Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

The Widening Scope of Shame

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

The Widening Scope of Shame

Article excerpt

MELVIN R. LANSKY AND ANDREW P. MORRISON, EDS. The Widening Scope of Shame. Analytic Press, Hillsdale, NJ, 1997, 456 pp., $49.95, 0-88163-169-8.

Shame once held a prominent place in American society as a monitor of appropriate behavior. About a century ago, it lost its authority, even for psychotherapists. In the early 1970s, shame was rescued from obscurity by H. B. Lewis and a small cadre of writers, who provided clinical evidence that most psychotherapeutic failures are due to shame's unacknowledged presence in the therapeutic encounter In more recent times, writers have documented its influence in a wide spectrum of human endeavors. Because of the increasing recognition of its importance, shame is a subject whose status needs a continual update.

The Widening Scope of Shame is an attempt "to provide a broader perspective than can be found in any existing volume intended for, but not limited to, clinicians" (p. xiv). Probably due to this intent, the book-written mostly by psychoanalysts and other clinicians-devotes minimal space to the treatment of shame.

There are some excellent contributions: Broucek on developmental issues; Michels examining conceptual problems; Scheff and Retzinger evaluating H. B. Lewis' work on shame; Hanson analyzing philosophers' writings on shame; Katz discussing the sociology of shame; and Levin exploring shame's influence in marital incompatibity. However, except for Hanson's chapter (my favorite), these contributors have expressed essentially the same ideas elsewhere. Indeed, Levin's two chapters are reprints of papers he published thirty years ago.

A more serious limitation is what is not covered in The Widening Scope of Shame. …

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