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Jose Victor Oron Semper, researcher of the 'group Mente-cerebro ' del Institute for Culture and Society

Terms and mentalities: Shame

Wed, 05 Jun 2019 12:17:00 +0000 Posted in Education Press

When someone does something that is considered frowned upon, he or she is exposed to being reproached by being told: "shame on you! Today someone might think that the topic of shame is not so important because we live in a society that is not ashamed to publicly expose their shame, for example, in programs where people flaunt behaviors considered shameful in another era. But today the topic of shame is still very present; what happens is that it has changed thematically. That is to say, the reason to be ashamed has changed, but not the fact of being ashamed. Here I am going to focus on the topic of shame. To learn more about the topic of the exhibition of intimacy or the ostentation of what is traditionally rejected, I suggest that you consult the term extimacy.

I was saying that shame is still present, although the shameful subjects have changed. We should ask ourselves about the value educational of such emotion: is it appropriate for us to be ashamed of something? Should we therefore educate people to feel ashamed of something? Both then and now, many argue that we should educate children, young people and people in general to be ashamed of certain behaviors. In such a case the object would change, but not the fact of its educational validity. Shame would be a good modeler of social behavior, favoring some types of behavior and prohibiting others. But, can we consider that moderating the system of evaluation social is educating? I rather think that it is instructing or indoctrinating or even manipulating.

Shame is a very complex feeling that implies that at some point the person feels that he/she is being rejected himself/herself. That is to say, not only a behavior or attitude (what we call object) is being rejected, but above all the person himself. This detail is very important, it is not a questioning of the object, but of the person through the object. And it is not so much a questioning as a rejection. Thus, to feel shame requires three elements and two actions. The elements: society, the individual and the object of rejection. The actions: rejecting the object and the individual in question.

Seeing that shame, while serving as a social shaper, has a very strong charge staff, some thinkers propose that shame should simply have a prospective value. That is, when we want to do something and we stop to think about whether it is appropriate or not, we can recreate in our imagination status and, if we find it shameful, we reject it. In this sense, shame could help us to think that something should not be done.

On the other hand, as we will see, in UpToYou we do not attach any value educational to shame. Moreover, we consider it to be an anti-value educational. For two reasons: because shame always implies a comparison with what "should be" according to an idealized behavior and because shame opens questions about the person's intimacy when the person should always be safe from any evaluation. Neither prospectively, nor in the imagination, should the person be questioned.

When we at UpToYou take such a radical stance, the question often arises: "How are you going to teach what is right or wrong? And I ask myself, do you have to teach it, do you have to make the other person see what is right or wrong, and if the other person cannot see it, why can't he see it? And if the other cannot see it, why can't he see it? Do you really believe that human nature cannot see what is right or wrong in the relationship with the other?

Let's imagine, for a moment, the sad status that a person with his behavior is hurting another person and that he "does not see it". If one does not see that, one would have to ask oneself what is the reason for it. Let us think of two young brothers and one "does not see" the harm he is doing to the other. Is his nature incapable of seeing the pain caused? Could it be perversion? Could it be selfishness? Let us think that one of these three questions is answered in the affirmative. In other words, the child is incapable of seeing, is perverse or selfish. Why focus on the fact that he "does not see" and not rather on his incapacity, perversion or selfishness? Should we think that the child wishes to be incapable, perverse and selfish? Does someone choose to be incapable, perverse or selfish? Or rather, should we not ask ourselves what this child who is incapable of seeing pain, or who has these perverse or selfish attitudes, is experiencing?

What does the parent or teacher want: to solve the problem or to address the reality staff of the child or student? Does anyone believe that, by shaming the child or student, the child will develop his ability to see or that his perversion and selfishness will evolve into benevolence and cooperation? If we shame the child, we may end up with a child who is repressed about himself, or who expresses the rage of repression in the form of violence against himself or others, or any number of other options. But in no case will we have an empowered, benevolent or cooperative child.

It is an absolute principle that the person cannot be questioned if we want the person to grow.

At Education the extremes coincide in many respects. If it is negative to shame the child for a behavior (object) that hurts, it is also negative to ignore that behavior or, even worse, to congratulate that behavior. So, what to do? If the educator "makes him/her see" that this behavior is inappropriate, the learner, in the best of cases, will learn to "not do" this behavior, but will not have learned to "perceive and value" the behaviors he/she performs. And, therefore, in other cases, he or she will remain blind. On the other hand, we believe that it is not necessary to make anyone see anything, but rather to develop capacities so that the learner is the one who sees. At this point, the question is: How can we do this? The answer is simple, although complicated to understand: the educator and the learner have to act cooperatively on the behavior that does harm (object) so that it becomes a reason for improving the relationship between the educator and the learner. The learner needs to perceive that the educator enjoys meeting with the learner from that behavior. As it is possible that this way of speaking is complicated, let's see it in an example:

A family is eating at home one Sunday and one of the children does not like the food. At one point, he sneakily goes to the bathroom and throws the food in his mouth into the toilet, with the bad luck that a brother discovers him and denounces him to his parents.

Option 1. The parent could say: "Shame on you: throwing food when others have nothing to eat". The child will certainly learn not to throw food (at least in public) but will not have learned to be supportive or will even have learned that being supportive is something forced and painful, rather than a real enjoyment of welcoming someone different from oneself. The child feels the rejection staff because of his behavior (object).

Option 2. Parent asks, "What happened?" Silence for response. Repeat the question in a good tone, silence for response. The child is blocked. Parent spends 5 minutes to take away the child's fear. "Tell me what happened calmly, there is no punishment". He tells him with good manners and maintaining physical and affectionate proximity to the child. In the end the child acknowledges: "It was me". The father has to keep his word that there is no punishment. The child explains his reasons: "I don't like...". The parent asks: "What do we all do at home with the food?". The child answers, "Well, we eat it". It must be realized that it is not the same to say "What do you have to do with the food?" appealing to an idealized behavior that perhaps not even the parent fulfills, or to say "What do we do at home with the food?" The father here is exposed, since the son could reproach him that he, the father, does not comply with the rule. On the other hand, the rule to "eat everything" will have value if living at home is worthwhile and a joyful experience. Let us not forget that rules only have value if they serve to favor the enjoyment of living together. If all these premises are given, the child will respond that the right thing to do is to eat. The child is not remembering the rule, but describing what actually happens at home, where he lives happily. If the child refers to an abstract rule , the child is learning to lie because the child tells the parent what he wants to hear, not what he lives. He does it to avoid pressure, because this rule is not useful for a happy coexistence. The parent must be very attentive to this. The parent may follow the dialogue and ask "What do we do?" The child may say "eat". The parent must observe and maintain closeness as it is not a case of eat-at-all-costs. And the parent may continue to ask "and what do we do with the food that is on the floor of the toilet?" Maybe the child answers "I don't know, someone will have to pick it up". The parent asks, "Who could it be?" The child answers, "If you help me, we can both go." And the parent gets up and they both go, making the experience of picking up the food another opportunity for meeting staff . They have used the behavior (object) in the service of improving interpersonal relationships.

One might ask why the father gets up to pick up the food with the son if he didn't throw it away. The father does it because, deep down, he doesn't care if the food is on the floor. What he wants is to be with and share life with his son. The father sees a son who is learning, not a transgressor of rule. Why does the father in the first case jeopardize the relationship staff with the son because of the object? What is more important, the object or his son?

In both cases, the food is picked up. In both cases, the behavior (object) has been corrected. In the first case, shame is aroused; in the second, contrition. In the first case, the child does not learn to perceive (in fact, he will repeat the behavior if no one sees him); in the second case, he does learn to perceive. The first case involves a time investment of 5 seconds; the second of 20 minutes. In the first case, the parent-child relationship is damaged; in the second, it is strengthened. There are ways of correcting that are embarrassing; there are others that help to grow.

We should ask ourselves why, at times, we educate by shaming. Is it the child's behavior that explains the parent's behavior? Or rather, is the parent's behavior explained by his or her way of understanding life and relating to others? When we educate by shaming, do we want to educate or protect ourselves from someone or something? What is revealed from within us when we shame another? Where does the need to shame others for their behavior come from? Is it really a manifestation of our shame?