Objectification Leading To Self-Objectifying Feelings Of Shame :
Parents may objectify their children in various ways. For example, a parent may harbor a burning desire that his/her son or daughter become a famous musician or sportsperson to such a degree that this wish dominates the way in which s/he interacts with his/her child. As a result, the child may come to feel that s/he is being constantly judged and evaluated by his/her parent in relation to how well s/he is developing the requisite musical or sporting skills and how close s/he is to fulfilling his/her parents’ dream.
A child brought up in this manner is likely to feel objectified by his/her parents and, according to Broucek, this leads the child (unconsciously) to learn, increasingly over time, to have objective thoughts about him/herself.
In this way, states Broucek, the child gradually learns to self-objectify, and, whenever s/he fails to live up to his/her parents’ idealized expectations, s/he is liable to feel overwhelmed by a sense of shame.
Broucek is also of the view that such feelings of shame are exacerbated by a sense of ‘being perceived from the outside’ by the parents at the expense of receiving parental empathy in relation to his/her internal, emotional experiences.
Early Life Experiences :
Broucek further hypothesizes that this parental objectification of their offspring can also occur very early in life and that such objectification can be communicated to the very young child in extremely subtle, non-verbal ways such as by a mother’s facial expression/gaze.
For example, if a very young child frequently experiences gazes from his/her mother (or other primary carer) which do not reflect his/her inner mental experiences, i.e. the mother’s facial expression fails to match / mirror the child’s inner sense of self and his/her internal experiences (to read my previously published article about research relating to this, THE ‘STILL FACE’ EXPERIMENT, click here) then s/he will develop an increasing sense of not being responded to as his/her ‘true self’ but, instead, of being objectified by the mother (or other primary carer).
Notwithstanding this, Broucek accepts that some of the time the mother’s (or other primary caregiver’s) gaze will inevitably not reflect / mirror the young child’s inner mental state but that such ‘objectifying’ facial expressions / gazes need to be balanced with gazes / facial expressions that DO reflect the child’s subjective experiences.
If, though, the mother (or other primary caregiver) fails to strike such a balance but, instead, establishes a chronic and predominant pattern of refecting the child as an object (as opposed to as a subject), the child is at risk of developing deep feelings of shame in relation to the mother’s (or other primary caregiver’s) objectification of him/her.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help us to challenge our shame inducing thoughts though other forms of psychotherapy (such as psychodynamic psychotherapy) may be more appropriate for some individuals.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)