Monday, October 15, 2012
Dissertation on shame. Chapter 15.3 Pride
Dagny, who was sexually abused by three of her uncles as a child, argues that she would rate her self-image as very low (2) and her shame at the moment as very high (9). She still says that she’s proud and that pride makes shame seem smaller. This might suggest an inconsistency in her remarks about shame and self-image, or perhaps that pride can be connected to other factors such as achievements, marriage partner, and having a job. Pride does not necessarily mean being proud of oneself; one can also be proud of someone or something outside of oneself. What Dagny perhaps believes is that if one could feel prouder about one’s self through a better self-image, for whom one is as a person, and then shame would diminish. I asked Dagny if she was proud of herself and Camilla (who like Dagny has experienced being sexually abused by an uncle) if she was proud of her mother and children. Dagny answers that she is developing a better self-image and that this was important for her in order to feel less shame. Camilla is very proud of her children, but not proud of her mother.
Dagny: If one can increase one’s pride, then shame diminishes. You have to develop a better self-image, and then you feel less shame.
Dagny: Very, and I dare to say that I am.
Kaare: Are you proud of your mother?
Camilla: No ((Shakes her head)) It’s terrible… But I have two daughters.
Kaare: Are you proud of them?
Camilla: Yeah. Very proud.
Pride can be seen as the opposite of shame, and Camilla who rated her shame as being very high (10) still feels great pride in her children while very low pride over her mother. The relationship between shame and pride is complicated and must not be underestimated. A person feeling shame and having low self-esteem may have areas in life, as in relation to ones own children, where pride is felt greatly. Others may feel pride in ones work and skills. Ellen can feel pride over having achieved an education as a hairdresser.
Ellen: I was proud once when I got my license as a hairdresser even though I wasn’t as perfect as the others. My mom was never proud of me, never said how good I was.
Ellen seems to view others she took the hairdresser education with as more perfect than her, but she still was satisfied and proud of herself. It also seems that this is a pride she has towards herself and not a pride that was given to her from a significant other as her mother. This might support the notion that there are different forms for pride. Ivar, who has sexually abused as a child by several men and several women, can feel pride over good achievements.
Ivar: I can feel pride in umm good achievements.
If there are different forms for pride, one form might seem to be being proud of oneself and the other being proud of what one does or achievements. Trude is proud over the achievement of having been married for 35 years.
Trude: I have, yeah, now I can say that I’m proud of myself. ((Everyone laughs)) I’ve been married for 35 years.
Pride seems to have to do with having kept a close relation secure over many years. Breaking a relation with a partner might be experienced as a failure one is not proud of after having perhaps promised to “love and protect till death do us part” before other family members and close friends. Knut, who was sexually abused by his aunt as a child, is proud of having a job.
Knut: I have an occupation.
Kaare: Does that increase your pride and improve your self-image?
Knut: Yes. Absolutely
Having a job and being able to create an occupational identity might seem to be important for coming out of a victim identity for some. Some might be proud of one side of life but not proud of other sides. Being proud can be related to a number of different areas of life. Feeling shame over oneself does not necessarily mean that one does not feel pride over other parts of ones life. Being able to feel pride seems to be constructive for the development of a more positive self-image, and thereby over time decrease ones feeling of shame over oneself.
Ivar states below that becoming disabled because of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, lost his job, family, house, career, and car, has taken away most of his pride. John says he agrees with Ivar and adds that this has to with being recognized. Ivar has been active in sports for many years and had a career as a salesman that he is proud of. He has had a wife and child, a house, a car and good wages. So he has had many experiences that have given him self-confidence and this is something he says that he still has. The loss of these aspects of life has taken away his pride, not his self-confidence. John comments that this might suggest that the aspects of life that Ivar mentions are connected to being recognized by others, and that this recognition is connected with pride.
Ivar: I differentiate between pride and self-confidence. I have a lot of self-confidence but no pride.
Kaare: What’s the difference?
Ivar: Umm. It’s umm (.) I know what I’m worth, what I can do, what I’ve been able to accomplish before. I know what friends have told me...I’m disabled now. I’ve tried a number of times to find work. I’ve gone from having a family and career (.) a house and a nice car and good wages and things to being umm (.) disabled, with no car, I rent an apartment. I don’t own anything anymore, umm nothing to do in my everyday life. That umm (.) has really contributed to robbing me of my pride.
John: I can say I feel the same way… When one doesn’t feel recognized, then one’s self-image or pride decreases a lot.
Ivar and John’s need for recognition can be explained through the social rank theory set forth by Gilbert (2000). He argues that emotions and moods are significantly influenced by the perception of one’s social status/rank; that is the degree to which one feels inferior to others and looked down on. This is called the social rank theory. A common outcome of such perceptions is submissive behavior. Feeling inferior here does not mean that one has a low income, little education and so forth. Instead it suggests that shame; social anxiety and depression are all related to the defensive submissive strategies individuals use when they find themselves placed in unwanted status/rank positions. Gilbert (2000) has carried out a study of the relationship between shame, social anxiety and depression with two samples comprising 109 students and 50 depressed patients. His results confirm that the feelings of shame, social anxiety and depression (but not guilt) because of lacking social recognition, are closely related to feelings of inferiority and to submissive behavior.
While Ivar and John talked about how pride disappears with the loss of career, family, job, wages, house, car, and so forth, Gunhild, Ellen and Helga, in another focus group, seem to be concerned with being accepted just the way they are, by both themselves and others. Gunhild, who has been sexually abused by several men in her childhood, has never felt herself good enough, and while speaking of “feeling like shit”, she lowers her head and looks down on the floor, which can be seen as a non-verbal marker of feeling shame (appendix 20).
Gunhild: Umm I’ve never felt that I was good enough the way I am… I feel like shit… Yeah I feel (.) I don’t feel good enough, I feel (.) revolting, yeah… I haven’t taken care of myself. One’s not worth anything. It doesn’t matter… It’s awfully hard to describe myself. ((Looks down on the floor))
Ellen: I feel the same way. I have to learn to be fond of myself. I love my husband and kids, for heaven’s sake, but I have to learn to be fond of myself also. And allow myself to be fond of myself, of who I am.
Helga: Yeah. For who I am and the way I look. Yeah…Idiot and stupid, there comes that stupid cow on the bus. That’s the way I feel people think of me. It’s always been like that…It used to look like a zoo in my apartment. I took all sorts of homeless cat’s home with me. Oh dear, it was, umm it had something to do with being myself. These homeless cats accepted me the way I was. I felt secure with them…Nobody wants to be friends with an idiot like me.
Acceptance seems to be an important factor in the struggle for recognition and for the changing of ones identity from a victim to a survivor as Gunhild, Ellen and Helga speak of above. Gunhild and Ellen feel that they have never experienced being accepted and they feel worthless, while Helga has only felt acceptance from homeless cats; they accepted her the way she was and made her feel secure. Not being accepted by others seems to make it difficult to be proud of oneself, and instead of feeling pride one feels worthlessness. Recognizing victims of sexual abuse as valuable seems to be an important factor for the diminishing of shame and for the growth of pride through new and positive experiences with others.
Kaare T. Pettersen
Pettersen,Kaare Torgny, 2009: An Exploration into the Concept and Phenomenon of Shamewithin the Context of Child Sexual Abuse. An Existential-Dialogical Perspectiveof Social Work within the Settings of a Norwegian Incest Centre. PhD 2009 Department of Social Work and HealthScience Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management. NorwegianUniversity of Science and Technology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway. Doctoral theses 2009: 184