"The opposite of love is not hate — it's apathy. It's not giving a damn." - Dr. Leo Buscaglia (repeated to me by Josh Grimmer)
Love is a choice we make. That goes for romantic and non-romantic types. There are things that lead us into making those choices like hormones and the biological imperative to protect your young. Neither of those things are fool proof though. Hormones fade, and that instinct can be ignored. I had a friend that once said to me, "That's why babies are cute, because otherwise we'd just throw them aside for being so utterly helpless and annoying."
In my estimation, Love is the continuous, conscious decision to put someone else's welfare above your own. In the case of children, it's something we're ingrained with through biology and society to insure the survival of our species. In the case of romantic love, it's a completely unnatural act that can only be explained by the concept of choice.
Hate is actually much closer to Love, rather than being an opposite. That's why it's so easy to transition from one of those emotional responses to the other. Hate, like Love, requires a certain commitment to that feeling, making it also a choice.
Like Love which has different variations and degrees, Hate has several versions as well. There's a scale from dislike to hate depending on your commitment.
The first level is annoyance. The person doesn't occupy any significant place in your life, but you find yourself in positions where you can't totally avoid them. Whether this is a coworker, a neighbor, a member of your extended family, you just don't like being around them.
Once you start to put time into those feelings, the person graduates to the next stage of Hate. This is the stage where you think it's funny (or maybe downright hilarious) if the person experiences bad things and/or physical pain in their lives. You don't even have to see it for it to be funny. Seeing it can make it funnier though, but you know that the response is inappropriate. When you see the guy from the office you dislike slip on a step and take a header into the wall, you stifle back the laughter until you're sure you're alone and away from the judging eyes that just don't understand the cosmic justice that was just dished out.
The next stage is actively wishing bad things on the person. If you've ever fantasized about someone getting hit by a car while crossing the street or developing a painful version of cancer, then you know exactly what this level of Hate is and what type of behavior is required in your life to make you jump to this level.
Finally, when you're on the top of the hate pyramid, your life is consumed by thoughts of the source of your Hate. You can't do anything without thinking about them and what they might be doing. If you imagine they're enjoying their life in any way, it makes you angry. If you imagine them suffering, it makes you happier than you thought was possible. At this level, Hate is a full blown obsession.
Everything past the first level of Hate requires effort on your part. You have to spend your life thinking and acting with the other person in mind. That is a choice. We don't recognize it as a choice, but we can choose to not do it. At the top tier though, the Hate has become something you probably enjoy doing though. It fills your day in a way that you can't imagine what you would do if they really did dive into oncoming traffic like you've fantasized they would so many times.
Hate can fade over time of course. It's usually not the conscious decision that leads to us letting it go, but other things can start to take precedence, and the fires of our Hatred die a little bit.
Is this progression really any different than Love? Each at its base is a very benign entity that adds some flavor and drama to our lives. At their peaks, Hate and Love can both be extremely dangerous to the persons involved and lead to Google searches for the most painful types of cancer.
Allen lives in Los Angeles. He writes screenplays and for this blog. He also co-produces a podcast with his best friend about music, movies, and anything else that comes up that you can find here: http://tuneupstopdown.blogspot.com. You can also follow his podcast on twitter if you're in to that sort of thing. http://www.twitter.com/tuneupstopdown