Beyond Good and Evil

More than moral reasoning.

How to Be Strong While Naked: Individual Humiliation

The Faces of Individual Humiliation

Introduction

Shakespeare liked Roosters. In Hamlet he refers to “the cock that is the trumpet to the morn; Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat; Awake the god of day." We begin with a Rooster crowing to welcome the dawn of a new day. He then returns to his harem of hens, satisfied with having done what Rooster’s do best, only to discover they’re gone. He learns they became victims of a Rogue Fox.

Deeply humiliated he heads for the enchanted Forrest of Fulfillment to consult with the Tree of Wisdom and comes upon a majestic Blue Spruce among Pine trees where only the stationary Spruce speaks as the Pines silently bend in the breeze of a summer afternoon. Devastated by the loss of face, and consumed by a desire for revenge, the Rooster approaches the voice that invited him to come closer. "I was told you had arrived. You’re crowing at dawn reaches the Forrest of Fulfillment, and I am pleased to meet you.”

__________

“It’s my fault. I’m a Rooster without his hens. The Fox captured them; leaving me humiliated and loosing feathers over the stress of it all.”

“Tell me what happened.”

“There I was, crowing at first light. In the distance I heard a strange sound. I ignored it. I kept crowing like a good Rooster is supposed to do. When I returned my hens were gone. It was the Fox. The Fox they reported seeing a few days ago.”

“You’ve suffered a great loss and I want to help.”

“I’m a worthless Rooster. I’m mortified, but I still want revenge!

“Unlike the virtue of humility, humiliation is painful. It has driven some to take their lives (individual humiliation), and nations to go to war over the loss of face (collective humiliation).”

__________

“Let’s talk about humiliation and what can be done about it. First, I want you to know you’re not alone.”

“I feel alone.”

“You’re allowed to feel alone, but be assured that you are not alone!”

“Humiliation has consequences. Turned inward it becomes all kinds of emotions. Turned outward it can become aggression, shadenfreude or taking pleasure in the suffering and pain of others, and evil.”

“Are there ever good consequences?”

“Sometimes talented individuals with brilliant defenses manage to turn humiliation into great inventions, including achievements in art, philosophy, music, and literature.”

“How?”

“They manage to do the right thing for the wrong reason and sometimes they even do the right thing for the right reasons. It’s complicated!”

“In what way?”

“Humiliation can be primary, secondary, positive, negative, invited (chosen), or uninvited.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve suffered humiliation twice. Confessing humiliation is secondary, positive, invited or chosen humiliation. Your humiliation in response to the loss of your harem of hens is primary, negative, and uninvited humiliation. There are some who engage primary, negative, invited humiliation.”

“You mean some actually chose to endure negative, painful humiliation? Can you give me an example, and is this worth talking about?”

“It’s worth talking about because it provides clues to the psychology of humiliation and this knowledge is power over humiliation.”

“Ok. I get that the humiliation of my confessing humiliation is humiliation fighting humiliation and that this is an instance of secondary, positive, invited humiliation. I have a problem with the example of someone choosing to endure a primary, negative, humiliation.”

“I’ll give you two examples. One is the sexual theater of erotic-humiliation involving bondage and discipline commonly regarded as sadomasochism. The other is the painful self-flagellation of religious-humiliation.”

“I don’t understand.”

“These forms of humiliation give some individuals the permission they need to become sexually aroused, and others the permission they need to become one with their religious faith and experience transcendental passions.

“Not for me. I’m not looking for trouble. Please continue. I’m interested.”

“Erotic-humiliation is sexual theater and religious humiliation is religious theater. They involve pleasure, pain, faith, ego, and a search for meaning. The participants engage in what we take to be primary, negative, chosen humiliation, and they take to be primary, positive, chosen humiliation.”

“Ok, but is it worth saying. What do we learn from this?”

“We learn that humiliation, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. It points to the influence of values and thought-styles in determining one’s emotional response to events and the meaning of events.”

“I’m not sure what you mean?”

“I mean no one can humiliate you, not the Fox, not anyone. You humiliate yourself by what you tell yourself about your loss. In a broader sense, only you can traumatize yourself and there we have the psychology of humiliation in a nutshell, and more than that, you have the outline of a means of inoculating combat soldiers against what is variously known as shell shock, combat fatigue, and post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD.”

“Do you mean soldiers traumatize themselves and I humiliate myself?”

“You asked what it teaches and whether it is worth talking about. Now you have it. The obvious is now inescapable and it points to the power of Roosters and persons as self-evaluators. It is self-evaluation by your ego of self-esteem that produces your humiliation and the wounded soldier’s PTSD, and spins erotic and religious humiliation in ways meaningful to some individuals.”

“Very interesting. What else do psychologists say about erotic-humiliation?”

“It takes place in public and private. We know the goal is sexual arousal and now the role playing has migrated to the internet enabling remote participation. It can result in “rough sex” or “edgeplay” leading to fetish formations and sexual addictions.” Psychologists also speak of “disinhibition’ and ‘confession.”

“Disinhibition?”

“Meaning that erotic-humiliation gives one permission to become sexually excited as I mentioned.”

“Who needs permission to become sexually aroused?”

“Individuals with intimacy phobias and gender identity issues.”

“That’s so psychological! Doesn't it all amount to the Priests taking confession?”

“And…what of the discussion you’re having with me?”

“Sure. It’s a confession. But I guess it's more than that! In your terms, it's also humiliation fighting humiliation and it's emotional re-education as well. By the way, do you distinguish between erotic and religious humiliation in any way?”

“No because both fail to challenge the ego of self-esteem or promote the ego of self-acceptance, and neither involves a search for meaning that speaks to your needs.”

__________

“The psychology of humiliation points to two problems. One is your ‘head problem’ and the other is your ‘reality problem.’ ”

“What?”

“Your reality problem is working through mourning the loss and finding a life beyond loss. Your head problem is the disvaluation or rejection of yourself in the manner of self-downing that says ‘I’m a bad me.’ This is the source of shame and guilt which are the building blocks of humiliation which I’ll discuss shortly.”

“You mean I’m telling myself I’m worthless and that’s all there is?”

“Almost! The question before us is whether we’re dealing with bad behavior, a bad Rooster, or both. What do you think?”

“I’m my behavior and so I’m a bad Rooster.”

“That’s your head problem. There are no bad Roosters only bad behaviors. Putting yourself down creates problems for you even though societies since the beginning of time have used this social conditioning to control Roosters and others. It has served as ‘social glue’ for centuries. It also perpetuates the pernicious and anachronistic ego of self-esteem.”

“But I insist…I am my behavior. Suggesting otherwise scares me!”

“That belief stands between you and getting the good things in life for you and those you love. It translates as ‘a bad act is a bad me,’ which is the voice of your self-esteem ego. You had better work to replace that voice with another voice.”

“You’re always knocking self-esteem! So, what’s the other voice?"

“Now you have an opportunity to learn something few sufficiently comprehend. I speak of the voice of self-acceptance enjoyed by all in the Enchanted Forrest of Fulfillment. Here you will discover powerful new ideas to live by, and this is the greatest. Just because you're used to your ego of self-esteem doesn’t mean it’s safe...the ego of self-esteem amounts to sailing in a leaky boat on what promises to be rough seas in the 21st century.

“What’s the alternative?”

“I’ll explain; but first I promised to speak of shame and guilt as building blocks of humiliation. It's worth talking about and will help you understand humiliation.”

Shame vs. Guilt:

“With the exception of your confessional humiliation, fighting humiliation with humiliation and embracing humiliation aren't good ideas. Besides, the examples of erotic and religious humiliation, previously noted, don’t speak to your needs; nor promote the ‘transformation of egos.' "

“Looking at humiliation through the prisms of shame and guilt offers another pespective. The cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict suggests shame results from the violation of objective social norms; whereas guilt results from the violation of subjective personal norms. Guilt is a consequence of what existentialists call false faith. The philosopher Immanuel Kant and Ruth Benedict agree; but don’t go far enough.”

“How so?”

“They failed to consider the values and thought-styles behind humiliation.”

“What do you mean?”

“Shame is caused by thinking about what others think, agreeing with them, and putting yourself down. Guilt involves thinking about your thoughts and deeds, concluding their bad and concluding you’re worthless. The common denominator involves the perception you’re worthless.”

“Shame is more complex than guilt. It splits the ego of self-esteem into self-as-seen-by-others and self-as-seen-by-self which weakens the already compromised ego of self-esteem. Guilt doesn’t split the ego; leaving it more integrated. However, when you combine shame and guilt, the disfunctional ego of self-esteem creates irrational emotions such as humiliation.”

"Why irrational?"

"Because a bad deed is not a bad you and to conclude as much is irrational." 

The Self-Esteem Ego vs. The Self-Confidence Ego

“I previously noted the voice of the ego of self-esteem translates as ‘a bad deed is a bad me,’ and how this voice needs to be replaced by another voice; namely the voice of the ego of self-acceptance which says ‘I’m good and worthwhile because I am me, I am alive, and I exist.’”

You are a prisoner of the ego of self-esteem. It is based on the Fallacy of Contingent Worth or the belief that ‘a good deed is a good me and a bad deed is a bad me.’ In the Forrest of Fulfillment we are prisoners of the ego of self-acceptance which is based on the Virtue of Unconditional Worth which says ‘I’m good and worthwhile because I am me, I am alive, and I exist.’”

“But how do I get there from here?”

“Replacing your prehistoric, anachronistic, even atavistic, self-esteem ego with the progressive ego of self-acceptance is never a gift. It must be earned by challenging the one while reinforcing the other. I suggest you make the voice of the self-acceptance ego your mantra; remembering you have yet to discover the peace of mind of this ego (See: Blog Finding Happiness).”

Conclusion:

“One advantage of swapping egos is the promotion of attitude reconstruction where loss and trauma are concerned. This means replacing awful-and-terrible values with sad-and-bad values when confronting losses such as yours. This axiological and existential correction (i.e., cognitive restructuring) is important in today’s world where critical thinking and calm problem solving is richly rewarded. I should add that It is also the way to “inoculate” Roosters against humiliation as well as soldiers and warriors against PTSD. It promises to free Roosters to crow at the dawn of new days, no matter what happens, and as never before. This ‘mental posture’ or ‘mind-set’ of sad-and-bad, as opposed to awful-and-terrible, is needed more than ever. It's also a distinction that amounts to a broad fulfillment of Aristotle's ‘golden mean.’ " 

"It is an axiom of today's values-based psychology (i.e., axiological psychology) that loss and trauma do not ‘upset’ you. It is your thinking that ‘upsets’ you. Nothing promotes this existential adjustment more than challenging your prehistoric ego of self-esteem (i.e., the voice that says ‘a bad deed is a bad me’), while rehearsing the ego of self-acceptance (i.e., the voice that says I’m good and worthwhile because I am me, I am alive, and I exist ’).  Now go forth and let the conquering of ego by ego begin!”

__________

“There are many theories of humiliation accompaning today’s growing interest in humiliation. In the Enchanted Forest of Fulfillment, we are especially informed by philosopher Robert Hartman’s theory of value, the work of basic and applied scientist and entrepreneur members of the Hartman Circle of Axiologists (www.hartmaninstitute.org), and Leon Pomeroy’s published research and clinical practice of values-based, cognitive psychology. I trust our conversation goes beyond mere confession. On a future visit, I will discuss the faces of collective humiliation which have shaped history. I wish you a speedy resolution of humiliation over the loss of your harem of hens to the Rogue Fox, and the dawn of a new ego to accompany crowing at the dawn of many days to come."

© Dr. Leon Pomeroy, Ph.D.

 

Leon Pomeroy, Ph.D., teaches at George Mason University and is the author of The New Science of Axiological Psychology.

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