There's a well-accepted idea that we should look to positive role models for guidance on how to live. While that philosophy certainly has its merits, little is said about looking to those we hate.
There is an argument for focusing our attentions closely on the people we can't stand: the ones who seem to trigger us beyond all comprehension, whose actions are of such paramount importance to us, it becomes a point of obsession.
We resent these people because they are arrogant, pushy, loud, attention-seeking and overly critical or we despise them because they are complainers, small-minded, spineless and weak. It can literally be anything that triggers us and it is particularly unique to the observer - ie. whichever one of us is doing the hating.
It advises us to get to know our "shadow selves", that is our repressed states, those parts of us we do not allow out to see the light of day. These traits and behaviours can get buried at a very early age. They can also get locked away later in life in response to highly stressful events.
Ever answered back and got punished for it? Expressed yourself freely and were laughed at or shut down? Embarked on something creative and told you would never amount to anything? Had a "great friend" and get betrayed?
Your vulnerable, open and trusting side is likely to take a hammering if you get stabbed in the back. Your natural exuberance might get diluted if you were repeatedly criticised for it - "stop being so annoying", "you're such a show off". And your creative self-belief might dwindle to zero if you believed the person who criticised you than more than you did your own natural inclinations.
This is why, later in life, when you have had years of practice being a "good" girl or boy, you have learnt to fit in, shelved those silly ideas of being an artist/writer/ designer etc and become skilled at keeping your mouth shut and your nose clean, that someone might come along and remind you of who you used to be.
And you will hate them for it.
Steve Mortenson, who teaches at the University of Delaware, says we would be wise to become aware of the "shadow projections" we place on people: what they actually say about ourselves (and who we are not being) - and the power we give away when we fail to take ownership of the long lost traits, skills and talents that have got shoved to one side along the road.
Perhaps then, we will recognise that when we curse the people who are expressing them freely, that what we are actually saying to ourselves is that we can never do or be that too.
And when we do begin to re-integrate our "lost selves" we will find these people do not bother us so much in the end, after all.