Disdain. It is rearing its ugly head everywhere – in families, in communities, in organizations, in grocery stores, and emphatically in social media.
Disdain is the feeling that someone is completely unworthy of respect. In essence, it is the enemy of humanity, the antithesis of compassion and understanding, and the destroyer of relationships.
We have three basic needs as humans: safety, belonging, and dignity. When you communicate disdain, you trash your companion’s humanity. And when you feel someone else’s disdain, you may want to bolt from the relationship. You may also have to work on patching your quilt of self-worth.
Or maybe you have so many defense mechanisms that you don’t care. Apathy is a scary coping mechanism for pain.
Or maybe you think up crappy, painful things you want to say to your attacker. I’ve done this. I want to retaliate, “Oh, yeah! You did this and that!” I know how to combat disdain with more of it. I’ve done it in my head, and it makes me feel rotten. Negative rumination is such a waste of energy and creativity.
There is another way. I’m sure of it.
One of the most frightening things about Covid (besides death, illness, poverty, unemployment, isolation, and the plummeting global economy – to name of few) is the perpetuation of ego-centric perspectives. People are not spending time with people who think differently from themselves. Our secure pods are typically filled with trusted people who think like ourselves – unless you have teenagers or adult children. (I am not going there now.)
What will the ramifications be of this Covid-controlled close-mindedness?
Even on Zoom meetings, when you disagree, your Brady Bunch box can remain quiet. You can seeth inwardly and clandestinely. Unlike in a face-to-face conversation where another’s humanness softens hard hearts, the screen does not necessarily warrant the same empathy. There is no touch, no hand on the shoulder, no compromising hug with a loved one when you agree to disagree. We can click the red rectangle to leave the meeting, sit at our desks and judge.
But we don’t have to choose that path. We have a choice in how we respond. Yes, we have knee-jerk reactions, but they do not control us. We all have conditioned tendencies that have somehow served us in our quests to discover safety, belonging, and dignity. But these habits may no longer serve us and need not prevail. We can change. It starts with awareness and desire. Ask yourself what is happening. Sit with it and sort through it. Reflection, like negative rumination, takes time, but practicing self-awareness in light of a desire to show up differently often leads to peace and greater understanding. Hate-filled loops do not.
Emotions are contagious. It is a neurological fact. We mirror the emotions of others because we feel them. What do you want others to see in your mirror? What do you want to see in others? What energy to do want to contribute to your environment? What do you want your presence to bring to others?
Does it bug me to see a shopper without a mask? Yes. Do I steer clear of the person? Yes. Do I internally view the person with disdain? No, because I get to choose.
I have no idea what baggage people are carrying around. I don’t know if the person left the mask in the car or is oblivious. Does the person suffer from dementia? Did the elastic break, or does the customer have COPD and can’t breath behind a mask? Does he think Covid is a big farce or simply not that big of a deal? I can create all kinds of explanations in my head. None of it matters. It’s all in my head. But if I treat him with disdain or even radiate a lack of respect, it is out there, and I am adding to the suffering in the world. A scoff hurts – big time, especially when people are going through a rough time. Aren’t we all struggling with something?
I am trying to be curious and kind. If someone cuts me off on 80/94, I can wonder and then let it go. Maybe the driver is late for a critical appointment. I can hope she gets there safely. Maybe she’s had a rough day. I hope it gets better. With loved ones with differing political, faith and fundamental values, I can choose to be open and respond, “Tell me more.” I can choose to learn. I can choose to love those who disagree with me. It’s called unconditional love, and we need more of it.
My friend Maria recommended that we watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV. She said she needed some feel-good programming and sensed that I did, too. There’s a great scene where Ted does a monologue about judgment vs. curiosity. It sticks with me. I’ve needed Ted in my life – his optimism, his goodness, and his humor.
We’re lucky to have so much choice in what we read and watch. To quote my friend Kathy, “Garbage in – garbage out.” We get to choose what permeates our souls – our thinking and feeling – and our presence radiates that choice.
People sense disdain, the great destroyer of feelings of worthiness in human beings. It’s considered one of the seven universally interpreted emotions. In light of the current societal polarities, maybe it’s a good thing that we’re wearing masks.
We take them off at home, and our loved ones get to really see us. What do you want them to see? How do you want to show up in the world? You get to choose. Imagine if we all chose to live with such positive intentionality. This is not some Pollyanna placebo. It’s a decision to contribute authentically and wholly without fear. That takes guts.