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The experience of shame and the emotional isolation of psychotherapy patients

By Ph.D. James MacDonald

Abstract

In a review of research on the relationship between shame and psychopathology it is\ud suggested that too little attention has been paid to the actual context in which shame is\ud experienced by people with psychological difficulties. An attempt is then made to link\ud existing models of pathological shame with recent literature on emotion and it is\ud suggested that shame associated with psychological disorder is of an enduring script like\ud nature, termed 'marker shame'. Literature on the relationship between shame and\ud disclosure is introduced. It is argued that in addition to presenting an opportunity to\ud investigate the operation of shame in a social context research on the dynamics of\ud shame and disclosure is important given the central role that emotional disclosure\ud plays in psychotherapy.\ud The empirical part of the thesis consists mainly of a diary and interview study\ud designed to explore the nature of shame in the context of psychotherapy patients'\ud daily lives and the role of shame in the context of disclosure or non-disclosure of\ud unpleasant emotional experiences. Quantitative data on the nature, context and\ud disclosure of shame and the other unpleasant emotional experiences is reported.A\ud major finding is that the majority of unpleasant emotions experienced by the\ud participants were not disclosed and that 'marker shame' appeared to play a role in this\ud non-disclosure. An empirical approach to qualitative data analysis is then introduced\ud and used to explore the apparent 'emotional isolation' of participants. The findings\ud again appear to illustrate the operation of 'marker shame'. A qualitative analysis of\ud participants' accounts of emotions that they did disclose is reported and a shame-related\ud account of disclosure dynamics is shown to compare favourably with a\ud number of alternative theoretical accounts of the benefits of disclosure. Qualitative\ud analysis from a second interview study focusing on significant emotional memories is\ud presented which appears to replicate most of the earlier findings in a seconds ample of\ud psychotherapy patients

Topics: BF, RC
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4243

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