Is shame good or bad

Is Shame Good or Bad?

Is shame good or bad?

In the last article, I explained the origin of shame from an evolutionary perspective. In every research work I have stumbled upon, shame was described as positive and essential for most of our history.

According to these studies, shame was used to promote social cohesion as their survival was highly dependent on close knitted cooperation and strict adherence to behavioral expectations set by the tribe.

Anyone who failed to cooperate and adhere were shamed intensely so much that the fear of that experience prevented tribal members from disobeying the rules.

Daniel Sznycer the lead author of the paper titled Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared shame with pain saying, “The function of pain is to prevent us from damaging our tissue while the function of shame is to prevent us from damaging our social relationships or to motivate us to repair them”

This was how important shame was. The more people valued you, the easier it was to live a peaceable and quite life. The moment you lose your value, you become a prey.

“When people devalue you, they put less weight on your welfare. They help you less and harm you more,”

Leda Cosmides

Hence, value is the function of shame which is why today, we care so much about how others value us – what they say about us, what they think about us, etc. This in turn motivates us to conceal or avoid those things that would trigger a wrong evaluation of us by them.

For instance, if the public – say your parent and immediate environment – sees you as a good person, it becomes increasingly difficult for you to want to do bad in their presence. Why? You want to protect your image.

According to John Tobby, “the shame system is designed to give others some vote in what behavior you end up choosing.”

So, yes, shame plays a very important role in maintaining law and order, in preserving culture, in instilling discipline. However, on the flip side, shame has evolved to be a menace as well. It has become a tool used to keep people small and insignificant.

Despite the fact that the world has evolved, shame has failed to evolve. So, rather than ensure social cohesion, shame also ensures mediocrity. We are constantly caught up between trying to please the society and trying to be daring.

Not that there is any issue with being daring but that the society misunderstands daring to mean rebellious. The world is constantly evolving and what used to work then does not seem to apply anymore. and if there is anything we are so sure of, it is the ability of the human mind to do almost anything…

So, is shame good or bad?

to be continued…

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