If I hadn't had my rage in the days and weeks following D-Day, I would have wondered if I was dead. I was so angry. Viscerally angry. I had never hated like that in my life. I could taste my hate.
I recently spoke with a woman going through what they call a high-conflict divorce. Her husband is a narcissist who told her to her face, when she dropped off her sons for a weekend with their dad, that he was going to make her life a living hell. He did. Until, she said, she disengaged. When one partner declares war, it can only be a battle if the other one agrees to fight. With the help of her therapist and a support group, she stopped reacting to his long-winded e-mails, crafted to inflict maximum pain and generate maximum response. She made sure to be "on the phone" during drop-off and pick-up so that he couldn't draw her in. Slowly, the dynamic shifted.
Which is what makes it so dangerous. It's insidious. It eats us from the inside out. And before we know it, we're empty except for a deep hot rage.
We've know that hater, haven't we? The one with whom any conversation inevitably turns to their grievances, the ways in which they've been wronged. They relitigate insults, slights, snubs. It might have happened a decade ago. But to the hater, it might as well have happened yesterday. The hate is fresh.
And this is because the pain is fresh. Hate is the ugly mask of pain. Behind any howl of hate is the whisper of hurt, muted but nonetheless there.
But pain makes us feel vulnerable. Pain reminds us that we want connection and belonging but that we aren't getting it. And so we lash out in an attempt to reclaim power.
Power fuelled by hate isn't power at all. Hate is a lack of control, the opposite of power. That's not to say hate can't wreak a lot of havoc, or inflict a lot of pain of others. But it leaves the hater hollow, unable to connect except in the most superficial ways. It keeps us from exactly the thing we want most: to connect to someone else. And connection requires vulnerability.
Is there anything more difficult in the wake of betrayal? To keep ourselves vulnerable? To avoid arming our pain with hate? I could feel the hate eating me alive. It made me cruel and bitter. It made me hard. And, frankly, it made me miserable. Hating people feels really shitty.
What's more, it's exhausting.
I'm not sure what, exactly, shifted my hate into something healthier.
Part of it was using it as fuel. I ran farther and faster than I was accustomed to. As I exercised, I exorcised the hate and always returned home less angry.
Part of it was meditating. Sitting and breathing is so much harder than it seems. It strips us of our armour. Alone with our thoughts, we have nowhere to hide. And so the pain emerges and insists on being seen.
And finally, I learned to extend compassion to the hated, thanks to meditation and church, where a minister stood at the pulpit and told us, in no uncertain terms, that our job was to try and see the face of God in every single person we met. Even the OW? my mind wondered, aghast. Yep. Even the OW.
And it worked. Slowly, by seeing her (and my husband) not as some monster who had the power to destroy me (and therefore deserved to be hated) but as a wounded person herself, inflicting her own hate onto others. It wasn't easy (LORD, it wasn't easy). But it was so much better than the bitterness that had consumed me.
I recently asked on Twitter (you can follow me here) how other betrayed wives manage their own hate. I was amused to discover that plenty turn to games on their phone to distract themselves from it. When they feel the hate clouds gathering, they turn to Candy Crush.
I say, whatever works. Therapy. Meditation. Exercise. Words with Friends.
But don't let hate fester until you no longer recognize it as anything other than a virus infecting the host.