All Hail the Haters

I was distressed to find that three of my favorite bloggers encountered hate mail this week in the course of providing enlightenment and entertainment through their writing and instruction. Not surprisingly, they each dealt with a similar situation in very different ways, according to their personality type and blog voice.

Even though it resurrected horrible childhood memories, Lisa Hall-Wilson recovered from a personal attack with grace, courage, and forgiveness.

Daniel Nest responded to a bizarre and seemingly random crazy with characteristic humor and a little “right-back-atcha.”

And Graeme Street, cycling trainer and fitness guru, fought back from a punch to the gut with an impressive display of physical prowess. Get a load of the TRICEPS on this guy, my friends. How can anyone say he’s phoning it in!?

So, the haters…Who can forget the author who disagreed (ungrammatically) with a review of her self-published novel last year and was publicly (and a bit unfairly, IMO) excoriated in blog comments? I blogged about my response to that incident here at Edits [that] Rock.

But my question is: do the haters help us step up our game? Or are they just a blight on the blogosphere (and elsewhere to be sure) that we all will encounter sooner or later and must deal with in our own way?

Support of like-minded writers can pull us through the dark days when the haters are chipping away at our writing, our confidence, and our dreams. Kristen Lamb in her blog post this week talked about (among other gorrillas things) writers/authors banding together in order to anticipate, not merely react to, coming changes in publishing. Her mantra is We Are Not Alone (Yay, WANA!), and I have personally seen the power in that statement. In fact, she wrote a book about social networking with WANA in the title, which you can find at her website.

Hecklers, however, may have a positive purpose too.

We often respond (as the bloggers above did) to the haters in the best tradition of Nietzsche: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” (That ol’ Nietzche was quite a card. He also said: “Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent.” 😉 )

Anyway, after the dust of emotion settles, if we can get past that lump that gathers in our throat and that ball of fear that settles in our bellies, we emerge from the incident tougher and clearer for having been through it. Or put another way, if everything was fluffy bunnies and cute kittens would we really ever reach down deep to the good stuff, the REAL stuff, and share it with the world? Sometimes we come back from a blow with our best response ever, and the comments to that response prove our worth to ourselves and our readers. Take THAT you haters, you!

A little research on the psychology of hate turned up this sage article from psychologist and writer Rick Hanson. He begins his discussion of the chemical causes of hate in your brain with the following:

I heard a story once about a Native American elder who was asked how she had become so wise, so happy, and so respected. She answered: “In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.”

Hanson talks about how fight-or-flight chemicals from the primitive amygdala flood our brains, particularly our “rational” frontal cortex, washing everything in an “us” vs. “them” bath.

As soon as you place anyone outside of the circle of “us,” the mind/brain automatically begins to devalue that person and justify poor treatment of him. This gets the wolf of hate up and moving, only a quick pounce away from active aggression. Pay attention to the number of times a day you categorize someone as “not like me,” particularly in subtle ways: not my social background, not my style, and so on. It’s startling how routine it is.

There is some positive news for the primitive brain, however:

Humans and other primate species routinely restrain the wolf of hate and repair its damage, returning to a baseline of reasonably positive relationships with each other. In most people most of the time, the wolf of love is bigger and stronger than the wolf of hate…Love and hate: they live and tumble together in every heart, like wolf cubs tussling in a cave.

My hats off to these bloggers for coming through the storm stronger. We all need to spread more love and less hate. Include more people in our circle of “us.” Always remembering meanwhile that the Wolf of Love is still a wolf, right?

Have you ever held yourself back from a post for fear of the backlash? How do you deal with the haters? Do you turn to your supporters to buoy you up when you get stung with a hate zinger? How do you feed your wolves?