At the Healthline website is a description of "the Self-conscious emotions". Among them is Shame, described here:
"It is a highly negative and painful state that also disrupts ongoing behavior and causes confusion in thought and an inability to speak. The body of the shamed person seems to shrink, as if to disappear from the eye of the self or others. Because of the intensity of this emotional state, and the global attack on the self system, all that individuals can do when presented with such a state is to attempt to rid themselves of it. Its global nature, however, makes it very difficult to dissipate."
Merriam Webster's definition:
1. a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or improriety
2. the susceptibility to such emotion
3. a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute: ignominy
4. something that brings censure or reproach
Healthline goes on to discuss some of the dysfunctional things people will do to rid themselves of such an excruciating feeling.
Ultimately, I suppose this is the power that any given culture can wield: the collective blunt instrument of Shame.
Behind Shame is the specter of 'Loser'. Which has Shame at its core, in a tightening spiral. To be a Loser is to live in a permanent state of shame worthy only of the contempt of others and trapped inside one's own skin with it. Forever.
The tight bond between Shame and sexuality has always perplexed me. In some cultures, the entire worth and character of a man's life was judged by whether or not his daughter was 'virtuous'. Why? Why does the crime of rape have a charged connotation to it in comparison with a mugging? Why, in some cultures, are women who have been raped deemed ineligible for marriage, so that rape becomes an instrument of war, of ethnic cleansing (because she is eliminated from the gene pool)? Why did I hear a mother say, during the Kosovo War, that she'd rather her daughter be killed, then raped? And why, in Iraq, do we hear of families who refuse the return of their kidnapped daughters because "we don't know what 'they' might have done to them.?"
Somewhere along the line a collective agreement has been made that rape is in a special category which carries such unique and potent shame that the survivor must be relegated to a continuous state of humiliation. She may as well have died, because living in a continuous state of shame is worse than dying.
What's unspoken here is the role of the survivor's very people. If rape is the nail, cultural agreement that the victim is permanently shamed is the sledgehammer. Their agreement to assigning rape this value is what gives it its power: If there was no shame in being raped, a weapon of ethnic cleansing would be neutered. And a gesture of contempt rendered toothless (not that it would be any less undesirable to be raped, but the pain would be confined to the crime itself and not infected, exacerbated and extended by cultural environment).
I think well-meaning adults, rather than viewing True Self as a diamond in the rough to be shaped and polished over time, saw True Self as an animal to be caged, and broken. Shame and humiliation seemed like logical tools to use. The people we are 'not supposed to be' wear the garments of 'Loser'. The ultimate threat is being the archetypal Loser, a soul worthy only of a life of perpetual shame, cast out, beneath contempt.
Of course, we can withdraw our own consent to this agreement. What's hidden is that it's our own agreement that gives these Guardians their potency. Once neutralized, perhaps the pathway to True Self is open...