Shame! A System Psychodynamic Perspective

  • Michelle MayEmail author


The purpose of this chapter is to contribute to existing knowledge about shame, through using the systems psychodynamic perspective. Firstly I explore the definition of shame, by building on ideas that illustrate the unconscious dynamics of shame in the context of culture. Then follows an overview of systems psychodynamics, which has its theoretical underpinnings in psycho-analytic thinking based on the work of Freud, Klein’s object relations theory, Bion’s work on groups, Jaques’s and Menzies Lyth’s work on organisations as social defences and envious attacks, and open systems theory. A case study is presented to illustrate how systems psychodynamics can contribute to our understanding of shame dynamics operating at the intersection of culture and race (In this chapter race is used in accordance with the South African construction of groups based on their skin colour using apartheid and post-apartheid values.), and how this enhanced understanding can impact the work of practitioners.


Shame dynamics Object relations System Social systems as defence Envious attack Context of culture Positive psychology 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Industrial and Organisational PsychologyUniversity of South Africa (UNISA)PretoriaSouth Africa

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