Shame is the feeling that one is defective or not enough. It is the belief that one is wrong. The underlying fear is being left behind, excluded, or abandoned. Unlike guilt, shame does not immediately feel better by acknowledging it. In fact acknowledging it can seem to confirm shame, and so denial and shame are rarely far apart. When shame is internalized, most actions in a relationship are driven in some way to avoid abandonment, or to speed up abandonment. The ongoing possibility of a relationship ending is almost intolerable.

Internalized shame is widely distributed in our culture. Control is the core defense against shame. With other elements present, shame is a strong contributor to coercive control, or primary aggression.