The Opposite of Love Is Not Hate, But Indifference

Elie Wiesel? Wilhelm Stekel? Rosalie Gabler? John Le Carré? Rollo May? August Strindberg? William Hale White? Otto M. Spangler? David Cornwell?

Dear Quote Investigator: Love and hate are intense emotions that are sometimes mingled together. The following statement makes a fascinating point:

The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.

This adage has often been attributed to activist and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, but I think it might have a longer history. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Elie Wiesel did employ this expression in 1986, but it was already in circulation before he was born.

The earliest close match in English located by QI appeared in “The Beloved Ego: Foundations of the New Study of the Psyche” by prominent Austrian psychologist Wilhelm Stekel. The text was translated from German into English by Rosalie Gabler and published in 1921. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

There is no love without hate; and there is no hate without love. The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference; the opposite of feeling can only be the absence of feeling. Disinclination, which is coloured by feeling, often only serves the purpose of concealing and protecting oneself against an inclination. Love and hate must go hand in hand; and the people we love most we hate also, because hate is grounded in the nature of love.

The German title of the work above was “Das Liebe Ich: Grundzüge Einer Neuen Dietätik der Seele”, but QI has not yet examined that book.

The quotation in German was present in the 1921 edition of Stekel’s work “Die Geschlechtskälte der Frau: Eine Psychopathologie des Weiblichen Liebeslebens” (“Frigidity in Woman: A Psychopathology of Women’s Love Life”): 2

Der Gegensatz von Liebe ist nicht Haß, sondern Gleichgültigkeit; der Gegensatz eines Gefühls kann nur die Gefühllosigkeit sein.

The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference; the opposite of feeling can only be the absence of feeling

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Opposite of Love Is Not Hate, But Indifference

Notes:

  1. 1921, The Beloved Ego: Foundations of the New Study of the Psyche by Wilhelm Stekel M.D., Translation by Rosalie Gabler (Member of the British Psychological Society and of the Society for the Study of Orthopsychics), Chapter 2: The Fight of the Sexes, Quote Page 16, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1921, Title: Die Geschlechtskälte der Frau: Eine Psychopathologie des Weiblichen Liebeslebens (English: Frigidity in Woman: A Psychopathology of Women’s Love Life), Author Wilhelm Stekel, Volume 3: Störungen des Trieb-und Affektlebens, Chapter 10: Der Kampf der Geschlechter, Quote Page 229, Urban & Schwarzenberg, Berlin and Wien. (Internet archive archive.org) link