Thursday, February 10, 2011

" Shame and the “alpha” male or female? Or my “stuff” is better than yours. "

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then 
you win."  Ghandi

Shame and the “alpha” male or female? Or my “stuff”  is better than yours.

We can have fond memories of George Carlin or just go to You Tube. “Stuff”, your stuff and my stuff. We all have “stuff” and we all like our “stuff.” Of course Mr. Carlin might or might not use another synonym for “stuff.”

Well, the other day I invited someone via email to look at some of my “stuff.” I had run across their work after a long hiatus and thought I would reconnect. I admit I had little hope of achieving my goal but without persistence you cannot have any hope of succeeding. My goal was not only have them look but join in a conversation and actually join our conversation at the Affect Psychology Facebook page. That was my “stuff.”

What I got in return was a “hello” and a brief update on our past mutual activities and a link to his recent page. Not a word about what I had sent him.

I may be wrong and I offer open season on myself but I do not think I would do this. I think I would have looked at the link sent me and commented on it. Being as fair as I can be I suppose I could have complimented him on his “stuff” right then and there. The page I had first found. But for one this material I was already familiar with when I had first met him. The “stuff” he sent me was new.

It seems to me such a common malaise today and something that Carlin foreshowed in “This is my stuff: your stuff?

I just finished an essay commenting on a David Brooks piece about conversation and there I put it severely.

 Unfortunately everyone becomes equal in all ways. So why would anyone have anything to say to anyone? Everyone is right in their own way and beautiful as the song says. Give me my space and I'll give you yours. Just leave me alone. No discussion. I can't risk the humiliation.”

So once in this position what does one do? What position? In that position of being ignored, to put it simply. All one has to do is ignore you. It is ,I believe, a topic for a PhD thesis in “humiliation studies” how does one respond to humiliation without humiliating other?

I really think that is the question for practitioners.

This is what all “alpha’s” know intuitively that shame begets shame. That such tension tends to lead to more and more negative affect and often inevitability to some type of violence or that the only way to deal with it is violence. And there are all types of violence. And the alpha knows that in most instances in society that “violence” is such that “all” that is going to happen is that the injured party is  going to look like the aggressor or the fool. Or if the alpha really is in power, “the boss” ect. will only be able to more readily be able to dismiss the lowly one once more. See: and   The important point is that they know that no matter what it is, it is  as if you where a nat.  This sometimes fails and there is a tipping point and someone comes back with a gun or a revolution starts.

You say well just ignore them. Who? Those that ignore us. But we are told and I believe that we do need to express all affect when we can and when it is appropriate and why is it not appropriate here. And why should we have affect. Because to be ignored hurts. Again I  just used a quote in an essay and it expresses the idea does it not?

The basis of shame is not some personal mistake of ours, but the ignominy, the humiliation we feel that we must be what we are without any choice in the matter, and that this humiliation is seen by everyone.”1

We cannot help the pain of shame.

It is as if it is the most hidden of human “pivot points” but it is the point upon which almost all power rest and turns.  I am speaking of this moment of being ignored. Of saying essentially “you are nothing.”  If we would teach it to all, all power would melt away. Outlaw it. 50 dollar fine. “I’ve got you. I know what you are doing. You are ignoring me. You are trying to make me into nothing.”

There are many ways to express this. It has been pointed out that children that have been “actively” abused do better than abandoned children. Simple explanation would be is that the child is not “nothing” but something. The parent is attending to them is some way, providing for them showing interest.

Then recently I had a conversation about how showing slight contempt is often worse than a punch in the face. The later of course shows real engagement and recognition of your existence while the former is dismissive of your existence.

We are severally  pained by divisiveness of unanswered emails and in academics it is legend that colleagues will turn blue before admitting to having read their colleagues work. I can at least be a little more “something” if  I ignore you, if your “nothing”, at least to me.

 Shame and Humiliation (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)

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. Nat
On  Amazon by Brian Lynch Paper Back and Kindle:
"Knowing Your Emotions"
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1 comment:

  1. well this is something that goes on and occurs in just about every relationship a human being can be apart of, unfortunatly in my experience I have reacted to being the "underdog" in a very unheathly way,not only for myself, but for the ones closest to me in some way were affected by my reaction to being "ignored" , broke, tore down to nothing,because what I said or did was never recognized. I just feel that when put in certain situations when you are not appreciated or even acknowledged then that does give us the right to express ourselfs, let that person know what they are doing is not okay, but as you said the "alpha dog" knows that are being hurtful or spitefull etc.,. It's a cycle of hurt,shame, anger, and violence that I have been through and am still living with ; If you can avoid that then remove yourself if posible from there reach, don't let what they don't do or do bother you, because in the end this "alpha male" is so insecure and lonely inside that hurting people is there only way to feel anything.If they are threatened by your work because it is meaningfull and accurate,life changing then what can they do? Get you to doubt yourself and accomplishments, don't let them defeat you.