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Thrane, G. (1979). Shame and the Construction of the Self. Ann. Psychoanal., 7:321-341.

(1979). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 7:321-341

Shame and the Construction of the Self

Gary Thrane, Ph.D.

What follows is an analysis of shame. In the first part of the paper I consider the reasons for the relative neglect of shame phenomena. Next, I turn to the phenomenology of shame. In the course of the analysis I examine conceptions of shame that have been advanced by philosophers, anthropologists, and psychoanalytic theorists. In the succeeding sections I offer a theory of the function of the sense of shame. My general claim is that the liability to shame is an inescapable part of our humanity, and, in particular, a result of the construction of a coherent and estimable self. Finally, I consider some implications of my views for the practice of psychotherapy. In this last, I concern myself with the violation of the self.


When one considers the pair shame and guilt in the histories of philosophy and psychology, one cannot but be struck by the disparity in attention devoted to the former. Surprisingly little attention has been given to shame. This is especially odd for two reasons. First, shame, unlike guilt, is something that can attach to nonmoral as well as moral objects.

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