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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The ‘blame and shame society’

Jean Knox
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Volume 28, Issue 3, 2014


In this opinion piece, I explore some of the social and cultural factors that contribute to the creation of feelings of shame in those members of society who are vulnerable or disadvantaged in various ways. I suggest that a ‘blame and shame’ attitude has become pervasive in today's political culture, reassuring the comfortable and privileged that they deserve their own success and allowing them to blame the disadvantaged for their own misfortune. Those who feel that they must become invulnerable in order to succeed therefore project their own vulnerable child onto the vulnerable in our society and attack and condemn in others what they most fear in themselves.


One of the most intractable problems all therapists encounter is shame – the persistent negative sense of self that is evident when patients persist in describing themselves as disgusting, bad, dirty and all the other words of self-loathing which reflect a deeply painful self-hatred that the person clings to in spite of all attempts to shift it. These feelings are often accompanied by self-harm of various kinds – repeated cutting or overdosing, alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders and by difficulty in affect regulation, mentalisation, attachment and sexuality.

An understanding of the unique personal relationships that have contributed to this kind of self-disgust and shame is vital if psychotherapists are to help their patients as effectively as possible. Herman (1992) first identified this as one key part of complex PTSD, suggesting that it arises from chronic developmental trauma.

The entire article is here.

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