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This presentation has been canceled due to the Coronavirus – Shame vs. Guilt, and the Problem of Morality

March 28 @ 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM

James Gilligan, M.D.

Shame vs. Guilt, and the Problem of Morality

Saturday March 28, 2020

9:00 am — Registration/Coffee
9:30 am — 12 pm — Presentation

location: The Red Lion Inn

For directions:



A psychoanalytic theory of the moral emotions, shame (vs. pride) and guilt (vs. innocence) will be presented, together with the opposite and antagonistic moral value systems and behavior patterns that they motivate—shame-ethics vs. guilt-ethics, and homicide vs. suicide.

Shame and guilt are as central among the motivations for behavior as love and hate are, because they are love and hate—except as directed toward the self, rather than toward others. Thus, pride is self-love, and shame is the absence of self-love; and guilt is self-hate, just as innocence is the absence of self-hate.

For a shame-ethic, the highest good is pride; and the worst evil is shame and humiliation. For a guilty-ethic, the worst evil is pride (the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins in the guilt-ethic of Christianity); and the highest good (which to the adherent of a shame-ethic is self-humiliation).

We only need moral commandments to order us to treat someone well when we do not do so spontaneously because we love the person. But shame inhibits love of others, and guilt inhibits self-love. So morality, far from solving the problem, exacerbates it. As Freud said, neurosis is the inhibition of the capacity for love. Thus morality and the moral emotions, can be recognized as the psychological causes of neurosis (and psychopathy). When you hear “morality” think “neurosis.” Mental and emotional health consist of the capacity to love both self and others, which transcends morality (and neurosis) and makes both unnecessary.


About the Presenter
James Gilligan, MD., is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Adjunct Professor of Law at New York University. From 1966 to 2000 he taught at the Harvard Medical School, where he headed the Institute of Law and Psychiatry and studied the causes and prevention of violence as Director of the Massachusetts Prison Mental Health Service. From 1999 to 2001 he was President of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy. He has served as a consultant on violent crime and punishment to President Clinton, Tony Blair, Kofi Annan, the World Health Organization, the World Court, the World Economic Forum, etc. In 2004 his violence-prevention experiment in San Francisco’s jails received a major national prize from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In 2017 his lecture at Yale’s Medical School on how dangerous (violence-inciting) President Trump has been, was expanded into a best-selling book with several co-authors, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.


Gilligan, James, (1975). “Beyond Morality: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Shame, Guilt and Love,” Chapter Eight in Moral Development and Behavior: Theory Research and Social Issues, edited by Thomas Lickona, N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, pp. 144-158.
Gilligan, James. (1997). Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, New York: Vintage Books.
Gilligan, James. (2001). Preventing Violence: An Agenda for the Coming Century, London and New York: Thames and Hudson.
Gilligan, James and Brandy, Lee. (2004). “Beyond the Prison Paradigm: From Provoking Violence to Preventing It by Creating ‘Anti-Prisons’ (Residential Colleges and Therapeutic Communities),” Annals, of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1036: 300-324.
Gilligan, James, (2015). “A Modest Proposal to Universalize the Insanity Defense and Replace Prisons and Punishment with Treatment and Education,” Int. J. Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 12(2): 134-142.


Learning Objectives
After attending this intermediate-level program, participants will be able:

1. To understand the opposite effects of shame versus guilt in both normal and pathological behavior.

2. To recognize and understand the fact that there are two moralities, not one, and that they are opposite and antagonistic to one another.

3. To understand how both moral emotions, and the moral value systems they motivate, are also the main psychological causes of psychopathology.

Sponsorship and
Continuing Education                                                                                                       

2.5 CE credits are available to psychologists and psychoanalysts, and 2.5 CE credits will be provided for social workers and LMHCs.

Division 39 is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Division 39 maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Division 39 is committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in its continuing education activities. Division 39 is also committed to conducting all activities in conformity with the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles for Psychologists. Participants are asked to be aware of the need for privacy and confidentiality throughout the program. If program content becomes stressful, participants are encouraged to process these feelings during the discussion periods. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address questions, concerns or any complaints to Jyoti Swaminathan, Psy.D. (518) 461-2081.

WMAAPP is the local chapter of Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) of the American Psychological Association.
WMAAPP is committed to following APA ethical guidelines.

WMAAPP brochure Gilligan 3-28-20


March 28
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Event Category:


The Red Lion Inn
30 Main Street
Stockbridge, MA 01262 United States
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