Mervin Smucker. The Emotion of Shame

Shame is one of the most powerful, painful and potentially destructive emotions known to humans. The essence of shame is the fear of negative evaluations of others by means of exposure of one’s undesirable qualities or actions. The word shame originates from the Indo-European word „skam“ which means to hide (so as to avoid exposure). The very first human story recorded in the Bible – the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden – is a story about shame and how Adam and Eve became wrought with fear of judgment and negative consequences after eating of the „forbidden fruit“.  Researchers (e.g., Paul Gilbert) have identified two subtypes of shame: (1) Internal shame: perceived qualities of the self that the individual judges to be negative (e.g., bad, weak, inadequate, digusting or repugnant); that is, attacks on the self by the self; (2) External shame: refers to qualities of the self that others view as bad, weak, inadequate, disgusting or repugnant); that is, attacks on the self by others.

Dr. Mervin Smucker is an international trauma consultant and author of numerous articles and books on trauma and cognitive-behavioural therapy interventions.