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Tip: To review the bibliography…

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It is always useful to review an article’s bibliography and references to get a deeper understanding of the psychoanalytic concepts and theoretical framework in it.

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Szajnberg, N.M. (1995). Shame and the Self: Francis J. Broucek. New York: Guilford, 1991, xx + 168 pp., $26.95.. Psychoanal. Psychol., 12(1):165-169.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 12(1):165-169

Shame and the Self: Francis J. Broucek. New York: Guilford, 1991, xx + 168 pp., $26.95.

Review by:
Nathan M. Szajnberg, M.D.

Let us start with some simple words about shame:

Shame is an emotion insufficiently studied because, in our civilization, it is so early and easily absorbed by guilt. Shame supposes that one is completely exposed and conscious of being looked at: in a word, self-conscious…. Shame is early expressed in an impulse to bury one's face, or to sink, right then and there, into the ground…. It is essentially rage turned against the self. He who is ashamed would like the world not to look at him. (Erikson, 1959. p. 42)

This clear, simple English was written by Erik Erikson, our Viennese-trained psychoanalyst. To write further about shame, we expect other authors to refute or disprove, to add to our understanding, or to improve our clinical technique. Although Francis Broucek's Shame and The Self reminds us of shame's importance, it does little more.

Why another book about shame? Since Erikson's parsimonious remarks, we have had at least 13 books with shame in their titles and two major reviews in the popular press. This does not include the classical collaboration between analyst and anthropologist, Piers and Singer's work on shame and guilt societies (Piers & Singer, 1953).

Shame is the underbelly of self-esteem, of healthy narcissism. One of Kohut's (1971) major contributions was to shift narcissism from epithet (“He is too narcissistic for analysis.”) to a clinical assessment, just as Freud had done for hysteria. Once we could view pathological narcissism as a clinical phenomenon, we could develop therapeutic technique. Epithets are judgmental: They block compassion, understanding, and humanistic technique.

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