BEWARE OF THE PEOPLE WHO CAN’T BE EMBARRASSED

Outpouring of grief at public places is common these days. “The motley denizens of reality television regularly put themselves into questionable and embarrassing situations so that they can later discuss, for our viewing enjoyment, how questionable and embarrassing their conduct was.” Why does the public display of affection or sorrow not embarrass some people? One of the reasons is our “vicariously experiencing so much manufactured embarrassment on the screen.”. Public mourning metamorphosing into ‘recreational grief’ is a common phenomenon. An expression similar in spirit to ‘recreational grief’ is ‘conspicuous compassion’. Even for flimsy reasons, silences are observed. Like other inflations, ‘compassion inflation’ is spreading its tentacles. As one commentator observed, “We live in a post-emotional age, one characterised by crocodile tears and manufactured emotion.” Such public outpourings show that society has become more selfish, and only cares to project ego. Caring. is becoming more and more of ‘ostentatious caring’. Embarrassment is dying. Our eagerness to broadcast our individuality is getting self-endorsement. The most worrying thing is that we have begun to “reject embarrassment as if it were some fusty trapping of a bygone age.” Can society afford the death of embarrassment? Embarrassment is one of our important social emotions. Embarrassment evolved to maintain social order. Embarrassment is a marker of normal humanity. It is a kind of barometer for a society's notions of civility. When we ignore these social niceties we risk not only embarrassing ourselves, but also sowing doubt in others about our social standing. By expressing embarrassment we reinforce our commitment to group norms. The subtle signals of embarrassment are a sign of respect for others, our appreciation of their views, and our commitment to the moral and social order. Another observation of the researchers is that shy people with high levels of empathy (the ability to imagine how others may be feeling) feel more easily embarrassed. When you admit to embarrassment, you show that the incident is not shameful. It shows that the embarrassing incident was nothing more than a brief lapse. A person who is not embarrassed is the one in whom empathy is missing. He can’t see his inadequacies. And the people who are unwilling to express embarrassment mark themselves as socially suspect. For obvious reasons, beware the person who can’t be embarrassed.

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© 2017 by Dr Purnendu Ghosh