The same hormone that makes you love can also make you hate.
How could Adolf Hitler have such love for children and animals while murdering millions of people?
There are many reasons, and we are unlikely to ever really know. But there is one unusual suspect likely to have played a part.
What is Oxytocin
Oxytocin is a hormone released by your posterior pituitary gland, the one you might remember from school— bearing a very close resemblance to a certain male appendage.
Oxytocin is a hormone released by your posterior pituitary gland, the one you might remember from school bearing a very close resemblance to a certain male appendage.
Oxytocin has a couple of functions you might not have been aware of. It’s responsible for triggering the release of milk when a baby suckles on its mother’s breast. But before the baby can feed, it needs to come out, and oxytocin lends a helping hand. As the baby’s head hits its mother’s cervix, a rush of oxytocin enters her blood. This causes the muscles surrounding the birth canal to contract and push the baby out.
Here comes the interesting role of oxytocin, the one you possibly already knew.
Oxytocin builds trust, love, and connection, and is aptly named the “bonding” hormone. It creates and reinforces relationships, playing a crucial role in the maternal bond between mother and child. Even giving someone a long hug releases the hormone.
The oxytocin contradiction
If you know about bears, you’ll also know how protective and loving they can be of their young. You might also be aware of how violent they can be, tearing apart any threat to their cubs.
Both responses are reinforced by the very same hormone – oxytocin.
The Jekyll and Hyde hormone. An angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Unfortunately, our history’s treatment of the outsider is far more fierce than a mother bear’s rage.
- 1941 to 1945, six million Jews were systematically killed. Over two-thirds of the European Jewish population.
- 1994, a reported eight hundred thousand Tutsis were slaughtered. Almost seventy per cent of all Tutsis living in Uganda at the time.
- 1975, between 1.3 and 3 million Cambodians were murdered. Between fifteen and thirty per cent of Cambodia’s population.
Different stories, same plot―eliminating the outsider, and this tragic narrative is written by the same quill as love.
Is it oxytocin that enables us to hate and murder one another? Absolutely not. It is much more complex. Oxytocin is merely a small piece of the puzzle, but when in place, it helps to facilitate the dehumanisation of the outsider, making violence just a little easier.
What can we do?
White, black, yellow… even blue people. Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, the America’s and Antarctica, all over the globe. Old and young, rich and poor, left or right. Meet everyone you can.
When you get to know the outsider, they are no longer the outsider.
Hitler loved animals and was very fond of children. He was also responsible for the unimaginably inhumane murder of 1.5 million Jewish Children, just one of his many atrocities.