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Spero, M.H. (1984). Shame—An Object-Relational Formulation. Psychoanal. St. Child, 39:259-282.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 39:259-282

Shame—An Object-Relational Formulation

Moshe Halevi Spero, M.S.

Guilt lames the human animal; shame stops him dead.
—ERNEST BECKER (1964p. 195)

A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ON SHAME and guilt reveals a multitude of distinctions between these two important affects (Spero, 1980). Beginning with Freud's early distinction between social anxiety (shame) and moral anxiety (guilt), most writers on the topic have focused on psychodynamic-drive and structural-conflict distinctions and the role of shame in the neuroses. Increasingly sophisticated clinical work with preoedipal disorders has directed attention to a spectrum of primitive psychopathologies characterized by shame proneness and a variety of affective and object-relational disturbances related to inappropriate regulation of self-esteem and primitive superego functioning. These foci suggest a relationship between the emergence and phenomenology of shame and the development of basic self-structure.

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