Excerpt About Shame
Working with ShameLet's suppose a man feels ashamed every time he feels tenderness toward another person. The superego attacks him with shame and belittling, according to the judgment that tenderness in a man means he is weak and feminine. To begin work on his superego, first the man needs to be aware of the attack, its content, and the content of the judgment. Then he needs to understand the judgment psychodynamically. For instance, he might remember that his father had the attitude that men should be tough, that tenderness belongs to girls and women. Here he understands that he introjected his father's attitude and made it part of his superego. He usually responds to this attitude, which is an attack on himself, with shame and repression. Now, in applying this method, he envisions his father and tells him, in his mind: "Daddy, go to hell! Who cares what you think of me?" Here he is dealing with his superego in a way he could not have dealt with his father in his childhood. He was not able to defend against his father because he believed him, was scared of him, and needed him. This method might not work the first time, but if it is done repeatedly, it will bring out the man's aggression, and he will be able to assert himself and separate from his father's attitude. The defense needs to be intelligent to be effective. For instance, if the man responds with: "Father, it's not true I am feminine and weak. Tenderness is good and does not mean weakness or femininity," then he is being reasonable with a superego that is not really rational. Also, he probably has tried this response many times but without success because in this response the man is on the defensive; he is trying to justify his feeling and to account to somebody else for its being okay. Any justification already implies some guilt, and so it won't work. The response of "Daddy, go to hell" is effective because there is no attempt at explanation or justification and thus no implication of unconscious guilt. The man just throws back the attack and refuses to listen to its content. He completely disengages from the superego and does not give it any power over him.