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Dann, O.T. (1977). A Case Study of Embarrassment. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 25:453-470.

(1977). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 25:453-470

A Case Study of Embarrassment

Oliver T. Dann, M.D.


The psychoanalytic references to embarrassment are reviewed. Embarrassment, in the literature, is seen largely as an affect involving exhibitionistic and scopophilic conflicts and defenses against these.

A case in which embarrassment was prominent is discussed. Embarrassment

in the patient was an ego response which implied an external object for its manifestation. It involved exhibitionistic and scopophilic conflicts and projective defenses, but also operated in ego-gratifying and adaptive ways. Her embarrassment was understood through the analysis of an initial embarrassing dream of nakedness and other dreams and associated material as the defensive outgrowth of repeated exposures to the primal scene. Embarrassment was a resistance to remembering in the analysis, and the primal-scene experiences were partially reconstructed. The analytic situation was, in many ways, a symbolic re-creation of the primal scene, including the patient's response of embarrassment. The development of embarrassment in the patient's childhood was furthered and confirmed by its being an identification with the attitudes of both parents.

Finally, some reflections on embarrassment and shame in its various forms are set forth.

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