Sunday, February 17, 2013

On Guilt, Shame, and Authenticity

First: Routledge Journals have announced "Unlimited FREE access to all Routledge Behavioral Science Journals throughout February!" [Link]

Second: I have been browsing through their psychology/psychoanalysis journals the past couple of days and I came across an article, ``Toward Greater Authenticity: From Shame to Existential Guilt, Anxiety, and Grief,'' by Robert D. Stolorow in International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology.

 Here are some quotes:

... “authenticity”  literally means “ownedness” or “mineness.” Our existence may be authentic---non-evasively owned---or inauthentic---unowned or dis-owned. In inauthentic existing, we understand ourselves according to the conventional interpretedness of the “they” (das Man)—the impersonal normative system that governs what “one” understands and what “one” does in one’s everyday activity as a member of society and occupant of social roles. One exists as a “they-self” (p. 167), rather than as a differentiated, self-responsible individual.
For Heidegger (1927), authentic existing is coextensive with existential guilt, which is the condition for the possibility of ordinary moral guilt. Existential guilt is a being answerable or accountable to oneself for oneself. ...
Authentic existing, claimed Heidegger (1927), is disclosed in the mood (Stimmung) of anxiety. ... In authentic existing, we own up to death as our “uttermost” and “ownmost” possibility—“No one can take the Other’s dying away from him” (p. 284)—a possibility that is con- stitutive of our intelligibility to ourselves in our futurity and finitude, and that always impends as a constant threat. ...
Just as existential anxiety is disclosive of authentic existing, it is shame, in my view, that most clearly discloses inauthentic existing. In feeling ashamed, we feel exposed as deficient or defective before the gaze of the other (Sartre, 1943; Stolorow, 2010). In shame, we are held hostage by the eyes of others; we belong, not to ourselves, but to them. Thus, a move toward greater authenticity, toward a taking ownership of one’s existing, is often accompanied by an emotional shift from being dominated by shame to an embracing of existential guilt and anxiety. This is a shift from a preoccupation with how one is seen by others to a pursuit of what really matters to one as an individual—from how one appears to others to the quality of one’s own living.
Such a shift toward what really matters to one as an individual must not be equated with narcissistic self-absorption and self-centeredness. What really matters can be one’s love and caring for another or others. In authentic existing, we must own up, not only to our own finitude, but also to the finitude of all those whom we love and to whom we are deeply connected. ...
... Existential anxiety anticipates both death and loss. Just as, in existing authentically, we are “always dying already” (Heidegger, 1927, p. 298), so too are we always already grieving. The extent to which we can move toward more authentic existing depends significantly on whether the con- texts of our living provide a relational home in which the emotional pain entailed in such a move can be held, borne, and integrated (Stolorow, 2007). --- pp. 285-287, Toward Greater Authenticity

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