Shame

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Shame is the awareness of one's dishonor, disgrace, inadequacy, or guilt. Shame is a painful emotion. A person who feels shame is ashamed.

Shame is related, but not identical to embarrassment.

In art, literature and movies, shame is often expressed by a bowed head, looking to the ground, avoiding eye contact, holding one's hands before one's face, blushing, silence, or stammering when replying to a question. A cute way of displaying shyness or shame is to put one foot on top of the other.

Shame for one's actions[edit]

Dr Sanity's Shame vs. Guilt Culture Matrix.

Society usually considers the feeling of shame a positive thing for a person who has committed a wrong, because it it thought to have a corrective influence on that person's future behavior. Shame is in fact the main point behind scolding, which is speech intended to bring about the awareness of one's inadequacy or guilt - in other words, shame, remorse, and penitence.

Delinquents who feel shame for their wrong behavior will often be more compliant with their punishment, as they may a) agree that they deserve to be punished, b) view the suffering as a way to "pay" for their misdeeds and to get rid of their guilty feelings.

This is one of the reasons why punishment is usually preceded by scolding until the person in authority is sure that the delinquent feels sufficient shame to comply with the punishment.

Shame as punishment[edit]

A boy on a stool wearing a dunce cap.

Shame can also be used as punishment itself - as a form of psychological punishment. Many forms of punishment, from judicial to military, religious, school, or domestic punishment, are designed to mainly cause the feeling of shame and embarassment. Nudity often serves this purpose, but also bondage, certain poses, shameful items of clothing to wear (e.g. dunce cap, petticoat, diapers), removal of privileges, grounding, time-outs, and so on.

Shame is often increased by the presence of witnesses, in particular when the witnesses are not sympathizing with the delinquent but taunting him or her.

Shame hand gesture[edit]

An old-fashioned hand gesture that (non-verbally) accuses one of shame is done by pointing the index finger on one hand at the subject, while rubbing the index finger of the other from base to point repeatedly.