They seem to be everywhere these days, always poised to pounce.

If someone makes a public announcement, they look for reasons to condemn it. If someone wears a new dress, they find the one flaw in the person’s attire and criticize it. If someone writes an article, they scour it looking for any offenses. If somebody makes a joke, they are bound to take it the wrong way. If somebody smiles, they find something wrong with the smile, perhaps the left eyebrow is too upturned.

Gerald Frederick SchoenewolfGerald Frederick Schoenewolf is an American psychoanalyst best known for his staunch neoclassical psychoanalytic theory at a time when psychoanalysis began to be greatly influenced by liberal ideology. He is the author of 13 books on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, one translation of Chinese philosophy, as well as four novels and a collection of poems and illustrations. He also produced, wrote and directed two feature films and a collection of video song poems.

Editor: Nadeem Noor

These are the haters. They have forgotten how to live and let live. They don’t know and don’t want to know about mutual respect. They think being open-minded is weak, a sign of not being committed to a cause. They think that listening to somebody and considering their words and their actions is a waste of time. They like diversity as long as it doesn’t involve tolerance for a diversity of opinion. The do no believe in empathy for all people and think the Golden Rule (“Treat others as you would have them treat you”) is irrelevant. They aren’t going to waste their time when it’s obvious from the beginning that a person doesn’t get it.

They are the haters. It empowers them to hate.

If you are a hater you can find offense in something that somebody says and demand an apology and bring them to their knees. If you are a hater you can treat those you don’t like—often those who arouse fear or jealousy—as if they are from a lower class. If you are a hater you can join with other haters and knock someone down from a high position, such as a celebrity or political figure, and feel the satisfaction of victory. Haters are people who hate themselves and need to find targets on whom to dump that hatred. It gives them a feeling of well-being and the sense that they are OK while others aren’t OK.

The pop singer, Justin Bieber, was the toast of the world when he was a preteen, but when he reached the age of adulthood something changed. He wasn’t the same cute kid; now his flaws showed, and he had many of them. The haters began to emerge in the hundreds and thousands, focusing on every flaw with groans of disgust. It is as if they were just waiting for him to fall from grace. Bieber, like all of us, is not perfect; and because he is in the spotlight his imperfections show up even more. Haters focus on the speck in Bieber’s eye, but not the beam in their own eye.

Sometimes the haters join together and become a mob. This happened in the case of Joe Paterno, the former football coach at Penn State University. Paterno holds the record for the most wins by a major college coach. But when a scandal broke out at Penn State involving an assistant coach who had molested a number of boys on campus, Joe Paterno was made the scapegoat. Suddenly, without a trial, on the basis of a skewed report, spurred by the frenzied mob of haters, he was found guilty by a court of haters. He was fired from his job, his record-breaking number of wins was wiped out by the NCAA, and his statue was removed from the campus. He died within months of the scandal. The mob of haters ruled and nobody could say a word in his defense. Paterno was a flawed human being, but he was not a criminal or a monster. A few years later Paterno was exonerated, his record was restored and his statue brought back.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to be hated. Haters can show up in anybody’s life. Let’s say you have worked hard at your job and were promoted. The promotion is announced at a company meeting and everybody applauds and says good things about you. However, some people are lurking in the back, smiling and clapping while their eyes are fixed on you in a hard and resentful way. Later one of the haters comes up to you and shakes your hand a little too strongly. “Who’d you have to sleep with? Just joking. Congratulations.”

Or you may be an attractive young woman walking through a city park on a summer day. There is a cool breeze in the air and the sun is radiant in the sky and you are in a wonderful mood, gazing at the leaves rustling in the trees, feeling happy with yourself, when suddenly a hater intrudes on your harmony. “Hey, Babe, what’re you grinning about? You think you’re superior because you’re cute?”

Whether you are a celebrity or an ordinary person, when haters come to visit it is usually best not to react. If you react in any way at all, the haters have won. They have put you on the defensive, which is what they want. Sure, you can say something back to them and it might make you feel better in the moment, but in the long run the sting of their hatred will likely be worse because you have shown them they hurt you.

Justin Bieber, for example, would have been far better off if he hadn’t defended himself against his haters, but instead said, “No comment,” whenever the subject was brought up. He should have ignored them and gone about his business performing his songs. By defending himself, he let the haters know they had gotten to him and gave them the sense they were right to judge him.

There are situations, of course, where the haters do more than make remarks; they do real damage, as in the Joe Paterno case. In such instances you are forced to take actions to defend yourself if you can.

But generally the way to manage haters is not to manage them. The world is full of hate, but you don’t need to hate it back.

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