Contempt: An Emotional Rollercoaster Ride

16/12/2022by Terry White


It’s not often that we hear or use the word, is it? And yet it’s one of the seven basic emotions identified by Dr. Paul Ekman, which means it must come up on a fair few occasions during our lives. Possibly because it’s often accompanied by another more prominent emotion, like anger, we don’t recognise it.

Now we may not hear the word contempt often, instead we may hear the word detached, dismissive, disdain, disrespectful, deprecation, derision, indifferent, judgmental, jaded or scornful. These are all words used to describe contemptuous feelings.

Contempt is the act of despising (with an element of feeling superior) an individual or group, for which the most common trigger is immoral action or perceived transgression.

The expression of contempt in a physical sense is rather solitary (without a hint of a smile or frown) – a tightened and raised lip corner on one side of the face that may be accompanied by a disapproving tone of voice.

In and of its own contempt is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can have negative effects.

As an individual, for those who enjoy the feeling of power it brings it may be a desirable emotion, yet one that fosters arrogance and judgemental behaviour. And although contempt is directed towards others it is also often reflected inward, harming those who experience it.

In relationships, contempt nurtures an “I’m right and you’re wrong” mentality and can cause damage to the self-esteem of a loved one and the relationship itself.

If you feel that being agitated and judgemental is getting in the way of relationship building or simply living your best life, Quandary Pond can help you explore why you feel the way you do.

Terry White