Shame is a painful, social emotion that can be seen as resulting "...from comparison of the self's action with the self's standards...". but which may equally stem from comparison of the self's state of being with the ideal social context's standard. Thus, shame may stem from volitional action or simply self-regard; no action by the shamed being is required: simply existing is enough. Both the comparison and standards are enabled by socialization. Though usually considered an emotion, shame may also variously be considered an affect, cognition, state, or condition.

The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning "to cover"; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame. Nineteenth-century scientist Charles Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, described shame affect as consisting of blushing, confusion of mind, downward cast eyes, slack posture, and lowered head, and he noted observations of shame affect in human populations worldwide. He also noted the sense of warmth or heat (associated with the vasodilation of the face and skin) occurring in intense shame. Shame can also result in crying.

A "sense of shame" is the feeling known as guilt but "consciousness" or awareness of "shame as a state" or condition defines core/toxic shame (Lewis, 1971; Tangney, 1998). The key emotion in all forms of shame is contempt (Miller, 1984; Tomkins, 1967). Two realms in which shame is expressed are the consciousness of self as bad and self as inadequate. People employ negative coping responses to counter deep rooted, associated sense of "shameworthiness". The shame cognition may occur as a result of the experience of shame affect or, more generally, in any situation of embarrassment, dishonor, disgrace, inadequacy, humiliation, or chagrin.

A "state of shame" is assigned internally from being a victim of environment where the sense of self is stigmatized like being denigrated by caregivers, overtly rejected by parents in favor of siblings needs, etc. and the same is assigned externally, by others, regardless of one's own experience or awareness. "To shame" generally means to actively assign or communicate a state of shame to another. Behaviors designed to "uncover" or "expose" others are sometimes used for this purpose, as are utterances like "Shame!" or "Shame on you!" Finally, to "have shame" means to maintain a sense of restraint against offending others (as with modesty, humility, and deference) while to "have no shame" is to behave without such restraint (as with excessive pride or hubris).

The boundaries between concepts of shame, guilt, and embarrassment are not easily delineated. According to cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict, shame is a violation of cultural or social values while guilt feelings arise from violations of one's internal values. Thus shame arises when one's 'defects' are exposed to others, and results from the negative evaluation (whether real or imagined) of others; guilt, on the other hand, comes from one's own negative evaluation of oneself, for instance, when one acts contrary to one's values or idea of one's self. (Thus, it might be possible to feel ashamed of thought or behavior that no one actually knows about and conversely, to feel guilty about actions that gain the approval of others.)

Psychoanalyst Helen B. Lewis argued that, "The experience of shame is directly about the self, which is the focus of evaluation. In guilt, the self is not the central object of negative evaluation, but rather the thing done is the focus." Similarly, Fossum and Mason say in their book Facing Shame that "While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one's actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person."

This page was last edited on 27 January 2018, at 18:41.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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