I do not have a lot of experience with hate. Fear? Yes. Anxiety? Yes. Hate? No. As an active meditator and mindfulness practitioner for the past 23 years, I tend to feel love, understanding, and compassion far more often than hate. In fact, I do not have any memories of feeling hatred towards anyone at all.
So when my husband of 17 years left me, quite abruptly, for another woman—when he treated all that we had built together, all the love I had given him, and the family we had created together as if it were worthless—I was caught off guard by the boiling, black rage that built in my heart.
For the first time, I really understood why people say the opposite of love is indifference. I would have given anything to just. feel. indifference.
I did not want to care that his new partner made more money than I did, and more money than he did, and that he would ride off into the sunrise of an abundant financial life while leaving me trapped in my job and dependent on the incredible kindness of family.
I did not want to care the first time he used “we” to refer to himself and his new partner, only a day after I found out our marriage was ending, when saying, “We’ll just buy you out of the house and live here with the kids.”
No. Just No. I did not want to care when my seven-year-old chirped about how excited she was to meet “Daddy’s new friend,” a mere month after I knew we were divorcing.
I did not want to care when my four-year-old confessed that she had told Daddy’s new friend that she loved her more than me. I knew she was dazed, heartbroken, and more confused about what had happened to her world than even I was. I did not want to care, but I did.
Bitter, angry and resentful
I knew I still had so much to be grateful for, not the least of which was the generous and loving support of all my friends and family. I knew I was not totally blameless in our marriage arriving at the place that it had.
I believe it was his choice to leave instead of trying to fix things, but I did not see myself as a victim. In light of all that, I didn’t want to feel so emotionally pummeled by every little thing. I was devastated, bitter, angry and resentful, and I hated. I didn’t want all those feelings, but I had them.
Then, one day, a couple of months after he moved out, after soldiering through an hour in a room with my ex and his parents, watching my daughter open presents after a birthday party we had co-sponsored, I had an epiphany.
The party had been on his weekend with the kids and I left his parents’ place a lonely, emotional wreck. But when I turned on the car, the Bluetooth randomly started playing an unfamiliar track from my media library. Out of the 460 tracks on my phone, my guides had chosen to play an excerpt from a Krishna Das and Sharon Salzberg workshop in Phoenicia, New York.
In it, a woman described a situation that sounded strikingly similar to my own. As I listened to the kindness and compassion of Sharon Salzberg’s voice, something shifted within me. She observed that we can be unfair to ourselves with our expectations around what we should and shouldn’t feel. She raised awareness of “all the ways we pile on” to our already painful experience.
“That,” she said, “We have tremendous freedom with. We can relinquish some of those add-ons once we see them.” When we are already feeling uncomfortable emotions, we don’t have to also feel bad that we’re feeling them. That, we can control.
Healing my own heart
With tearful relief and gratitude to my guides for picking exactly the right track for me to hear, I resolved to simply allow my hatred to be and stop judging myself for it. I decided not to rush to forgiveness.
When I healed, I realized, forgiveness would come naturally, and the hatred would disappear on its own. The fastest road to true, authentic forgiveness and the resolution of my hatred, then, was to devote all my energy towards healing my own heart and that of my girls. And so I did.
When I told people about this new approach, I got mixed responses. Some were enthusiastic and supportive of my idea of focusing solely on my own healing. Others were worried. “Hatred will eat you up from the inside,” they told me, “It’s better to forgive and let go.”
I agreed with them that I didn’t know the ‘right’ answer. I’d never hated anyone before, but my heart told me to let my hatred be. Maybe that was wrong, but after two decades of doing my own soul work, I decided to trust myself and my process.
For my part, I was amazed at how I could have my hatred right beside me and still have a civil conversation with him. There were moments in which I felt the hatred intensely; yet, granting myself the freedom to feel it also seemed to give me the strength to listen to my children gush over their experiences with him and his new partner, without breaking down in tears or lashing out in anger.
I could spend the energy I would have wasted on self-judgment on navigating my emotional state more mindfully. Every now and then, in the midst of an especially positive and optimistic moment, I would check in on my hatred. Yep, still there.
Over time, I came to realize that I hated him because I had loved him so much. But if my hate wasn’t the opposite of my love, what was it? One day, as I skated through the park across the street, it all fell into place.
The hatred disappeared
The realizations came like shooting stars, one right after another. Gliding on my blades, under the September sun, I felt a sudden release in my chest. It dawned on me that I still loved him.
At that moment, when I let go and allowed myself to love him, the hatred just … disappeared.
But on the wings of that realization came shame and anger. How weak could I be? How could I love a person who had basically told me my own love, my partnership, my company—was worthless? And then I realized that my shame and self-loathing were blocking me from really feeling the love I had for him. I needed to allow myself to love with the freedom that I had allowed myself to hate.
Suddenly, I felt a wave of self-compassion. I could see that loving him, despite everything that had happened, spoke to the strength of my heart, not its weakness. At that moment, when I let go and allowed myself to love him, the hatred just … disappeared.
A few weeks later, riding the train to work, I mused about the experience. I thought about my own hate and wondered how it related to other types of hate that have become distressingly common these days. At first, I thought of them as fundamentally different; my hatred had been rooted in love. The types of hatred we see expressed in public certainly don’t seem to follow that pattern.
But then it occurred to me that my hatred had really been like a cloud, obscuring the true emotional dilemma. My hatred hadn’t been caused by my love, but instead, it was a byproduct of my refusal to allow myself to fully feel an emotion.
In my case, that emotion had been love, but could the same thing happen with a different emotion, like fear? What if our own shame and self-loathing over unwanted emotions are projected outwards as hate?
Perhaps a good starting point when we feel hatred, then, is not to rush to judge and vilify ourselves simply for having it, but to compassionately wonder if there are any other emotions it is obscuring, emotions we are not allowing ourselves to feel.