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I tell my kids it’s okay to hate homework and vegetables, but hating people isn’t allowed in our house. This makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite because, honestly, I might actually hate a few people. Like Kim and Kanye. And maybe a few others…
The problem with hate is the power it has over us. Hating someone takes a lot of time and energy. Plus, hate just feels rotten. If we aren’t careful, hate can take over our lives. Meanwhile, the subject of our hatred is free to live life without feeling a bit or sympathy or remorse, and maybe even glad that we hate them!
That is the real injustice: our hate doesn’t hurt them, it hurts us. Even worse, it hurts our kids.
In divorce, especially high-conflict divorce, mutual hatred is par for the course. Often clients have the ten page emails and long back-and-forth text strands to prove it. Divorce is incredibly painful, terrifying, and frustrating; these are the emotions where hatred is born and thrives.
Many clients might be willing to hurt themselves, but never their children. At least not on purpose. I work with clients to help them understand how their hatred of one another is probably damaging their kids. Children of high-conflict parents are at risk of developing a toxic stress response. Toxic stress literally changes kids’ brains, putting them at risk of developing learning difficulties, physical ailments, mental illness, and addiction (see my former blog post for more information: http://www.resolutiondivorceservices.com/help-kids-manage-stress/).
It’s best if parents can develop an amicable, flexible relationship after divorce but, obviously, that’s not always possible. In these cases, working toward feeling apathy, as opposed to hatred, is the best option. Apathy, not hate, is the true opposite of love. Feeling apathetic requires no time or energy, freeing former foes to be the engaged and loving parents their kids desperately need.
So, what is the best way to stop hating, and start living?
- Acknowledge the emotions that underlie hatred. Usually hate is caused by our own feelings of hurt, fear, insecurity, and shame, among others. It’s much easier to hate others than it is to focus on our own terrible feelings. However, acknowledging these underlying emotions is the quickest, but hardest, way to stop hating.
- Focus on loving your kids, not hating your ex. Your time and energy should be spent cultivating a positive, healthy relationship with your kids. If you are busy doing this, there’s little time left over to hate your ex.
- Let it go. Do everything you can to disengage from any ongoing conflict. Ignore attacks, choose your battles carefully, and find some peace for yourself. (More to come on this in a future post.)
Hatred is a normal emotion everyone feels sometimes. We need to protect ourselves from its harmful effects and do all we can to minimize it in our lives. It’s what’s best for us, and our kids.
Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services on a sliding fee scale. She is located in Bloomington. Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366, or firstname.lastname@example.org. “Like” her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkassebaumrds.