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GUILT AND SHAME
..as far as the patient is concerned this sense of guilt is dumb; it does
not tell him he is guilty; he does not feel guilty, he feels ill. (Freud 1923)
Putting shame into words with a trusted companion enables one to step outside
it – it no longer seems to permeated one’s entire being – and allows some
self-forgiveness to emerge.
Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he
potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.
(Erich Fromm, ‘Man for Himself’)
There is nothing more effective in breaking any person than to give him
the conviction of wickedness.
(Erich Fromm, ‘Individual and Social Origins of Neurosis,)
Believing in ‘free will’…is like believing in Santa Claus; it leads to
disappointment. As long as people think they can just will their lot
in life to improve, they will remain the same. Let’s face it, if ‘free will’
existed we would all be marvellously healthy.
(Peter Gill 1995)
Guilt implies responsibility; and however painful guilt is, it may be preferable
to helplessness. (Schmideberg 1956)
The illusion of guilt is necessary for an animal that cannot enjoy life,
in order to organise a life of nonenjoyment. (Brown 1961)
…anxiety wants to become fear. (Loy 1992)
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BASIC GUILT AND SHAME
Guilt and shame are with us from a very early age. Research suggests
that guilt is in place from around the ages of three to six, while shame
occurs much earlier – from fifteen months to three or even sooner according
to some theories. Guilt and shame overlap somewhat and although guilt is
a more mature emotion developmentally than shame, as just mentioned, and
has different effects because of this, one cannot be discussed without the
other. While guilt is commonly seen as the guardian of moral standards
and our passport to being accepted within our culture; and shame as very
personal and often less significant, both need to be taken equally seriously
and shaded with conscience as will be discussed later. Guilt is concerned
with wrongdoing, an activity, which tends to leave a person feeling uncomfortable
at the very least, but powerful enough to have harmed someone and, hopefully,
powerful enough to make up for it. Shame is about embarrassment, humiliation,
feeling of low value and above all, powerless.
GUILT can be healthy in that it is the feeling we experience
when we do something we judge, by our moral code, to be wrong. It can
also occur in many people just by having the urge to do something that they
believe is wrong, or even by having a thought about committing an act of
wrongdoing. Healthy guilt tends to keep us to socially acceptable pathways
and functioning as useful individuals. It can help our ability to work hard
and to be careful and kind. Guilt could be defined as our conscience.
However, it should be noted that this ‘conscience’ is not always a reliable
arbiter of ‘good and bad’ as it can only click in when we are aware of doing
something wrong and is quite capable of making itself known when the misdeed
is very minor or even appears inconsequential to the majority of people.
Unhealthy guilt is something else again. This occurs when we establish
unreasonably high standards for ourselves with the result that we feel guilty
at absolutely understandable failure to maintain these standard. This
kind of guilt is rooted in low self-esteem and can also involve a form of
distorted self-importance where we assume that anything that happens is
our responsibility; it may come down hard on anything perceived as a mistake
in our lives and has the added anti-benefit of often applying to other people
too, so that we expect too much from family and colleagues as well as ourselves.
[Back to Contents]
SHAME is sometimes confused with guilt but can be defined
as either the discomfort experienced when we don’t live up to the expectations
of others – the remorse and/or embarrassment experienced when we perceive
that we have let others down and expect (or receive) their scorn or ridicule.
This might be by breaching rules of good taste and/or tactful and acceptable
behaviour in certain social situations. A second definition of shame is to
do with self-disapproval. In the first definition, our shame might
not occur if we were able to hide our anti-social or foolish acts from others,
but with self-disapproval it is irrelevant whether others know or not; this
type of shame might draw in embarrassment and make us feel ridiculous, inexcusably
inadequate, contemptible, defective, disgraced, dishonourable…the list goes
on. Shame of the self-disapproving kind can be very powerful and very
destructive. A third element of shame, ‘personal/original shame’ will
be looked at later in this booklet.
have shame, it is a basic part of being human. The shame experience
tends to make us feel alone and outside society at the moment it happens,
but it has to be acknowledged and dealt with. It may feel as if we
are momentarily transparent psychologically, showing the world our internal
soiled and defective selves, but this is not a terminal wound. Unless
we accept this and deal with our shame it accumulates and begins to weigh
us down, which is far more dangerous psychologically.
Some theorists consider shame to be a momentary self-awareness, seeing
ourselves as others see us. This can obviously be a problem if a person
has a very fragile view of the self or expends a lot of energy denying a
suspected inferiority and then is confronted by a self that is (very probably)
a lesser person than the self-image.
[Back to Contents]
‘Real’ guilt is feeling badly about something we have actually done that
is morally wrong. This might, of course, include guilt about things we have
not done; such as allowing something to happen that we believe we should
have prevented. ‘Neurotic’ guilt is the same unpleasant feelings in a response
out of all proportion to the wrongdoing. In this situation, we might also
feel guilty about things we have no chance or averting, or things for which
we feel obsessively responsible for no rational reason. This will
be dealt with more fully in the booklet: ‘Obsessional Thinking’.
All of us are going to have a level of neurotic guilt. Loy suggests that
people are more ready to accept a neurotic belief that there is something
wrong with them in some particular area of life rather than accept that
the self may have a basic ‘wrongness’, as is true for all of us.
Some theorists suggest that neurotic guilt hides real guilt in response
to acts or thoughts in the recent or not so recent past that we are not
prepared to face up to. Those therapists who veer towards psychoanalysis
or analytical psychotherapy might see it as childhood related – sexual, or
to do with unresolved feelings towards the parents; perhaps to do with the
harshness of the child’s emotions when he or she internalised the parental
directions rather than being in direct relation to the actual harshness of
these teachings, (Molnos)
Neurotic guilt feeds off the grey areas in our lives – those places where
we wish we were better or that we try to ignore. It may also find
fertile bedding in ‘bad’ thoughts. This is not (necessarily) obsessive
thought, but the area where we doubt ourselves or where random mental responses
fall into areas that we have been taught, by our culture, faith, parents
or by significant others in our lives, are not acceptable. These may
be sexual or to do with envy or coveting something that belongs to someone
else; and this might be a physical object or even the person’s temperament
It has been said that evil is as evil does, not as evil thinks about
doing and a psychologist once wrote that, to the question: ‘Are you bothered
by evil thoughts?’ he had never received the hoped-for answer, ‘No, I quite
enjoy them’. Whether we should feel guilty about our thoughts is a
question that has kept theologians and philosophers busy for several thousand
years, (Psychological Self-help), so it is not something that we should try
to get too involved in. However, a strong view put forward by Nathaniel
Branden, is that thoughts can only be correct or wrong; they cannot be immoral.
He further suggests that immorality in such a situation is when a belief
is accepted without regard for reason, knowledge, or respect for facts.
Branden points out that desires and emotions are not under conscious control;
they are the results of our internal, subconscious processes. That if we
believe that involuntary thoughts of this kind tell us something about our
morality and our ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ we are never going to have the courage
to look inside ourselves and continue the essential personal development
that comes out of an awareness of ourselves. This is because we will not
be able to accept the less pleasant thoughts, which everyone has, if we insist
on seeing them as meaningful rather than just the result of internal, involuntary
By definition, some thoughts and feelings are going to be uncomfortable,
that is the way the mind works – it looks at every area, not just in the
places we approve of. As Branden states, if we insist on seeing ourselves
as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ without understanding the many faceted creatures
that we are, the daily and even hourly changes in our perceptions and feelings,
we are never going to be able to accept ourselves and the ongoing process
of change within us, that is so essential to good mental health.
This stance puts aside many religious teachings on ‘evil thoughts’ and
readers, as in every area, need to make up their own minds. However, regardless
of how we feel on this touchy subject, it is likely that thoughts not acted
on also influence our emotions and our behaviour and we cannot escape from
the reality that we are all what the contents of our minds, the full contents,
and the way we process this, has made us.
It seems reasonable, therefore, to take note of our ‘bad’ thoughts and
use them to monitor our behaviour and/or to work out what they are accomplishing.
It does not seem reasonable to most of us, to judge a negative thought as
if it were as bad as that thought put into action. For example, the
‘road rage’ situation that fills so many newspaper and magazine pages at
present. It is not reasonable to judge an urge to punch another driver who
has put us at risk as identical to the act of actually punching him or her.
A strict conscience (see later in this booklet) may make us feel uncomfortable
with the urge and the adrenaline flow that accompanies it, but it surely
cannot be as guilt-provoking as actually attacking that person. The power
of the urge might be an indication that we need to do something about our
stress or rage levels or the way we allow ourselves to behave, behind the
wheel or when we experience ‘righteous indignation’, but it is not the same
as a physical assault.
One interesting idea in this area is to monitor our ‘bad’ thoughts and
urges and watch for ways that we allow them to sneak past our conscience.
For example, the heavy drinker who allows himself to become a bad tempered
and anti-social monster within the family as soon as he tastes alcohol and
is ‘no longer responsible’; or the person who would not dream of committing
a morally doubtful act on his or her own behalf, but is happy to do so in
the defence of someone else, particularly a child or an animal; or the employee
casually stealing stationery or other small items from his employer because
‘I don’t get paid enough anyway’, who would never think of stealing the identical
articles from a shop.
A solid sense of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is, then, probably healthy for all of
us and the price we pay in discomfort at a bad thought is just proof that
we are on our guard against actually committing the act.
If we add to this the fact that, as Bruhn states, we all process memory
in (at least) slightly different ways – by sight, by sound, via the major
events or the small details - we have a huge range of variables with which
to deal with input from the world around us and so make sense of our second-by-second
lives; (see ‘mind-set’ later in this booklet).
There are many mitigating factors to be considered when discussing neurotic
guilt. First, much of our real guilt and, arguably, the major part of our
neurotic guilt is rooted in sources that we swallowed whole as very young
children, picked up from our parents or other significant but fallible adults,
but which did not then, and does not now, fit our own needs and moral outlook.
Such early learning is powerful and very difficult to put aside, even when
we know instinctively that it is of no value to us or is causing us harm.
There is a suggestion, (Gould) that, we spend so much time learning
as a species that there is a biochemical component to our makeup that urges
us to accept parental learning. That we get a ‘biochemical reprimand’
for not accepting it as part of our evolutionary requirements; where ‘good’
feelings attach to accepted learning and ‘bad’ feelings to rejecting this
learning. If this is true, we are possibly taking on evolution as
well as more recent errors when we try to change.
Whatever the case, we must all understand that, although many moral
stances picked up from parents are extremely valuable, this does not mean
that all of them are; and sorting through some ‘child-truths’ now and again
in the light of experience and knowledge is not betraying these adults,
rather, it is a requirement of any thinking, grown-up person. A rigid
and immature basis for many beliefs is therefore understandable, but it
is somewhere to move on from, not a place to set up home.
Second, as touched on earlier, some theorists argue that as everything
we do is based on past experience, our major influences and our environment,
then behaviour is, to a greater or lesser degree a natural response, out
of our conscious control and therefore we cannot be held totally responsible
for it in the name of our ‘badness’ or ‘ill will’. In such circumstances,
much neurotic guilt is irrelevant.
Third, ‘morality’ is not etched in stone. It has many cultural variations
and many variables within these cultures. People tend to believe that
what goes for their particular culture, or even their family, is the worldwide
norm that others should aspire too. This simply isn’t true.
It is impossible to judge what is absolutely just and fair. Morality
is as much to do with geography, our age group and the times we are living
in as anything else. In this situation it is impossible to work out
exactly how culpable we are for a perceived ‘guiltiness’, so apportioning
blame and the depth or ‘deservedness’ of our punishment is impossible.
Neurotic guilt is inevitably disproportionate to the seriousness of the
‘crime’. It is also full of emotion and virtually insatiable as, due
to it’s irrational nature, it cannot be worked through in a normal manner.
It must be seen as separate from normal and healthy guilt but it is vital
to acknowledge that its resistance to solution does not mean that it is stronger
and therefore more important than normal guilt. On the contrary, it
is so difficult to deal with because it is irrational and of little consequence.
Some people find it useful to view their irrational guilt and shame as
if it were a small child. We all know that it is virtually impossible to
talk small children out of things when they ‘dig in their heels’; we have
to accept their inability to understand morality, social niceties and rationality.
We have to accept setbacks and tantrums. We have to find ways to demonstrate
the need for change and practise it many times with the child – subtlety
and intellectual argument just doesn’t work and it would be ludicrous to
try to resolve the child’s problem in this way. Viewed as a fearful and demanding
infant then, neurotic guilt falls back into, still unpleasant, but understandable
levels. It is uncomfortable, even very painful, but it is no longer an unknown
and unknowable quantity.
[Back to Contents]
People suffering from neurotic shame tend to take too much personal responsibility
for occurrences within their world. It becomes very easy for such a person
to have a ‘mind-set’ that is permanently ready to feel shame. That
is, this person’s perception of events and the way this input is processed
is likely to take the route that leads to feelings of personal fault or worthlessness
rather than any other; as in such a person seeing his or her inability to
understand complicated instructions, or an inability to absorb a new job
instantly as a personal failing and proof of inadequacy rather than considering
the option that this might be normal for anyone.
Such a ‘mind-set’ is just one short step from ‘internalising’ the
shame where this becomes an integrated part of the character rather than
an occasional, emotional tendency. We are all capable of internalising
emotions so that they become part of us rather than something we experience.
In such a situation, shame then stains every area of character or, worse,
becomes the centre of this person’s character.
With neurotic shame internalised or a major part of a person’s responses,
it becomes harder and harder to deal with everyday drives and needs, as
anything that is experienced as ‘not perfect’ or that couldn’t be happily
discussed on children’s television, draws a shame response. As we
remember things best in the situation we learnt them, this usually leaves
such a person not only deep in shame for the current incident but awash
with it from past experiences too. This makes it very hard, or even
impossible to look inside oneself and undertake the work needed to develop
as an individual – the caring and confident interaction with the self and
the life around us that is so important to neurosis-free growth. If
every peep inside shows us a loathed and sub-standard individual, why would
we go through that pain and knowledge willingly? The answer is, we wouldn’t
and we don’t, and normal development is then, at best, stunted and at worst,
The problem then arises where this person begins to believe that his or
her shame is beyond help and surrenders to it. Internalised shame then stands
at the forefront of all personal interactions and this person’s attitude
and self-talk (‘I’m to blame’, ‘It’s always going to be my fault’, ‘I’m worthless’)
ensures that life is perceived as painful and to be endured at best, rather
than enjoyed. People with this problem then become ‘sensitised’ to
shame, as mentioned earlier, much as a phobic person becomes sensitised to
the source of his or her fear. With the process always ready to click
in, it gradually needs less and less actual stimulation before it is in full
play as, for example, a spider phobic might develop original fright from
sight of the creature to eventual fear of pictures the shape, the word or
even sudden movement.
If it is accepted that neurotic shame tends to build out of a family dysfunction,
a parent with the same problem perhaps, or a parent unable to give the confirmation
of adequacy, confirmation that people can be trusted, emotional feedback,
nurturing and support, so necessary for the infant to begin to trust its
beliefs and develop self-worth, then the process has been induced and is
open to change. In Anxiety Care’s experience, no individual is so deeply
held within a negative life-stance that he or she cannot be helped to put
it aside and get on with essential human development. Supported experimental
work in the areas of setting aside negative self-talk and a gradual building
up of successes that bury the old failures can work wonders. However, this
is not easy; internalised negativity has a hair-trigger, and a fear or alarm
response has survival potential and is stronger and more demanding of action
than an event or perception that arouses pleasure. The person involved needs
to understand that this is just physiological, the way the body works, and
is not an indication (when there is no actual physical danger) that the
hair-trigger or fear response is more important that the pleasure or other
non-threatening response. Quite the contrary, it is irrelevant and damaging
and needs to be put aside. Skilled support can help this process to begin.
Sometimes, this can be obtained via a good mutual support or recovery group.
Such groups can be at their best when the person needing help has little
experience of ‘positive reflection’. This is the interaction we all
receive first as infants – the emotional interaction we find with our mothers
or others significant adults before we can put our needs into words.
The mother’s approval or lack of it is, at this early time, the only way
we have to understand what we are and what we should be. Some theorists
maintain that, during this very early stage, this ‘reflection’ is virtually
all we are – what we see ourselves as, reflected in the emotions and faces
of others. Such a powerful time of learning must inevitably leave us
with a need to see approval of ourselves in others – a reflection – throughout
our lives even if this is simply a confirmation of our own feelings of self-worth.
When someone has not experienced this reflection as a good developmental
process, has perhaps seen only, or mostly, irritation and disapproval in
the faces of the powerful people around the infant self, or simply a lack
of interest and empathy, then the inner self can be full of worthlessness
and self-loathing for this is what has comprised the greater part of the
young child’s reflecting experience.
A good group can help here in three ways – by showing that these emotions
are common to many people; that they are understandable as a response to
powerful others at an early and very vulnerable age, not as a useful, current
evaluation of the self; and that these group members care and empathise.
The latter is very important. Sympathy is not needed as this feeds
into the shame. It is an emotion from the perceived strong, applied
to the perceived weak and is a very personal experience. Empathy is a sharing
and being in touch with another person’s reality and nowhere in this process
is there a place for one person to feel better or stronger than the other.
Genuine empathy, as applied within the charity, is about ‘connecting’ to
people without judgment and is never about one person imposing his or her
ideas or ‘putting someone right’.
We are all born needing empathy from our mother or the significant carer
in our lives as, without verbal and adequate motor functions to express
our needs, we are helpless and are going to suffer unless the mother is
tuned into us at a very deep level. Ideal empathy is then likely to
make us, the baby, feel quite powerful as, unable to differentiate between
our self and the rest of the world, we probably perceive the rapid satisfying
of our need for nourishment and comfort as obtained through our own will.
This would lay the basis for a permanent, healthy need for such a connecting.
The problem is, if the empathy is not there, for whatever reason, the infant
and the future child will probably experience anxiety, isolation and loneliness
at a very deep level. A family that uses guilt and shame to control
its children will, almost by definition, be unable to provide empathic support
for the growing child and will, almost as certainly, not have provided it
for the helpless infant.
As Caldwell notes in ‘Knowing and Being Known’, empathy cannot survive
alongside stress, fear, anger, emotional pain and shame. In this way
a vicious circle can be set up where the sufferer, urgently in need of empathic
connection to establish his or her viability and fundamental sense of being
accepted and respected, is, because of internal conflicts, unable to establish
this vital empathic bond. In this situation, with the reserves of
empathic ability low or non-existent, walls of anger and/or indifference
can be set up to ward off anyone who, offering such a caring connection,
will probably be seen instead as a threat or at least an unwanted intruder.
Caldwell points out that many of us are so overwhelmed by our own feelings
that we cannot tolerate exposure to the pain or need of others. He
further states that nature has provided all of us with an ‘empathic wall’
that allows us to put aside the more extreme tragedies and agonies of others
- individuals or groups - that might otherwise drown us in pain. However,
he points out that such a wall can easily become a fixture. Hiding
behind it, we experience little outside pain, but we also miss out on the
vital, enriching interaction, emotional and intellectual, of the surrounding
Caldwell sees shame as the opposite of empathy, that in shame the vital
affirming connection is withdrawn and this person is left only with the damaged
and vulnerable self as protection against a perceived cold and threatening
world. Here people may become passive as they lick their wounds, or
aggressive as they hit back against perceived ‘attacks’ on the wobbly and
very fragile self. In the latter situation, the deeper the wounds and
more vulnerable the self, the quicker this person falls into attack mode.
If male sufferers also have problems with their view of their own
masculinity (not their sexuality), a very common occurrence in male anxiety
sufferers, they may well perceive vital empathic relationships as too ‘feminine’
and so an automatic threat to their self perception. This will feed
in to the need to present an image of the self in a certain way. With
shamed and anxious men this might be as powerful, ‘hard’, a problem solver
and guardian – taking respect for an image rather than earning it with the
true self. Within Anxiety Care, it is common to see such men exhausting
themselves as they strive to keep up the façade, succeeding only
in deepening their shame and self-disgust and having virtually no perception
of their true developmental needs as wounded and deeply unhappy individuals.
Within groups the duality of empathy can also be a problem. That
is, empathy is intellectually centred, requiring us to try to put ourselves
in touch with the experience and mind-set of others; but it can also be
a process by which we try to help these others connect with how we feel.
In an ideal situation, this empathy requires the person to risk identifying
with the other and taking his or her experience into the self prior to experiencing
an internal understanding and a final drawing back to observe the responses
this engenders in both. However, if the person has problems with empathy,
almost invariably due to bad early learning experience, he or she might
have a flawed approach to it. That is, this person might have a very
poor or even aggressively negative sense of what is required and see empathy
as only one way, or predominantly one way – outward as part of a huge personal
need for self-expression. If this need has elements of rage in it,
or is projected by a person whose wounded character development has allowed
the essential self-centredness of babyhood to linger beyond its normal life
stage, it may be driven by a need for the other to experience this pain.
Hence the bad group where poisonous and rage-full venting takes the place
Even when this negative empathy is not in place, the shamed person is likely
to be projecting a false image. Hiding the ‘true-self’ inevitably makes
all relationships difficult as no one can be allowed too close for fear
that he or she sees what the shamed person is ‘really’ like; but there is
little alternative to risking this if recovery is to be made. Most
work in this area states that good empathic connections can be made in later
life even after an extremely adverse infancy. However it is pointed out that
such connections can be very fragile.
There are a number of suggestions and mitigating circumstances to be looked
at when dealing with any kind of shame. Eby points out that it has recently
been discovered that a cell in the brain which conducts nerve impulses,
can bypass the rational part of the brain and go straight to the primitive
‘fight or flight’ centres when strong emotional responses are involved.
He further states that the more temper, frustration, anxiety, depression
and fear etc., accumulated in the early years of our lives, the easier it
is for this primitive part of the brain (the amygdala) to hijack the rest
of the brain, flooding it with strong and inappropriate reactions – a neurochemical
response that may have little to do with the actual events taking place.
Eby also discusses research on the developmental needs of the individual
and points out that some theorists see inner conflict and neurotic or similar
dysfunction, including guilt, shame and dissatisfaction with oneself as
an essential point to work from for fullest development.
This has been a common occurrence within the charity over the past
years. Anxiety Care workers have encountered many individuals who
appeared to be suffering mostly as a response to trying to ‘outgrow’ their
current emotional and familial environments; a situation that was often
seen as threatening and selfish by the family or peer group concerned, resulting
in emotional and sometimes physical punishment, and a level of ostracism
and emotional withdrawal that fed painfully into this person’s already large
sense of being different and alone. In most cases, being able to talk
about the problem and the feelings that went with it, made a good start
towards dealing with the pervasive secrecy and shame that such painful development
The major problem here is, of course, that neurotic shame makes us very
unwilling to look inside ourselves and to trust others, as mentioned previously,
so it is very hard to persuade someone to begin recovery work ‘cold’; that
is, on the word of an outsider that this is a good idea. In such a situation,
a good support and recovery group can be hugely useful. If it is accepted
that much of our ‘shame knowledge’ has been in place since we were very young
children, it can take a child’s understanding to undermine it: that is, as
mentioned previously, much repetition and reinforcement of practical positive
experience. As discussed in other literature, none of us with children
would sit down and explain to them at two years of age, what is expected
of them for the next year and how we want them to act – that would be ludicrous
– but we tend to do this with our wounded, defensive and shamed child-selves.
A rule of thumb might be that it is difficult to over estimate the power
of shame within a shamed person. A second rule might be that some people
are so ashamed of their shame that they are ashamed to even acknowledge it
[Back to Contents]
ORIGINAL SHAME is defined in many ways, but for our purposes
it will be discussed as the wounds received as a very young child.
Both Cloke and Shultz cite research which suggests that shame, or the mechanism
for experiencing it, is born in us as a neural or biological affect, and
both also point out that shame has a link to joy and pleasure so that we
are at our most vulnerable to shame when something interferes with the stimulus
of an ongoing feeling of pleasure, excitement or joy. In this situation, the
shame response triggers very easily.
discussed previously, empathic connections can be made in later life, but
the early wounding of original shame can leave heavy scars. Children understand
words long before they can speak themselves. If the infant was never
helped to understand the meaning of his or her needs by parental empathic
and verbal communication then, as an adult, this person might never achieve
a sense of where he or she ends emotionally and where the rest of the world
starts. It is very easy, in early infancy, to internalise all shame
– everything is caused by the infant; ‘outside myself’ is not an understood
concept. In this situation the infant might grow up with a semi-permanent
need to find someone to make this ‘right’, to reset the balance. If
the infant had to build its own mother so to speak; that is, internalise
a concept of a caring and empathic power that took away the terror, this
infant’s grown-up self might never grasp the concept of self-esteem that
came from inside, the understanding of it’s essential self-centredness and
need to experiment and experience as a tiny child. Here, this child
grown into an adult, might view his or her poor self-esteem, the sense of
original shame, as only rectifiable by another person, hence an endless search
for someone to take the pain away and the possible development of a belief
that someone out there, maybe everyone out there, ‘should’ know what is needed
and ‘must’ do something about it.
the adult’s internal two-year-old is screaming for help, intellect and grown-up
reasoning is not attached to this consciousness.
The infant may give up its need to be independent, to have a true sense
of self, if the parent is not giving enough of what little, but very precise,
requirement the child has of the parent. The child may do this if
it senses that this is necessary to ‘buy’ its bond with the parent. In this
situation, the child might stay a child as vital character development becomes
‘stuck’ at an infantile stage and interferes with the adult’s sense of ‘self’.
In this culture, we are encouraged, as children, not to be ‘selfish’ and
many, maybe most, of us do not understand the difference between only being
able to relate to our own selfish needs (narcissism) and having a sense
of self - where we start and end in relation to the world and in particular
to the powerful, primary parent figure. Without a good, accurate sense
of self, we cannot work out where our boundaries are and as Paris &
Paris point out, this can lead to over dependence on the parent or parent
substitute, or rigid distancing and no understanding of where the healthy
area of living between being too close and being too independent lies –
both as a child and as an adult. And, as Cloke says, the adult grown out
of this child might well fight barely perceived dependency by devaluing the
other person’s importance in relevant situations, or even his or her own
needs in this area.
people coming to Anxiety Care have a sense of being wounded as children but,
thanks to ‘pop psychiatry’, this is often perceived as being sexually and/or
physically abused at that time. Virtually none give credence to the
‘abuse’ of being ignored or resented or unloved or used as an adult-substitute
or even an ‘infant carer’: the abuse of original shame. Where rage,
particularly the rage of a small child is perceived (even in the vaguest possible
way) as the response to understanding this, defences go up.
points out that it is never too late to recover from early shame and that
learning to bridge the gap between self and others is possible at any age.
Attachment to others, an acceptance that attachment is essential to all
humans, is part of the answer as is the development of compassion, respect,
understanding, empathy and acceptance towards others.
Within the groups, leaders try to help people, first of all, to suspend
their disbelief – not to change their beliefs overnight, but to believe it
possible they may be mistaken about ‘right’, ‘wrong’ and their ‘needs’. And
to understand that a good group might be the place where they can be supported
as they try to make connections and to understand that it doesn’t matter if
their internal child ‘blows up’ occasionally.
In this way, people can begin the slow and painful process needed to recover.
In a safe environment, defences don’t need to go up so fast and so hard,
but like the child, we all have to learn that this is true by experiment
and experience. A new ‘family’ can be built – within the groups or
outside after experiment within the groups. Identifying with other
people’s shame wounds, being able to see the ironic side of this, is a firm
step on the road to recovery as is the ability to accept the wounds as what
they are: painful but ones own.
Caldwell says that the shame memories are as integral a part of a person
as the joy and the achievements; they can’t hurt the adult in the same way
as they hurt the child, but they have to be faced for this to be understood.
Caldwell also makes the interesting suggestion that we should attempt to
change our neurotic, original and other non-acceptable shame into normal
guilt (not neurotic guilt). This might be done by seeing that our failures
are not because of our ‘basic and permanent inadequacy’, but because we
didn’t prepare properly or just weren’t ready for the initiative or activity
we undertook; that we are mostly ‘guilty’ of being sloppy or lazy or over
confident. We might also be guilty of laying everything at the door
of inadequacy as a cover-all ‘cop out’. People tend to use what they
have, and many people have a lot of shame. So it can be easy to work
well within ones abilities (be lazy or slapdash) and put subsequent failure
down to natural and inevitable weakness within ourselves that we choose to
believe that we can do nothing about. After all, who can expect much
from a twenty-four carat ‘waste of space’?
Acceptable guilt has internal boundaries unlike most original shame and
is easily within our purview to deal with. And unlike shame, it is usually
something we can share with others. The embarrassment of being lazy or slapdash
is considerably easier to acknowledge than the hidden and hated shame of
[Back to Contents]
THE SEVERE CONSCIENCE
According to Caprio, conscience is recognising the difference between right
and wrong actions. It is not feelings, as in one feeling guilty about
something, but the response to the decision the person makes about these
He discusses the work of Timothy O’Connell who suggests that there
are three levels of conscience: first, the ability to know the difference
between right and wrong which is part of being human and having personal
responsibilities and values even when we disagree about the rightness or
wrongness of an actual activity or event; second, the act of conscience when
we decide if something is morally good or bad, when we apply our intelligence
to our and other people’s experiences and beliefs. This requires a
broad range of information (hopefully including ideas that are challenging
or different, not just supportive and comforting, or from parents).
The third level is the decision of conscience itself, when the person takes
a moral stance. O’Connell sees this as the act of being true to oneself.
The decision may not be correct according to the cultural majority, but it
needs to be honest within the person, and thought out.
Dunn discusses the severe conscious interestingly and is worth reading
in full (see references). He states that a harsh conscience, known to analysts
as the ‘punitive super-ego’, can cause a whole range of difficulties including
blame-aligned arguments, anxiety and depression. He describes the normal
conscience as like an attentive teacher or guide, admonishing in a healthy
way, which helps us to steer a course through the difficult area of morality.
On the other hand, the punitive conscience is described as finding nothing
worthwhile or of value within us, and being something that bludgeons and
hammers without mercy. This can lead to a person rejecting the conscience’s
‘guidance’ at times in sheer self-defence. Dunn goes on to say that such
a punitive conscience can lead to a person hearing the concerns of others,
including positive feedback in the form of warnings about conduct, as harsh
This type of conscience will naturally lead to the bearer expecting too
much of him- or herself, trying to live up to impossible standards and almost
certainly expecting the same of others. In Anxiety Care’s experience, people
with a severe and uncompromising conscience often see the perceived inner
worthlessness of themselves in others. It is very easy for a rigid
and punitive morality to spill over into staining the lives of others and/or
to offer totally erroneous ‘truths’ about these persons. In this way,
such a conscience owns the bearer and ensures that he or she is, at best,
difficult to be around and learns very little from what social contact is
Dunn sees such a conscience stemming from a childhood where the person
is punished suddenly and harshly, or receives little positive reinforcement
or praise, or where the parent or parent substitute swings between lack of
involvement with the child and harsh criticism. Also that it might involve
a parent with assertiveness problems which result in explosive anger, or
a parent who vents personal pain and belittles the child or accuses him or
her of ‘badness’ without making any attempt to show the child better alternatives.
In this way, the child might integrate the parent’s erratic and punitive
discipline into him- or herself as the way to control personal behaviour
and beliefs in the future – the severe conscience.
Dunn further discusses the ways in which families who over burden the young
child can induce a severe conscience. Anxiety Care sees clients who
have been survivors of such situations – the child who learnt much too young
that the parents were fallible or needy in ways far beyond healthy developmental
understanding of the parent’s humanity; In a way that engendered great concern,
possibly fear, and a need to ‘do my part’ in face of perceived family danger,
at a time long before this was healthy or reasonable.
Dunn states that children are able to recognise and be concerned about
parental need at around the age of four, and excessive concern at such an
age would easily result in the conscience getting ‘stuck’ at that early
stage – at a young child’s point of self-sufficiency and responsibility that,
almost by definition, will be unreasonable (as far as the later adult self
would be concerned) and prone to black-and-white thinking, mostly black.
Dunn suggests that a therapeutic approach to dealing with such an excessive
conscience might be helping this person to think through problems such as
perfectionism, over-responsibility for others and over self-reliance. Anxiety
Care encounters many people who deal with a pervasive but unfocused guilt
or anxiety by trying to give it substance – for we can deal with, or defend
ourselves against, things that we can see. Hence the difficulty in dealing
with a severe conscience can sometimes be turned outwards by the sufferer
so that the whole world, or at least that immediately adjacent, seems threatening
Within the charity, people suffering in this way have been helped to suspend
their disbelief and to accept others at face value, rather than to blame
and criticise which, as Dunn says, often occurs without reflection or insight.
‘Knee-jerk’ blame or defensiveness is hard to put aside and often takes
a considerable time to work through. Watching others in a good group respond
positively time after time to something that this person (for deep personal
reasons) needs to perceive as an attack, is very therapeutic and eventually
tends to change the owner of a severe conscience for the better.
Doctor Erich Fromm has produced a great deal of interesting and perceptive
work. His 1949 essay on characterology might be worth looking at here
with regards to the subject of conscience.
Fromm points out that character traits are necessarily moulded to
fit a person within his or her culture; that the modern industrial culture
required the work force to freely accept big changes in lifestyle. These included
a willingness to commit much more energy to regular work, punctuality, discipline
and orderliness. He further points out that these changes had to be
more than voluntary – they had to be integrated as drives into personal character
if they were to lead to a smooth running society. While economic, political,
religious and philosophical effects were at work to produce all this, they
had to be in line with humanity’s natural drives which Fromm details as a
striving for happiness, for harmony, for love and for freedom. He further
points out that if these natural needs are thwarted in the interaction of
a person with his or her actual world, they lead to a striving by the individual
for conditions that better meet these absolute requirements.
As an infant, our mother, a product herself of this cultural need, would
help us towards an understanding of this requirement of society and to integrate
the concept of work and commitment into our minds as part of a social conscience.
Anecdotal evidence within the charity suggest that many users were brought
up within the post-Victorian effect of a ‘nose to the grindstone’ philosophy
where this not only instilled a need for work-commitment as ‘natural’, but
also an acceptance that this measured a person’s stance as a ‘real’ man
or woman within the culture.
Today’s world offers much less work security and a blurring of the difference
between ‘male’ and ‘female’ in the characterological sense. As has been
mentioned here and in other literature, a great many men measure their value
as males against their ability to work hard and to provide for and protect
their partner and children. When the ‘female’ element (as in needy
and dependant) blurs as it has done in the last thirty or forty years, with
far more women working and themselves providing a vital part of support
and caring – ‘a ‘masculinising’ of women if you like – it would seem quite
natural that many men would experience a very basic threat to their position
as males; particularly as, within this culture, the ‘masculinising’ of women
is far more acceptable than a ‘feminising’ of men.
Literature on the subject and a recent comment on a television programme
suggests that a good many younger males, without jobs, purpose and a belief
that women need protecting, have fallen back on the oldest expression of
manhood – impregnating as many females as possible.
Where does this leave a social conscience and a personal conscience? In
a state of flux seems like a reasonable thought. If a person can no
longer trust that his or her social conscience – the way this person was brought
up to relate to and believe in the world - is accurate, then what about the
personal conscience? If mum and dad were that wrong about the way the
world works, what about the personal bits? Can we live with such a fundamental
doubt in our lives?
Much of anxiety is about guilt and a fear of losing control. Neurosis
is focused on obtaining security rather than happiness, so a shifting in
guilt and conscience to obtain this security might be at the cost of personal
development. Living within the parameters of one’s conscience might
have to involve major changes in perception and the letting-go of very long
term ‘truths’. As Fromm says, ‘Man’s main task in life is to give birth
to himself’ and this can be hugely painful and take a very long time.
[Back to Contents]
SEXUAL GUILT & SHAME
Anything that is very important to our thinking (and maybe survival) has
many words to describe it as in the Eskimos with their thirty-five (or sixty
depending on your expert) words for snow in its many conditions. According
to Lee the western cultures have over five hundred words for the female
genitals, over five hundred words for the male genitals and over eight hundred
words for the sex act itself.
This tends to buy into the widely held belief that we are somewhat culturally
obsessed with sex. Some theorists put this down to religious teachings,
specifically Christianity. This is not the place to debate the value
or otherwise of religion as regards guilt and shame, but it seems clear
that many Christian leaders over the centuries, have used guilt and shame
to control the general population (Feinberg and Kirsch in ‘Lee’ ’97; Mason
in ‘Ourworld’ ’00, ‘pangaram’ ‘00). Instilling guilt in people, particularly
sexual guilt, is a very effective way to control them. Our culture has accepted
many sexual teaching of this kind as ‘cultural truths’ so that, even if
one is not brought up as a Christian, these ‘facts’ have permeated life
and become accepted as part of most people’s reality.
In this way, sometimes out of sheer self-defence, people are able to maintain
ambivalent attitudes towards sex as has been demonstrated many times within
Anxiety Care. Classically, this has been seen in men and women who
ignore and/or deny their sexual responses with the result that, when these
responses become strong enough to ‘break through’, they are perceived as
out of control or somehow malign. This fits in with the old East End
saying that ‘only good girls get pregnant’ – the more sexually relaxed girls
are very aware of sexual consequences. According to Thomas (in ‘Lee’), people
in denial about the power of their sex drives see the resultant escaping
sexual acts as major moral failures and this leads to even worse sexual guilt.
According to pangaram there are two sorts of sexual guilt: ‘the morning
after’ and ‘latent’. As might be deduced, ‘the morning after’ refers to sexual
guilt following a sexual act that is out of line with one’s internal values
or conscience. ‘Latent’ is a cover-all term referring to one’s feelings about
sex and sexual acts – often that sex in general is wrong, dirty and/or associated
with baser instincts that should be controllable. This belief system
may easily lead to problems as above, denial and sudden escape of urges,
a perceived lack of interest in sex altogether or the complexity of such
a person giving confusing signals to a potential partner and then feeling
repulsed if this ‘dirtiness’ is reciprocated. Obsessional fears around sex
will be looked at in detail in the booklet, ‘Obsessional Thinking’.
Klein’s article on sexual addiction eloquently discusses one area of sexual
irresponsibility, but opens up questions involving sexual guilt. If
we label our sexuality as our ‘badness’, then we suffer because we perceive
it as an example of the kind of person we are. If we label it, or
part of it, as an illness, then we are not responsible. The addiction
and illness mentality has the built in benefit of us being powerless against
it – we have no responsibility to attempt control because we are ‘ill’, not
‘bad’. As Klein says, controlling sexual energy can be very painful
and frightening. The primitive and infantile forces involved, gleefully
latching on to a wide range of expressions of need, can terrify and seem
almost insanely unstable. If we view our sexuality as inborn and present
from the very first day of life, then much of it is going to be to do with
the baby’s egomania - total amoral and self-centred need where ‘me’ is the
only thing in the universe of any consequence.
As said earlier in these writings and elsewhere, babies can’t be reasoned
with or instilled with cultural and personal responsibility, they are not
ready for it. Seen as babies problems, this sexual difficulty is acceptable
if hard work; seen as a roaring and unstoppable force inside ourselves,
it is terrifying. Much easier to view it as a sickness; and, of course ‘ill’
babies don’t get punished, they get treated. As Klein says,
we all need to broker our sexual desires. If we decide we are powerless
against our addiction or illness, or have to deny our sexuality in case
we wake up the bad stuff, then we are always going to be stunted human beings.
A man’s sexuality is easily aroused and may be confusingly, and sometimes
frighteningly, involved with admiration and affection. As stated,
it will also have remnants of earlier desires dragging along behind it so
that the odd socially inappropriate thought will often pop into the mind.
This is normal; sexuality does not adhere to current culturally accepted
(or demanded) norms which is bad news for people who are sensitive to anything
that makes them feel they are not part of the group and so not totally acceptable.
Feelings of worthlessness very easily attach themselves to sexual thoughts
and impulses when this inferiority or abnormality is part of a person’s
‘mind set’. This will be particularly true at the moment in the midst of
the western worlds hysteria about sexual deviance with regard to some sexual
None of us has a sexuality that could be written up and proudly displayed
on the community hall bulletin board as the epitome of normality, because
‘normality’ is not what we mean when we say that word. Normality doesn’t
have a dark side, lusts and a demand for personal satisfaction at any cost.
Normality is what the self-appointed arbiters of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ have told
us is correct behaviour over the past few hundred years, and for ‘correct’,
read ‘controllable and culturally desirable’.
There is an interesting slant on this if one looks at the idea of prohibitions
against certain sexual acts. This theory suggests that if they weren’t fairly
common thought processes and impulses in the general population, then there
would not have to be such elaborate and complex penalties against them.
A look at other cultures around the world, of today and centuries
past, would show a huge range of ‘normality’. There is a place for saying
that current western sexuality is a ‘cultural defect’. This is the premise
that something accepted by an entire culture, or the great majority, can
easily be seen by outsiders as insane or totally malign, but as long as the
majority in that culture accept it, the defect passes for ‘normal’ and people
subscribing to the sick belief are, technically, not sick themselves. (Germany
in the 30’s and 40’s is a prime example). Perhaps we should look at the western
cultures’ current approach to sexuality, guilt and denial as a cultural defect
that we will, hopefully grow out of. The problem is, of course, that
if we cancel our subscription to this cultural norm, we might then be seen
as culturally sick. In some ways this might not be a bad thing although it
can hurt a great deal and feeds into guilt and shame.
We would all like to be free of our worrying, immature needs, not
least the sexual ones, but this is part of what we are too and pushing it
away as illness or badness is just another way to avoid being a real adult.
The child inside has been directly involved with the great bulk of our learning
if we accept that most of our beliefs and ‘truths’ were instilled as young
children. If we try to deny this child its loud and often inaccurate
say, we are just going to make it clamour for more attention; far better
to acknowledge the multiple ways we can look at things and try to make rational
judgements based on this.
We all tend to view ourselves as more kindly, sensitive, caring and generous
than other people. There is research (Miller) that shows that we are
far more likely to accurately judge the responses of others in social or
demanding situations than we are our own. Taking this a step further,
if we listen to all the facets of our minds instead of just the part we approve
of, we have a better chance of coming to a rational conclusion: ‘brainstorming’
can work very well, even if all the brains belong to us.
[Back to Contents]
GUILT, NEUROSIS AND PUNISHMENT
Gill suggests that, while we are all accountable for the consequences of
our present actions, we cannot be held responsible for the causes of these
actions; that research suggests that, given minimal genetic and biological
attributes, a child can be taught essentially any belief by parents and
other significant adults in the earliest part of life. He further states
that, while genetic, instinctual and organic factors underline behaviour,
when these factors are within normal limits, they ‘provide only an infrastructure
upon which learning develops the architecture of personality’.
may or may not be totally true, but it does leave the door open for neurotic
development via the learning process. Fromm sees neurosis as developing
from the inevitable conflict over authority between parent and child, where
the child does not solve this satisfactorily. As mentioned elsewhere,
authority tends to have two poles. The first is ‘objective’, where
the person is competent to wield power and skilled enough to undertake the
tasks of guidance this involves. The second is ‘irrational’, where
authority is wielded, irrespective of competence, but due to the power the
wielder has over the person subjected to it, its strength in direct proportion
to the fear and awe in which the power holder is held by the person subjected
points out that the interests of modern society, the person’s culture in
which he or she is expected to live, do not coincide with the needs and interests
of the individual; so it is inevitable that the child will have to give
up certain levels of freedom and spontaneity. He further states that
as the first authority a child encounters is that of the parent, and as
this parent will be a product of the existing culture, this parent might
be seen as an agent of the culture as mentioned earlier. Here the parent
is in the position of training the child to accept and internalise the needs
of the culture so that it, the culture, can continue to work effectively.
These requirements will inevitably clash with the child’s inborn need for
freedom and total individuality and lead to a substitute and paler ‘self’
where the child gives up much of these basic desires and becomes, more or
less, the sum total of what the power figures demand of him or her.
This will happen with the most benign of original authority figures (the
parents); when these parents, or parent substitutes, are not so benign, the
problems become much worse of course.
doesn’t ignore Freud’s stance concerning sexuality and neurosis, but suggests
that young children are trained to feel guilty about their inborn sexual
drives and other bodily functions because guilt is a powerful tool in the
process of bringing a child into submission. Fromm further suggests
that this guilt is not the healthy guilt that has been discussed above but,
in reality, is the fear of upsetting people of whom we are afraid.
It is not, therefore, a healthy, person-friendly response but a shackle round
our need for independence and freedom.
depressing journey does not, of course, automatically lead to neurosis because
if it did, we would all be neurotic. So who becomes neurotic? Fromm
suggests that neurosis might grow out of a child being more thoroughly ‘broken’
than others with the result that his or her anxiety might be in major and
unbearable conflict with basis desires; or the child might have developed
a greater need for freedom and the expression of originality than most so
that inevitable defeat under authority might be the more sharply unbearable;
and these would be the results of relatively benign ‘training’.
Guilt-focused neurosis might also be to do with this person feeling
somehow ‘locked in’ to the family; as if his or her own needs to be true
to the self have to be subordinated to the needs of this family, particularly
if it is in emotional trouble. Even if such a problem is partially dealt
with and this person fights free, he or she might still be overwhelmed with
guilt for this escape and subsequent personal growth: so by, surviving and
leaving the rest to ‘drown’ (Whitfield). A neurosis-focused response to a
malign, abusive or uncaring upbringing would obviously have almost limitless
states, if we are trained or encouraged, even by default, to ignore or deny
aspects of ourselves, then we tend to put all our powers and drives into
the aspects that we accept. This means that, like a body builder concentrating
on only one set of muscles and letting the others waste away, we become
unbalanced and unwell.
an attitude, guilt and/or shame induced, must take its toll so that, even
when we feel we are working hard and investing our power in ourselves, it
may be in only part of ourselves. If we can’t see that, then we might
perceive the resulting imbalance as a sign of our worthlessness or inadequacy
rather than just inappropriate ‘mental muscle’ building put at the door of
guilt and shame.
aspect of this can be, as Dayton discusses, projecting the unwanted parts
of ourselves onto others or forcing down, subconsciously, those areas of
which we are afraid. Within Anxiety Care, it is relatively common to
encounter people who are afraid of their own anger or rage and their potential
for ‘violence’; and this violence might be emotional rather than physical
and might even present as an impulse that doesn’t seem anything like violence
to an observer, but is experienced as such by the person him- or herself.
the imbalance is projected onto others, then is seen the highly critical or
intolerant person, or the person who perceives evil and immorality everywhere.
It can be a comfort to listen to the zealots of our world ranting about
evils that only they seem able to see and realising that much of it will
be staining from their personal, disowned selves and so totally invisible
to them except as some sort of ‘itch’ they choose to recognise in others
and feel bound to scratch.
is not really the place to investigate PUNISHMENT in its many forms; however
it can be looked at as it relates to guilt and shame. In its most
understood form, punishment may frequently be seen in anxiety/depression
sufferers, predominantly those with an obsessive element to it. Here
the sufferer might restrain him- or herself physically by a restriction to
the home or an inability to undertake certain acts, as a means of incarceration
– sentencing the self to a term of physical or emotional imprisonment.
This is often seen too, within the charity, as a protective measure. For
example, the woman who needed to leave an abusive partner and so ensure the
mental well-being of her children, became agoraphobic, to her perception,
as a means of avoiding the decision (she now could not leave because she
was sick); and by this also punished herself with imprisonment and depression
for her perceived cowardice.
client has also detailed a punishment scenario via his OCD. His overwhelming
sense of guilt and shame at what he perceived as an immoral act turned into
severe contamination fears that restricted him to his home for many years.
He later explained that he had finally judged that ‘ten years solitary’
was punishment enough for what he had done and thrown off the crippling
While either of these scenarios might be a ‘convenience of understanding’
– attempting to make sense of a senseless world and/or legitimising what
each might still view, deep inside, as a non-genuine illness, the idea of
punishment and a need for personal punishment, was very strong in both clients.
It might also be pointed out in the above cases that neither person experienced
normal guilt as in an emotion leading to reparation or the seeking of forgiveness.
Both were totally involved in their own feelings and it might be said that
their level of self-obsession made the objects of these crippling feelings
Carveth states that it is not possible to feel guilt about something one
has consciously done without feeling ashamed of being the sort of person
that could do that. He says, however, that the opposite, shame without guilt,
is quite possible as has been described above. Therefore, guilt and
shame are linked in the more mature person.
Freud might have viewed such a response as in the cases discussed above,
as ‘noisy’ conscious guilt covering a subconscious guilt that was perceived
as much worse – the deeply hidden ‘true crimes’ (Carveth). There might
even be a case for saying that such noisy guilt might not be accepted internally
by some less morally evolved levels of consciousness; hence the anxiety
and depression and general mental ill-health appearing as the physical representation
of a conflict between areas of consciousness.
Carveth discusses this whole area interestingly and makes the point that
unconscious self-punishment is an alternative and substitute for accepting
guilt; that we may be afraid of looking into ourselves in search of the
guilt inducing parts in case we find (as we fear) that that is all there
is – we are totally bad and beyond salvation. Such a feared discovery
would be impossible to live with, so it is heavily ignored as is anything
that might open the door to it. Self-torment then meets our needs without
the danger of shattering us completely.
As a final thought on shame, Retzinger & Scheff make the point that
shame is often ignored within mental problems, even by professional therapists;
that we have a huge prohibition against acknowledging shame in others and
even in ourselves so making it a very isolating experience. They further
point out that people can become caught up in a spiral of feelings: being
ashamed and then being ashamed of being ashamed; or being angry and then
ashamed of being angry and then angry at being ashamed…and on it goes.
And on the subject of anger, it is pointed out that the power and
powerlessness of guilt and shame respectively, as discussed earlier, might
also allow guilt to be a mask for shame – hiding any feelings of powerlessness
from the shaky internal concept of self.
A final quote from David Loy; ‘Today our problem with anxiety is greater
for at least two reasons: a more individualistic society produces people
with a stronger sense-of-self, therefore with stronger anxiety, and it provides
fewer effective ways to cope with that anxiety’.
www. source material and references:
A number of source references have been lost from the early part of the
above document. Any author who feels that he or she has not been adequately
cited in this bibliography should contact Anxiety Care with the relevant
information, and this online document will be amended, with our apologies.
John Bradshaw, ‘Toxic Shame’ from ‘Healing the Shame that Binds You’.
Nathaniel Branden, ‘Jesus versus the Self’,
The Disowned Self 1971
The Daily Objectivist 24/11/00
Arnold R. Bruhn, Ph.D, ‘What is Cognitive Perceptual Theory?’
Robert D. Caldwell, M.Div., ‘Knowing and Being Known’ and ‘Healing Shame’
Albert Caprio, O.P., ‘Conscience’
Donald L. Carveth, Ph.D, ‘The Unconscious Need for Punishment: Expression
or Evasion of the Sense of Guilt?’
William Cloke Ph.D., ‘Rage, Shame and the Death of Love’
Douglas Eby, ‘Shame’
Tim Dunn, M.A., C.M.H.C.
‘The Harsh Conscience’
Sigmund Freud, (1916). ‘Some character-types met with in psychoanalytic
work’. S.E., 14: 311-333 as seen in ‘Carveth’.
Sigmund Freud, (1930) ‘Civilization and its Discontents’. S.E., 19:59-145
as seen in ‘Carveth’
Erich Fromm, ‘Individual and Social Origins of Neurosis’ (1944a)
Erich Fromm, ‘Man for Himself’
Erich Fromm, ‘Psychoanalytic Characterology and Its Application to
the Understanding of Culture’.
Dr. Peter Gill, ‘Determinism’ in, ‘The Society of Natural Science’.
Guilt Issues, ‘Appropriate and Neurotic Guilt’
R. Karen, ‘Shame: The rediscovery of what some psychologists regard as
the primary cause of emotional distress’. The Atlantic 269, 2 (February
1992): 40-70 as seen in ‘Carveth’.
Marty Klein, Ph.D., ’Why There’s No Such Thing as Sexual Addiction – And
Why It Really Matters’,
Article Archive, Article #8, March 1998
Dr. Cherry Lee, ‘Young and Single’: The Hidden Effects of Sexual Guilt.
Mark Lowery, Ph.D., ‘Gray Matters’
David R. Loy, ‘The Lack of Self in Psychotherapy and Buddhism’. The Journal
of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 24, Number2.
Marc Miller, Ph.D, ‘Shame and Psychotherapy’
Patricia Miller, ‘Predicting Behaviour: The Holier Than Thou Effect’.
Looking at the work of Epley & Dunning.
Dr. Angela Molnos (1998), ‘ A psychotherapists harvest’
Online, check ‘Molnos’.
Johan Norman, ‘To Talk with Infants’
‘Overcoming the guilt and fear Christianity has instilled in you’; a review
of Mark Mason’s book, ‘In Search of the Loving God’.
pangaram: are u in love, ‘Sexual guilt’
Eileen Paris, Ph.D, and Tom Paris, Ph.D
‘Parenting Our Future’
Philosophical Perspectives on the Humanities,
‘Guilt, shame and modern morality’
Eva Pierrakos, ‘Self-Alienation: The Way Back To The Self’, Excerpt from
Lecture #95, Copyright 1961 by The Pathwork Foundation.
Psychological Self-help, ‘Sad Times of Our Lives’
Suzanne M. Retzinger and Thomas J. Scheff
‘Shame as the Master Emotion’
James M. Schultz, M.D. ‘The C.G.Jung Page’, ‘Shame’.
‘Welcome to…Feeling Guilt about the Loss’
Charles L. Whitfield M.D. ‘Healing the Child Within’, 1987
This article should not be used as a diagnostic tool by lay people.
It is not medically based and a qualified medical practitioner should always
be consulted before any intervention concerning anxiety disorder or depression.
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