Monday, November 5, 2012
Disserrtation on shame. Chapter 20.3 Hiding
17 of the participants speak of trying to hide from others in relation to shame. Hiding is mentioned a total of 36 times in the interviews (appendix 4). Ruth, who has worked at the Incest Centre for several years, describes how some users of the centre physically hide behind a pillow, behind their hair or under a blanket in order to hide oneself under a conversation.
Ruth: When they come to have a conversation here ((Looks up at the ceiling)) they often hide, physically behind a pillow or behind their hair…One girl hides by sitting under a woollen blanket with a pillow in front of her face when she talks about things that have to do with shame. Not always, but when it feels real bad, she hides.
Hiding oneself seems in my opinion to be both a handling strategy and a non-verbal marker (appendix 20) for shame. Ruth says that the person she is speaking of hides in different ways when she feels real bad and that this has to do with shame. Users are permitted to hide themselves if they find this necessary in the beginning of having conversations at the Incest Centre, but after a while, they are challenged to remove the pillow from their face or come out from under the blanket. Being able to show oneself is a daring venture where one can risk being rejected and disrespected, and demands courage. Wearing large clothes seem to be a way some victims of sexual abuse try to hide themselves, like Ellen who is one of the users of the Incest Centre. She developed her breasts at an early age, and claims that they were often touched indecently by her father and uncle in her childhood. This led to the tendency to wear large clothes in order to hide her breasts.
Ellen: I hide my body by wearing large clothes…I hide my breasts so no one can see them.
In my opinion, Ellen can be hiding her breasts because she is ashamed of them, feeling that something must be wrong with them since her father and uncle so often violated her integrity by touching her breasts the way they did. Hiding can be accomplished not only by hiding ones whole body under a blanket, but can be developed into more acceptable and not so visible hiding activity. Ellen hides her breasts; using large clothes. Other show, in my opinion, this non-verbal marker (appendix 20) of shame as hiding ones face behind ones hands, hiding ones mouth with one hand, or maybe even with one fingertip. Pia, who works at the Incest Center, asserts that hiding something that is wrong has to do with shame and refers what is wrong as being injured. It is not a thing which is wrong and tried to be hidden, but it has to do with her and feeling injured.
Pia: I knew something was wrong and tried to hide it…I’m real good at hiding things and if I was injured or something, I always knew how to hide it.
Kaare: Does hiding something have anything to do with shame?
Pia: Uh-huh, of course.
Nussbaum (2004) agues very much the same as Pia when she claims that hiding from humanity which more and more people do in late-modernity, has to do with their feelings of disgust and shame. Lewis (1995a, 1995b, 2000) also explains this need to hide as an expression of shame and argues that shame results when an individual judges ones actions as a failure in regard to his or her standards, rules and goals and then acknowledges this failure. The person experiencing shame wishes to hide, disappear or die. It is a highly negative and painful state that also disrupts ongoing behavior and causes confusion in thought and an inability to speak. The body of the shamed person seems to shrink, as if trying to disappear from the gaze of the self or others. Because of the intensity of this emotional state, and the global attack on the self-system, all that individuals can do when facing a person in such a state is to attempt to rid them of it.
Ruth tells how some of those who she has had conversations with victims of sexual abuse feel shame for seeking help, which involves being seen, and being seen can be very shameful. Many people who feel shame do not want to be seen by others.
Ruth_1: Uh-huh. Ugly and horrible and the shame they feel when they come here, it’s so shameful (.) to let others see them. They don’t want others to see how ugly and horrible they really are. They have a picture of how others see them…Nobody sees them that way (.) but it’s a picture they have about themselves about umm (.) being ugly, that others can see all the terrible things they have done, umm their bodies, they become very visible. But this is something that declines with time…First we have to try to get some eye contact ((Bites her lips together)) Uh-Ugh…But it takes a long time. They don’t want to have eye contact. ((Looks away)) Umm that’s what they have to get out of and try to see themselves with the eyes of others and get other perspectives umm. I tell them what I see, it’s important for me to tell them what I actually see in a person.
Ruth says that people in shame do not want eye contact; they fear being seen. Ruth shows this behavior herself in this conversation by looking away when speaking of shame and biting her lips together (appendix 20). Johnson (2006) argues that we need to hide our shame, our blushing, our thoughts, and all the parts of us that have been exposed. Hiding is thus an aspect of the shame sequence. The person who feels shame feels an urgent need to hide the shameful parts of his or her life or personality.
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