Projet Nudité

Bodyshame and Disgust - Essential Human Feelings

Mrs. Dr. Christine Pernlochner-Kügler is a philosopher and psychologist and her thesis comes from the field of the anthropological philosophy and philosophy of psychology. In april 2004, her thesis has been published: Körperscham und Ekel - wesentlich menschliche Gefühle (Bodyshame and Disgust - Essential Human Feelings). She wrote me an email with an abstract from a large part of her book, and I publish it here with her consent. The chapter division is by me [Victor van Dijk]. I have also put her motivation to the subject of her thesis on this webpage.

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Motivation

"From my training activity at the Training Center West for health occupations, TILAK (Tiroler Landeskrankenanstalten) Innsbruck, the question arose, how persons in medical profession could cope with feelings of shame and guilt, and how a healthy handling with these feelings could look like. According to experience, doctors and nurses are inclined to want to get rid of these feelings. The aim of the thesis was, to research if these feelings in principle could be "unlearned" or if the habit could be "broken", in other words, if people in medical professions could really "get rid of" these feelings, or if they constitute an essential function to humans. When shame and disgust belong to the essence of humanity, and when they have an important function, then would the wish to ignore, unlearn or repress these feelings be useless, even unwise."

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+Partial extract from the book by the author

+The origin and the universality of the feeling of shame

"In my book, I occupied myself extensively with the origin and universality of the feeling of shame. Sexuality and pair behavior are here rather important, but it can't be everything, while otherwise animals should shame themselves as well. To shame, there are neurological conditions in the prefrontal cortex, which - if this brain region becomes nonfunctional by illness or an accident - lead to it that humans lose all shame (also body shame), and by it become unable to behave in a social manner. Therefore, throughout there is a brain-organic disposition. To me, it seems important, that we are above all ashamed to those body parts which have to do with excretion and secretion, which therefore appear "dirty" to us. These things we hide to others. This hiding from "disgusting" body parts and functions is also universal."

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+Intelligence

"Beyond that, to the feeling of shame, a few things are necessary, having to do with intelligence: the ability for self reflection, self evaluation, the knowledge around social standards and conventions, the ability to differentiate between body and spirit (I feel firstly as something spiritual, to which a body belongs which is seen by others. I, as a spiritual being, can make me and my body to an object and evaluate them.) Animals do not have these abilities, therefore, they do not have the possibility to evaluating self reflexion, and neither to a feeling of shame."

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+An Audience to shame

"And very important in connection with this feeling of shame is also, that it only occurs, when I know, that I'm being seen by somebody. Without the "look of others", there is no feeling of shame. To that extent, it is of course highly dependent on the social part. What appears also very important to me, is that shame, also body shame, occurs above all to weakness, lack, dirt, and loss of status. The naked one feels himself mostly the "weaker one" in front of a clothed person, and therefore loses status. When the body is perceived as lacking or stained, it leads in addition to feelings of shame which give rise to the hiding of the parts which are perceived as stained. Because excremental organs and sexual organs have to do with excrements and secretions, they appear "dirty" to us, and therefore in a sense also stained, the reason why they had better be hidden. Weak are these body zones as well, while they are very sensitive, vulnerable, and in addition, also very important to the reproduction."

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+Sexuality and Shame

"That shame beyond that regulates the sexuality and the living together of humans, is definitely of central importance. Joachim Illies (Zoologie des Menschen. Entwurf einer Anthropologie. München (DTV) 1976) is also of opinion, that through the permanent mating time of humans, shame has the function as a regulator, so that sexuality becomes "more reduced", and doesn't take place everywhere and all the time. The origin of the feeling of shame I consider as a riping process. We have a disposition which enables this. Beyond that, to the development of the feeling of shame, people are necessary because we're only ashamed when we know we're being watched and evaluated by others. Because we humans are social creatures that need other humans in order to survive, and that we're beyond tat "intelligent", necessarily we also develop the feeling of shame."

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"Genauer ist das alles nachzulesen in meinem Buch". "More accurately, it can all be read in my book."

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