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Lewis, M. (1991). Self-conscious Emotions And The Development Of Self. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39S(Supplement):45-73.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39S(Supplement):45-73

Self-conscious Emotions And The Development Of Self

Michael Lewis, Ph.D.

The study of self-conscious emotions, in particular shame, has received relatively little attention. In this paper, I propose a theory of shame which relies upon the interface between thought and feeling. I postulate that self-conscious emotions require that individuals possess two cognitive abilities: the ability to set standards and to evaluate them, and the ability to focus on different aspects of oneself. In attending to the self, individuals can focus either on a global self or on a specific self-action. Shame is not necessarily a consequence of any particular event; rather shame occurs when individuals evaluate themselves as failing and consider that the failure involves the total self. Viewing self-conscious emotions in this way allows us to observe their ontogenetic development as a function of cognitive changes as well as the parental socialization factors which lead to individual differences.

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