Friday, November 14, 2008

what we want

According to [Silvan S.] Tomkins, natural selection has favored distinct classes of affect for the preservation of life and for people. Tomkins argues that the "human being is equipped with innate affective responses which bias him to want to remain alive and to resist death, to want sexual experiences, to want to experience novelty and to resist boredom, to want to communicate, to be close to and in contact with others of his species and to resist the experience of head and face lowered in shame."
Kaufman and Raphael, Coming Out of Shame: Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives, 1996. 26


ms said...

interestingly the shame referenced in the quote was said by tomkins to be after-acquired rather than innate ... it makes sense to me that shame is a gift of man for his fellow man, but then shame is something i hold tight for myself and would never see as being deserved by anyone else.

brtom said...

Shame-Humiliation is one of nine "negative affects" identified by Tomkins. No, it is not innate. It's produced (or given, as you say) by experiences we have. The same authors write:

"Think of all the ways shame can occur: being laughed at, mocked, or ridiculed; suffering the belittling scorn of a parent or the biting mockery of peers; enduring humiliation from a father or mother, an older sister or brother, a bully, or even a teacher at school; appearing foolish, clumsy, or stupid; feeling embarrassed, shy, or tormented by self-consciousness; criticizing or blaming yourself for a mistake; retreating from a challenge because going ahead would leave you feeling foolish or expose you to ridicule."

O yeah ... shame's what makes the world go 'round.

brtom said...

Now I'm reading a bit farther and they are speaking of shame as "an innate affect which has various critical effects upon the self, notably hiding, paralysis, and transparency." This innate affect is "triggered" by circumstances. I guess this means that our POTENTIAL for shame is innate.

ms said...

long time since I read any of this stuff; it's surprising the stuff one finds in the cerebral nooks n crannies. Shame on the other hand has been not only so close so long it's like a comfortable pair of old jeans. But lately I've been aware more and puzzling that I take on what I'd never think of imposing on another and that I view my role in certain life situations totally different than I view anyone else with similar experiences. I haven't gotten any further than to suspect it's probably not "fair" or reasonable or rational or reasonable in the least ...but it's been bugging me.