Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Dignity (part 1) — Contempt Destroys

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2016-10-29 by Object of Contempt

Like so many other victims of emotional abuse,  it took me a very long time to see through the abuse in my own marriage.  The abuse in my youth was more overt, but still difficult for a naïve kid to recognize.  Again, this is common for abuse victims. Those people who were abused as children frequently become retraumatized as adults in toxic relationships.  Even in physically violent abuse, the bottom line injuries are spiritual, emotional.  The long-term absence of love alone is a devastating thing.  A prolonged abuse without a place for normal peace and emotional safety is very traumatic.  In my case, two long-term, consecutive abusive relationships resulted in a man who has been an object of contempt all his life.  Some of you reading this know what this feels like.

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, lawyer, pastor, counsellor, elder, psychologist, psychiatrist, or genius.  I’m not even free of my abuser yet.  I’m not always wrong, and I’m not always right.  I’m just sharing my opinions.  I sincerely hope they are helpful.

As I began searching for explanations of emotional abuse, the lights didn’t turn on all at once.  I started out thinking that the foundational issues had to do with specific behaviors.  Then I began to see the lack of love and good-will as being the main problem… and that is close.  Now I believe the main problem is mainly centered around the presence of contempt.  Even if the contempt never expands to overt rage and malice,  being an object of contempt is a devastating thing.  When victims of abuse describe how they have been scapegoated, the thing that really causes the deepest and most devastating pain comes from the inescapable contempt.  Contempt is hatred.

A person whose spirit has been crushed by contempt will often gravitate towards resources that teach self-love and self-esteem.  In this first post I want to dig a little deeper into the context of the wounds caused by contempt.

The popular perception of hatred is that it is full of irate anger and abject malice.  My preferred perception is that contempt/hatred is the devaluation of a person.  Malice describes the intention of a person with a lousy, broken character.  Anger is a secondary emotion (it always comes after some other emotion).   These things may accompany contempt/hatred, but they don’t always.

Arrogance says, “I/my group is intrinsically more valuable than all the others”, but contempt says, “you/your group is intrinsically valueless and below all others”.  Malice and rage often only enter the picture because the victim is not properly playing the part of the doormat.   Obviously, a person cannot value/love another and simultaneously devalue/hate that person.  This is the poison in the sting of scapegoating, objectification and devaluation.

Admitting that someone has repayed our love and trust with cold, cruel contempt is devastating.  Victims commonly cling to cognitive dissonance in order to avoid that admission.  That is, they deny the abuse because they don’t want to believe they are hated by a loved one.  Unfortunately, these untended spiritual wounds remain unhealed, and actually accumulate and worsen.  Then when the realization hits the victim, the grief of lost love, lost joy, and lost peace and opportunity, is piled on top of all the other wounds.

Some of the things I’ve said in this post may seem redundant or rudimentary.  I had intended to write a longer post that went beyond just building the context of wounds caused by contempt.  However, I remember starting out,  looking hard for what I didn’t know.  I didn’t even know what to call it.  What I really wanted to know was this:  Am I weak, stupid, contemptible because I feel so destroyed by withheld love?  I slowly learned things that are apparently so obvious to people who have not endured abuse, that they rarely talk about it.  They take it for granted.

 

For those who may be starting out, trying to understand why they hurt so much, please let me say plainly some of the things I have learned.  Relationships are about love that entails value and trust.  When a person you trust and value withholds love, and instead gives contempt, it hurts like hell.  You are not being weak or a loser; you are being human.  When contempt is given consistently instead of love, the wounds to your spirit are cumulative.  You may feel like you are carrying a huge load and fear what will happen when that “last straw” is added.  Or, you may feel instead like a person who is “running on empty” and your engine is about to stop.  Maybe you feel like you’ve been given the job of making bricks but you have no straw, and you have no hope of success… no hope of finding love and comfort and encouragement.  You are not alone.  Someone you love(d) may not value you, but that does not mean you are not valuable.

 

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9 thoughts on “Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Dignity (part 1) — Contempt Destroys

  1. Yes. Oh yes. A thousand times yes, to everything you said.

    I love your disclaimer. However, I believe you are mistaken about not being a genius.

    I have survived some extreme abuse. Beaten to the point of unconsciousness, twice. Mom trying to gas us all to death. Dad stopping on the Oakland Bay Bridge, carrying me to the railing, and chanting in a sing song psycho voice that he is going to throw me off. Shoved out of a moving car onto a gravel road. Kicked with a steel toe work boot in my pregnant belly. Rape. And many other abuses. But… what you said is true: what hurts the worst, by far, is not being loved, not being valued. Contempt hurts more than any other form of abuse.

    We are made in our Creator’s image. Our God is love. Our souls need love to survive and thrive, the way our bodies need oxygen, water, and food. Babies left in an orphanage who are well fed, clothed, cleaned, warm, but are never held, never loved, will fail to thrive and some will even die.

    It is not a sign of weakness to pass out and die if our air supply is cut off. It is not a sign of weakness to die if we are buried in a hole underground with no food, no water, and no air. And it is not a sign of weakness when our spirit shrivels and dies due to lack of love.

    I have been thinking about you a lot lately, because I cut a woman friend out of my life a few weeks ago, after she braggingly disclosed to me how she abuses her husband to get him to do what she wants him to do! I don’t want to go into the ugly details, but oh…… I told her that she was treating her husband the way my first husband treated me, and that is extremely abusive. I told her I could not be her friend anymore. I just can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is such a powerful support of the main point. It seems so obvious now, but it’s so easy to think, “I don’t deserve to be loved” or, “they aren’t really abusing me, we’re just going through a rough time.”

      As for thinking of me… I may be a little bit sappy, but that went right to my soul. And, I am so glad that you stood up for that woman’s husband, too! That is a rare thing for a person to do. Not only did her husband need it, but *she* needed it. (Leviticus 19:17-18)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. survivednarc says:

    Very good post! A lot of food for thought and I agree with you. Take care. ⚘

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Emerging From The Dark Night and commented:
    This blog hightlights the central role of contempt indevaluation. It mirrors some of Alice Miller’s insights into victims of narcissistic parents who devalue and reduce their self esteem meaning and essence through contempt.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post is perfect. It expressed the pain of being subject to contempt from your personal experience. I hope you are happy for me to reblog it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Are you ok? It has been awhile since you posted this “part one” post. I clicked back here just now to see if you had posted anything since then that I may have missed.

    God bless. I am praying for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know how to respond. I feel both better and worse at the same time. I’m shut down in nearly every practical way, but the new pills keep my mood from hitting the bottom entirely.

      Thank you for asking, caring, and praying! Consider yourself hugged!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, and ((HUG)) back. I feel relieved to read your comment. Now I am praying for full healing and deliverance from the condition(s) that have you feeling so shut down.

        I know how impossible it must seem to you, that anything can ever improve in your life. I really do know, because a few years ago, after I was hit very hard with two major trauma triggering blows in the same week, I stopped functioning completely. To the point where I went to bed for two years and almost never got up, except to go to the bathroom. I would surely have starved if my husband hadn’t brought me food during that time. I, too, was on pills that made me feel dead inside. But God brought me up out of that. Not any one person, not even myself, but God.

        That’s not all. Forty-nine years ago when I was a young teenager, after my mother tried to gas us all to death, among many other horrors and abuses, I had a complete mental breakdown. Then, despite the fact that my behavior was never threatening or out of control in any way, my abusive parents went against my doctor’s advice and put me in a notorious state insane asylum. I spent the longest two years of my life there, until a new psychiatrist took over my ward, decided that I was not mentally ill, and set me free at the age of sixteen.

        I have no doubt that God caused that to happen. The psychiatrist who ran the ward I was on when I was first put there, answered my question of “how soon can I go home?” by coldly reciting the statistic that 97% of the people committed to that institution were never released. When he saw the look of shocked disbelief on my face, he told me to ask the other patients on the ward how long they had been there. I did, and the shortest answer I got was 8 years, the average more than 20.

        During the worst of my breakdown at age 14-15, my mind was so shattered that I was constantly hallucinating, every waking moment. But there were people praying for me, particularly the old minister and his wife that had lived next door to me when I was a little girl and had led me to Christ when I was 6 years old. They did not stop praying until finally their prayers were answered.

        I will not stop praying for you, my brother, until God does the same for you. If I can be as happy and healthy as I am today, despite my crazy traumatic history, I have no doubt God can do no less for you. My traumas continued even after I left the asylum, and went home to a “family” that wanted nothing to do with me, and then a horribly abusive marriage, followed by another one!

        But since the age of 50, right up to today at age 63, my life has been mostly good. Today my life is the best it has ever been. So please… don’t give up. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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