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Morrison, A.P. (1987). The Shame Experience: By Susan Miller. Hillsdale, N.J.: The Analytic Press. 1985. Pp. 180.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 68:307-310.

(1987). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 68:307-310

The Shame Experience: By Susan Miller. Hillsdale, N.J.: The Analytic Press. 1985. Pp. 180.

Review by:
Andrew P. Morrison

Susan Miller's The Shame Experience draws attention to a fundamental affect that has only recently began to generate the interest which it merits. Shame has been considered by psychoanalytic writers since the discoveries of Freud, but it has usually been assessed in comparison with guilt, and has tended to be minimized, considered somehow unworthy, in this comparison. While Freud early attended to shame, as noted by Miller in her literature review, his interest in this phenomenon disappeared as his contributions shifted from narcissism and the ego ideal to evolution of the structural hypothesis, guilt, and the Oedipus complex. Ego psychologists also grappled with shame, but, according to Miller, the attempt to explain shame in terms of structural metapsychology had many limitations and led to further movement away from what she calls the phenomenological, or experiencenear focus of clinical work. The psychoanalytic literature on shame has more recently begun to grow, approaching the interest shown in other significant clinical phenomena (e.g. depression, anxiety, and guilt), as a reflection of the current focus on narcissism.

A reader from a psychoanalytic perspective of The Shame Experience must carefully consider the author's explicit methodology and orientation. Miller makes clear from the beginning that this study, based on work for her doctoral dissertation, builds upon a premise that much can be learned about affect, and specifically about shame, by exploring the conscious recollections and associations to shame experiences by volunteer subjects. Thus, this volume purports to represent a phenomenological study of consciously acknowledged shame states.

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