The Attributional Theory of Shame.
In my studies, I have come across 2 major theories of shame – the information threat theory and the attributional theory of shame.
According to the attributional theory of shame, the individual does not suffer shame because of what others think. Rather, they feel shame when the individual sees the self in a negative light. Here, shame happens when:
- something that is totally against one’s ideal or global self happens
- the persons blames the ideal and global self for the outcome
This means that shame comes to live when the individual fails to meet up to their own standard. In essence, shame is tied to the self and not to other people, events or experiences. In essence, shame is a private emotion and not a public emotion.
For example, I am not ashamed of going out naked because of what people will say about about me. I am only ashamed because it goes against my self conception and identity. Another relatable example is when a person fails an exam and is angry not because of what other people will think or say but because they believe it is against how they see themselves and should have performed better.
Whenever a person feels shame, the individual in question sees his ideal self as defective and faulty which is what makes shame so ugly. Imagine how you feel when you do something that you totally are against. When events like these occurs, we begin to deploy some defective measures like crying, anger, blaming others, aggression and more. Some other times, it could lead to depression, anxiety, etc.
As beautiful and relatable as the attributional theory of shame is, its shortcoming is it does not take into account the role of the society in how shame works. Questions like how does an innocent person feel shame? Who defines, what an ideal self should be? What role does valuation and devaluation plays in shame? etc.
to be continued…