Feelings: The Important Emotion Shame – But Also A Destructive Force

The emotion shame, humiliation for self-protection and social control, is an important innate emotion. There are different types of shame which correspond to activating different levels of helpful/not helpful behaviors which in turn impact our wellbeing:

1 Shame as in the primary emotion that is sound in the sense that it is adaptable making us attentive to the risk of being outcasted from our preferred group/network by making us being apprehensive to the reactions from others with regard to our behavior. This is important for us as an information source to be able to evaluate our behaviour while considering others’ reactions, which can make our behaviour less egocentric, more adjusted considering the impact of our actions on others, repairing mistakes and unfortunate outcomes by asking for forgiveness – hence more adaptive to the group we want to belong to.

2 But shame can also be a defense mechanism used when we irrationally fear the complete and eternal rejection from important others pushing our true emotions away, out of consciousness, which often instead produce psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety, but also augmented compensatory drives such as exaggerated performance drive, exaggerated drive to do good etc. far beyond sound levels.

3 Also there is another often discussed dimension of shame in the meaning of interpreting a misfortunate outcome as shame when the personal identity is not separated from a single action/incident. In this perspective shame equals “I am wrong, I do not deserve to be a part of this at all” instead of the more adapted cousin guilt which equals “I did something wrong, I have to repair/fix it/apologise, but that is not all that I am, everybody makes mistakes sometimes and I am just one of them”

More about shame and what to do about it in next week’s post.

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