Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 7.1 Early psychoanalytic therories on shame

7.1 Early psychoanalytic theories

Freud (1933/1974) looked upon guilt and shame as products of intra-psychic conflicts or more precisely as weapons used by the superego to influence decisions made by the ego, e.g., as he explains in New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis: “[a] moral sense of guilt is the expression of the tension between the ego and the superego” (Freud 1933/1974: 76). He insisted that the superego created guilt without any consideration of the outside world. There are some traces of interpersonal relations in Freud. He writes e.g. in Civilization and its Discontents (Freud 1930/2005) that the superego is an adaptation developed in the human organism in order to survive in the civilised world, which can be understood as living together with other people. Freud (1933/1974) argues that shame may take on several functions but the bottom line is that shame is:

A feminine characteristic par excellence but is far more a matter of convention than might be supposed, has as its purpose, we believe, concealment of genital deficiency (Freud 1933/1974: 166).

Helping people with shame involves treating shame as something that one can relate to, as an ontological entity. Freud (1930/2005) denied in my opinion that guilt and shame were ontological realities. For Freud, guilt and shame stem from ancient taboos, transgressions towards parents and social institutions. Guilt, according to Freud could only be understood as a result from the fear of being punished or reprimanded, or it was an expression of the childish fear of losing love and he describes guilt as the desire to punish ourselves; it is based on the moral masochism and sadism of the superego.

Jung[1] (1954) seems in my opinion to be diametrically opposed to Freud on this issue. All the mystical and mythical-religious understandings that Freud disliked, are in central in Jung’s work. He defined guilt and shame as intra-psychic projections and was not concerned with what the patient experienced outside of the psyche. The basis of Jung’s studies was the self. He says that the self is:

Individuality in the highest degree…the most immediate experience of the divinity that it is psychologically possible to comprehend (Jung 1954: 296-297. My translation).

Jung believed that becoming a self meant integrating evil as a combination of opposites inside the psyche.

This means that neither Freud nor Jung treated guilt and shame as ontological realities. Jung never described guilt and shame as a reality between individuals; instead they were feelings which reflected something that was hidden. In order to help another person, one must, according to Jung look for important “footprints” in the unconscious self. One cannot be concerned with the associations in our memories which haunt and torture the self.

Rank[2] was one of Freud’s closest colleagues for more than twenty years, but the publication of The Trauma of Birth (Rank 1929/1994) changed that. Rank suggested that shame and guilt have social roots and suggested a pre-oedipal phase, a phase before the Oedipal-complex which Freud had postulated. Rank took standard psychoanalytic views of shame and guilt as his point of departure, but his thoughts gradually developed into a theoretical position which is unique within psychoanalytic psychology. He came to understand these emotions as a product of the process of becoming an individual, together with other individuals. These emotions are manifested in the infantile dependence on the mother and in the fear and anxiety related to separation from her; they function as a force which continues in this relationship. Freud explained tirelessly, that it was the Oedipus complex which was the nucleus of the neuroses and the foundational source of all art, myth, religion, philosophy, therapy – indeed of all human culture and civilization. Rank’s theories had such a negative impact on Freud that he distanced himself from his colleague together with several others friends he had in the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, where Rank had presided as Vice-President until then. 

Erikson[3] rejected Freud’s belief that guilt was the primary emotion in adults in his book on Childhood and Society (1950/1995). He argued instead that shame was the most important emotion, because shame involved the whole self and not just one’s actions.

Horney[4] argues in The Neurotic Personality of Our Time (Horney 1937/1994) that feelings of guilt and shame come from a basic fear of losing the approval of others. Furthermore, she speculated that we try to make others feel guilty and shameful due to neurotic interpersonal motives. Horney criticized the work of Freud, opposing the notion of penis envy, claiming that what Freud was really detecting was women’s justified envy of men’s power in the world. In her personality theory, Horney reformulated Freudian thought and presented a holistic, humanistic perspective that emphasized cultural and social influences, human growth, and the achievement of self-actualization (Quinn 1987).

Lynd[5] developed her ideas from Erikson’s discussion of shame in her book On Shame and the Search for Identity (Lynd 1961/1999). She used concrete examples in order to clarify the idea of shame. She was the first to realize the need for a concept of shame that was clearly defined and which differed from ordinary everyday use.

Tomkins[6] took a step in the direction of a more social definition of shame in his two- volume work Affect, Imagery, Consciousness (Tomkins 1963/2008). He acknowledged the central position that shame plays in the process of becoming a self. He argued that embarrassment, shame and guilt should be seen as members of the same family of affects. His work seems to me to have had a tremendous influence on emotion research. Researchers have later carried out hundreds of studies on facial expressions that say something about the different emotions. But these studies have in my opinion contributed little to the knowledge of shame. This is because, firstly, shame has not been seen as a genuine emotion, and secondly, researchers who only use snapshot pictures of facial expressions have ignored the verbal and non-verbal contexts of affects. 

Kaare T. Pettersen

[1] Carl Gustav Jung 1875-1961
[2] Otto Rank 1884-1939
[3] Erik Erikson 1902-1994
[4] Karen Horney 1885-1952, a pioneering theorist in personality, psychoanalysis, and feminine psychology.
[5] Helen Merrel Lynd 1896-1982, both a sociologist and social philosopher.
[6] Silvan S. Tomkins 1911-1991, considered to be one of the most influential theorists of 20th century psychology and generally also considered to be the founder of modern affective science.

No comments:

Post a Comment