Why I'm Thankful for my Hate List
Recently, I wrote out my hate list.
It’s nothing new for me or my family. Every time I say I hate something, they tiredly say, “Add it to the list.”
However, I have never actually written down those things I hate. But one night I was feeling agitated and depressed, and I knew I had to do something. My list started with the usual subjects: Ben Roethlisberger, “Hotel California” (don’t get me wrong – I love the Eagles, it’s just that song . . .), Stanford (but not my friends and family who actually WENT there), the Dodgers – well, you can see where this is going.
Then I put down recent additions: Ron DeSantis, Rick Abbott, people who aren’t vaccinated (personal freedoms don’t include killing other people), the lady who yelled at me at the dog park when my dog didn’t do anything but bark at her small dog. (In fact, I think my 90-lb Husky /Shepherd mix was actually scared of the damn thing.), State legislatures that are eliminating voting rights . . .the list went on. Obviously, I can’t hide where my politics and values lay.
All in all, my hate list took up about 15 lines in my little-used journal.
Then, a few days later, someone I trust and respect asked me about the list when I told him about it. “Why?” he asked. “That seems like a really negative thing to do.” I was surprised. I thought it was a healthy way to vent, and he acknowledged that it was. But then he asked why I didn’t write a Gratitude List instead.
I am no stranger to Gratitude Lists. They are an important part of my recovery program – in fact, my living program. Everyone should write them. I have scores of them written in my journal, various work notebooks, even CVS receipts that were laying around my car. Yes, they are vitally important.
And maybe, that night, I should have turned my agitation into gratitude.
There are many reasons to write Gratitude Lists, but the most compelling is that gratitude can literally rewire the brain to be more positive, a powerful tool for fighting depression and poor mental health across all ages. As the NeuroHealth Association reports:
“…a simple gratitude writing intervention was associated with significantly greater and lasting neural sensitivity to gratitude–subjects who participated in gratitude letter writing showed both behavioral increases in gratitude and significantly greater neural modulation by gratitude in the medial prefrontal cortex three months later.
In fact, this lasting effect is psychologically protective. In adolescents, feelings of gratitude have shown an inverse correlation with bullying victimization and suicide risk. Gratitude affects brain function on a chemical level and its practice promotes feelings of self-worth and compassion for others.”
So yes, perhaps I should have written a gratitude list instead that night. As someone who has suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression, gratitude is one of the strongest weapons I have in my arsenal.
But to be honest, most of the items on my hate list were good ole resentments, feelings that, if left to fester, can be downright deadly for people with addiction issues – and “normies” too, for that matter.
I recognized that, read my hate list to a trusted friend, and let it go. For that, I was very grateful. It’s very normal to have resentments, especially about our own “hot button” beliefs.
I will never devalue the power of gratitude. It's kryptonite to depression and sadness, things I believe we've all felt these last 18 months – and before. But I confess I will always have some sort of “hate list,” and Ben Roethlisberger, “Hotel California,” racism, and the Dodgers will always have top spots.