When I was finally able to talk about the abuse without becoming angry or vengeful, I realized that something in me had shifted, that I had started healing

The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.
Elie Weisel

Like most people, I spent many years believing that the opposite of love was hate. At the extremes of the spectrum, you either love someone or you hate them. When someone does wrong to you, it’s common for others to assume you hate the person who hurt you. In fact, the more I write, the more people are astounded when they find out that I truly do not hold hatred for the man who abused both me and my children. Let me clarify that before moving on, so you don’t stop there!

I despise Captain Crazy’s  behavior.  If he were ever convicted of all the things he has done, he would rot in jail. I find him to be a reprehensible human being worthy only of my disgust. He has damaged many lives and even destroyed a couple which can never be repaired or regained—two people are dead due to his vile behavior. He continues to lie, manipulate, steal, control, and manifest all the traits of a true psychopath (not me talking here, but clinical professionals who have reviewed my case). Regardless, the fact remains that my adopting a stance of hatred toward him would essentially be allowing him to continue the abuse.

I Hate the Behavior, Not the Person

Where abuse finds its power is in control. We know this. What we also know is that the abuser’s ability to get in our heads is how that control is maintained. Now consider the things you think about. What bubbles to the forefront of your mind? Things/people you love, hate, and worry about. Those are three categories most everyone can relate to. I think about the man I love and my children all the time. I also have a list of life tasks to get through. Now consider the idea that we who have traveled this path of recovery knowing that being No Contact is a way to break that control. Refusing to give in to hatred is a form of No Contact.

Hatred of a person, particularly one who has done terrible things to you, allows that person to live under your skin. You are led down a dark path of wanting revenge and wanting this person to “pay,” when the truth is that we have no control over that part. If I harbored hatred for Captain Crazy, it would eat me to my core because I am a deeply loving and peace-seeking person. Worse than that, it would keep me in a place of thinking about the abuse all the time because I would be so tied up in those angry feelings. So I made a decision long ago that I would separate hating the behavior from hating the person. The behavior doesn’t have power over me, but the person did.

When I Realized I Was Healing

When I was finally able to talk about the abuse without becoming angry or vengeful, I realized that something in me had shifted. I had let go of being attached to what happened and instead took on the identity of survivor and teacher. This, to me, is what forgiveness actually is. I will never “forgive” him for what he’s done and, really, that’s not my job. I have, however, let go of any emotional attachment to the behavior because that was the last vestige of control he had.

It’s been my observation and my personal experience that when I let go of my emotional reactions to his behavior, I erased his control. This is definitely easier said than done, but it starts with being able to put the blame squarely where it belongs—with him. I would say things like, “Isn’t that interesting?” or “Well, crazy is as crazy does.” He alone is responsible for his actions, and I am not the cause of his behavior.

Indifference Is the Opposite of Love

Which brings us back to the Elie Wiesel quote. I am completely indifferent to my Captain Crazy’s life; his activities, his behavior, his manipulation/victimization of others, and his attempts to target me. As I got stronger, the mantra became “bring it on” because I realized I could survive anything he threw at me. Am I still utterly disgusted by the things he’s done to take resources and safety from his children? Absolutely. But in the end, he has gotten his punishment: I survived, and I thrived. And his children want nothing more to do with him.

Let me tell you: the liberation of being able to say you have detached from your abuser is a magic like no other.

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Aubrey Cole

Aubrey Cole

I survived a quarter century of psychological, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. When I got out, I vowed to help others do the same and founded the Emotional Abuse Survivors Network project in 2012. Now, I offer hope and healing to others on their journey as they rediscover themselves. My forthcoming books, Bodies in the Basement and Define Winning, chronicle my experiences, escape, and recovery. There is nothing so special about me that others can't emerge and thrive.
Aubrey Cole

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