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Rubin, L.R. (1973). Shame and Guilt. A Psychoanalytic and a Cultural Study: By Gerhart Piers, M.D. and Milton B. Singer, Ph.D. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1971. 112 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 42:301-303.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:301-303

Shame and Guilt. A Psychoanalytic and a Cultural Study: By Gerhart Piers, M.D. and Milton B. Singer, Ph.D. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1971. 112 pp.

Review by:
Lore Reich Rubin

This concise and delightfully written book was first published in 1953. The authors and publisher have deliberately decided to republish it without revision because of its historical precedence in emphasizing the difference between shame and guilt. The authors do promise further publication of new material to bring us up to date on relevant developments in both anthropology and psychoanalysis.

Gerhart Piers sets himself the task of differentiating between shame and guilt on a metapsychological level, and of developing clinical examples to highlight the importance of this differentiation in psychoanalytic treatment. He reviews the literature and borrows concepts from many authors. Of particular interest are Franz Alexander's theories regarding the guilt and shame cycle. According to Alexander, guilt arising from sexual or aggressive drives is defended against by inhibition which, in turn, leads to shame for socially abnormal inhibited behavior. This shame then leads to acting out of the original impulse and thus to renewed guilt. Many conditions are described and explained by Piers in terms of this mechanism. The book also contains descriptions of how character is formed by the predominance either of shame or guilt conflicts in the psychic constellation. Piers ends his essay by describing the mechanisms of both guilt and shame that are built into our culture.

Part II, by Milton B. Singer, deals with anthropological aspects of shame and guilt. He shows the many interrelationships between the fields of psychoanalysis and anthropology, and the need for each to understand the other's theories.

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