. And education as we know it (and in this stage of our spec-ial development is based on the misconception that gentility equals weakness, rather than recognizing it as the genuine life skill that it is and (hopefully) will be one day.
Music painting, dance, philosophy, the physics of creativity and letting go are all anathema to industrialization, productivity and unfortunately this is the reality we live in as a species at this time. As you so well put, we are indoctrinated to apply our focus to memorization for the sake of the promise of capital gain rather than cultivation of higher qualities that would yield so much more…but unfortunately “where we are” sees these things as intangibles.
Perhaps someday where we are “then”, this small truth currently can be more likely to take root and flourish.
But it’s OK for those who see to still envision it in the mean time. And when I say “mean time” I’m being literal.
Some call it “Kaliyuga”.
To put this all in perspective…as Dennis Miller would have said before 9/11 and he was still a liberal…”Fuck it! Let’s have pie!”


foxisms, emotions are the big hurdle. It would be great if parents and schools would focus more on emotional management than what it seems like today. Man, there are so many wonderful aspects to life than just making money and consuming. Compared to some other countries in the world, America is very close to the top when it comes to rampant materialism.


It gets so overwhelming KT when the rare opportunity presents itself to have people to exchange ideas on this with.
There’s nothing that you or Adonai or wts has written on this subject that I could possibly disagree with using my own personal perspective.
So I’ll revert at this time to some lyrics from the Indigo Girls before I become all together speechless:
“I went to the doctor,
I went to the mountains
I looked to the children,
I drank from the fountain
There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line.
And the less I seek my source for some definitive…
The closer I am to fine.”
G’night, KT.


Goodnite foxisms. Thank you for the conversation, I have really enjoyed it.


As always KT…bumping into you here is my pleasure.


The reason we will never have “heaven,” on earth is the fact that people achieve enlightenment at different times and to varying degrees. When I say enlightenment, I don’t mean Nirvana or any metaphysical sense of the word.
In many instances, enlightenment just simply means “awareness.” And awareness, the multitude of varying degrees of awareness, comes to individuals at different times in their lives. Some, unfortunately NEVER become aware enough to permit heaven on earth. Some become aware early in life, some in the middle of their lives and some, not until old age.
It would be wonderful if we could all become “enlightened,” at the same time, but that is simply an impossibility.


That’s very true, KT. But that doesn’t mean we can’t readjust the methodologies by which we teach our children.

When I was a kid, we didn’t role play different confrontational situations, we didn’t have discussions about it after playground fights were broken up, nothing like that. We just went right back to learning multiplication tables from a bored teacher who simply wished the fight had never happened.
I imagine it’s not all that different today. As foxisms points out, if we can use our brains to design flying machines and orbiting satellites, surely we can use them to develop education programs that at least ameliorate our bad behavior.


wts, I didn’t say we can’t make adjustments in teaching and what is taught.
How are you going to teach the entire world? What are you going to teach them. I believe there are some aspects of life that just cannot be taught in a school, at any level.
Most “bad behavior,” including violence, is more often than not, done because of one or another of our emotions. Fear, hate, greed, jealousy, revenge….etc. These are very difficult things to have control of at all times.
I said above that we can “learn,” to have more of a grip on our emotions, and that is a big part of the “awareness,” I was talking about. It’s not nearly the same as teaching physics or aerodynamics. And it isn’t easily learned, in any fashion.


You said you took an anger management course, yes? Were there any fundamentals of that that you could envision being taught to small children?

Actually the book “Walden Two”, which I’ve mentioned before on this site, takes up that question. Can we use the best practices of our cultures and societies to raise more peaceful and compassionate human beings?

It’s not “A Clockwork Orange”; it’s just applying best practices.

But I agree with you, some things can only be learned through experience. Nevertheless, we both agree we can CERTAINLY do better.


Oh, no doubt wts. We could certainly do better. Originally I was trying to explain why “heaven on Earth,” is just not possible.
Yes, that class was indeed helpful, but where I am now is a combination of experience, teaching, and to a very large part, Taoism. And it took me about 50 years to get to this point.
This is another good aspect of the varying religions. For many, though, religion is a bit hard to swallow, especially at a young age.


“You said you took an anger management course, yes? Were there any fundamentals of that that you could envision being taught to small children?”

My apologies wts, I overlooked your question above. I think young children should be taught to share, to not be jealous, to not be greedy, to not be violent, to have compassion for others (simple caring), mercy ( a part of compassion).
It is, after all, these negative emotions that create anger and ill will.
I think the lessons should be as important as the three Rs. Of course a child will have difficulty with these concepts, but if put simply and often, during a child’s development I really do think it will lead to a better society. The importance of good parenting can not be overstated, in my opinion. As the child grows old enough to start to understand more complex emotions, I think that is where school should come in.


We often think of this continuum of emotions as bad, and the other ones such as affection, empathy, love, and caring as good.

Personally, I think they are all intermingled. You have to give a damn about someone to love them or hate them. You have to care about yourself to have fear or to suffer in an emotional way.

The true opposite of all these emotions is apathy (sociopathy).

I believe the true enemy of our society is apathy and sociopathy. Apathy by the “common” citizen, and sociopathy by corporate and political leaders.

(Sociopath: Unconcerned about the adverse consequences for others of one’s actions.)
(Apathy: A state of indifference.)


PW, I think it’s more basic than that. We live in an age where “affection, empathy, love, and caring” is viewed as a folly and a weakness in opposition to “keeping your nose to the grind stone”, “doing what you are told” and succeeding while others around you fail.
As long as the majority of the herd accepts this (whether they talk an entirely different game or not, is academic)…we will follow the same course we have been compelled to and it is our advancement as a species that pays the piper for the time we slowly, slowly, slowly dance the same tired steps to the same tired song.
Aside from technological breakthroughs we’re not as far more advanced than the dark ages when it comes to caring and feeling compassion or any of those emotions to which you’ve made mention.


Oh what a terrible life it would be without passion. I think the difference between apathy and sociopathy is action or inaction. Sociopaths usually cause the suffering of others.
In many cases, I can be indifferent without causing any suffering. Not that I think indifference is always a good thing.