How to Stop Thinking or Obsessing About Someone You Hate

Not being able to get someone out of your head can be very irritating, especially if it’s someone you hate.

So, how do you stop thinking about someone that you have such strong emotions about? We asked experts to share their insights.

Dr. Sharon Saline

Sharon Saline

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

When people have negative thoughts towards someone, it can be very difficult to manage them. The negativity bias in our brains naturally leads us to focus on fear, disappointment, and anger. For some folks, there can be a repeating loop of unhelpful and thoughts about a person, especially if we feel like we have been wronged by them.

Betrayal, revenge, and vindictiveness can, unfortunately, occupy too much of our time and energy. Hating someone, though, actually hurts you more than it does him or her because you’re the one who is suffering.

Instead of going around the hamster wheel with obsessive thoughts, notice when and where they come into your head

Identify the triggers so you can interrupt and redirect your thinking. Create a phrase that you can say to yourself in those moments: something that’s both a validation of your feelings and a reassurance that you can shift your focus. Give yourself permission to dislike a person and want to avoid them.

Alternately, you can practice forgiveness

This is a very challenging option if your hatred is strong. However, it’s worth remembering that everybody is doing the best they can in a given moment with the resources they have available to them right them. People, including you, make mistakes.

If some mistakes, though, seem unforgivable, it’s your prerogative to make that choice. So accept that and move on. Spending time focusing on hating someone takes energy, focus, and resources from living your life more fully.

Related: What Is Forgiveness and Why Is It Important?

Michal Strahilevitz

Michal Strahilevitz

Behavioral Economist | Associate Professor of Marketing, St. Mary’s College of California

Negative obsessive thoughts can be toxic, especially when they are about someone you hate. While mindfulness tools, can help, they don’t always cure obsessive negative thoughts.

An easier way to reduce such toxic thoughts is to reduce the cues that trigger them.

If you are still in contact with the person you are obsessing about, minimize the contact as much as possible

If it is someone you work with or someone you jointly parent with, keep all communications to the bare minimum of what is required, and no more.

Make an effort not to talk about this person with others

Ask your friends to try to not bring that person up when they talk to you. If you have friends you truly trust, you can ask them to remind you not to talk about this person when you slip and bring that person up. If it is someone you do not actually have to stay in touch with, separate yourself in every way you can.

Defriend/disconnect from them on social media

You can also delete their contact information from your phone if you are sure you won’t ever really need it. If they are contacting you for non-critical reasons, you can also block their telephone number and automatically send their email to spam.

If you are going to do this, the fair thing to do is to let them know you are doing this so that they don’t waste time writing emails to you that you will never see.

The fewer triggers that remind you of this person, the less you will be tempted.

The other big key is to fill your life with positive things that make you happy. People you like, activities you enjoy and causes you to care about can shift the focus from the toxic to the meaningful and fulfilling.

Dr. Monique Rainford

Monique Rainford

Psychologist, Your Doctors Online

“Thin line between love and hate” is the name of a hit single by the Persuaders and an often-used quote. It begs the question that if you are obsessing about someone you hate, why?

Finding out the reason could play a key role in letting go of your obsession

If it was someone you really cared about who hurt you, the reality is that every second you spend thinking about them is giving more of your time and giving them power over you. If the person is someone you have never liked, loved or cared for perhaps that’s even worse.

Do you really want to give them that power over you? The negative emotion could easily do much more damage to you than it would ever do to the person it is directed against. How do you stop it?

After you have figured out the reason for your hate, use your lessons to let go of the emotion

If you have learned something more about yourself or your needs, invest your time in relationships that meet those needs (whether platonic or intimate).

If you find the emotions stem from your thinking that they have something that you believe is yours or that you deserve, reflect on what you think is missing from your life, possible reasons of why they succeeded and not you and then figure out the proactive steps you can take to ensure your future success.

The work you do on yourself and the new relationships you build or the existing ones that you cultivate have the potential to put you in a much better place than you ever were.

Robyn Koenig, ACC, CPC, ELI-MP

Robyn Koenig

Public Speaker | Certified Professional Coach | Podcast Host

Choose to stop. It’s honestly that simple.

I’m not denying that the impulse to stay in negative energy (especially when it’s related to someone you likely once cared for) isn’t strong and hard to overcome, but the decision to keep this person in your thoughts and have it impact your life is completely and 1000% your own.

So, how do you work on changing this habit?

Make the commitment to yourself to move forward from this

The question you can ask yourself is: “How is this serving me right now?” Sometimes anger, sadness, and frustration do serve us but it’s usually short-lived and you’ll find after a period of time you’re exhausted and missing out on the good stuff being blocked by the negativity.

Find an outlet that you can use to release the energy

Being mad, angry and resentful is catabolic energy, essentially meaning it’s negative, it weighs you down, and it’s destructive in nature. It needs a place to go so think about ways you can do this for yourself – perhaps writing it down, sharing it with a friend (or coach!) or doing something physical that moves it from your mind out of your body in the form of sweat.

See what works and use this activity when you start to feel the heat rising from your negative thoughts.

Focus on what makes you happy and pursue more of that

When we find ourselves getting caught up in obsessing around about someone else, it’s usually a sign that we’ve lost some sense of ourselves along the way. Be intentional about pursuing things, people, places that make you happy without apology or self-doubt.

You are worth it! The only person that deserves your undivided attention and obsession is you.

Angy Tsafos

Angy Tsafos

Life and Mindset Coach, The Net Life

There is something really indulgent and satisfying about thinking about someone you hate and rehashing the horrible things they have done to you. But I want you to know that you are losing precious time thinking about someone who is not wasting a minute of their thoughts on you.

So whilst you’ve spent hours stewing over how awful they are and prolonging these negative feelings, they are merrily going about their day in total ignorance.

It’s important to remember that whatever that person did to you is not a reflection of who you are but rather where they are at in their journey. Maybe they had an awful day or, heck, a series of awful days and they are so caught up in their lives that they cannot see how they are causing you grief.

And you always have a choice. Ask yourself what good are you getting out of thinking about someone that you don’t value? What is the payoff? If there is none, maybe it’s time to gently forget about them. If that fails, give the below exercises a go.

Writing a spiteful letter to that person and putting down exactly what you think of them can help

Don’t hold back at all. Use as many expletives as you wish too. Once your letter has been written, rip it and flush it down the toilet or burn it. The process of writing can really help you let go of the anger and frustration as you are transferring it on paper.

Before you shake your head and say this is not going to work, I ask you to please give it a go. Have you ever received a drawing from a child or a love letter from your admirer? Did you keep them or hold on to them? You did because it makes you feel good and also because you know the person created this keepsake for you with all their heart.

If you find yourself rehashing negative thoughts about the person constantly, tell yourself to stop

Allocate 15 minutes a day at the end of the day where you allow yourself to indulge in all the complaining and negative thoughts you want. Slowly reduce the amount of time you dedicate to that person every day.

If you are struggling to let go, try to focus on the task at hand. Look around you and truly take in your surroundings. What can you smell, what color are the eyes of the person talking to you, how is your body feeling?

Remember not everyone is for you. Just accept that this is not one of your connections and let them go.

Related: How to Let Go of Anger and Hate

Denise Walsh

Denise Walsh

Dream Life Clarity Coach | Clinical Psychologist | Motivational Speaker

We all have experienced the ruminating and crippling emotion of “hate.” You know, the obsession of thinking about someone who has wronged you and then often we are then preoccupied with what you would say to them if you *truly* got a chance to speak your mind.

This obsession and internal frustration can be all-consuming, and often we feel justified when doing it because typically they actually did wrong us! When we see this person or anyone close to them, we get a ball in the pit of our stomach and wish that we truly could say the things on our mind.

This is no way to live, in fact, we can waste years of our life thinking over the “should-a, would-a could-a’s” in our life. And what we don’t realize is that this obsession over a past hurt is impacting how we are living today.

Here are a few ways to step into forgiveness, so this hate doesn’t steal more of your life then it already has.

  • Ask yourself, “What did I do to create or allow this situation to happen?”
  • We have to acknowledge that we played a part in it.
  • What value does this situation play in my life?
  • How can we take any good from the situation and focus on that.
  • Repeat this affirmation: “This person did the best that they could with the information they had at the time. I may have even done the same if in the same situation.”

“Hate” is a strong word. We can not create a positive future if we are holding onto emotions of the past. Forgiveness is a daily choice you make for yourself, and now that you have made it you are free.

Even if you have to forgive every day. Over time, you will find that this person no longer has a hold on your thoughts, your heart, or your action. And you will finally feel free!

Adina Mahalli

Adina Mahalli

Certified Relationship Expert and Mental Health Consultant, Maple Holistics

The way to stop thinking about someone you hate is the same steps that can be taken to get any negative thoughts out of your mind.

Often negative thoughts get stuck in someone’s mind because the thought is trapped in a loop, and they play an interaction or scenario over in their head. People do this because they weren’t satisfied with the way resolution worked out, but overthinking it will never satisfy your obsession.

It might be easier said than done, but when someone has wronged you letting go is your best path

Letting the negative thoughts pass through your mind like a wave is the best method for avoiding them. The realization that the person your hate is likely not thinking about you at all is a way to help you to get them out of your consciousness.

Your obsession over them isn’t hurting them, it’s only hurting you.

Obsessing about the wrong they have caused you will only give them more power over you and allow them to cause you more pain. Mindful meditation, exercise, and socializing with quality people are some examples of ways to avoid letting the person you hate control more of your life, or to get any negative thoughts out of your mind.

Obsessing about a person you hate does nothing to them, it only harms you.

Related: How to Forget About Someone You Hate

De’Asia L. Thompson, LISW-S

De'Asia L. Thompson

Owner & Therapist, Rise Counseling Group

One way to help people to stop obsessing over someone they hate is to help them cultivate empathy for the person

As a therapist, it’s my job to help them feel better, but it’s also my job to help them hold a mirror up to themselves to understand that they are interacting in this other person’s story just like they are interacting in my client’s. From that other person’s perspective, how would they feel about the behaviors of my client?

Helping my clients see that there can be common ground between people that don’t seem to have much in common can help to relax and appease the need to have negative thoughts about the other person.

It also is reinforcing the notion that if you are having negative thoughts, about self or others, it doesn’t typically make you feel good, so finding a way to release the anger- or whatever emotion they have towards the other person is a good place to start so they’re not obsessing and driving themselves crazy.

Meredith Atwood

Meredith Atwood

Attorney | Author | Coach | Podcast Host, The Same 24 Hours | Blogger, Swim Bike Mom

The guiding principle to use when trying to stop obsessing about people you hate can be simplified in this famous quote:

“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”David Foster Wallace.

In order to move forward—beyond the hate—you must accept the truth about the situation

It’s true that someone may have done the unspeakable to you; they may have hurt you, ruined you, destroyed you, damaged you or betrayed you beyond what feels is repairable. But the truth? You are not broken. You will come back. You will rise. You will get through this, no matter what that person did, said or orchestrated.

But how to do that is to accept the truth about your situation and what you are made of. In order to move forward, you have to make peace that those people are no longer your problem. It’s time to move forward, move on, and focus on what you can control, what is good in your life and where you are going.

Johnny Cash may have mentioned his own “empire of dirt” in his song, Hurt. But I like to think about the people who have hurt me as nothing but the Kings and Queens of an Empire of Dirt. With a wave of a strong wind, a flood or a new era, that dirt-filled “empire” is gone.

Focus on the pain and the largeness of those people who hurt you as an “empire of dirt,” and somehow, you will find yourself able to push it all away, move forward. You will then realize one day, that you no longer hate. You simply do not care. And the truth will have set you free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can’t I stop thinking about someone I hate?

It’s natural to occasionally find yourself unable to stop thinking about someone you dislike. There are several reasons why this can happen, and understanding them can help you take control of your thoughts and emotions.

Emotional attachment: Even if the attachment is negative, strong emotions can create a powerful bond with the person you dislike. Your mind may focus on that person as a way of processing and trying to understand the emotions you’re experiencing.

Unresolved issues: Sometimes, when there’s an unresolved conflict or issue with someone, our minds tend to fixate on them. This could be an attempt to find a resolution or make sense of the situation, even if it’s just in our thoughts.

Defense mechanism: Thinking about someone you dislike might be a subconscious defense mechanism, helping you to stay alert and prepared for any potential threats they could pose to you or your well-being.

Rumination: You may have developed a habit of ruminating over the negative aspects of your relationship with this person. This can create a feedback loop, where your mind keeps returning to those negative thoughts, making it difficult to break the cycle.

Why do I have a crush on someone I hate?

Experiencing a crush on someone you dislike can be a confusing and conflicting experience. There are several reasons why this can happen:

Attraction to traits: It’s possible that, despite disliking the person, you may be attracted to certain qualities they possess. This could be physical attributes, talents, or other characteristics you find appealing, even if their overall personality or behavior is off-putting.

Emotional intensity: Strong emotions can create an intense connection with someone, whether positive or negative. Your dislike for the person might heighten your emotional engagement with them, leading to a heightened sense of attraction.

Misattributed arousal: Sometimes, our bodies can misinterpret physiological arousal (e.g., increased heart rate, sweaty palms) caused by one emotion (e.g., anger or frustration) as an indication of another emotion (e.g., romantic attraction). This phenomenon is known as misattribution of arousal and might contribute to your confusing feelings.

Forbidden fruit effect: The idea that something is forbidden or off-limits can make it more attractive. In the case of a crush on someone you hate, the person’s negative aspects might make the attraction feel more enticing or exciting.

Unresolved issues: If there are unresolved conflicts or issues with the person you dislike, your mind might be trying to make sense of the situation by developing a crush on them. This could be an attempt to find a way to connect or reconcile the differences between you two.

How long does it take to get someone you hate off your mind?

The time it takes to get someone you hate off your mind can vary significantly depending on the individual and the circumstances surrounding the feelings of hatred. There is no specific timeframe, as it depends on factors such as the intensity of your emotions, your coping mechanisms, and your willingness to let go of the negative feelings.

Is hatred a form of obsession?

Hatred can be considered a form of obsession in some cases. When you constantly focus on negative feelings towards someone, it can consume your thoughts and emotions, making it difficult to think about anything else. 

However, it’s essential to differentiate between temporary anger or dislike and long-lasting, all-consuming hatred. Acknowledging the difference can help you identify and address the root cause of your feelings.

Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with someone I used to hate?

Yes, it is possible to have a healthy relationship with someone you once hated. Here’s how you can transform your relationship:

Address the root cause: Identify the underlying reasons behind your hatred and work towards resolving them. It might require honest conversations or seeking professional help.

Practice empathy: Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand their perspective. Empathy can help you develop compassion and forge connections.

Communicate openly: Establish open lines of communication and express your thoughts and feelings respectfully. Healthy communication is vital for building trust and understanding.

Let go of the past: Embrace forgiveness and let go of any grudges or resentment. By doing so, you open the door to a fresh start and the possibility of a healthier relationship.

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