Painful conflicts

In Uncategorized on 7 February 2015 at 4:18 PM


Alberta Giani


I would like to interpret conflict through two strong emotions, deep and intense: shame and guilt.

From the etymological point of view, the word shame is derived from the Latin word “vereor” which means fear, while in English the word shame is derived from the Indo-European root “kam” meaning to hide or cover. Both of these verbs describe well, the meaning of what a person experiences when living the emotion of shame, not only are they afraid, but they would also like to hide and disappear from the face of the earth. It is primarily a social emotion because it affects the image and exposure of the self socially.

First of all, it is a negative emotion that you feel towards others and society in general. It stems from fear or more often, from the certainty of the negative opinions of others about you. When that happens, the Self-image becomes severely compromised. The negative judgment can be caused by an inappropriately said sentence, from a gesture produced that was not intended to be visible by others, by one or more actions that have been the protagonists. The feeling is that of being suddenly perceived by people in a completely different way than usual, or at least from what we wish. It is the public loss of your personal image. Also the habitual attitude or behavior of others can be interpreted in a distorted and accusatory manner. This is because in shame, we experience the negativity of the self and self-image. We witness a lack of self-acceptance for which the individual is seeing himself through the eyes of others. However, at the same time, the person perceives himself as being seen as someone different from who he is , a kind of splitting: the person treats himself as if he is detached from himself, as if he is an object. It is this process of reification that results in the loss of identity. As a result, a variety of aspects are involved: for example, honour is violated, that is the collective form of reputation and esteem based on the social image, one’s confidentiality and privacy is stolen, there is a strong feeling of failure, inability and at the same time helplessness and anger. From a psychological point of view, we have said that shame concerns the social image of the self. Even pride, embarrassment and guilt are emotions that affect the self in society. When the self becomes the center of attention it transforms these emotions, into conscious emotions depending on events and situations. This happens in an interpersonal context in which the evaluation of ourselves in relation to others and by others is at stake. In other words, the heart of the emotional experience in self-reported emotions is given by some incident involving ourselves and puts us at the center of awareness of what has happened. This family of emotions can take place only in an interpersonal context and depends on the relationships a person has with others in a social context. Being social and self-conscious, shame, embarrassment and guilt are a cultural construction, resulting from the socialization process. Despite emotions being universal, every culture establishes norms and criteria by which the conduct and behavior of the people, who are part of that particular culture are assessed. It is on the basis of these criteria that processes of social evaluation are activated after which you feel pride, guilt or shame. It is these emotions, along with others, that contribute to regulate interpersonal relationships in the flow of daily life and are often the subject of psychological games between individuals within families and social groups.

I think, for example about the quite frequent process, of humiliation, inferiorization or exaltation of others whether it is a partner, child or co-worker (Anolli, 2002).

At this point I would like to clarify about the two self-conscious emotions of shame and guilt, identifying similarities and differences. In the first place, due to the loss of self-esteem, they are both unpleasant experiences, for which each of us is led to minimize or at least avoid them. Both fall into the moral emotions, that are sensitive to the violation of rules. Moreover, they are also linked to the sense of shame and a sense of indebtedness to others: in fact, you feel a strong need for atonement. They are raised, finally, by situations of failure, defeat or in any case they are the result of rejected expectations, not only social but also emotional/affective that the individual has developed in the course of his life.

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