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Shame and Humiliation: A Dialogue between Psychoanalytic and Systemic Approaches

Author(s) : Carlos Guillermo Bigliani, Author(s) : Rodolfo Moguillansky, Author(s) : Carlos E. Sluzki

Shame and Humiliation: A Dialogue between Psychoanalytic and Systemic Approaches
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Shame and Humiliation aims at exploring a sub-set of universal emotions that are usually labelled as "negative" because of the sense of unease that they generate when we experience them and the tenacity with which we try to avoid them. They can thus becoming powerful instruments in the "power games" of our species, making their mark in both well-intentioned education as well as in merciless relations of oppression. Universal as they may be, though, these emotions are experienced and displayed in varied ways according to the mandates of different cultures and the vicissitudes of different socio-cultural strata.

Shame and humiliation are therefore two key emotions that can cause deep suffering, as well as contribute to orient our social life. Some of the noblest and the most villainous acts are fueled by these emotions, from self-sacrifice to bloody revenge. The psychodynamics and the display in the relational world of these emotions are the subject of this book, which offers a friendly conversation between both disciplines through the discussions of the text of each author by the other two. Enlightening clinical cases and vignettes show destinies, transformations, and the manifestations in social and individual situations of both shame and humiliation.

Reviews and Endorsements:

‘Humiliation and Shame are universal feelings, fundamental in the individual, social and political spheres. The distinguished journalist Thomas Friedman stated in the New York Times: “Humiliation is the single most underestimated force in politics. These are the emotions that sparked the uprisings in Cairo and Moscow. They were not driven by ideology, but rather by the most human of emotions – the quest for dignity and justice”. Although these emotions abound in the writings of novelists since antiquity, we find surprisingly few contributions on this subject in psychoanalytic journals. This welcome book fills this gap. The authors have common roots: they were trained in psychoanalysis in Argentina and were disciples of the great psychiatrist Mauricio Goldenberg. However, they followed quite different paths: Bigliani in São Paulo where he followed a brilliant career as a psychoanalytical teacher; Moguillansky, a prolific psychoanalytical writer and teacher, in Argentina; and Sluzki, participating in the family therapy movement since its inception, enjoyed a solid academic career in the United States. In fact, part of the richness of this book derives from this dialectical intermingled relationship between common background and different trajectories.’
- Elias M. da Rocha Barros, Past Editor for Latin America of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Shame and Humiliation is an analysis on emotions that are not explored enough in the psychoanalytic field. Reading this book, we can realize what the two axes convey. Firstly, the authors illuminate universal emotional experiences and their role in the construction of subjectivity. They clearly emphasize the influence of socio-cultural context and its discourses and mandates. In this context, they focus on what is allowed and what is forbidden concerning emotions. Secondly, they analyze the eventual connections and links between psychoanalysis and systemic theory, showing their concordances and discordances. This interesting approach, intersecting two points of departure, allowed the authors to debate different positions, to work on intersections and to construct bridges among different theoretical frames. I highly recommend this book, not only for its contents, but also as a model of debating topics that enrich the process of analyzing interpersonal relations and their social and cultural framework.’
- Leticia Glocer Fiorini, President of the Asociación Psicoanalitíca Argentina

'This satisfying and revealing conversation among the three expert authors explores the core dynamics of shame and humiliation, key social emotions that are lodged at the center of most conflicts, from interpersonal to international. A rich contribution to the theme, and a worthwhile reading!'
- Donald A. Bloch, MD, President of the American Family Therapy Academy (1997-1999), and editor of Family Process and Family Systems Medicine

Notes about the author(s):

Carlos Guillermo Bigliani, MD, is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, researcher and professor in the department of occupational medicine, University of Buenos Aires Medical School; Professor of the Seminar on Neuroses, University of Buenos Aires School of Psychology; Professor of Psychoanalysis at the Sedes Sapientiae Post-Graduate Institute (Sāo Paulo, Brazil); and Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychopathology and Family Therapy at the Pontificia Universidade Catolica (Sāo Paulo, Brazil). He is a member of the Buenos Aires Psychoanalytic Association, the International Psychoanalytical Association, and the International Association of Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, and board member of the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Organization.

Rodolfo Moguillansky, MD, is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and Professor at the Buenos Aires Institute of Mental Health, University of Buenos Aires Medical School. He is a full member of the Buenos Aires Psychoanalytic Association, the International Psychoanalytical Association, and the International Federation of Psychotherapy Associations. He has been awarded the Bleger (1998) and Storni (2000) prizes by the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association, the Liberman prize (1999), by the Buenos Aires Psychoanalytic Association, and the FEAP prize (2008) by the Spanish Federation of Psychotherapy Associations.

Carlos E. Sluzki, MD, was trained in psychiatry in the department of psychopathology, G.A. Alfaro General Hospital in Lanus (Argentina); in psychoanalysis at the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association; and in family therapy at the Mental Research Institute (Palo Alto, California), where he was Director (1980-1983). He has been professor of psychiatry at the Universities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; advisor at the World Health Organisation, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He is currently a professor in the department of global and community health and at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, at George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia and clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at George Washington University, in Washington, DC.

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