Friday, April 23, 2010

Humiliation

Humiliation 

This is to clarify; at some level; the difference between shame and humiliation. I follow Silvan Tomkins in his view of these themes. As elsewhere in these writings I have said that shame is the gap between the desired and acquired. The state of pleasant emotion now interrupted.

But how is it that shame and humiliation are near the same? That is Tomkins says that shame and humiliation lie on a continuum going from shame to humiliation. It is an idea, a concept to consider, a way to describe what we do experience.  We could say that we feel lesser and more shame.  Is “shame” the same as “humiliation” in the sense of our desire being blocked their only difference being one of intensity?  We are saying yes that is the case.

Let me be clear this is not an exact science. Language is imprecise and one rich benefit of understanding what “Affect Psychology” has to offer is understanding how vague and how personal our emotional language is and how much more we should pay attention to it.

So, for any given person intense “shame” can and does have the same meaning that intense “humiliation” has for someone else?  For our purposes we are going to purposefully make the distinction that humiliation is more intense than shame.

But then there is the problem that, it is hard to remove “humiliation” from  the image of any external force acting on us. My point is and will be does “shaming” and “humiliating” always have to come from “outside?”  I have said already that it does not. This is to clarify and parse the words and dynamic a bit more. If there is an outside force, a person or situation that “humiliates” me it can also “shame” me. Again it is an internal assessment on my part. It is what I feel. What I feel will be based on my emotional biography and what I have learned to label this feeling.  “I was absolutely humiliated or I was shamed.”

So to humiliate is to shame and or to humiliate all depending on the internal environment of the person humiliated. One defense against humiliation, of course, is  simply to become acutely aware of this feeling. That said I am never offering the idea that therefore it is ok to suffer it and we should just “toughen up.”

The  contrary is being suggested the very act of humiliation or shaming (it works both ways, that is you can call humiliating “shaming.” ) is in effect a physical assault on the brain tissue, a preemptive strike from which the brain first has to recover. The brain has to first recover from cognitive shock; this puts anyone at a disadvantage and raises the chances of a dangerous or at least an inappropriate response many fold. 

http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090

Humiliation

 Humiliation 

Recently I was subjected to a frequent from of humiliation that I fear so many do not recognize and feel that they “deserve.” Of course, that is the whole point of humiliation those that have the power certainly think you deserver it and should take your just deserts and for the most part know who they can and cannot dish it out too. All of this being mostly on a subconscious level until, until it is not. Let’s try and bring a bit of it into consciousness.

I was talking to someone who will remain faceless and nameless about my income who I had not seen in a long time. l am a physician. I am supposed to have a very comfortable living. I have the income I have. The range of physician incomes is from the very low to the very high. Low incomes happen more often than you would expect.  And low incomes are not something physicians often chose like most, most people don’t choose them. It is also true that high incomes come at a very high price. But I don’t believe I have chosen my status. I have perused what I think is good medicine and cared for a population of my choosing that deserve medical care like everyone else and I should in return make a good living. Now, I have also learned that “a good living” is certainly a slippery thing. Again if we have lived at all we know that “good” livings can come, as I say, at a very high price.

I take this moment to note an institutional form of humiliation built into capitalism, a slight of hand that teaches us to have a Pavlovian  response to the gross yearly income instead of a balanced quality of life. It was pointed out to me once that Europeans sensibly tend to talk about actual take home pay where we talk abut gross pay. We also talk about gross pay and  hours worked and work load be dammed. To me 100,000 dollars and 60 hrs a week is not 100,000 dollar a year but really 75,000 a year as far as your quality of life as you worked a year and a half in a year. I have seen many job offers supposedly for 180,000 a year. As I would assuredly believe that would entail at least 60 hours a week that would really only be 120,000 thousand a year and I have seen adds intimating that one should be raring to go to see 45 patients a day. As far as work load that could often be considered double work load so now we are up to two and half years worth of work in one year or equivalent .  That is you are seeing twice the number of patients and working 60 hours a week. To be sure many people “like” doing this. I believe this to be mostly a type of “avoidance” of other areas of life or what some people call and “ism.” But it is whatever it is out and out promoted as normal.

 I try and keep these pieces very general and I hesitated to mention the specifics of physician incomes as that in itself can be humiliating.  Although the point is many primary care physicians do not make more than an average income.  Still many will think I am whining about an income that is well above average, at times.  I could have done it without mentioning the numbers but I wanted to take the opportunity to educate abut the real numbers and precisely to point out that it is all relative. That if you are making 40,000 and really like your job and really working 40 hours a week instead of hating your job and making 60k and working 60 hours a week who is better off?

So with that background I was trying to chat with this person, let’s say an old “financial advisor” and I let him know that since the recent downturn in the economy I had received almost no offers for work outside the office to supplement my income. He looked at me, mentioning nothing of the financial crisis. “Only that many days of work, huh.” He then repeated the phrase a few times and said “there must be something wrong, must be something wrong for a doctor not to be working more than that?” Here in light of the prior pieces on humiliation I suggest to the reader that I was now suffering from cognitive shock or that is I was in a state of humiliation. I did in fact realize it at the time but not fully until I was in the car was I able to asses the full extent of the damage. So we are and so we tolerate such put downs even when we deal with these themes daily.  He then informed me of doctors making in the million category and at least 250,000. Of course the big guys were specialists.

But of course the point is this was supposed to be a friendly chat with an advisor after a long hiatus. He might catch up on who I was first. But of course even then you might guess I am not into humiliating people. No, he had pigeonholed me a long time ago as such and such a person, especially I am in the category of “doctor.”  And any self respecting doctor has to make money.

Woe was I also when I emphasized my caring for “addicts” and the wonderful new treatments available. I said I nevertheless lacked access to patients for some reason. This was an ill-advised move. Now, out came what I took was an obvious prejudice towards addicts. I assured this person that it was certainly my belief that every addicted person wanted off drugs. He retreated into mumbles of “I don’t, I don’t know, not my area.”

 Brian Lynch

http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090