Down the Rabbit Hole of Shame

19 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2017

See all articles by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: November 13, 2017

Abstract

Starting with a case study, this article examines shame, a taboo affect that is rarely consciously acknowledged. It makes a distinction between the experiences of guilt and shame: guilt makes us feel bad about what we have done; shame makes us feel bad about who we are. While a person who feels guilt can apologize and move on, people who feel shame often respond with avoidance, defensiveness, and denial. Two general strategies are identified for the way people deal with shame: attacking the self or attacking others.

From an evolutionary and developmental perspective, shame can be seen as a complex emotional response that humans acquire at an early stage in their development. Children, who are constantly criticized, severely punished, neglected, abandoned, or mistreated in other ways quickly, get the message that they are inadequate, inferior, unworthy or even evil. These shameful experiences damage the roots from which self-esteem grows.

Keywords: Shame, Guilt, Sense of Inferiority, Embarrassment, Shyness, Rage, Psychopathology, Alienation, Coping, Self-Compassion

Suggested Citation

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., Down the Rabbit Hole of Shame (November 13, 2017). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2017/72/EFE. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3070231 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3070231

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305
France

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