Shame and Shamelessness
Shamelessness is a defining aspect of the most problematic kinds of narcissism. I’ve asserted this in several articles. (See, for example, Shameless and Guiltless Thinking.) But that begets a question: What about all those pop psychology books that said shame is such a horrible, toxic thing? Isn’t shame inherently bad? To be psychologically healthy, don’t we need to be free of any semblance of shame? And if shame is unequivocably a bad thing, then shamelessness ought to be a wonderful thing, right? But anyone who’s been on the receiving end of a shameless character’s behavior likely feels otherwise. So what’s the real deal with shame, anyway?
Shame can be certainly be a bad thing. And some shame is truly toxic. That’s especially true if it’s unwarranted and/or excessive. You can definitely have too much shame. But ironically, you can also have too little shame. And in our days of rampant character dysfunction, shamelessness is a much bigger problem than too much shame. The most severely disturbed characters among us are the most shameless.