Humiliation, Shame and Violence

This is a presentation I gave some years ago on the connection on antisocial violent behavior in some men, and how researchers (in this article I feature the work of J. Gilligan) have learnt how these violent behaviors are linked to culturally-adapted values. Such values function as introjects in individuals. The resultant of which is violent and aggressive emotions as consequence of displaced feelings of humiliation and avoidance of shame.

Mass shooting incidents do happen and the perpetrators leave behind chilling messages that point to a root cause, which Gilligan has pointed out.


Here are the list of extreme cases of violence in young males. The motives for their actions were later revealed to have mysogynic undertones. Many express their hatred for women.

Working with Shame

  • Empathic understanding of the patient’s experience with shame
  • Assist the client to understand fully this experience.
  • Showing warm understanding, acceptance and respect.
  • To heal shame, the therapist must understand shame. Therapist must understand this in context of the patient.
  • Therapist must be committed to dialogue.

(Yontef, 1996)

  • Hold the client in unconditional positive regard.

Working with Humiliation

Why Humiliation?

Shame is related to humiliation, but they are not the same emotions.

The Phenomenological difference between Shame and Humiliation

  • Humiliation relates to distinct “self and other” interactions, and to distinct levels of self-definition.
  • Humiliation is done by one person to another purely for own selfish purpose.
  • Humiliation implies an activity occuring between oneself and another person.
  • “Humiliated” is a feeling of position of oneself in relation to another or others. It is also an interpersonal interaction.
  • Humiliation is the feeling of an act of being put into a powerless, debased position by another who at a point in time posesses greater power than oneself.
  • Humiliation can involve anger over one’s lowered status.  (Gilbert & Andrews, 1998)


Anderson, E. (1994) The Code of the Streets. The Atlantic Monthly 5 81-94

Cohen, Vandello, Rantilla (1998) The sacred and the social . Cultures of honor and violence. In P Gilbert, B Andrews (Eds.) Shame: Interpersonal Behavior, Psychopathology, and Culture pp.261.

Gilbert, P. E., & Andrews, B. E. (1998). Shame: Interpersonal behavior, psychopathology, and culture. Oxford University Press.

Gilligan, J. (2001) Preventing Violence. London: Thames & Hudson.

GILLIGAN, J.. (2003). Shame, Guilt, and Violence. Social Research, 70(4), 1149–1180. Retrieved from

Herbert, B. & Gilligan, J. (2014) Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed. TV: Dr James Gilligan on our Culture of Violence. Youtube Video.

Retzinger, S. M., 1995 Identifying shame and anger in discourse. American Behavioural scientist 38(8) 1104-1113.

Yontef, G. (1996) Shame and guilt in Gestalt Therapy. In R. Lee & G. Wheeler (Eds) The Voice of Shame. San Francisco: 390. pp. 370-371.

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