During your childhood, or upon reflection as an adult, you may notice feelings of hate directed towards one or more family members. While there are many reasons this hatred can develop, it's important to unpack why, so you can begin to process your thoughts and emotions in healthy ways.
How Does Someone End Up Hating Their Family?
What leads to hatred will vary from person to person. It is not uncommon for hatred to be a surface emotion that protects the self from deeper, more painful emotions lurking beneath, such as shame, self-hatred, grief, sadness, and rejection. Better understanding your hatred can help you begin to cope with the situation in healthy ways.
Experiencing parental rejection is one of the most painful situations anyone can go through, whether you are an adult or child. Parental rejection can feel like a loss as painful as death, because as humans we are hard-wired to know that we need our parent(s) or a consistent caregiver to survive from infancy on. Parental rejection can lead to hateful feelings and can look like:
- A berating parent or caregiver
- A dismissive or disapproving parent or caregiver
- An overly critical parent or caregiver
- An unhealthy attachment with a parent or caregiver
- A parent or caregiver who disapproves of a partner, personal choice, or religious belief
There are three overarching types of unhealthy attachments. These are anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. Experiencing an unhealthy attachment with a parent or caregiver can definitely lead to feelings of hate, amongst many other complex emotions. Any sort of whiff of rejection may lead a child to unconsciously internalize that they are not safe, can't depend on their caregivers to survive, and that they are not loved. Unhealthy attachments are never the fault of the child. Oftentimes, a parent who was raised in an unhealthy household goes on to unknowingly perpetuate the cycle with their own children. Unhealthy attachments may look like:
- Anxious/ambivalent: Children who grew up with inconsistent parent(s) who were not always emotionally and physically present may experience this type of attachment. As adults this can lead to difficulty trusting others, high anxiety levels, and interpersonal relationship issues.
- Avoidant: Children who grew up with rejecting, dismissive parent(s) and/or parent(s) who weren't around often tend to develop this attachment style. As adults this can lead to difficulty with intimacy, having a hard time being vulnerable with others, and finding it challenging to understand others' emotional process.
- Disorganized: This is the most extreme attachment style where parent(s) alternate between showing their kids loving behaviors and extremely terrifying behaviors. This may include intense outbursts, emotional and physical abuse, as well as confusing behaviors. As adults, this can lead to extreme difficulty with interpersonal relationships, having a hard time cultivating empathy for others, as well as difficulty self-regulating.
Keep in mind that you can experience a mix of several types of attachment styles. Attachment-related childhood issues can flood the impacted child and adult with intense emotions that may seem to come out of nowhere. Because attachment is something experienced consistently on a conscious and unconscious level, it can be difficult to connect your current feelings of hatred to anything attachment related, when in many cases, attachment is at the core of parent-child issues, as well as individual issues.
Ongoing physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse can lead to deep feelings of hatred towards your family. You may hate the abusive individual, as well as the ones who watched or knew about it happening but didn't do anything to stop it. Abuse, whether it happened once, or multiple times, can leave the survivor with a slew of feelings that can contribute to familial hatred. Note that other family members may participate in the abuse or passively allow it, depending on several factors including self-preservation, fear, and familiarity with the behavior. This can create even more tension within a family.
Roadblocks to Processing Difficult Emotions
It can feel counterintuitive to some to want to process and work through extremely painful emotions. Examining painful issues for some means reliving them, experiencing intense triggers, and having to cope with something that took a long time to bury. You may not even be aware of how many painful memories may surface and what it may be like for you to have to look at them again. This can feel incredibly scary, and it's perfectly normal to feel resistant and hesitant to move forward.
Placing Friends and Strangers on a Pedestal
On top of feeling scared, you may feel so frustrated and angry about your life, and the perceived perfect lives of strangers around you, that you can't even begin to get into your own difficult material. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon to believe that those around you have perfect lives and perfect familial relationships. Know that that's not true. Everyone has their own stuff, and the perfect family does not exist. Understanding that those around you that seem to have the perfect family life don't, can make it a bit easier to confront your own feelings about your own.
Not Acknowledging Your Pain
It can be hard for some individuals to acknowledge that they are experiencing pain. They may believe that this equates to weakness, and weakness may be something that wasn't conducive to surviving in your household. Some individuals were never taught how to identify and process their feelings and thoughts in healthy ways. They may have had a lot of unhealthy examples of what hiding pain looked like, and may not know where to start.
How to Work Through Hard Emotions
While most people don't love the idea of confronting painful emotions, thoughts, and memories within themselves, the danger of not doing so can lead to even more suffering. When pain is shoved down, ignored, or numbed out, it tends to leak out and negatively impact other areas of life such as your work, your other relationships, as well as your general view of yourself and the world.
Identify Your Triggers
Observing and tracking your triggers can help you prepare for situations where you may experience more intense thoughts and emotions. Knowing what triggers you can help you begin to better connect with yourself. This allows you to proactively begin to make healthy decisions for yourself when you encounter a triggering person or situation. This may mean you leave the situation entirely, have pre-planned ideas of what to do when feeling triggered but are unable to leave, or choose not to enter into a triggering situation until you feel ready. If you are feeling super angry and were planning on seeing a triggering family member:
- Create an exit plan and actively monitor your well-being during the encounter, so you know when it's best for you to remove yourself.
- Try not to drink alcohol or do any recreational drugs, as they can exacerbate the anger you are feeling.
- Know that you don't have to put yourself in a triggering situation and can set boundaries with your family- this means you don't have to go to events or encounters where you know something painful is likely to happen, and can consider cutting ties if you feel this is the healthiest and safest choice for you.
Examine Your Pain
Whatever your reason is for feeling hatred towards your family, it is valid. Keep in mind that your take on the situation may look different from theirs and that's okay. What's important is for you to begin acknowledging that you are experiencing pain associated with an ongoing or one-time situation with your family. Allow yourself to feel your pain, label your emotions, and find healthy ways to process your experience.
Seek Resources and Support
Hate rarely comes out of the blue and if you aren't sure why it's suddenly there, or would like some added support while you process this difficult situation, you can reach out to a therapist or counselor. Depending on your specific situation, you can also join a support group of others who have experienced similar circumstances. You can also read about and/or watch psycho-education material related to your specific experience. If you are a minor experiencing ongoing abuse and you do not feel safe in your household, call the police and/or tell a trusted adult who can get you out safely as soon as possible.
Build Internal Resources
Unconsciously, children tend to internalize their parent(s) or other family members' policing and words. This internalized parental or family member's voice, depending on the circumstances, may be only negative. As you grow into an adult, no matter how much you hated, disliked, and were disgusted by some or all of these comments, chances are they will still impact you negatively, despite no longer being around the individual who said them. While this may feel daunting to work through, know that you can create your own inner voice and aim to rid yourself of the unhealthy parental or family member's voice that's still pops up. To do so:
- Take time to recognize your automatic negative thoughts.
- Note if the inner voice you hear sounds like your voice, or if it's a familiar parental or family member's voice.
- If it's a parental or family member's voice, take some time to come up with a healthier inner monologue that doesn't include denigrating yourself.
- If possible, write down and keep track of the negative thoughts and your new, healthier ones.
- Continue reminding yourself that the negative voice is not yours, and you are taking the time to develop a healthier one.
- Be patient with yourself, as breaking this type of ingrained habit can take some time and may require the support and guidance of a professional therapist.
Although it may seem tricky to do so, think about the circumstances that led to your parent or family member's behavior. People tend to repeat patterns on an unconscious level without having any idea as to what motivates them. So, if a family member(s) is constantly berating you, it's important to take some time to think about why. How was this behavior created? Where was it learned? This in no way makes abusive, hurtful, rejecting, or dismissive behavior acceptable, but it can help to know that what you are experiencing is not because of who you are as a person, it's because of what they have previously experienced with others and are perpetuating and/or projecting onto you.
What Should I Do If I Hate My Family?
If you hate your family, it's important to take some time to examine why. Hate doesn't typically pop up out of nowhere, so if you are struggling to understand your thoughts or emotional process, and/or are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, reach out for support right away.