For the most part, people who are filled with hate and intolerance are expressing a form of fear. When people hate others they feel vulnerable and threatened – often due to low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness. The hatred comes from feeling threatened: our fight-or-flight response is activated and the more reflective parts of the brain are shot off so we can run. For even “good” or tolerant people, culturally–there’s a built in need to be right that often cancels out our ability to be compassionate. And that need to be right is really due to the fear of being wrong. When we operate from a purely thought-driven place for the majority of life – never shutting down to relax and reflect, the ego – the “computer” organ of the body, can grow overly dominant to a devastating degree. If we don’t stop to allow ourselves to reflect and go beyond the ego, we instead operate directly from the stress-response, or, “I’m right. You’re not. Let me prove it any way possible to feel better about myself.”
This part of our brain – the selfish ego who wants to be right – is what is built into us by evolution. It’s the most primitive part of our brain – the one that evolved first, and it’s the part of the brain that was designed for survival. It’s called the reptilian brain because it’s the part we share with all animals, including reptiles. It calculates threat and when it senses it, it shuts down the other newer parts of the brain so we can stop thinking and run or fight. These threat-defense mechanisms were developed 500 million years ago and they are motivated by what they call the four f’s: feeding, fighting, fleeing – and (ahem) reproduction. So this stress response is quite literally the most basic part of us.