The Psychology of Shaming. What is it and am I being Judged and Shamed ?
Recently I have browsed over my daily menu of reality tv shows, cast members Insta accounts , the latest political scandals from our Government or the media exposure of reality tv stars to narrative about fat shaming, sex shaming by ex Love Islanders, trolls and mental health shaming. I want to keep my more regular blogs short and to the point and give you some authenticated facts empirically confirmed about the “culture of shaming”.
Let me know about your experiences of shame and how you have been affected by this latest craze. I’m interested as psychologist, in the dark unseen motives that drive individuals to shame others and what effect does it have on both the instigator and the victim. Is it criminal or could it be? Much depends on the operationally defined term shame and this is in some cases difficult to define as a concept.
The Psychology of Shame
The most important question we need to know is .. what causes it and what are the consequences? Some commentators in psychological science have claimed that “shame is not a feeling it’s the absence of a feeling”. Initially there is the experience of deep rooted emotional pain and perpetual hurt. Over time it takes deep root where the victim of the shame internalizes it and it becomes legitimized. In other words we believe that what we have done is truth, even if our behaviours were unjustified. Lets take a closer look at this phenomena.
Main cause of Shame
From a review of the scientific literature its confirmed that in these contemporary times , the attribution of shame is to be seen in sexual misdemeanours of politicians, the older and younger woman scenario, or the sex shaming seen today in our self obsessed reality tv stars. We cannot escape the reality of the negativity that surrounds the identification and unneeded labels associated with a loved ones diagnosis of “mental illness” Are these not simply “ Life Problems” rather than a medical social construction? We drive the motives to victimize one or more others either personally face to face, or to really make it a successful attempt, let the fat shaming or sex shaming be taken over by social media. In some specific cases, there can be psychopathological motives involved to perpetuate the desire to shame others. Does the perpetrator of shaming clearly understand the nature and psychological trauma that can be experienced by the victim? Stop and consider why does anyone wish to make others even family members feel ashamed? Do you feel ashamed that you may be earning a phenomenal monthly salary like our millionaire premium footballers when we have so much poverty, unemployment in the retail sector of our economy today in 2021? It can be argued that is indeed very much shameful to pay footballers extortionate amounts each week. However, those who set these salaries might, as is established in the literature, be immune from the emotion of shame.
If we carefully consider the concept further, our contemporary society attributes certain labels as shameful. For example, the fact that one has been diagnosed with a specific mental health disorder or illness. What has happened to our moral reasoning and ethical principles in the context of medical ethics when we still permit labelling ,categorizing and classification to enforce the patients subjective experience of “Being mentally ill “, Its abhorrent.
There are many good reasons for classification and categorization ie the ID ICD -10 and DSM V manuals we use as health professionals in psychiatry and in both clinical and health psychology. There are justifiable reasons for these to ensure accurate diagnosis and treatment. However,we must not omit to think of the plethora of individuals here in the UK who feel some degree of shame simply because they have had to be diagnosed and carry the label for many years. Look.. they are people, someone’s mother father son ad daughter, fully human with emotions and real feelings. intelligent functioning persons. May we continue to lobby Parliament to make shaming in all its forms, across all social media platforms a criminal offence.
The Effects of being Shamed
When shame is internalized and becomes pervasive, and enduring, an individual can become high risk for developing unhealthy conditions such as health anxiety, depression, the fear of being constantly scrutinized and the avoidance of social events that evoke fear. Chronic depression and social anxiety disorder are among the most prevalent psychological disorders that can lead o more severe psychological problems. As a result, feeling shamed can result long lasting vivid memories of the social context of the shaming , whether it be ex Love Islanders now making a good living on Instagram but receiving the vitriol of social media trolls that threaten their personal identities. This can produce a constant reliving of the video clips that have gone viral which only serves to retraumatize the victim. Even to the point of self harming and suicide.