Familiarity Only Breeds Contempt

Merriam-Webster defines Contempt as:

: a feeling that someone or something is not worthy of any respect or approval

: a lack of respect for or fear of something that is usually respected or feared

Contempt is a primary emotion that is the opposite paired emotion to Submission. Since it is a primary emotion, it is comprised of the two basic emotions, Disgust and Anger.

A person feels Contempt towards other people and their behavior, when through comparison, neither the people nor their behavior has met a standard considered important by that person. Judgment is the important aspect of Contempt, and the other people are considered undeserving of respect and less in some way – lower in stature or status, less powerful, less moral or ethical, etc. This disapproval creates a distance or a sense of withdrawal between the person expressing Contempt and other people.

Contempt is best demonstrated through tightened facial expressions, with lips raised on one side of the face. In addition, the person may raise their chin and look down their nose at the other, while rolling their eyes and using a sarcastic tone of voice.

Professor John Gottman has shown through his studies of marital relationships, that of the four signs of distress – defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism and contempt – Contempt is the most damaging and destructive, because of the belittling nature of the associated physical and emotional feelings.

The artist for the Caricature series shows Contempt in the sketch through two faces back-to- back, colored red in anger, expressing their Contempt for the other. Their lips are tightened and pulled up on one side in the classic representation of Contempt.

The emotion Contempt in the Caricature series of sketches

The emotion Contempt in the Caricature series of sketches

The artist for Watercolors shows Contempt in the sketch through a human face that shows the lips pulled up only on one side. Even though the rest of the face, including the eyes, are not displayed, yet the expression of contempt and disapproval is clearly visible.

The emotion Contempt in the Watercolor series of sketches

The emotion Contempt in the Watercolor series of sketches

Is Anger Bad?


Merriam-Webster defines anger as, “a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad : the feeling that makes someone want to hurt other people, to shout, etc. : the feeling of being angry”.

When we feel fear, it is because of an imminent physical threat. But anger is provoked by something we hear or see which makes us feel wronged, makes us feel our boundaries have been violated. Without even knowing it we can cycle very quickly from fear to anger, e.g., when we swerve to avert a collision in traffic. The incipient fear of an accident is instantaneously replaced by anger at the other driver’s poor driving.

Fear and anger result in arousal of our central nervous system. But while fear makes us feel cold and clammy, with anger we feel heat and fire. Physically, our heart rate and blood pressure increases, our muscles tense and make us quiver and shake. Our mind is turbulent – we feel wronged, that what is happening is unjust, unfair or undeserved. Our actions signal this agitation in body and mind – we yell or scream, clench our teeth, tense our body and want to explode, hit something or someone.

Anger has many benefits. Anger helps us express our value system and morals when we feel something is unfair or unjust, and it can motivate us to reach our goals in the face of problems and barriers. Anger is a signal to others that we are upset and annoyed, that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. Anger can help us understand our needs and come up with a plan to meet those needs.

We are also aware that there are many downsides of anger when we do not manage it well. Anger makes people uncomfortable and can lead to poor choices and outcomes.

In the Caricatures series of sketches, the artist has displayed anger through faces turned away from each other. Each feels wronged over some injustice or unfairness, and because of their anger, they are not communicating. Their emotions are hot, faces are red, steam is rising above their heads. Each is waiting for the other to make the first move to resolve the situation. We’ve all been in this situation in our relationships.


The emotion Anger in the Caricature series of sketches.

In the Watercolors series of sketches, the artist shows a human eye with a burning flame to communicate the idea that anger is a fire inside us. Fire shows how strongly we feel at being wronged, while the visibility of the blaze communicates the feeling of anger to others.


The emotion Anger in the Watercolor series of sketches.

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