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Donna Fish L.C.S.W-R


Love and Hate in the Time of Corona

With all of this closeness, emotions intensify. Feelings of hate are normal.

I had to write this in honor of the upcoming Mother's Day. However, the concept fits all of our close relationships. Particularly now when we are so close with our close ones. While quarantining in our pods, there is practically no separation as parents are with their kids all day and partners are with each other all day. Lots of togetherness!

So while I write this piece in honor of Mothers’ Day which is coming up in a few weeks, I thought it apt and you can read it bearing in mind any person with whom you have a close relationship. But to all the moms:

I lift a glass and salute all of you out there who can be real and down with your intense negative feelings towards your kids at times.

With all of the love love, and "think positive" self-help mantras out there, let's flip this one. Check your guilt at the front door. (Unless of course you are losing control over your intense feelings and behaving with violence and verbal violence. This doesn’t include yelling at times out of frustration and anger.)

It’s our behavior that hurts, not our feelings and thoughts!

The paradox here is that if you can embrace intense feelings of hatred, you can build some self-acceptance for these normal ambivalent feelings for anyone you love. This isn’t to give yourself a free pass for behaving in ways that can be hurtful, but rather to parent yourself, and calm yourself down.

It can help your kid to know that you love them even when you are mad at them. It's even more important to teach them something you know: That even when they are feeling "hate," ("I hate you Mom!" — anyone ever hear that?) that you know that they love you and are really, really mad right now. This is all part of being human and being in relationships.

We are talking primitive feelings here, right? But name me an intense relationship that doesn't involve love and hate, and I will say that is not intimate. Or deeply involved.

Learn to love your hate. I am always drawn to irreverent moms who are willing to be upfront about their negative feelings, and the emotional intensity that can come up in parenting.

We need to model authentic relationships for our kids. They aren't stupid. They themselves have a range of feelings like love and hate (particularly if they are big "feelers") and it’s important to decrease the shame and then avoidance that may arise if certain negative feelings are taboo.

So don't be afraid of your intense negative feelings that can rise up. If you can process and allow some acceptance, you decrease the risk of acting on it in a hurtful way. It gives you some self-acceptance to work it through in the safety and privacy of your own head and calm down enough not to act it out. (Not that I don't scream and yell at times, and then come back to apologize for that and work out what got me so pissed off.) It’s not the ruptures or fights and disagreements that create bad relationships, it’s the inability to repair and navigate those ruptures.

Believe it or not, modeling this helps give our kids a tool for soothing themselves and to negotiate and build close relationships. It's also scaffolding: prevention from using other substances like food, etc. to soothe and calm. (Separate of whatever biological propensity for addiction our kids might come by genetically.) Yes, we can give them something in the war against drugs. Intense feelings and processing those feelings is a fear buster. A depression and anxiety buster. You can start at home. You can start with yourself.

Love and hate and all of the in-between.

Happy Mother's Day!


About the Author

Donna Fish is a licensed clinical social worker, a reimbursable psychotherapist (LCSW-R). The specialties of her NYC private practice include eating disorders, anxiety, depression, trauma, family and couples work.