Love Hatred and Guilt

It is sometime since I last posted and that is because I have found it difficult to know how to approach what I want to say next. I want to talk about hatred. Hatred that gets mixed up with love and sometimes masquerades as love.

We don’t often talk about the idea that parents who sincerely love their children can also hate them, or can hate some of the feelings that children arouse in parents. Traditionally food is symbolic of love and especially of maternal love. But when people over eat or are encouraged to over eat something is happening in which food, the symbol of love is being used to disguise hate. Food is meant to be nourishing and to promote well being but when it is overused it becomes bad for us, damaging.  Many people who are overweight seem to track their eating habits back to their early experiences of feeding and to the expectation that they should eat everything on the plate with no thought for whether that is too much or not. Eating what ones body needs and stopping when we have had enough, is not the point for many people, there are other unconscious pressures at work which actually pervert the healthy aim of eating for nourishment and it becomes a feature of life that is more to do with the relationship between the feeder and the one who feeds. If that relationship is imbued with difficulties for the feeder, if the feeder had her own conflicts to do with loving and the communication of love, then these get passed on. If the problems are to do with hatred then the feeder may try to compensate for feelings of hatred by over feeding. This might not be comfort eating but trying to please an unpleasable mother.

At a very unconscious level, the conflict could go something like this;

Mother (or maternal care giver)

‘I love this baby and must give her the best care possible.’

‘She reminds me of an aspect of myself that I hate because it is needy and ugly and nasty.’

‘I hate her for reminding me of myself.’

‘I feel very guilty for hating her.’

‘I must show that I love her.’

‘I can do that by feeding her. If she takes my food that proves that I have not hurt her with my hate.’

‘Every time I feel the hate rising I will give her food to quell the hatred and the guilt that goes with it.’

For the baby/infant the unconscious conflict might be along the lines of;

‘That was a lovely feed, and now I do not want anymore.’

‘When I stop feeding something changes between me and my mum. There is a feeling that something is wrong, that we are not close, that I have lost her.’ I want her to come back. I’m angry with her for distancing herself from me. I shouldn’t be angry when she feeds me so well.’

I will eat more to restore the close feeling, even though I do not want more food.’

‘Now I feel that all is well between my mum and me but I can no longer make my own decision about when I have had enough to eat. And I do really enjoy food.’

As the baby grows into a child, a girl she may become more consciously aware of her mothers need for her to eat plenty of food and lose touch with her own sense of when she has eaten enough. She has begun to eat to satisfy her mother’s needs and not to meet her own needs. This can become an insatiable circle. There are many maternal figures who derive pleasure from seeing all the food eaten up. There are many maternal figures who cannot resist piling a lot of food onto a plate and then expressing disappointment if it doesn’t get eaten. The guilt is piled on with the food, and the hatred that lurks behind the guilt is hidden from view.