Shame is, variously, an affect, emotion, cognition, state, or condition. The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning to cover; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame.
Nineteenth century scientist Charles Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, described shame affect as consisting of blushing, confusion of mind, downward cast eyes, slack posture, and lowered head, and he noted observations of shame affect in human populations worldwide. He also noted the sense of warmth or heat (associated with the vasodilation of the face and skin) occurring in intense shame.
A "sense of shame" is the consciousness or awareness of shame as a state or condition. Such shame cognition may occur as a result of the experience of shame affect or, more generally, in any situation of embarrassment, dishonor, disgrace, inadequacy, humiliation, or chagrin.
A condition or state of shame may also be assigned externally, by others, regardless of the one's own experience or awareness. "To shame" generally means to actively assign or communicate a state of shame to another. Behaviors designed to "uncover" or "expose" others are sometimes used for this purpose, as are utterances like "Shame!" or "Shame on you!"
Finally, to "have shame" means to maintain a sense of restraint against offending others while to "have no shame" is to behave without such restraint.
According to cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict, shame is a violation of cultural or social values while guilt feelings arise from violations of one's internal values. Thus, it is possible to feel ashamed of thought or behavior that no one knows about and to feel guilty about actions that gain the approval of others.
Psychoanalyst Helen B. Lewis argued that "The experience of shame is directly about the self, which is the focus of evaluation. In guilt, the self is not the central object of negative evaluation, but rather the thing done is the focus." Similarly, Fossum and Mason say in their book Facing Shame that "While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one's actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person." Following this line of reasoning, Psychiatrist Judith Lewis Herman concludes that "Shame is an acutely self-conscious state in which the self is 'split,' imagining the self in the eyes of the other; by contrast, in guilt the self is unified."
Clinical psychologist Gershen Kaufman's view of shame is derived from that of Affect Theory, namely that shame is one of a set of instinctual, short-duration physiological reactions to stimulation. In this view, guilt is considered to be a learned behavior consisting essentially of self-directed blame or contempt, with shame occurring consequent to such behaviors making up a part of the overall experience of guilt. Here, self-blame and self-contempt mean the application, towards (a part of) one's self, of exactly the same dynamic that blaming of, and contempt for, others represents when it is applied interpersonally. Kaufman saw that mechanisms such as blame or contempt may be used as a defending strategy against the experience of shame and that someone who has a pattern of applying them to himself may well attempt to defend against a shame experience by applying self-blame or self-contempt. This, however, can lead to an internalized, self-reinforcing sequence of shame events for which Kaufman coined the term "shame spiral.
One view of difference between shame and embarrassment is that shame does not necessarily involve public humiliation while embarrassment does, that is, one can feel shame for an act known only to oneself but in order to be embarrassed one's actions must be revealed to others. In the field of ethics (moral psychology, in particular), however, there is debate as to whether or not shame is a heteronomous emotion, i.e. whether or not shame does involve recognition on the part of the ashamed that they have been judged negatively by others. Immanuel Kant and his followers held that shame is heteronomous; Bernard Williams and others have argued that shame can be autonomous. Shame may carry the connotation of a response to something that is morally wrong whereas embarrassment is the response to something that is morally neutral but socially unacceptable. Another view of shame and embarrassment, though, is that the two emotions lie on a continuum and only differ in intensity.
Shame is considered one aspect of socialization in all societies. Shame is enshrouded in legal precedent as a pillar of punishment and ostensible correction. Shame has been linked to narcissism in the psychoanalytic literature. It is one of the most intense emotions. The individual experiencing shame may feel totally despicable, worthless and feel that there is no redemption. According to the anthropologist Ruth Benedict, cultures may be classified by their emphasis of using either shame or guilt to regulate the social activities of their members. Shared opinions and expected behaviours that cause the feeling of shame (as well as an associated reproval) if violated by an individual are in any case proven to be very efficient in guiding behaviour in a group or society.
Shame is a common form of control used by those people who commit relational aggression. It is also used in the workplace as a form of overt social control or aggression. Shamery is also a central feature of punishment, shunning, or ostracism. In addition, shame is often seen in victims of child neglect, child abuse and a host of other crimes against children.
A shame campaign is a tactic in which particular individuals are singled out because of their behavior or suspected crimes, often by marking them publicly, such as Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. In the Philippines, Alfredo Lim popularized such tactics during his term as mayor of Manila. On July 1, 1997, he began a controversial "spray paint shame campaign” in an effort to stop drug use. He and his team sprayed bright red paint on two hundred squatter houses whose residents had been charged, but not yet convicted, of selling prohibited substances. Officials of other municipalities followed suit. Former Senator Rene A. Saguisag condemned Lim’s policy.
Despite this criticism, the shame campaigns continued. In January 2005, Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Bayani Fernando announced shame campaign to target jaywalkers by splashing them with wet rags. Sen. Richard Gordon disagreed with the shame tactic, and Rep. Vincent Crisologo called this approach "martial law tactics". Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon argued jaywalkers were being treated like cattle.
|Published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 100, January 1900, No. 596, pp. 320-325|
"DON'T come in here botherin' me," said the cook, intolerantly. "What with your mother bein' away on a visit, an' your fathercomin' home soon to lunch, I have enough on my mind -- and thatwithout bein' bothered with you. The kitchen is no placefor little boys, anyhow. Run away, and don't be interferin' withmy work." She frowned and made a grand pretence of being deep inherculean labors; but Jimmie did not run away.
"Now -- they're goin' to have a picnic," he said, half audibly.
"Now -- they're goin' to have a picnic."
"Who's goin' to have a picnic?" demanded the cook, loudly. Her accent could have led one to suppose that if the projectors didnot turn out to be the proper parties, she immediately would forbidthis picnic.
Jimmie looked at her with more hopefulness. After twentyminutes of futile skirmishing, he had at least succeeded inintroducing the subject. To her question he answered, eagerly:
"Oh, everybody! Lots and lots of boys and girls. Everybody."
According to custom, Jimmie began to singsong through his nosein a quite indescribable fashion an enumeration of the prospectivepicnickers: "Willie Dalzel an' Dan Earl an' Ella Earl an' WolcottMargate an' Reeves Margate an' Minnie Phelps an' -- oh -- lots moregirls an' -- everybody. An' their mothers an' big sisters too." Then he announced a new bit of information: "They're goin' to havea picnic."
"Well, let them," said the cook, blandly.
Jimmie fidgeted for a time in silence. At last he murmured,"I -- now -- I thought maybe you'd let me go."
The cook turned from her work with an air of irritation andamazement that Jimmie should still be in the kitchen. "Who'sstoppin' you?" she asked, sharply. "I ain't stoppin' you, am I?"
"No," admitted Jimmie, in a low voice.
"Well, why don't you go, then? Nobody's stoppin' you."
"But," said Jimmie, "I -- you -- now -- each feller has got to takesomethin' to eat with 'm."
"Oh ho!" cried the cook, triumphantly. "So that's it, is it? So that's what you've been shyin' round here fer, eh? Well, youmay as well take yourself off without more words. What with yourmother bein' away on a visit, an' your father comin' home soon tohis lunch, I have enough on my mind -- an' that without beingbothered with you."
Jimmie made no reply, but moved in grief toward the door. Thecook continued: "Some people in this house seem to think there's'bout a thousand cooks in this kitchen. Where I used to workb'fore, there was some reason in 'em. I ain't a horse. A picnic!"
Jimmie said nothing, but he loitered.
"Seems as if I had enough to do, without havin' youcome round talkin' about picnics. Nobody ever seems to think ofthe work I have to do. Nobody ever seems to think of it. Thenthey come and talk to me about picnics! What do I care aboutpicnics?"
"Where I used to work b'fore, there was some reason in 'em. I never heard tell of no picnics right on top of your mother bein'away on a visit an' your father comin' home soon to his lunch. It's all foolishness."
Little Jimmie leaned his head flat against the wall and beganto weep. She stared at him scornfully. "Cryin', eh? Cryin'? What are you cryin' fer?"
"N-n-nothin'," sobbed Jimmie.
There was a silence, save for Jimmie's convulsive breathing. At length the cook said: "Stop that blubberin', now. Stop it! This kitchen ain't no place fer it. Stop it! . . . Very well! Ifyou don't stop, I won't give you nothin' to go to the picnic with -- there!"
For the moment he could not end his tears. "You never said,"he sputtered -- "you never said you'd give me anything."
"An' why would I?" she cried, angrily. "Why would I -- with youin here a-cryin' an' a-blubberin' an' a-bleatin' round? Enough todrive a woman crazy! I don't see how you could expect me to! Theidea!"
Suddenly Jimmie announced: "I've stopped cryin'. I ain'tgoin' to cry no more 'tall."
"Well, then," grumbled the cook -- "well, then, stop it. I'vegot enough on my mind." It chanced that she was making forluncheon some salmon croquettes. A tin still half full of pinkyprepared fish was beside her on the table. Still grumbling, sheseized a loaf of bread and, wielding a knife, she cut from thisloaf four slices, each of which was as big as a six-shilling novel. She profligately spread them with butter, and jabbing the point ofher knife into the salmon-tin, she brought up bits of salmon, whichshe flung and flattened upon the bread. Then she crashed thepieces of bread together in pairs, much as one would clash cymbals. There was no doubt in her own mind but that she had created twosandwiches.
"There," she cried. "That'll do you all right. Lemme see. What'll I put 'em in? There -- I've got it." She thrust thesandwiches into a small pail and jammed on the lid. Jimmie wasready for the picnic. "Oh, thank you, Mary!" he cried, joyfully,and in a moment he was off, running swiftly.
The picnickers had started nearly half an hour earlier, owingto his inability to quickly attack and subdue the cook, but he knewthat the rendezvous was in the grove of tall, pillarlike hemlocksand pines that grew on a rocky knoll at the lake shore. His heartwas very light as he sped, swinging his pail. But a few minutespreviously his soul had been gloomed in despair; now he was happy. He was going to the picnic, where privilege of participation was tobe bought by the contents of the little tin pail.
When he arrived in the outskirts of the grove he heard a merryclamor, and when he reached the top of the knoll he looked down theslope upon a scene which almost made his little breast burst withjoy. They actually had two camp fires! Two camp fires! At one ofthem Mrs. Earl was making something -- chocolate, no doubt -- and atthe other a young lady in white duck and a sailor hat was droppingeggs into boiling water. Other grown-up people had spread a whitecloth and were laying upon it things from baskets. In the deepcool shadow of the trees the children scurried, laughing. Jimmiehastened forward to join his friends.
Homer Phelps caught first sight of him. "Ho!" he shouted;"here comes Jimmie Trescott! Come on, Jimmie; you be on our side!" The children had divided themselves into two bands for some purposeof play. The others of Homer Phelps's party loudly endorsed hisplan. "Yes, Jimmie, you be on our side." Then arose theusual dispute. "Well, we got the weakest side."
"'Tain't any weaker'n ours."
Homer Phelps suddenly started, and looking hard, said, "Whatyou got in the pail, Jim?"
Jimmie answered somewhat uneasily, "Got m' lunch in it."
Instantly that brat of a Minnie Phelps simply tore down thesky with her shrieks of derision. "Got his lunch in it! Ina pail!" She ran screaming to her mother. "Oh, mamma! Oh,mamma! Jimmie Trescott's got his picnic in a pail!"
Now there was nothing in the nature of this fact toparticularly move the others -- notably the boys, who were notcompetent to care if he had brought his luncheon in a coal-bin; butsuch is the instinct of childish society that they all immediatelymoved away from him. In a moment he had been made a social leper. All old intimacies were flung into the lake, so to speak. Theydared not compromise themselves. At safe distances the boysshouted, scornfully: "Huh! Got his picnic in a pail!" Never againduring that picnic did the little girls speak of him as JimmieTrescott. His name now was Him.
His mind was dark with pain as he stood, the hang-dog, kickingthe gravel, and muttering as defiantly as he was able, "Well, I canhave it in a pail if I want to." This statement of freedom was ofno importance, and he knew it, but it was the only idea in hishead.
He had been baited at school for being detected in writing aletter to little Cora, the angel child, and he had known how todefend himself, but this situation was in no way similar. This wasa social affair, with grown people on all sides. It would be sweetto catch the Margate twins, for instance, and hammer them into astate of bleating respect for his pail; but that was a matter forthe jungles of childhood, where grown folk seldom penetrated. Hecould only glower.
The amiable voice of Mrs. Earl suddenly called: "Come,children! Everything's ready!" They scampered away, glancing backfor one last gloat at Jimmie standing there with his pail.
He did not know what to do. He knew that the grown folkexpected him at the spread, but if he approached he would begreeted by a shameful chorus from the children -- more especiallyfrom some of those damnable little girls. Still, luxuries beyondall dreaming were heaped on that cloth. One could not forget them. Perhaps if he crept up modestly, and was very gentle and very niceto the little girls, they would allow him peace. Of course it hadbeen dreadful to come with a pail to such a grand picnic, but theymight forgive him.
Oh no, they would not! He knew them better. And thensuddenly he remembered with what delightful expectations he hadraced to this grove, and self-pity overwhelmed him, and he thoughthe wanted to die and make every one feel sorry.
The young lady in white duck and a sailor hat looked at him,and then spoke to her sister, Mrs. Earl. "Who's that hovering inthe distance, Emily?"
Mrs. Earl peered. "Why, it's Jimmie Trescott! Jimmie, cometo the picnic! Why don't you come to the picnic, Jimmie?" Hebegan to sidle toward the cloth.
But at Mrs. Earl's call there was another outburst from manyof the children. "He's got his picnic in a pail! In apail! Got it in a pail!"
Minnie Phelps was a shrill fiend. "Oh, mamma, he's got it inthat pail! See! Isn't it funny? Isn't it dreadful funny?"
"What ghastly prigs children are, Emily!" said the young lady. "They are spoiling that boy's whole day, breaking his heart, thelittle cats! I think I'll go over and talk to him."
"Maybe you had better not," answered Mrs. Earl, dubiously. "Somehow these things arrange themselves. If you interfere, youare likely to prolong everything."
"Well, I'll try, at least," said the young lady.
At the second outburst against him Jimmie had crouched down bya tree, half hiding behind it, half pretending that he was nothiding behind it. He turned his sad gaze toward the lake. The bitof water seen through the shadows seemed perpendicular, a slate-colored wall. He heard a noise near him, and turning, he perceivedthe young lady looking down at him. In her hands she held plates. "May I sit near you?" she asked, coolly.
Jimmie could hardly believe his ears. After disposing herselfand the plates upon the pine needles, she made brief explanation. "They're rather crowded, you see, over there. I don't like to becrowded at a picnic, so I thought I'd come here. I hope you don'tmind."
Jimmie made haste to find his tongue. "Oh, I don't mind! Ilike to have you here." The ingenuous emphasis made itappear that the fact of his liking to have her there was in thenature of a law-dispelling phenomenon, but she did not smile.
"How large is that lake?" she asked.
Jimmie, falling into the snare, at once began to talk in themanner of a proprietor of the lake. "Oh, it's almost twenty mileslong, an' in one place it's almost four miles wide! an' it'sdeep, too -- awful deep -- an' it's got real steamboats on it,an' -- oh -- lots of other boats, an' -- an' -- an' -- "
"Do you go out on it sometimes?"
"Oh, lots of times! My father's got a boat," he said, eyingher to note the effect of his words.
She was correctly pleased and struck with wonder. "Oh, hashe?" she cried, as if she never before had heard of a man owning aboat.
Jimmie continued: "Yes, an' it's a grea' big boat, too, withsails, real sails; an' sometimes he takes me out in her, too; an'once he took me fishin', an' we had sandwiches, plenty of 'em, an'my father he drank beer right out of the bottle -- right out ofthe bottle!"
The young lady was properly overwhelmed by this amazingintelligence. Jimmie saw the impression he had created, and heenthusiastically resumed his narrative: "An' after, he let me throwthe bottles in the water, and I throwed 'em 'way, 'way, 'way out. An' they sank, an' -- never comed up," he concluded, dramatically.
His face was glorified; he had forgotten all about the pail;he was absorbed in this communion with a beautiful lady who was sointerested in what he had to say.
She indicated one of the plates, and said, indifferently:"Perhaps you would like some of those sandwiches. I made them. Doyou like olives? And there's a deviled egg. I made that also."
"Did you really?" said Jimmie, politely. His face gloomed fora moment because the pail was recalled to his mind, but he timidlypossessed himself of a sandwich.
"Hope you are not going to scorn my deviled egg," said hisgoddess. "I am very proud of it." He did not; he scorned littlethat was on the plate.
Their gentle intimacy was ineffable to the boy. He thought hehad a friend, a beautiful lady, who liked him more than she didanybody at the picnic, to say the least. This was proved by thefact that she had flung aside the luxuries of the spread cloth tosit with him, the exile. Thus early did he fall a victim towoman's wiles.
"Where do you live?" he asked, suddenly.
"Oh, a long way from here! In New York."
His next question was put very bluntly. "Are you married?"
"Oh, no!" she answered, gravely.
Jimmie was silent for a time, during which he glanced shylyand furtively up at her face. It was evident that he wassomewhat embarrassed. Finally he said, "When I grow up to be aman -- "
"Oh, that is some time yet!" said the beautiful lady.
"But when I do, I -- I should like to marry you."
"Well, I will remember it," she answered; "but don't talk ofit now, because it's such a long time, and -- I wouldn't wish you toconsider yourself bound." She smiled at him.
He began to brag. "When I grow up to be a man, I'm goin' tohave lots an' lots of money, an' I'm goin' to have a grea' bighouse an' a horse an' a shotgun, an' lots an' lots of books 'boutelephants an' tigers, an' lots an' lots of ice-cream an' pie an' -- caramels." As before, she was impressed; he could see it. "An'I'm goin' to have lots an' lots of children -- 'bout three hundred,I guess -- an' there won't none of 'em be girls. They'll all beboys -- like me."
"Oh, my!" she said.
His garment of shame was gone from him. The pail was dead andwell buried. It seemed to him that months elapsed as he dwelt inhappiness near the beautiful lady and trumpeted his vanity.
At last there was a shout. "Come on! we're going home." Thepicnickers trooped out of the grove. The children wished to resumetheir jeering, for Jimmie still gripped his pail, but they wererestrained by the circumstances. He was walking at the side of thebeautiful lady.
During this journey he abandoned many of his habits. Forinstance, he never travelled without skipping gracefully from crackto crack between the stones, or without pretending that he was atrain of cars, or without some mumming device of childhood. Butnow he behaved with dignity. He made no more noise than a littlemouse. He escorted the beautiful lady to the gate of the Earlhome, where he awkwardly, solemnly, and wistfully shook hands ingood-by. He watched her go up the walk; the door clanged.
On his way home he dreamed. One of these dreams wasfascinating. Supposing the beautiful lady was his teacher inschool! Oh, my! wouldn't he be a good boy, sitting like astatuette all day long, and knowing every lesson to perfection,and -- everything. And then supposing that a boy should sass her. Jimmie painted himself waylaying that boy on the homeward road, andthe fate of the boy was a thing to make strong men cover their eyeswith their hands. And she would like him more and more -- more andmore. And he -- he would be a little god.
But as he was entering his father's grounds an appallingrecollection came to him. He was returning with the bread-and-butter and the salmon untouched in the pail! He could imagine thecook, nine feet tall, waving her fist. "An' so that's what I tooktrouble for, is it? So's you could bring it back? So's you couldbring it back?" He skulked toward the house like a marauding bush-ranger. When he neared the kitchen door he made a desperate rushpast it, aiming to gain the stables and there secrete his guilt. He was nearing them, when a thunderous voice hailed him from therear:
"Jimmie Trescott, where you goin' with that pail?"
It was the cook. He made no reply, but plunged into theshelter of the stables. He whirled the lid from the pail anddashed its contents beneath a heap of blankets. Then he stoodpanting, his eyes on the door. The cook did not pursue, but shewas bawling,
"Jimmie Trescott, what you doin' with that pail?"
He came forth, swinging it. "Nothin'," he said, in virtuousprotest.
"I know better," she said, sharply, as she relieved him of hiscurse.
In the morning Jimmie was playing near the stable, when heheard a shout from Peter Washington, who attended Dr. Trescott'shorses:
"Jim! Oh, Jim!"
Jimmie went reluctantly to the door of the stable, and PeterWashington asked,
"Wut's dish yere fish an' brade doin' unner dese yerblankups?"
"I don't know. I didn't have nothin' to do with it," answeredJimmie, indignantly.
"Don' tell me!" cried Peter Washington as he flung itall away -- "don' tell me! When I fin' fish an' brade unnerdese yer blankups, I don' go an' think dese yer ho'ses er yer pop'sput 'em. I know. An' if I caitch enny more dish yer fishan' brade in dish yer stable, I'll tell yer pop."
Shame is an emotion. Shame is rooted in a social or cultural environment. Some people feel shame when some of the rules (that are accepted by the respective society) have been broken. A person can feel ashamed because he or she has thought or done something no one else knows about. Children are often told to be ashamed of something, because they sometimes have trouble telling cause and effect apart. When they grow up, they can better tell the two apart. At that stage, the feeling of guilt becomes stronger.