Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 26.0 Discussion of empirical findings

26.0 Discussion of empirical findings

One of my theoretical points of departure is an understanding of the self as being social. The conception of a social self is important in my opinion in order to explore shame as a social-self-conscious emotion. I illustrate in figure 1 how in my opinion the social self can be understood. Thereafter I focus on the experience of exclusion and negative self-evaluation which seems to be closely related to shame. This relationship is illustrated in figure 2. I discuss also the effect of alienation of mind and body which seems to accompany shame and illustrate in figure 3 the possible destructive forces which in my opinion seem to follow from shame and not directly from sexual abuse. I finally discuss the annihilation of trusting relationships which many of the participants seem to describe as a consequence of sexual abuse and its relationship to shame.

26.1 The social self

Shame has been described in this dissertation in sociological terms as one of the most important of all of our social emotions (Scheff 2003) and in psychological terms as a self-conscious emotion (Tangney and Fisher 1995; Tangney and Dearing 2002). In my opinion, these two perspectives can be combined creating a perspective of shame as a social-self-conscious emotion. The social self is described in figure 1 by combining Cooley’s (1902/2006) three steps in the Looking-Glass self (self-image, others, and self-concept), with Goffman’s (1967/2006) fourth step; emotions. I then let these four steps of the social-self revolve around Mead’s (1934/1967) concept of role-taking, which I interpret as the identity one takes upon oneself in different social contexts.

The concept of self, according to Møller (2008) refers to the core of ones personality and to ones mind and body as a whole. The way one perceives and describes oneself is in my opinion created in relation which others and not in social isolation. In this lifelong process of developing oneself, emotions seem to have an important function. This helps to explain how it is possible to create different identities (role-taking) in different social circumstances. Several informants in this study tell of how they are able to have a successful occupational identity and at the same time being unsuccessful with the identity as housewife, friend or as a daughter. Others tell of being a good mother and having a caring and trustful identity to their children, but perceive their identity as a sex partner as shameful.

There seems to be a relation between having a high level of shame and a low self-image amongst the participants and likewise that a low level of shame to a high self-image. It seems that most of the participants who were users of the Incest Centre showed a higher level of shame than the employees and in the same way a lower self-reported self-image. Shame seems also to be one of the most crucial categories at the Center and it is suggested that almost all of the conversations at the Centre has to do with shame or shame related categories such as guilt, self-harming, hiding, relations to others, and so forth.

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