Contempt?

Erin Schaden
7 min readJun 3, 2023

Let’s start off with a clear definition:

“the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.”

Ok, so it IS a feeling.

But what creates the feeling?

My experience?

Being treated like you are beneath consideration or are worthless…that tends to make the recipient scornful and contemptuous.

So it is a vicious circle…So it would appear.

I was interacting with my son yesterday. And he was spouting off about something I don’t care about and that is illegal and, in my opinion, dumb. And as I was interacting with him, I saw myself, I saw my contempt of him.

It pierced me.

I immediately felt shame. I felt like I failed him and me at the same time. But all I could muster at the time was just to get away from him as fast as I could.

I didn’t want to see what I saw and I didn’t want to feel what I felt.

But it was there no matter how much I would have preferred not to see it.

I do not feel like I am above him or better than him. I feel that my behavior and the way I treat people is better than what he does. And I feel that way because that is our reality. The way he treats those closest to him is pretty objectively awful. But when did my view of him rise to the level of contempt and how did I not notice?

I would like to say this is a more recent thing, but as I processed my revelation yesterday, I saw that it was not. It has been present for years. Each of us for the other. I am not sure who started it and I am similarly not sure it even matters. We are decidedly locked into a contempt filled relational quagmire.

I guess his is really more appropriate. I mean he is 17 and this is a rite of passage for teens. They get to think that we adults are beneath them, know nothing and are imbeciles. But does their rite of passage, give us adults to right to feel similarly? Or are we supposed to magically rise above the poor treatment? Do age and alleged maturity inure us to the obnoxious and abusive onslaught daily?

I know my situation is different. Well, at least that is what I tell myself.

But it is different. He is different. This isn’t just regular teenage angst or rage against the parents. This is outer limits and it has been going on for longer than I care to admit.

Regardless of my sound reasoning that anyone in the current parental situation I find myself, would be hardened to the abuse, the disrespect, the complete and utter refusal to adhere to any rules of common decency or even safety.

I do not feel safe in my home. I do not feel safe when he is present. Anything can and often does happen and I am terrified all the time of what awfulness he is going to either bring with him into our home, or invite it over or upon us.

I do not feel safe in my own home. I do not feel safe when he is near and I fear, that living this way for years has allowed contempt to take hold in our familial garden. And yesterday I saw just how invasive and choking it truly is.

I don’t know what to do about it. I mean, now that I see it, I can begin to change it. But that is going to take some time and I do not believe that any real progress will happen until I have peace of mind in my own home. I am not sure I can have any other feelings except contempt and fear until I get some measure of physical safety back.

But maybe that is just folly. This belief that there is a place where I won’t feel this way about him. This is what has developed over time living with abuse, deceit, disrespect and theft.

I know there is a good person in there. I know because I catch glimpses of it in his current actions. Moments of tenderness, moments of love. I had just such a moment this morning. My phone was vibrating at 6 am this morning. I turned over and looked at my phone…it was a message from my son, “I love u” was all it said.

Now, in the past I would have been immediately touched by this, but living with his erratic and violent temper for the past ten years has stifled those good vibrations as being my first response anymore…sadly.

This morning my thoughts were this:

Why is he up at 6 am?

Is he just getting home?

Where was he all night?

Did he get arrested and is prepping me for this with a little nicety?

Who did he bring home with him?

Should I go look?

Could he just mean that he loves me?

Why do I always have to see manipulation there?

Why am I such a bad mother?

Why can’t I just love him and give some grace?

And this would be my constant and unrelenting thought process every single time he is nice to me. I wonder what his angle is and what I should be bracing for…

And so far, I have not ever been wrong about the need for bracing or that there is always an angle. I so wish that was not true. Like desperately.

I am not sure what engendered the kind “I love u” this morning, but I am sure I will in fairly short order. Commence the bracing…

What I am really not sure about is what to do with the contempt I feel for both of us.

I hate feeling the way I do about someone I love. I do not feel he or I are beneath consideration. I really don’t. But then he starts talking about guns and violence and drugs and shit that is illegal and just awful and the contempt is just there, raging below my surface. I want to get away from him and all his babbling about shit that makes me crazy and scared. I just want to get away. I believe he is worth considering but in considering him, I have to abandon me. Because everything he wants to talk about violates pretty much everything I believe in. So it is a Catch-22. If I walk away and honor myself, I am showing him that I do not consider him. And if I stay and listen, then I am demonstrating to everyone, myself most of all, that I do not consider myself.

It is fucking awful.

I do not believe my son is worthless. I believe he engages and spends a great portion of his life doing worthless things. Things that bring fear, hatred and anger to all he encounters. I feel that he goes out of his way to hurt those who love him most. And this makes me feel worthless as his mother. How did we get here? Is there any way back? Or is the future just going to be a constant repeat of this forever?

I know things change. People change. I have. I have seen others. But this relationship I have with him, this contemptuous relational nightmare has to end before I further slip into all that I do not want to be or say or do.

I am living in a war zone with haphazard ceasefires that give way to yelling and spite more often than not. And perhaps when one lives with an enemy or in close proximity anyway, contempt is the only reaction one can have.

I hesitate to put this out there. I do not really feel you can understand what it is like, what we are living through. I don’t know if you can fathom just how awful it is living here together. Perhaps if you have lived with someone in active addiction, maybe you know. Perhaps if you have done your best efforts at parenting and find yourself completely and totally at the mercy of someone else’s compulsions, then maybe you know.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, or perhaps even judge me for all this I have put onto screen, I am happy for you. I am happy that you cannot relate and that you have no experience upon which to relate. I am grateful you do not know.

But I know. I live it every single day. And it is excruciating to be responsible with no power to change anything. I am impotent as a mother. My authority and purpose cut out beneath me with every effort I have made to provide guidance, help, rehab, assistance, hope. Nothing works and I am so very tired of trying.

But what I can do today is work on my contempt. To attempt to dig deep and tap into the well of good thoughts and love I feel for him. I am going to go for the love today while doing my best to keep the contemptuous feelings of fear and powerlessness at bay. Try to love instead of contempt. I am not sure how to do this but I will commit to trying harder today, even if that results in no real change, I can work to change myself. And then perhaps my inner landscape will not be so littered with the debris on the mother battlefield which should never be likened to that, like ever.

Perhaps if I work on my own contempt, I can find the peace I so desperately search for…and maybe in my search I can help him find some too. I love him so much but know that living with each other is just not possible any longer.

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Erin Schaden

Who am I? I am all that I write, all that I learn, share and grow. Read and find out? Check out www.nakedrandomthoughts.com for more.