Excellent points, PK&P. I’ve had several Asian friends and the extensive influence of shame in their lives is hard for me as an American to comprehend. Although, my upbringing in a Catholic home was also one that used shame and guilt as major disciplines. Compared to the Asian families, however, Catholics were amateurs. Also, Jewish culture relies heavily on shame and guilt to raise children and control the behavior of adults. Hardly what I recommend as nurturing tools, I do believe that shame and guilt have a place in cultural order.

As a member of a group — family, neighborhood, city, nation, religion, or a group with any other social contract — it is imperative that the members feel a sense of connection and responsibility to the group and to one another. Without that, there is no reason for the group to exist.

Along with responsibility comes shame and guilt when one shirks the duties of or rebels against the social contract of the group. What becomes harmful to the group and to the individual is when shame and guilt are used to force the member’s continued allegiance when they no longer want to remain in the group. An individual should always retain the right to leave the group.

Also, no group should heavily control members to the point of erasing their individuality, and all groups need to be flexible enough to allow individuality that does not harm the group or other members. Using shame and guilt to force continued membership or to kill the spirit of the individual are forms of slavery.

Unfortunately, most such groups often use emotional manipulation to force continued membership and to enforce rigid, archaic rules.

As negative as shame and guilt can be, they can have a positive impact on social groups when used sparingly and with love for the individual as well as the group.

I was always a writer but lived in a bookkeeper’s body before I found Medium and broke free — well, almost. Working to work less and write more.

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