Shame, Pride and Dissociation: Estranged Bedfellows, Close Cousins and Some Implications for Psychotherapy with Relational Trauma Part I: Phenomenology and Conceptualization

Ken Benau


It has been previously observed, both clinically and in research, that shame and dissociation tend to co-occur in survivors of relational trauma, and that individually and combined contribute to negative consequences in both psychological and interpersonal functioning. Much less has been written about pride in this context, either as emotional process or traumatic state. In Part 1 of this two-part article, I explore both similarities and differences with respect to the phenomenology of pride and shame, on the one hand, and dissociation, on the other, in survivors of relational trauma. Specifically, I discuss three broad yet interrelated phenomena, “attention”, “gazing” and “organization of mind/body” as relate to pride, shame, and dissociation both as “process” and “structure”. Under “attention”, I explore both the direction and quality of attention as relates to pride, shame and dissociation. Within the category of “gazing”, I describe distinct qualities of gazing at self and others that differentially affect greater acceptance and integration as contrasted with greater rejection and disintegration within self and in relationship. The final section, “organization of mind/body”, explores different ways the mind/body connects versus disconnects aspects of experience. Part 1 closes with a discussion of how “being” is preserved in mind/body states, using the metaphor “shards of light”. Describing these phenomena offers us novel perspectives not only in understanding some interrelationships between pride, shame and dissociation, but also informs the clinical discussion that follows, in Part 2.


Shame; Pride; Dissociation; Structural Dissociation; Phenomenology; Trauma; Relational Trauma; Attention; Gazing, Self-states; Psychotherapy.

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