How to Keep Familiarity from Breeding Contempt and Ending Relationships

The number one cause of the breakup of good relationships is contempt. It sneaks-up as partners become more an more familiar with each other’s flaws. Since everyone has a hitch in their giddy-up, it behooves us to learn how to keep the contempt of familiarity at bay.

We have all heard the saying that familiarity breeds contempt.  But, it doesn’t have to, and there are ways to keep it from poisoning your relationships.

When it comes to getting the most out of relationships, whether personal, professional, or more broadly social, contempt is a death knell.  It is the bottom of a slippery slope that if we fail to keep ourselves out of, can ruin any chance of ever fully enjoying our lives and relationships again.  It takes real effort and courage not to allow the contempt that is bred by familiarity to override the remembering of and gratitude for the gifts that a relationship offers.

In fact, we must fight contempt at every turn, lest it trap us in the bondage of our own ego and a spiral of ever increasing cynicism.  When we allow ourselves in any relationship to let the imperfections, or characteristics, behaviors, likes, and dis-likes that bother us in the other build up in our emotional databank, it reduces the space for new positive experiences and likes to come in.  Unfortunately, what most do when they realize the relationship is no longer feeding them, they blame the other with their list of shortcomings, and then move on to the next inevitable target of eventual contempt.

The slippery slope of these relationships without the effort to keep our emotional databank filled with gratitude and appreciation follows this progression:

Elation – Enthusiasm – Confidence – Caution – Suspicion – Doubt – Contempt

This is another reason why as long as we are alive in our currently upside down world (Pachakuti) and its disempowering influences, we benefit from the ongoing practices of the shamanic medicine wheel work of the North.  These practices can keep us refreshed, like cleaning out the cache in your browser and rebooting the computer system.

The daily practices of shedding the ego and attachment, our pedigree and credentials, and all of the information and sacred cows that we have stuffed in our heads, allow knowledge to channel through us as we recover our childlike nature every day.  This is what Jesus meant when he said that he dies every day.  To die and be reborn every day is also the way of the Hummingbird, who literally dies each night in a true state of hibernation. Once the world is returned to its natural state, the primary influences will take care of most of this for us, and we won’t have to work so hard.

Feeling contempt in a relationship is also a cue to do the North work of embracing your shadows and noticing where you may be projecting onto the other.  And likewise, building someone up and putting them on a pedestal, a form of positive shadow, is a sure fire way to set yourself up for contempt as that person inevitably disappoints and falls from the pedestal as more of the messy human nature that dwells within everyone begins to leak out.  It is possible to admire, be inspired by, learn from, and be helped by someone that is special to you, while at the same time acknowledging their imperfections.

This is also where the North wisdom teaching suggesting that you don’t confuse the teacher with the teaching, the healer with the healing, or the shaman with the empowerment comes into play.  We could extend that to not confusing the lover with the love, the friend with the support, the gift with the wrapper, and of course don’t judge a book by its cover.

It’s worth contemplating this powerful quote from Alice Miller – “Contempt is the weapon of the weak and a defense against one’s own despised and unwanted feelings.”

Ask what or who you have contempt for, even the most subtle, then explore what despised or unwanted feelings may be driving it.  Then work towards shedding and healing that form of victimization or giving away of power.  The Soul Retrieval work of the North is a great process to accomplish this.  Then the original love, gratitude, and appreciation for that person is renewed, and your ability to receive their gifts is returned. This is a path back to the state of unconditional loving, giving, and receiving – our true childlike nature.

This of course does not mean that you need to throw away your basic rite of discernment and decide whether or not you want to be in a relationship with any given individual or situation. It is simply that we do not want those decisions driven by judgment or contempt, but rather driven by your vision of the ideal relationships experiences you would like to have going forward.  It is always better to make changes or moves from a place of clear and at least neutral energy concerning the current situation.  So if you feel contemptuous or judging, practice finding your way back to appreciation and then dream your new experiences into being from there.

In Love and Service,

Jon Rasmussen


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