Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why Are Shame Cultures So Shameless?

Who hasn't wanted to approach a cartoon jihadist and ask, "Hey, I thought you guys were from shame cultures. So how come you're not ashamed of yourselves for behaving like such pathetic asses? What gives?"

Shame is not a healthy or adaptive emotion around which to organize a culture, any more than it's a good idea to organize your personality around being easily shamed. Vulnerability to intense shame is a biological marker of psychopathology, whether individually or collectively. It is the sine qua non of what I call a "mind parasite," or internalized pattern of disturbed interaction with early caregivers.

Shame is an important social emotion that was selected by evolution for a very useful purpose. That is, it tempers our narcissism and helps to socialize us. Remember, evolution selected humans as a group animal first--our individual identity is a very recent historical development superimposed upon our primordial "groupishness." Shame is one of the evolutionary mechanisms for inhibiting certain kinds of undesirable behaviors that the child might otherwise find quite pleasurable.

Shame and embarrassment are completely absent in the infant up to the age of at least 12 months, and are generally first observed between 14 and 18 months. By 15 to 16 months, the toddler is particularly susceptible to narcissistic "deflation." Think of the ecstatic, hyper-aroused baby looking into its mother's face for mirroring and confirmation.

Shame first arises in this intersubjective space, depending upon the mother's response to her baby. A rejecting or neutral response leads to a sudden "decrescendo" of affect that feels subjectively like a downward spiral, as if the floor as been pulled out from under one. Shame throws a social "flood light" upon the individual, causing a desire to bury one's face or disappear from view.

Shame is actually a biological state that becomes hardwired in, a sudden switch from sympathetic arousal to parasympathetic dampening. It can be observed outwardly in the infant through such "end products" as loss of social smile, averting the eyes, loss of muscle tonus, and blushing (caused by sudden vasodilation).

We do not come into the world with the ability to autoregulate shame. Rather, it is one of those things that will achieve a "set point" depending on the quality of early attachment experiences. Ideally, shame will be experienced only gradually and in small doses, so as to not overwhelm the child's ability to deal with it. But early and frequent experiences of shame can be a source of transmission of severe emotional disorders associated with the under-regulation of aggression.

When we talk about "shame cultures," we are actually talking about cultures that have failed for whatever reason to produce people who can autoregulate shame. In other words, we are dealing with shame dysregulating cultures. Our own culture has a subculture of such individuals--they are called "narcissistic personalities."

The narcissistic personality is exquisitely vulnerable to dysregulated shame, and therefore builds a personality around the attempt to avoid shame and humiliation at all costs. That is, they cannot have the experience of shame in its regulated state. Rather, it immediately becomes dysregulated, plunging them into existential despair, depression, and confusion. Things like grandiosity, exaggerated self esteem, and a sense of entitlement are all designed to undercut the catastrophic emergence of shame.

Thus, the shame-prone narcissistic personality often becomes the shameless personality, because his shame is just too painful to experience. It cannot be tolerated, so it is simply bypassed or otherwise avoided. These are very brittle personalities. They always show a preponderance of shame over guilt (which is a later and more sophisticated developmental emergence), and they are quick to experience narcissistic rage in response to any narcissistic injury. They are extremely vulnerable to humiliation, and may respond to even a hint of it with self-righteous rage or "humiliated fury."

Now I ask you, whom does this remind you of? What kind of person--what kind of culture--would go ballistic with narcissistic fury at the rumor of a cartoon that insults one's narcissistic ego ideal?

Let us bear in mind that the dysregulation of shame is ultimately rooted in psychotoxic parenting, characterized by an insecure, depressed, angry, or otherwise emotionally unavailable mother. In the Arab Muslim world, women are third class citizens, while boys are elevated to the status of godlike little tyrants with an abundance of unearned self-esteem. In other words, they are valued for doing nothing, just for being boys. These boys are raised by adoring, doting and narcissistically disturbed mothers who project their own idealized, unrealistic ego ideal into their male children, producing an unbridgeable gap between the child's actual self and and their impossibly idealized self.

Voila! Through the systematic denigration of women, the culture self-replicates by churning out grandiose, narcissistic, entitled, angry, and brittle men who project their own devalued, degraded self into women and infidels. In this manner, the cultures of the Muslim Middle East are largely shameless culture filled with men who are disoriented by a world that doesn't mirror the bizarre entitlement they feel is their birthright. This wrong and disappointing world must be angrily torn down and destroyed, replaced with one that will properly mirror their inherent greatness.

We look at the external squalor, backwardness and barbarism of much of the Arab Middle East, and are naturally shocked. But truth be told, it is simply the inevitable objectification of their disordered and dysregulated internal state. That sorry state, my friends, is a caliphate worse than death.

UPDATE--From Little Green Footballs today, with my translation of the unconscious message:

“Defending the prophet [read: regression to infantile rage] should continue worldwide,” Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, told the crowd. “Let Condoleezza Rice, Bush and all the tyrants [read: our projected tyrannical superegos] shut up: We are a nation that can’t forgive [read: we are unbearably ashamed of ourselves], be silent or ease up when they insult our prophet and our sacred values [read: when we are narcissistically injured].”

“Today, we are defending the dignity of our prophet with a word [read: we are defending ourselves from our own shame], a demonstration but let George Bush and the arrogant world [read: the real world that painfully reminds us of how pathetic we are] know that if we have to ... we will defend our prophet with our blood, not our voices [read: we will react to our unbearable shame with dysregulatred rage],” Nasrallah added.

Another nugget from LGF:

NEW YORK - Muhammed Zahny is upset - and not about the cold wind that is keeping customers away from his store on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue. “If I lose money, I don’t care,” says Mr. Zahny, who owns “Islamic Fashions.” “But if I lose respect, then I have nothing left.”

Correction. To quote that great philosopher Muddy Waters, "You can't lose what you ain't never had." You are so brittle and your shame is so dysregulated that it just makes you feel like nothing.


yesandno said...

Realize that all you guys are way ahead of me...

Still think a little more shame in 2006 in Western culture would improve things.

If I understand what you are saying correctly, the
Arab Middle East is shameless because of the lack of esteem of the mother...she chooses to be "non-judgemental" of bad behavior or makes a judgement in favor of inflating the ego of her male child because of her own inability to fulfill her self esteem. Or, simply put, an overabundance of shame makes you shameless.

So many in this country are following suit....maybe that is why the Democrat party is unable to develop new ideas, new goals and keeps repeating the old. Maybe even though they did not start in a failed culture, their lack of ability to move on is the beginning of their own demise...their own stagnant society that lives on past perceived glories and does not motivate future glories except in the mind.

They also have no outward shame that regulates their behaviors so we are all reduced to jumping the short bars instead of reaching for the high ones. A fear of not being able to make the high bar--and being shamed because of it--makes you settle for what has been achieved but does not entice you to new heights. And because you cannot risk failure, anyone who tries and fails, or worse, tries and succeeds, is open to derision from you.

I know fools rush in, etc., but remember, I am trying to learn here so if I am naive, point it out. Go ahead, I can take it. Just be gentle, please!!!!

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes, there is an increase of shamelessness in the west. One of the reasons normal people are repulsed by the far left is that they are so shameless. But bear in mind that many politicians from both parties are drawn to politics to begin with because they are narcissistic personalities in need of mirroring--politics is show business for the unattractive, as they say, just as show business is politics for the attractive but clueless narcissist.

In any event, I believe one of the current contributors to the increase in shame is the abandonment of children to daycare.

jwm said...

This is a lot like the behavior one finds in inner city gang culture. (I taught school there for a long time.)
You meet a lot of ultra-prickly individuals who go through life with a personal radar tuned to an exquisitely high frequency for detecting personal insult. Hence you see grown men ready to throw blows over a word or a phrase, and willing to resort to firearms over a spray painted wall. You hear lots of talk about respect there. You see little or no respectable behavior. How much difference is there between these bloodthirsty imams, and a bunch inner city gang leaders?


Goesh said...

Most days I don't know a hell of alot. I wonder if there isn't a deep, deep sense of bitter resignation and feeling of betrayal on the 'muslim street'? I mean we are talking many layers of denial piled on, like a huge pile of ashes over a hot coal where you don't see the burning ember but can feel some heat and you know something is there way down at the bottom.

They see themselves mired in poverty and disease. They see their kids dying of diseases that in the West have been knocked out for a long time. They walk around in cheap shoes and it's a big deal to take a taxi someplace. They don't have much in their homes and they see what the West has and they see their kids being pulled to it like little bugs to honey. They see our cars and they see their kids longing for a set of wheels and they know the kids will never have them. Then they get riled up and try some type of military action, they get in a fight and they get their asses kicked time and again. I closely monitored a number of muslim-type blogs during the invasion of Iraq and there was almost collective weeping over the fact that Iraqis would not and could not fight. One can only imagine the silent, burning shame they had when the Isrealis on several occasions slaughtered them. But they cling to a text hundreds of years old that has not changed and has not given them anything but trouble and deprivation, defeat and poverty. They now sense the next strongman, Iran, is going to be crushed, and that will happen. The West will blow up their nukes, make no mistake about that. They saw bin laden chased into the mountains, a guant man now reciting from an ancient text while Western drones hunt him from above. They know bin laden and quran are powerless over the drones. They chant and wave their arms in the air and burn an embassy and some flags and their kids still cough at night and their cheap shoes wear thinner and their teeth go bad and the quran does not and cannot stop the pain. They saw it with their fathers, they see it with themselves and they see it in their children, the bad teeth, the coughing and the cheap shoes with never a car and not much in the home and a pretty bride gone ugly and silent in a matter of a few short years. They raged over cartoons and nothing has changed and they know nothing will change for them. They cannot even eradicate Bart Simpson let alone the Jews and it gnaws at them, deep-in-the-gut-late-night gnawing that really hurts.

Gagdad Bob said...



We need to talk about what sort of cultural "psychotherapy" could elevate these cultures. Remember, backwardness is the rule, not the exception, in human history. Somehow, the west pulled out of the stagnant psychological rut of human non-evolution. How did they do it? Perhaps in tomorrow's post.

yesandno said...

Interesting points...will bear some thought.

dilys said...

>what sort of >cultural >"psychotherapy" >could elevate >these cultures.

Both Thomas Barnett, and the Ken Wilber-Don Beck "Spiral Dynamics" frame are starting points for discussion, (though the latter is generally taken over by Green Utopians as excuses for their old tired schemes.)

In fact, I think some on-the-ground joint ventures (not moony NGO's) with little bits of the Arab Street might be a place to start. The kind of thing Tim Harford is keeping an eye on.

Kahntheroad said...

The next question is what is it that prevents those who are not infected with this shamelessness from calling things as they are?

How can people like George Bush, Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, et al go on allowing the infantile to set the terms of debate?

Have our leaders deluded themselves into thinking that these animals will be in any way placated by George Bush referring to them as a Religion of Peace? Do they honestly think that the mental neonates of the UN and EU are going to wake up to reality? That the Democratic party is somehow going to be magically cured of its mental illness?

Is it because most relatively sane people simply cannot relate to, or even conceive of, what might cause adult human beings to behave so irrationally?

For example, I think that in the run up to war, Bush, rather than make the more complicated moral and strategic case for invading Iraq, went for the most assured political route; presuming that once we were successful, and once it became clear what kind of monster Saddam was, and once the message got through to the other tyrants, etc. there would be no more debate about the justification for war. Now, I'm sure he believed at least some major WMDs would be found, but, otherwise, everything on the ground has gone beyond expectation - except for the attitudes of the left and the "international community."

I suspect this is just baffling for Bush, a man who hold a particular firm moral standard (and even in his years of living below that standard, it was still ingrained in him). For him to see the continued bombings, the riots, the explicit declarations of our enemies; meanwhile, in the bubble of Washington, all he hears are absurd, discordant ramblings that make less sense every day.

My question is: is Bush too, lets say, 'well adjusted' to effectively relate to opponents with such a baffling mindset? Does he honestly believe that with time or argument these people will come around? After all, he lifted himself up, why shouldn't they be able to do the same?

I see a similar attitude in otherwise reasonable conservatives, who are simply willing to give people the benefit of the doubt - no matter what they say. To dismiss a 'political' view as insane - no matter how absurd it may be -is seen as closed minded, or partisan.

Whatever the case, what so frustrating is that we see the threat, we have the means to eradicate it, those who oppose us have nothing to deter us aside from their sore lungs. What the hell are we holding back for??? I'm tired of psychoanalyzing the enemy - he's nuts and wants to kill me. Period. Now, I want to put our immobile protectors on the couch!

(In the future, perhaps we'll need a psycho-historian cabinet post in the White House - Bob? Your nation needs you!)

Goesh said...

The rigidity of the quran has existed for what - 1400+ years now? Try as I like, I see no ways or means of elevation, not in any traditional sense of the meaning, or within confines of the time/space continuum as we understand it. Islam has contributed nothing to civilization in the past 400+ years, other than energy, which would have developed via other resources regardless of the Gulf reserves, although perhaps at a bit slower pace. I don't deny evolution, but this phenomena of islam has succeeded in slowing evolution to its utmost slowest pace ever seen, andt his comes from a monotheistic orientation. Look at the cultural saltation of Native American's for instance, or isolated Amazon tribes in comparison to islamic culture. I won't throw Petey a bone, not when there is killing that simply must be done. We must kill what it manifests in the material planes when that manifestation, i.e. Iran and its nukes, threatens the evolution of the rest of the planet. It cannot be 'touched' ideologically, not as we understand change and appropriate intervention(s). Islam will evolve at its own pace to the detriment of non-islamic culture(s). There will be some change and evolution in islam in 1000 years perhaps. I grow old, weary and impatient.

LiquidLifeHacker said...


The abuse is deeply rooted in their culture and it's been a curse upon them from generation to generation. The best example I can give you is one that a guy that had spent alot of time in Saudi shared with me...

He said that it was common place for the men to just turn on the street and start beating one of their wives in front of everyone...and nobody said a thing. Thats how common it is! Then he said to sum up the worth of the woman in their culture was to see a little toyota truck driving down the road in extreme horrible hot desert heat with a couple kids and a dog riding up front with the father in comfortable airconditioning while the poor mother rode in the open back of the bed of the truck, dressed from head to toe in black under the blinding sun.

I also want to share something with you, since we are on this subject, because you should read up on Walid Shoebat, whom once was a terrorist himself, as he explains the mentality he witnessed...

"Yesterday, further confirmation of Dr. Kobrin's thesis arrived at my door. The remarkable and charming Walid Shoebat, an ex-PLO terrorist, came to visit. He has been speaking about his renunciation of terrorism and conversion to evangelical Christianity. Shoebat has been touring the country speaking out for Israel and against the "occupation of Palestinian minds with Jew-hatred." Unlike the human bombs, Shoebat "merged" with his American-born mother by finally rescuing her from years of captivity and domestic abuse in Bethlehem/Beit Sahur. He also rescued his father, the man who imprisoned and abused her.

Shoebat confirmed the widespread sexual abuse of both boys and girls in Palestinian society. "It is a strange society.Homosexuality is forbidden but if you're the penetrator, not the penetrated, it's okay." He is describing prison sexuality. "If you're a teenage boy with no hair on your legs other boys your age will pinch your butt and tease you. Once, I saw a class of clothed teenage boys sexualize their gymnastics exercizes. And once, on a hiking trip, I saw a line of shepherd boys waiting for their turn to sodomize a five year old boy. It was unbelievable."

Shoebat's father also told him stories about starving Arab men who would barter sex for meat from Iraqi soldiers. According to Shoebat, teenage boys prey upon younger children; older male relatives prey upon pre-adolescent and adolescent boys and girls. They do not have intercourse with the girls since this would render them un-marriageable and bring shame upon their families. I heard many stories in both Afghanistan and Iran about the male preference for anal sex, even within marriage, either as a form of birth control or as a preferred homosexual practice. Most Arabs and Muslims will deny that this is so. They will attack westerners who say so as "orientalists, colonialists, racists." Western intellectuals will agree with them. They have been well indoctrinated by--no, western academics were the ones who first glorified the work of the late Edward W. Said who, in my opinion, published his master work, Orientalism, in 1978 as a way of denying feminist ideas and refocusing academic attention away from women and onto brown, Muslim, Arab men as the truest victims of oppression. Neat trick.

You can read more about it HERE

Gagdad Bob said...


You are exactly right. Cultural relativists of the west are so naive. Things we take for granted, like the interior, integrated self and companionate marriage are very recent historical developments which most cultures have not achieved, or have only done so haltingly. There are great psychological barriers that prevent men from actually loving women (as opposed to merely lusting after them, controlling them, abusing them, etc.). It's not the norm.

Gagdad Bob said...

By the way, I have been influenced in these matters by Charles Taylor's magisterial "Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity."

jwm said...

I have this image- religion is light shining through a tube. If the tube is perfecly straight, it can extend forever and the light will still be visible to anyone who looks down the tube. If the tube is not straight. If it is off by the millionth part of a millionth part then as the tube is extended the light will slowly diminish until it reaches a point where no light shines through at all.
In a way, this is how I see islam. When islam first began it was wildly successful.Indeed it put a huge chunk of the world under its sway. But it would take over a thousand years before the results of its inherrent flaws, it's "bent tube" would become apparent, long enough for it to become firmly and permanently entrenched as a system of belief throughout the world. And it's flaws are most glaring in in comparison to success of the Judeo-Christian West. "The cartoon riots" sums it up in phrase.
But here's the part that really bothers me. If islam is a 'revealed' religion, does that not suggest that the tube was precisely and deliberately bent?


LiquidLifeHacker said...

what's the alternative ????

Jodie,Thats the big question for sure.Human rights has tried so hard to get the leaders of these countries to stop abusing the women and even our western countries have taken so many of them into asylum. We are having alot of muslim babies born here because of that.

The hope would be to educate and free the women of this culture's horrible opression. If we could some how get the chains off these islamic women there might be some hope for the future, but as soon as they started their healing process they would expose the evil doings of their men, hence the shame and the honor killings would just start up more. It's a real vicious circle. The men need the women to channel all their shame onto and to be breeding machines! It's part of the mentality.

I was told a long time ago that Islam is ran just like the mob and that it totally rules with fear and intimidation especially nside the core family unit and that jealousy is used to fire up hatred towards brother against brother from conception since the men have more than one wife...He gets a thrill out of watching the "tribal offspring" fight for his attention and power. There is so much mental and physical abuse within that family unit that I don't know if anyone can really fix them.
We gotta all pray that some good spirit replaces the one living inside that whole culture right now! But I think years and years of worshipping a pagan god has left so many of them with hearts of stone.

On this note about Islam needing therapy, I am gonna leave Frontier Psychiatrist because it will make Petey smile today!

Gagdad Bob said...


I like that bent tube analogy. You could actually think of the tube as the vertical. Once it enters time--the horizontal--it's similar to the way that a stick distorts when you put it halfway into the water.

But that begs the question of whether Islam is a vertical transmission at all, or simply a man made delusion. I pretty much opt for the latter. It's like scientology, just older.

Varian said...

The problem with this analysis is that it is based on false events. Muslims regularly mock Muhammed and make crude jokes about him and their religion.

Much of these protests are staged. The cartoons are old. Muslims do not keep copies of Danish flags all about, ready to fly at a moment's notice.

President Bush said that the Iranian and other Middle East governments are using this as an excuse to torch embassies and attack westerners.

This reminds me of when the media went crazy with the hurricane Katrina story. Tons of 'brilliant commentators' descended from the Internet and told us the future of society itself. It was like analyzing air, for such events did not occur.

The Muslim cartoon riots are very much staged and influenced. It is not a legitimate reaction from their culture.

Don't believe me? Go ask Iraquis.

Gagdad Bob said...


That's true, the demonstrations are staged. However, the forced clitoridectomies, anti-Semitism, female illiteracy, and male entitlement are all real. Forty percent of BRITISH Muslims think it is fine to murder innocent Jews. Palestinians voted a literal death cult into power. Filipinos who perform all the work in Saudi Arabia can't even get together to worship. These are sick, sick societies.

gumshoe1 said...

"I'm curious

why do you think those sick wacko parisian jihadi rioters didn't take to the streets again after these "horribly offensive to islam" cartoons got published in France ?

And why didn't those hate mongering sicko muslims from Brooklyn come down here to Philly to tear apart and burn the offices of the Inquirer that published the same cartoons ?

and I am in shock those terrorist supporting folk in dearborn michigan haven't found a building to burn

you're the expert,
any explanations ?"
-puzzled in philly


phil -

it's not the gospel...
but it's a much clearer view
than the PC-crippled,
non-comprehensision of the MSM.
Denmark, Damascus,and Beirut

Are the Muslims in Lebanon and Syria angrier than others in the Middle East?

by Lee Smith
02/07/2006 12:00:00 AM

in addtion,this map
of Dhimmi vs. Free-speech nations
is helpful to picturing the recent events more clearly:

(map is from from Maggie's Farm blog
via Michele Malkin)