Saturday, November 15, 2008

What about what we want?

From br tom's scatter:

"According to [Silvan S.] Tomkins, natural selection has favored distinct classes of affect for the preservation of life and for people. Tomkins argues that the "human being is equipped with innate affective responses which bias him to want to remain alive and to resist death, to want sexual experiences, to want to experience novelty and to resist boredom, to want to communicate, to be close to and in contact with others of his species and to resist the experience of head and face lowered in shame."Kaufman and Raphael, Coming Out of Shame: Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives, 1996. 26 "

From wiki:
"Disagreements among theorists persist today over Tomkins’ firm insistence that there were nine and only nine affects, biologically based. The basic six are: interest-excitement, enjoyment-joy, surprise-startle, distress-anguish, anger-rage, and fear-terror. Tomkins always described the first six, and one that “evolved later” (shame-humiliation) in pairs."

I find it both odd and jarring that there exists a theory of natural selection based on "classes of affect for the preservation of life and for people" and that shame would be included as an innate bias. Shame - humiliation strike me more as gifts to ourselves, from man from our fellow man -- and i have never seen shame as good for much other than as a powerful tool to beat down the weaker, younger, oppressed, victimized, or those who in any other manner are not the "status quo" but who may challenge it and so need to be squashed.

I have a close relationship with shame-- one monolithic shame which I accept and which is part of me. It ran (runs) my life and made (makes) my choices for a long time. It sprang from the words and deeds of others -- totally extraneous to me -- at least in the beginning. "They" did things for which I faulted myself; it was b/c of my failings, my badness, my status as less than that entitled them to take advantage and abuse me. I may not have started out as less than but that's what I became. I should say i am no longer less than and have moved beyond my past but it would be a lie. I hide my past by boxing it up, compartmentalizing, denial and learning to "say the right things." Still I fall prey with some frequency to my shame and don't know another way to be. Intellect to the contrary I know I played a role in and was responsible for my own abuses. My status as lessthan continues with self abuse once extraneous perpetrators are done and gone. I still think (or fear) there is something inherently bad and wrong with me but I would never view another in the same way.

Never would I blame any other child for their own abuse or their self-abuse. No other child is inherently bad or deserving of abuse. But me? I am less than, not entitled to or capable of treating or viewing myself with any empathy or understanding. This is my gift of shame for which I can thank mostly my parents.

Of course we want to live (or most of us want to live most of the time, anyway) -- and I guess I can see that bias for sexual experience would be included as innate at least for procreation but it must also be for intimacy; otherwise those who are not hetero or who do not want or cannot conceive would have no bias for sexual experience. An innate bias to be close, to communicate and in contact ... this is what i hunger for. This is something that can come only from interaction with people ... to be close, to communicate, to "be" in contact ... to be known.
And it is the shame I carry -- no matter how deeply and how hidden it is -- that pulls me away from these other "innate affective responses." For my shame I declined any choice in matters of sex -- I would have joined a convent to avoid voluntary sex except I figured I was already damned beyond hope for all I had done (or been done to me) and I knew avoiding sex was no reason to join a religious order though it was something i was very pulled to for what felt like right reasons. For the shame I hide and clothe myself in protective secrecy that allows only an illusion of closeness and contact. I am deep inside where no one can touch me. For the abuse I speak in circles and lie even to myself about what is real.
This is what i hunger for, something that can come only from interaction with people ... to be close, to communicate, to "be" in contact ... to be known. I try or I think I try or I try the best I know to communicate, to be close, to be in contact but i seem to not be getting it.

I do not see that shame has done me any favors. I do not see that it has any interest in my remaining alive -- quite the opposite. I have never seen any positive outcome of shame. Why then would shame be innate? What would be the biologocal basis? Is it instead the capacity of man to inflict and embrace shame and humiliation that is innate?
Why in the world would we have an innate capacity for something so numbing, so painful, so damaging to the human relation and connection that are the bases of the other innate biases?

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