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Paperback Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self (Revised) Book

ISBN: 0393311090

ISBN13: 9780393311099

Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self (Revised)

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Book Overview

Drawing on every theme of the modern life sciences, Donald Nathanson shows how nine basic affects--interest-excitement, enjoyment-joy, surprise-startle, fear-terror, distress-anguish, anger-rage, dissmell, disgust, and shame-humiliation--not only determine how we feel but shape our very sense of self. For too long those who explain emotional discomfort on the basis of lived experience and those who blame chemistry have been at loggerheads. As Dr...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A Forgotten 20th C Genius

I'm a former foreign correspondent who has traveled the world and experienced many cultures. This is a wonderful book about the relatively obscure, but revolutionary, work on affect by Silvan Tomkins. In my opinion, Tomkins new framing of behavioral psychology is as great a contribution to 20th century science as the works of Darwin, Freud and Jung. Anyone who reads this book will be transformed and gain greater insight into their own lives and the social dynamics of the world around them. Nathanson is a good writer and the book is a riveting read. I've given it to many people over the years, and recommend it highly!


This approach of combining natural, inborn affect, having been observed and studied in infants for decades, with the human developmental process with its resulting emotion is brilliant. I have often been baffled at the complete disregard for shame in the human experience. It is as though the whole world is too ashamed to acknowledge the truth of how they really feel about themselves or how they think they are perceived by others. And the reality of affect broadcasting! How could six billion people collectively, unconsciously choose to put their blinders on and ignore the underlying mechanics of the human experience for so long. How about the description of affect broadcasting? Finally, a beginning model of the personal-social experiences, a reasoning behind social mores and their enforcement! What a pleasure to acquire such useful understanding from a book. I spent years of my own life trying to put the pieces together, putting myself in shameful situation after another (such as the pursuit of mastery of difficult, seemingly unattainable skills and accomplishments, such as professional music performance at high levels and with special emphasis on my weakness as opposed to natural strengths in front of unsympathetic, self-absorbed and cruel audiences. Suffice to say, through years of discipline and tenacity I achieved some excellent skills and experience) trying to understand the Rosetta Stone behind the human experience. This book helped provide a few key pieces to the puzzle. I was riveted! It is a fairly easy read to boot!

A new paradigm

This book is based on the affect theory of Silvan Tomkins. I have read Tomkins' original works on affect theory. They are brilliant but somewhat remote and academic. Tomkins' view that affects supply the greatest part of our motivation is revolutionary (It is not your drive to survive that helps you to leap out of the way of the oncoming car, it is your fear affect). It leads to an entirely new way of understanding human behavior. Nathanson explains Tomkins' theories in a much more accessible way, but beware, this is another brilliant author who says more in a single sentence than most of us can squeeze into a paragraph. Hence, it can be dense reading. I have read the book three times, and I get more out of it every time I read it. Nathanson's focus is on shame and, for me, it was an eye-opening experience to realize how pervasive shame is in almost everything we do. Nathanson is an eloquent writer and a keen observer; he shows how shame and pride influence our lives in so many (often invisible) ways. Reading this book produced a major paradigm shift for me. I now feel that shame is the most under-appreciated emotion that anyone brings to therapy (I am a therapist). The stigma associated with shame is so great that therapists have glossed over it for years, choosing to focus on the issues that produce shame (such as Freud's focus on sexuality) rather than directly address the shameful feelings about the self that plague so many people who seek therapy. Why? Because we therapists are as vulnerable to those feelings as anyone else. And in order to help others with their feelings of shame, we have to be willing and able to access our own. This may well be the most important book to appear in the mental health field in decades. It deals with a topic that almost everyone would prefer to avoid. But if you read it, you are likely to be better able to manage your own shame and to help others with theirs.

Don't miss this incredible book!

The Editorial Review by the Library Journal has it totally wrong! Affect Psychology, as presented in this easy to read book, will open your mind to a new way of thinking about human emotions. The hardest emotion for the reader will be shame, and as shame is described it may interrupt your interest and excitement as you read. Press on! Once you really understand what he has to say, you will never again view your own or others emotions in the same way. This book's concepts are accessible, useable, and extremely applicable in today's crazy world.

Shame -- Now I understand!

Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self This is the most readable and cogent explanation of shame to those of us born and bred with that heritage, not knowing it was not the norm for sense of self and relationships. Excellent! I read it in 1992 and am rereading it and sharing it with those who live with the taint of shame.
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