It’s a tale as old as time. Shaming and humiliation has been around for decades. We all use it at home as well as in society. But what are they exactly?
Shame and humiliation are negative feelings associated with dishonour, self hate, disgrace and regret. There are 4 types of shame according to psychotherapist Burgo, which are unrequited love and rejection, unwanted exposure, disappointed expectation and exclusion.
Back in the day, public shaming was necessary in order to have a kingdom of loyal subjects, a better understanding of who was not conforming to the norms and needed to be pulled up, and what behaviours needed to be corrected. Did they work? Yes, surprisingly it did. It helped people feel safe and know that they were being looked after by their leader. The tactic was also a great tool to keep people in check and know that they would have to pay the consequences for bad behaviour, a way of teaching people what not to do by actually showing them the (dire) consequences. However, this control and power took on a life of its own and led to a whole bunch of other issues: namely, a singular power, marginalisation, totalitarianism, etc.
As all things come to an end, so did this system. People were given more power to choose who they allowed to govern them. There was less ostracisation as people started pushing back. Not everyone was subjected to one individual’s whims (for lack of a better word) beheading everyone.
And a new world order came about.
Judges came with juries, and so on.
Today, we live in a society where knowledge and learning have taken the forefront so that people can now inform themselves better. Conversations and discussions (co)exist. Which also means we can question things by ourselves without being continuously told what to think.
However, even though we’ve grown through time, have we still held on to the premise of public shaming? In the past few years, the rise of ‘calling people out’ and ‘cancel culture’ have taken on a life of their own. I am unsure how to feel about it because it still doesn't sit right with me. Before you ‘cancel’ me, let me explain why.
As human beings, we inherently need to belong. This ‘belongingness’ makes us more open to adopting new ideas and thoughts (as well as being less defensive). We are, by nature, open to learning unless we’re jaded by experience. It means that when we feel attacked, we feel the need to protect ourselves and our ideas, and take everything personally. Don’t forget the fact that we also don’t like being controlled.
The modern day public shaming (and humiliation) plays so much into this dynamic. We are in the space where people can sit behind a computer and call people out and cancel them from existence. Sure, it's less aggressive than beheading someone but it’s just a different method of exiling people. Don’t get me wrong, everyone should be allowed to speak their mind and share their thoughts. But the space of ‘one’ doesn’t mean there is no space for others. I do think consequences for bad behaviours are helpful but not to the extent that we wipe them off the face of the planet. This just loops in with the problem - because now, they believe even more in what they were saying (plot twist: with even more conviction) and feel the need to defend themselves because they are under attack.
We are all capable of being aggressive and terrible, but we are also extremely capable of being kind. Are we still in the age where we need a trend to control us, where one thought is more important than another - and if it's not, do we really need to start a war?
We can choose to not engage. But right now we’re at a stage of overcorrection - leading to everyone being paranoid of everyone. Can we truly be ourselves if we are not open to criticism or learning or connection? Can we truly be vulnerable in a place where being vulnerable is a result of attack? If there is always constant fear, will there be a sense of justice? Is it a way to get immediate gratification of hurting someone who needs to feel remorse? Are we learning or just trying to protect ourselves? Should we be controlling how other people learn by imitating them?
I think these more questions keep coming up the more we think about it… but then again, Isn't that a great place to start a conversation?
Meet The Author
Malvika has completed her Masters in Clinical Psychology and is also an Animal Assisted Therapist and Arts Based Therapist. Before joining The Thought Co., Malvika has worked in various schools and organisations. She has worked with a diverse range of people with a wide age range from 7 years to 90 years. She has also dealt with a wide range of mental health concern like special needs, disabilities, anxiety, depression, etc. Her work mainly focuses on Emotional and Social needs. She incorporates Person Centred Approach, REBT and CBT in her therapy sessions. She believes that there should be a balance between conventional and non conventional psychology techniques. Apart from therapy sessions and counselling, she is also actively involved in developing workshops and awareness-building seminars.
Malvika Lobo, Psychologist