[Paleopsych] shame

Michael Christopher anonymous_animus at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 1 18:29:03 UTC 2005

>>When there is "public silence around shame, it
doesn't get discussed, it just gets more deeply

--I agree. It also gets distorted. If a person can't
say "I'm ashamed", it may be easier to translate that
into "shame on you!" and pass the emotion to another.
I've seen many group squabbles where it was obvious to
me (being trusted to some extent with the private
thoughts of each member of the group rather than just
the official story) that each person was to some
extent blaming others out of his own shame. Someone
who often feels stupid calling another person "stupid"
and so on. Someone with less personal experience with
each side may simply think "X values intelligence, and
calls Y stupid because Y isn't adhering to that
value". That Y may really have done something stupid
clouds things further. X may never even know he's
transferring his shame to another.

>>It would be silly to say that shame doesn't hurt and
isn't sometimes very painful, but it does make you
think about what you hold dear, whether that be at an
individual or collective level, or as a nation. It is
one of the emotions that most clearly throw into
relief the values we have.<<

--That's true as long as introspection is allowed and
encouraged. Often, national/racial/religious groups
bypass introspection and go directly to blame or
attack. Shame becomes a trigger for blaming others.

>>Yes. Part of my interest in shame came from thinking
about the limits of pride, especially when it's used
in queer pride, or fat pride, or whatever. There is a
real limit to those politics.<<

--Agreed. I would include "American pride" which is a
kind of national self-esteem movement. Why work on my
flaws or build my strengths if I can be proud of where
I live, no matter what?

>>Shaming is very limited in its value. It requires
that someone stand on high and point the finger. Some 
strands of feminism have usedshaming, but it's the
experiencing of shame rather than the wielding of
shame that can be good.<<

--That's a good point. Especially if the blamer is to
some extent passing on his/her own shame. The "hot
potato" game. The question is, how do you encourage
people to feel their own shame rather than passing it
on in order to feel more innocent? In extreme cases of
conflict, each side may be so terrified of feeling
shame that it must demonize and attack the other
constantly in order to hold the feeling at bay. This
can cause whole generations to inherit shame and the
mechanisms of denial along with it.


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