Monday, October 29, 2012
Dissertation on shame. Chapter 18.5 Nakedness
Ellen and Margaret both speak of their bodies being abused; without respect and recognition. Instead of placing the responsibility on their abusers, they think that their bodies are to blame. Something about their bodies seems to them to be wrong. In my opinion, sexual abuse has changed their self-image, destroying it and replaced a positive self-image with shame. Shame has to do with being seen; a feeling of nakedness. Stempsey (2004) argues that when someone feels body-shame, that this is particularly associated with nakedness. The Greek word for genitals, aidoia, is derived from the word for shame, aidòs. This is also represented in the Norwegian word for the outer and inner lips of the vulva (Latin: labia majora and labia minora) being called the “shame lips” (skamleppene) and the Norwegian word for the pelvic bone (Latin: os pubis) as the “shame bone” (skamben). If one is caught naked unexpectedly, a natural reaction for many will be to cover oneself, especially what we call our “private parts”. In such situations many are likely experience to a sensation of embarrassment or even shame. The story of Adam and Eve (The Holy Bible, Genesis, chapter 3) also makes this point; they disobey God’s commandment, and then “they knew that they were naked”; “Adam and Eve hid themselves”, and Adam says that he was afraid “because I was naked” (not because he had disobeyed). Guilt, one might say, goes with doing something bad: shame with appearing in a bad light. Knut, who was sexually abused in his youth by an aunt who lived next door, feels very vulnerable when he is naked.
Knut: When I’m naked, when I feel that I’m naked, then I’m vulnerable. I have rooms inside of me that are mine only, where I can be naked. I don’t want to be open for everyone. Then I’d feel real naked. I have to have control
Shame is usually associated with nakedness, being exposed, as with the story of Adam and Eve mentioned above. In the same fashion we try to hide our nakedness by covering our face with our hands. It is of course irrational to believe that one will disappear by hiding in this way. But one at least has the benefit of not seeing the eyes of others when hiding in this way. Of course, similar feelings occur in other situations that are unrelated to the nakedness of ones genitals. Shame is, in my opinion, not just being “naked”, but by being seen as naked by someone whose opinions matter to us. Most people are not ashamed of criticism from an observer whose views we do not respect. For example; being stopped by a stranger on the sidewalk and being told that your ugly, can be experienced as much less brutal and shameful, than if ones loved one says the same thing when having a romantic dinner together. Furthermore, actual observation by others need not occur, in my opinion. Shame is an emotion involving self-evaluation. One can feel shame when merely imagining acting in a shameful manner in the presence of a person or persons whom one deems to be important in relation to the situation. It is possible to feel shame being completely alone. Shame is then, in my opinion, a self evaluation which incites the disapproval of an audience deemed as significant others (betydningsfulle andre), whether the audience is present or not.
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