December 17, 2020

What exactly is the emotion of disdain? It’s more than disapproval – there’s something snarly, something venomous about it.

But snarls and venom are defense mechanisms, used by animals for protection in the face of fear. Does that mean disdain is rooted in fear?

It seems that way for me, at least. If I notice disdain seeping into my opinion of a person, I can usually trace it down to a fear of what might happen if I were in their shoes.

Maybe they do things I know I wouldn’t get away with, or act in ways that seem generally frowned upon. Maybe they make choices that seem dangerous to me, or risky, or laughable.

Sometimes, I don’t even have to imagine being in their shoes. Sometimes, staying in my own shoes, I still fear the consequences of their actions.

In either case, it comes down to fear.

I wonder if the disdain that so many people feel toward “weird behavior” is similarly rooted in fear.

Weird means unpredictable, so the weird person might hurt you. Probably not, but how do you know?

Weird also means unpopular. If you imagine being them, then imagine how others would treat you, it might spark some fear.

People naturally shrink away from what causes fear, even if it isn’t a direct threat. We set ourselves safely above it, and label that as disdain.

Calling it what it is – fear – lets us stop to consider whether we’re actually in any danger.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.