Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shame Guilt and Anxiety

This is a short explanation of a very lengthy sociological and anthropological phenomena. It took up a whole semester unit at university so it is hard to do it justice in a short blog.

There are three major psychological mechanisms employed by others to control the behaviour of members of their group.

They are – Shame, Guilt and Anxiety.

While they can exist individually as a mechanism of control in a particular social group they may also operate in tandem within an individual’s psychological profile.

Shame is greatly applied in “Traditional societies”, where the extended family is paramount and there is a clear paternal, maternal or fraternal leader. Shame is the thing you do not want to suffer in the eyes of the extended family. Being part of the family is the key to survival. It is the:

“Go away and never darken my door again!” – the lassie who falls pregnant out of wedlock for example.

Guilt is more commonly applied in modern society and operates within nuclear family groups. The application of guilt makes one conform to the groups requirements. It is the:

Crowd control

“Do that and you will suffer dire consequences that will taint your reputation forever!” - The family bread winner who is fired from his job and has to  drop in social station and work in a more menial task position, the motivation to not be caught drink driving, the fear of 'doing the wrong thing'!

Anxiety is the mechanism applied amongst younger generations. By differentially raising and lowering anxiety levels amongst the group members the leaders attain group conformity. It is the:

“Come on, join in! Don’t be a dead sh*t” - It the fear of “exclusion” that causes group members to go along with group behaviour which, as an individual, they may very well not have done so.

As a person who grew up in a traditional extended family, “Shame” was very potent in my formative years. It became weakened, however, when I broke the binding close ties of an extended family network, moved away, formed a new relationship, got married and raised my own family in an area remote from my traditional family. It was then that “Guilt” was a very driving motivator to achieve and to provide for my new ‘nuclear family’.

“Anxiety” has not been a great motivator in my behaviour, at least until now. As I become older and more frail and as a couple Rhonda and I are left to fend for ourselves, the application of “Anxiety” by external groups – such as governmental care agencies – is becoming more apparent.


Susan Heather said...

Guilt is the main feeling with people who put their spouse with dementia into a Rest Home. Apparently, if the spouse has some ailment like cancer, heart problems etc. the feelings are completely different to those dealing with someone with dementia.

I presume it is because the dementia patient is unable to understand why they have been "put in this horrible place".

JohnD said...

OK ... I accept your ideas, however, I think the reason partners (in particular) feel guilt in that situation is because they have to face their limitations and admit to themselves that they were not coping - and - possibly - because they knew that their own live was going to hell in a hand basket because of their trying to cope in a non-coping situation.

Interesting point for discussion.

JohnD said...

ps - the dementia patient will always exhibit classic anxiety emotions and this is probably a main reason for their being put on mind-numbing medication that turns so many of them into saliva drooling zombies. That way the staff feel less guilt at not being able to lower the dementia clients anxiety.

joeh said...

I am ashamed of the fact that guilt makes me anxious.


JohnD said...

Would not have it any other way! lol!

The Elephant's Child said...

If I knew where my guilt button was I would disconnect it. Permanently. I cannot think of anything positive it has brought me. Shame, well yes, sometimes. And yes, guilt can make me anxious as well.

Chris said...

That's summed me up in a nutshell John. Now I can terminate my therapy and save myself a few quid.;-)

JohnD said...

lol! It's not that simple Chris - a lot more complex when you bring personality development and formation into the play as well. Formative and developmental influences - things like religion, individual unique backgrounds of language skills, education - OH dear, I could go on for hours.

JohnD said...

Oh No! Don'r disconnect it. It acts like a gyroscope keeping you on a track that you cultivated over decades. Without it you wouldn't be "You"!

Your anxiety over your guilt is based in self-denial, the recriminations of "What a good time I could have if I wasn't Miss Goody two-shoes! Damn!"

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