I will start with a statement: there is only one kind of prisoner, and that is a prisoner of hate. After outlining this essay I will briefly look at what inspired it; then I will look at why I say the only type of prisoner there is, is a prisoner of hate. Then I will look at the two types of prisoner of hate, their dynamics, and two experiences of being a prisoner of hate from my personal experience, and how I overcame them. Finally, I will summarise. There is also a Christian epilogue to this essay, so that it is more meaningful to those who believe in God.
This essay was inspired by two things: firstly, remembering the title of a book someone once mentioned to me, namely “Prisoners of Hate” and the other one was the same friend said that the Truth of God’s love sets us free. This got me thinking that the truth about discomfort sets us free.
To begin to illustrate my statement that the only kind of prisoner there is is a prisoner of hate, I will use a hypothetical scenario where somebody is a literal prisoner, but it is irrelevant that he is supposedly a prisoner. Say I murder Peter’s partner, but he gets found guilty of the crime in court and sentenced to twenty years in prison. Let us also assume that Peter knows it’s me who killed his partner. If instead of choosing to hate the authorities and I, peter sees it as his mission to withstand the difficulties of being in prison, and sees it as an opportunity to help others. If he sees forgiving me as a welcome challenge then it is irrelevant that Peter is supposedly a ‘prisoner’, because he does not hate being in prison. If you hate nothing at all, you are not a prisoner.
Now to the two types hate: hatred which leads to avoidance, and hatred which leads to aggression. There is some overlap. Let us start with avoidance. If you perceive a certain experience as being “awful”, or “unbearable” you will avoid it. Some common things which people avoid are: being without addictive substances, housework, and exercise.
If you see yourself as being “unable” to do these things you will be “imprisoned” in a unkempt house, an obese body, or whatever. Discomfort imprisonment also tends to involve feeling imprisoned in the past. “It’s been this way for a long time and I don’t know how to change it”. The way to change it is by emphasising a perception of being bearable rather than unbearable. How you feel is governed by the thoughts you are focusing on.
You can also be a prisoner of hatred towards a person. I used to hate a man who ongoingly harassed me for money, and finally stole from me. I used to focus on seeing him as a “bludger”, and hated him. Now I see it as irrelevant whether he is a bludger or not, the point is it only makes me a victim if I think of him as such. I know of beggars who are bitter towards those who do not live on the street, and I have been bitter over other issues myself. Such people cling so dearly to their “rightness”, and often perceived superiority, that they don’t want to let go of their bitterness.
I will finish the body of this essay with an example of how I used to be imprisoned by hatred of a certain type of discomfort, and how I set myself free. Until about eighteen months ago I used to hate the perceived “discomfort” of having a shower. I only showered about once every four days, and used to just hope that no one would notice. I tried several methods over the years to get over this habit, but until January 2009 nothing worked. Then I observed that I could use how good it felt after the shower as an incentive to have one. I shifted my focus from the supposed ‘unbearable’ nature of having a shower to how good it felt afterwards. Through this method, having a shower became “bearable and normal”, and I have showered regularly since then, so there is hope. Having said this though, it is generally easier to free yourself from being a prisoner of hatred towards a person, than to free yourself from being a prisoner of hatred of discomfort.