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Rizzuto, A. (1991). Shame in Psychoanalysis: The Function of Unconscious Fantasies. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 72:297-312.

(1991). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 72:297-312

Shame in Psychoanalysis: The Function of Unconscious Fantasies

Ana-Maria Rizzuto


The conceptualization of shame as an emergent affect in the clinical situation gains clarity by linking it to unconscious fantasies. The author suggests that shame appears when an individual fails in his efforts to obtain from another person, in reality or in imagined scenes, an expected similar affect or a complementary message, or both. A self-evaluation emerges of being undeserving of the desired response. In this respect shame is related to the narcissistic component of any experience or fantasy, be it pre-oedipal, oedipal, or post-oedipal. In cases where there is a pathological predisposition to shame, the predisposition is linked to unconscious fantasies portraying the individual as the desiring and frustrated subject of an unresponded to affective message. After its formation the unconscious fantasy itself, and all its unrepressed derivatives, become a source of shame. A clinical example illustrates these points.

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