Scorn Analysis for Humility

June 2021

Sometimes humility comes naturally, but sometimes I really need to strive to be humble. Not in the “literal megalomaniac” sense so much as plain old everyday overconfidence. This is pretty normal I think; everyone puts their foot in their mouth occasionally. I think humility is important because it allows us to learn from others and be less judgmental.

Photo by Jia Ye on Unsplash

Photo by Jia Ye on Unsplash

In keeping with this, I’ve been trying to notice when I feel scorn or contempt, analyze the source of my feelings, and gently detach myself from them. This is similar to how many CBT practitioners famously emphasize ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and teach patients to recognize and counter them.

I don’t think ISTs (Instinctual Scornful Thoughts) are completely analogous to ANTs because ANTs might arise from a combination of chance, habit, upbringing, or other factors, but ISTs have a social/evolutionary origin.

Counterintuitively, I think the strongest scornful feelings correlate with a level of respect for those they’re directed at. For me, scorn is a competitive emotion related to social status.

For instance, I might instinctually feel scornful of a Chuckleball player for using incorrect form for their double-glizzy. In reality, every Chuckleball player knows that a double-glizzy is one of the most advanced moves! Any player who can even attempt the move would probably stand their own in a match against me (I’m a three-year Chuckleball county champion).

A core requisite for scorn, in my experience, is that someone is doing something foolish that I have already done. It could be drinking a specific koolaid that I’ve outgrown. It can also be creative work that I consider flawed, but that seems identical to work I did a few years ago.

In comparison, when someone is doing something so foolish that I can’t imagine myself doing it in the first place, it’s different. I don’t feel scornful watching Chuckleball beginners practicing easy moves like the backhanded cattywampus.

I assume someone has already written about this effect. I know there are explanations of social status already floating around. So my terminology is probably incorrect. Still, the key takeaway was a revelation for me in sophomore year: When I’m feeling scorn or disdain, the targets are probably worthy allies. It’s in my interest to befriend, or at least tolerate these people.

This habit creates connections and allows me to learn more, but it has the nice side effect of making me more humble.