Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Self-Conscious Affects: Their Adaptive Functions and Relationship to Depressive Mood

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Self-Conscious Affects: Their Adaptive Functions and Relationship to Depressive Mood

Article excerpt

This study used a structural equation model to examine the influence of resilience on the four self-conscious affects (guilt-proneness, shame-proneness, externalization, and detachment) assessed in the Test of Self-Conscious Affect-3 (TOSCA-3) and their impact on depressive mood. Our subject population consisted of 447 Japanese university students. The first analysis explored which TOSCA-3 affects help an individual adapt to stressful situations. The concept of "resilience" was used as an indicator to evaluate the adaptive functions. We based this on the assumption that an individual with higher resilience is able to use more adaptive affects.

In the second analysis, taking the above relationship between resilience and the self-conscious affects into consideration, we examined how those variables as well as a negative life event are related to depressive mood. To assess the resilience level and depressive mood, we adopted the Resilience Scale (RS) and Self-rating Depressive Scale (SDS), respectively.

The first analysis showed that the more resilient an individual was, the more prone they were to "detachment" and the less "shame" they experienced. The level of resilience did not have a significant effect on "guilt" or "externalization." In the second analysis we found that "resilience" had a direct inverse effect on depressive mood that was also mediated by "shame" and "detachment."

We discuss how the particular self-conscious affects comprising each adaptive function are related to depressive mood.

Keywords: adaptive functions; resilience; self-conscious affects; depressive mood


Self-conscious affects, particularly shame and guilt, have been discussed by many researchers and scholars. Tracy and Robbins (2004), distinguishing self-conscious affects from basic emotions, defined the natures of four self-conscious affects, i.e. guilt, shame, achievement-oriented pride, and hubristic pride. According to them, stable-awareness and self-representation are required for emergence of self-conscious affects. They further wrote that guilt and shame are elicited by appraisals of identity-goal incongruence, whereas pride is elicited by appraisals of identity-goal congruence. Both shame and guilt are framed as moral affects (Ausubel, 1955). As Tangney, Wagner, and Gramzow (1992a) noted, "these experiences involve both affective and cognitive components, the latter of which can be conceptualized in attribution terms" (p. 470). These affects are the results of internal attribution (Tangney, 1990; Tangney, 1992a). The difference between these two affects is that guilt is remorse for actions taken, whereas shame is an affect that attributes the negative event to one's entire self (Lewis, 1971).

Since Lewis (1971) published Shame and Guilt in Neurosis, many researchers have undertaken empirical studies to explore the role of shame and guilt in the development of psychological maladjustment (Tangney, 1996). Most studies showed that shame is related to a variety of psycho pathologies, such as eating disorder (Frank, 1991), depression (Andrews, 1995; Grabe, Hyde & Lindberg, 2007; Harper & Arias, 2004; Luby, Beiden, Sullivan, Hayen, McCadney & Spitznagel, 2009; Stuewig & McCloskey, 2005; Thompson & Berenbaum, 2006), anger (Harper & Arias, 2004), social phobia (Helsel, 2005), borderline personality disorder (Rüsch, Lieb, Göttler, Hermann, Schramm, Richter, Jacob, Corrigan & Bohus, 2007), and posttraumatic stress disorder following sexual abuse (Feiring & Taska, 2005). Some other studies comparing shame with guilt demonstrated that shame is one of the crucial factors in the development of anger arousal, resentment, irritability, a tendency to blame others, somatization, obsessive compulsive disorder, interpersonal sensitivity, low other-oriented empathetic responsiveness, self-oriented personal distress, anxiety, hostility, depression, and psychoticism (Rüsch, et al. …

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