Praxis für Psychosomatische Medizin u. Psychotherapie, Coaching, Mediation u. Prävention
Dr. Dr. med. Herbert Mück (51061 Köln)

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What ist shame?

Shame is one of the most powerful feelings
controling human behaviour (motivate). It regulates ( partially due to social pressure in terms of adaptation) living together and avoids isolation of members of a community. Who feels rejected (not loved, not wanted or isolated), often reacts by shameful behaviour. Shame is often connected with the experience being different from others (to differ from the “standard”). He would rather hide and he often blushes. For fear of being rejected (once more), the person concerned often becomes distant which could lead to social phobia in the extreme case. Concerning illnesses like (eating disorder, depression, addictive drugs, narcissistic personality disorders, hypochondria, compulsion disorders, Dysmorphophobia), shame often plays a central part. At the same time the mentioned illnesses are typical “masks of shame”.

At least there are two forms of shame: one serves the social adaptation, the other the development of individuality and the maintenance of one’s personal integrity. Shame can be seen as a warning signal. It makes us clear that our concepts and interpretations as we see the world, others and ourselves do not correspond with our present experiences. (e.g. if you laugh at a supposed funny scene whereas there is awkward silent.) This situation will probably cause shame. Shame can as well be interpreted as a “prickle” which motivates us to update our concepts and to develop a different kind of dealing with reality (Therefore, shame to some extend can be very good for creativity!) Shame can be very sobering: It can snatch us from our instinctive sureness. Shame and its counterpart pride serves to keep and regulate the contact (nearness, distance) to others. Some describe shame as a point of intersection between ourselves and the others.

Similar to fear, shame is one of the emotions which can be found in the animal kingdom. E.g. If a defeated animal “put one’s tail between one’s leg and creeps away with one’s head bowed”, this reaction reminds us of human behaviour. Shame can be experienced as very painful (“awkwardness”). By putting someone to shame, denunciation or humiliation some make use of the effect of shame in order to force somebody to do certain behaviour resp. to dominate someone. Shame guards our human dignity (value). It protects us from degrading behaviour and situation. - Bücher versandkostenfrei

Shame is a feeling which has a lot to do with self-knowledge (self-observation, self-confidence, self-esteem), (without shame there is possibly no self-confidence and thus no human mind). Processes in connection with shame creates individuality. They show clearly the difference to other human beings and with that they are good for feeling one’s own identity. The biblical story of the expulsion from paradise describes this experience symbolically: Adam and Eve agree with the universe and they did not feel ashamed for being naked. Only then when they ate an apple from the tree of knowledge, although it is forbidden, they detected the difference between good and evil. At the same time they became aware of their nakedness. They felt ashamed, made a loincloth and hid from God who finally drove them out of the paradise. This “history of the human race” explains to us that shame begins by experiencing weakness ( not being led into temptation, not to satisfy ideals). It helps to perceive differences (e.g. good and evil) and to be aware of one’s own person (e.g. nakedness). It motivates in respect of creative work ( the making of a loincloth), but also it motivates in order to hide oneself. Not at least shame has got to do with subjugation and punishment ( explained by the expulsion from paradise).

Shame is nothing pathological. On the contrary: In a moderate scale it supports the ability to put oneself in someone’s place and to feel what he might feel. It only turns into illness when there is a lack of shame or if there is an excess. Like many phenomenon, it depends on an optimum and not on an maximum or minimum. If you feel too much ashamed, is often unable to bear noticed difference. The person concerned has a lack of proud concerning his peculiarity. Shame can be seen as an expression of being unable to experience oneself as self-confident and therefore detached from the rest of the world and at the same time.