Leeming, Dawn and Boyle, M. (2003) Shame as a social phenomenon. Proceedings of the British psychological society, 11 (2). p. 295. ISSN 1350-472X

Purpose: This paper argues for a theoretical
approach to chronic shame which emphasises
social factors in the development of psychological
problems. Some of the implications of this for
research and clinical practice are considered.
Context: Clinical psychologists are increasingly
drawing on the concept of shame to inform
therapeutic work. However, a comprehensive
review of clinically-orientated research on shame
over a four-year period revealed that this has
mostly been restricted to the investigation of
individual differences, conceptualising shame as
an attribute of the individual.
Key Points: It is argued that the notion of shame
as a context-free intrapsychic variable has
distracted clinical researchers from investigating
shame as a lived emotional experience and has
made the social constitution of shame less
visible. As such, there is very little data available
on the avoidance, management and repair of
experiences of shame and little exploration of
how shameful identities might emerge in
particular social contexts. Several suggestions
are made for alternative ways in which
susceptibility to shame could be conceptualised,
which consider the individual’s social world and
the importance of the roles or subject positions
Conclusions: To better inform clinical practice,
research needs to focus more explicitly on the
social and interpersonal processes which either
enable or inhibit the avoidance, management and
repair of shame. The implications of a more
contextualised understanding of shame for
practitioners include a willingness to (a) work with
clients at achieving real changes in their social
worlds and (b) to develop services which offer
positive identities for users

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