Recently, my wife and I got into an argument. It happened in seconds, like a flash fire in a pan. Seemingly out of nowhere we were shouting at each other about something inane. And then, just as quickly as it had come, it ended. Somehow we realized how silly it was, burst into laughter and began tickling each other.
I reflected quite a bit on how and why this argument happened. Sure, we can push each other’s buttons, but the intensity and the rapidity of this ‘event’ was quite uncharacteristic. Usually when we argue, which has been less and less lately, it is a slow build. This one though seemed almost to come from the outside. As if a dark wind blew through the walls of our home, into our chests and bellies and then, within minutes, back out of us again.
I had a hunch as to where this wind had come from and upon further reflection it became clear to me what was happening.
Not long before the flash fire, my wife and I had read of the people being stabbed and having their throats cut by terrorists in London. The place where it happened, Borough Market, was our home for a number of years. Although we don’t live there now, we visit frequently and it felt very close to us. As we read the news, a visceral pang of fear had crossed our chests, knots had filled our bellies and tears had filled our widened eyes. There was mostly silence between us until the argument kicked off.
I realized the pit in my stomach for what happened in London had been what had me on edge. Why this is, I understand through something I learned earlier this year.
In January my mentor showed me, first, how all anger comes from hurt, and second, how the only reason we hurt is because we love. Furthermore, and this is the really useful part for me, when we know that anger is essentially a response to love (be it often a misguided one), then we can drop out of anger by settling down into the love at its root.
What I can see now is that my wife and I were really hurt by what happened in London and the flash fire argument we had was that intense hurt quickly becoming anger, which we sloppily aimed at each other.
This is how terror works. It moves in waves of hurt, anger and violence. Everyone is affected. Everyone hurts, lots of us get angry and some of us, in one way or another, get ‘violent’ be it towards our loved ones, a political party or leader, a race, etc. We unconsciously pick a target and on and on it goes.
When the hurt comes into me like a wind, what I see that I can best do is be present to it, open quickly and let it pass back out the other side.
Otherwise, if I carry it around with me, keep it pressed down in there, then it will grow quickly into anger. I may find an ideology to latch onto that justifies and inflates my hurt and the next thing you know I’d be running around my neighborhood with a machete chopping people’s heads off in the name of an idea that is really just a muse for my hurt.
If it ever came to that, I hope someone would find a way to remind me that I was angry because I was hurting, and that I was only hurting because I love.