Mercredi 24 juillet 2019

Individual dimension of stigmatization

Social rejection induces overweight persons to lose confidence in themselves. In some cases, people have been brushed aside early in their life. This has led to major eating and identity disorders. The professional who is asked to treat people suffering from their weight and from their eating behavior must immediately deal with the individual consequences of stigmatization:

Shame and guilt

In our culture, eating is profoundly linked to guilt.
Being outside of the norms, facing reoccurring failures with diets, losing control due to deprivation, that is to say being in a cognitive restraint state, all this factors contribute to guilt. According to Serge Tisseron (1992), this guilt is a form of social integration because it takes into account the fact the being overweight is breaking the rules. Conversely, shame would be a form of non-integration, which creates a break in the person's continuity. His/her body image is affected.

"The individual is rendered completely powerless (he/she has no hold on anything and cannot control anything) which is in fact the mental translation of a collapse. This can affect any part of his narcissistic, sexual or social bonds investments,." (Tisseron. S. La honte. Psychanalyse d'un lien social (Shame. Psychoanalysis of the Social Bonds) Dunod, Paris, 1992, p.3)
This writer distinguishes between guilt, which can be confided in someone in order to be expiated, and shame, which cannot be expiated nor hidden, even from the individual, and is therefore difficult to reach. He considers guilt as an adaptation of shame as are resignation, ambition, denial, projection and projective identification.
He proposes to deal with shame using the:

  • affect (with the various feelings which can be interweaved with it);
  • actual perceptions that accompany it;
  • images or mnemonic traces in the shamed individual;
  • verbal representations he/she can give to him/herself or eventually to others;
  • action possibilities induced by shame that incite the person to remove himself from it or conversely to go even deeper into it.

But what exactly is shame ?

Shame appears each time the person is faced with someone who casts a doubt over the idea he/she has from him/herself. Vincent de Gaulejac (1996) mentions the feelings of illegitimacy, inferiority, public or private decline, and that which is left unsaid which restrains symbolization capacities and inhibition. (from Gaulejac V. Les sources de la honte, (i.e. The Sources of Shame) Descle de Brouwer, Paris, 1996).

For obese persons, shame is internalized. It becomes lasting and embeds itself into the psyche. Shame can start in childhood or adolescence and consolidates itself, invading the entire psyche.
It affects self-confidence and personality reconstruction. Shame is internalized by stages until it constitutes a "socio-psychic core". We are particularly vulnerable to shame at certain periods of development:

  • the mirror stage or narcissism,
  • the Oedipus stage or the confrontation with the forbidden and the symbolic order,
  • the end of the latency period or the discovery of the social world,
  • adolescence and sexual and social choices,
  • entrance into adulthood and the pursuit of a place in the society.

These phases are arbitrarily delimited since a continuum exists in one's development, which takes into account internal and external elements.
At each stage, the individual looks for a balance between a more or less grandiose and unattainable ego-ideal, and an ego-representation which is built in a negative manner. He/she is confronted with him/herself and with how others see him/her.
The submission to the look of the others is all the more internalized such that it corresponds to the norm currently in force.

Shame persists where humiliation ends, even, for example, in the case of weight loss.
It can be reactivated during each new situation of rejection and intensifies itself .

Self-esteem is called into question when others underestimate. A specific tension is developed due to self-denial which echoes what is perceived from the judgment of others. The nature of the suffering from this feeling of shame is linked to dignity.

It is at the crossroads of social and psyche.
It is made up of emotions, affects, fantasies, all linked to each other and to : rage, guilt, love, hatred, anger, aggressivity, fear, astonishment, etc. To any one who feels it, it is a particularly painful psychic suffering.
All aspects of one's existence are contaminated, as well as the entire identity in personal and social aspects.
It gives rise to pity or compassion, embarrassment or scorn from other people. Most often, it isolates him/her, since it is difficult to talk about and also to hear.
These phases are arbitrarily delimited since a continuum exists in one's development, which takes into account internal and external elements.
At each stage, the individual looks for a balance between a more or less grandiose and unattainable ego-ideal, and an ego-representation which is built in a negative manner. He/she is confronted with him/herself and with how others see him/her.
The submission to the look of the others is all the more internalized such that it corresponds to the norm currently in force.

Shame persists whereas humiliation has ended, even, for example, in the case of weight loss.
It can be reactivated during each new situation of rejection and potentiates itself .

Self-esteem is called into question when others underestimate. A specific tension is developed due to self-denial which echoes what is perceived from the judgment of others. The nature of the suffering from this feeling of shame is linked to dignity.

It is at the crossroads of social and psyche.
It is made up of emotions, affects, fantasies, linked to each other and to : rage, guilt, love, hatred, anger, aggressivity, fear, astonishment, etc.. To any one who feels it, it is a particularly painful psychic suffering.
All aspects of existence are contaminated, as well as the entire identity in personal and social aspects.
It gives rise to pity or compassion, embarrassment or scorn from other people. Most often, it isolates him/her, since it is difficult to talk about and also to hear.

Psychopathology of exclusion

The psychopathology of this exclusion is not specific. It is the same as all rejection and ostracism situations.
Pierre Mannoni talks about abdication and abdicable behaviors where the individual tends to withdrawal and stay in the background.
Self-esteem is failing. A confused feeling of shame is built upon situations of rejection (being starded at in public, jeers, or insults).
The feeling of guilt about being fat maintains itself and intensifies. It induces humiliating judgments that are often very paralyzing, inflicting real and lasting wounds. Some people struggle to overcome this system of false values whereas others, who go from failure to failure, shut themselves away and develop real social phobia that pushes them outside of any social contact.
This experienced violence can be turned back against oneself with acting-out behavior periods causing or being caused by addiction and eating disorders.
Self depreciation sometimes prevents the construction of social and love relationships.
This can lead to a form of mourning for oneself.

Stigmatization probably does not cause overweight and obesity, but it worsens it and maintains it in a vicious circle that is difficult to overcome and stabilize.
It takes eating behavior out of the social sphere, increases eater anxiety, blurs internal signals of hunger and satiety, and favors compensatory behaviors. In brief, stigmatization of obesity aggravates eating disorders and leads to weight gain!

  • Dernière mise à jour: 19/11/15 16:53
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