Back to RJ Archive

Towards a mature shame culture: theoretical and practical tools for personal and social growth

Webb, Tony
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Ph.D. dissertation, University of Western Sydney. Downloaded 25 February 2005.

Towards a mature shame culture seeks to identify new tools for social change through a deeper understanding of the social psychology of shame and guilt. The study takes as its starting point a suggestion by Richard Hauser and Hephzibah Menhuin-Hauser that many personal and social crises can be interpreted through the lens of a late 20th Century transition from a guilt culture to an ‘infantile’ shame culture. Implicit in this is the need to develop more socially mature forms.This idea is placed in the context of praxis for personal/social growth drawing on previously unpublished material from the Hauser’s archive. The study then explores a theoretical framework for understanding the social psychology of emotions in general, and shame in particular. It draws on affect psychology, micro-sociology and social attachment theory. Shame is located primarily as a social emotion, with a normative function of monitoring social bonds between people – rather than, as it is usually framed, as a ‘self-conscious’, ‘negative’ and ‘pathological’emotion. This reframing of the experience highlights the ‘salutogenic’ function of shame in building and strengthening relationships. In this frame much of what is commonly thought of as ‘shame’ can be seen to be the result of unacknowledged shame, where other emotions are bound to the sense of shame and carried as ‘toxic’ memories of unresolved shame experiences. This pattern of unresolved shame can be seen at the root of the personal and social pathologies of violence and alienation.The study charts how attempts to communicate this salutogenic perspective on shame led to an experiential education workshop Working with shame… Finally, the study explores how this perspective on shame might inform social crisis-intervention programs at community level; and how it might be applied to the larger, and longer-term challenge of bringing about cultural change. Author’s abstract.


AbstractPrisonsRJ and the WorkplaceRJ in SchoolsRJ TheoryShamingStatutes and LegislationTeachers and Students
Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now