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A ponderous, touchy-feely examination of shame, its causes, and its role in the psychotherapeutic process. While psychoanalyst Morrison (Harvard Medical School) still holds Freud dear, he diverges sharply with his contention that shame--not sex and guilt--lies at the root of most neuroses. Whether the malaise is depression, mania, or feelings of rage, Morrison believes it's usually shame that's to blame. And behind shame, the cause of it all is those most reprehensible of villains, parents, who fail to respond in ways that give a child a sense of self-worth. Society is also guilty of causing shame--through general attitudes toward poverty, race, aging, etc. According to Morrison, the psychoanalyst's job (though you can also try this at home on your own, he notes) is to unmask shame in all its guises, trace its origins, and then help the patient either discuss the shame or develop alternative sources of self-esteem. Some psychoanalysts, such as Stuart Schneiderman in his Saving Face: The Politics of Shame and Guilt (published last month), argue that shame can actually speed the psychoanalytic process, and Carl Goldberg (see p. 194) believes shame can lead to self-understanding. But Morrison can see no good in it. For although shame is sometimes warranted or ""deserved,"" although it helps to preserve civility and social cohesion, Morrison prefers the high road of blind self-affirmation and cosseting the inner child. But beyond the merely anecdotal (cases drawn from his practice), the author offers nothing approaching scientific proof for any of these assertions. Even his case studies are too brief and superficial to make his point.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Ballantine