Excerpt About Shame

The Most Painful Affect of them All, Shame

Narcissistic Shame: The narcissistic emptiness and its associated feelings are difficult to tolerate both because of its own phenomenological properties and because of the reactions to it. It is difficult for the student not to take it as an actual deficiency of the self and react accordingly—with judgment and rejection. We always find the student struggling with painful reactions to the emptiness as it is exposed. She feels deficient and inadequate, worthless and unimportant, weak and inferior, a failure, a loser, a nothing. She feels fake and unreal, lacking substance or value. She feels that she is a liar and a deceiver, an impostor. She feels her life has been a hoax, a waste. These feelings and reactions bring up the most painful affect of them all, shame. The student feels ashamed of herself, embarrassed about herself; she wants to hide. The shame is a specific painful feeling of deficiency, exposure and judgment, all related to a sense of inadequacy in being oneself. What makes this shame specifically a narcissistic manifestation is that one feels inadequate in being oneself, or judges oneself as such. She judges herself as unable to be real. She feels also the emotions associated with the “great betrayal”: she is a traitor to herself, she has sold out; she has been too weak and dependent to stand her ground. Narcissistic shame is an intense pain related to social failure, failure to be a true human being. It is a sense of being an inferior human being, exposed to social judgment in the midst of severe disintegration of the self. When experienced fully, the affect is very painful. The affect itself has a disintegrating effect on the self.

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