When you ask someone what is the opposite of love, most people will say hate. Both of these words imply a deeply felt emotion, so it makes sense that most people would believe this to be true.
But it isn’t true. The opposite of love is indifference.
People who are in love experience heightened emotions, e.g., feeling as though you are walking on air, fever-pitch anticipation waiting for that precious phone call or text message, taking great care with appearance trying to look beautiful or handsome for that special someone, etc. You walk around smiling. Things that usually annoy you suddenly don’t seem quite so annoying. There is a feeling of well-being and a lightness of heart that stays with you long after you see or talk to your loved one.
The feeling of hatred is equally intense but it’s an emotion that is so corrosive that it can destroy your life. Loving and hating both take a lot of energy. The difference is that when you love someone, your heart is open to loving more, tolerating more, and overlooking more of the flaws of others. When you hate someone, everything inside you is so focused on malevolence that there is no room in your heart or in your thoughts for anything else.
When you are going through a traumatic experience, you may hate the person who is responsible for doing this terrible thing to you. Once the incident is over and some time has elapsed, a person is usually able to release the vehemence that has been dominating his thoughts and emotions and eventually, a feeling of indifference replaces the angst.
Most people can handle being the object of someone’s hatred more easily than being ignored by that person. If ever you want to get someone’s attention try ignoring him. It often produces such anger and frustration and feelings of worthlessness, that he becomes vengeful and malicious.
It is always amazing to see the reaction of someone who has been ignoring the dunning letters he has received for nonpayment of a debt. He is usually shocked when his account is turned over for collection and/or he is taken to court for money owed. He is even more outraged when he discovers that his unpaid bill and/or court case has been reported to the credit bureau and he now has to figure out how to reverse his bad credit.
I always tell my clients not to ignore their bills or the dunning letters they receive because there is very little that makes a person feel more inferior and arouses a seething cauldron of anger and frustration than being ignored. It is far better to call or write to that person or business to let them know that you haven’t forgotten what you owe but you are trying to get the money to pay it. It may or may not buy you the time you need but at least you are not ignoring it and arousing their animosity.
Many years ago, I accidentally discovered the accuracy of this concept. At the time I was going to a large hair salon that employed many hair stylists and shampoo girls. Each time I went, I had to pass by this hair stylist to get to the shampoo station. We weren’t more than two feet apart as I walked by him and so I would nod at him and say hello, and each time he would look right through me as if I didn’t exist.
This went on for several years. We never spoke; I didn’t know his name and he didn’t know my name so I had no idea why he wouldn’t acknowledge a greeting. Then one day I went into the salon and I had a lot on my mind so I forgot to nod hello to him. The result of that casual moment of forgetfulness was that he started to pursue me.
A few weeks later I was in a shopping center that was on the other side of town and I didn’t see him so I went on my way. He ran after me just to say hello when, for several years, he couldn’t be bothered to return my greeting as I passed by him.
I have had many occasions over the years to observe that theory in action and to test its validity. I discovered that it takes a great deal of energy to love or to hate, but it takes almost no energy to be indifferent. Conversely, from what I have seen, indifference can produce turbulent emotions in the other person even when no offense is intended.