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The whole concept of human dignity is based on the assumption that all men are endowed with equal rights that are universal, inalienable and undividable merely by reason of being human.
We donâ€™t have to discuss that those rights are not always being respected. One look at our world proves that. Renowned Swiss psychoanalyst Dr Leon Wurmser stated â€˜Shame is the guardian of human dignity.â€™ It stands in close relationship with guilt. And both subjects have repeatedly been a theme in Supernatural.
Both, shame and guilt, are deeply personal if not selfish emotions. They circulate around the person whoâ€™s ashamed or feeling guilty. That person is in the centre of those emotions and the assumptions connected to it â€“ about what theyâ€™ve done wrong, what they need to make amends, how others might perceive them because of that, etc.
And, well, as Iâ€™ve discussed in other articles before, those questions are a part of the driving force of our characters. (If you like check out for instance "Torture and Survival of Dean Winchester" and "Sam and Dean - Guilty as Hell?")
Shame and guilt are primary social affects: they regulate privacy and public sphere, nearness and distance, belonging and debarment, adjustment and moral behaviour.
We have to draw a line, though, between shame and humiliation. The first is an emotion of the person whoâ€™s ashamed (or feeling guilty), the latter is forced upon a person by outer elements. And then it becomes a violation of human dignity and personal rights.
This violation has been forced upon Sam in that last scene, and I shudder at the thought. One could see it as an allegory to rape. Youâ€™d have to be deaf and blind to miss that. Intention of the writers?
If we look at that being that is Sam right now, a man operating on instinct level, unaware of social etiquette and quite clumsy at it, we could also look at an innocent creature forced to protect himself, like a child thrown in to the wilderness and only able to rely on his deepest instincts of survival. An animal would react in that way. Driven into a corner, even the mildest beast will try to defend itself.
Innocence destroyed. This Sam has not known the beauty and the terrors of having a soul. Within that train of thought he was a virgin. Not anymore. It disturbs me more than I believed possible.
If this is a war, then he has become a casualty of it. Unfortunately, there is no war where violations on this scale donâ€™t happen. Peopleâ€™s bodies are being invaded â€“ by weapons, by rape, by torture. The damage is unfathomable.
I think two variations of shame and guilt collide here in the characters of Sam and Dean â€“ there is â€˜intimacy-shameâ€™ thatâ€™s supposed to guard the borders of privacy and intimacy, the core of a person. This element takes care about how much of ourselves we want to share with others or may need to hide.
Shame appears when our physical or spiritual borders are injured. We might cause those injuries ourselves by exposing too much of our inner thoughts and being subjected to ridicule, for instance. Or we might become a victim of this shame passively â€“ when others disclose something intimate to us or subject us to physical force (as, for example, with torture or rape).
The other kind one could describe as moral shame or guilt, in terms of being in accordance with our conscience. Its task is to guard our moral integrity. The Latin word integritas means â€˜intactness, purity, honesty.â€™ So, this element strives to keep us true to ourselves. The point of reference are not social guidelines but personal values.
When we donâ€™t honour the values our conscience dictates, we will feel this kind of shame and guilt. When we remain in debt to those values we try to live by, we will feel ashamed and try to change that.
Sam needs to protect his intimacy. Dean his conscience. Alas, Dean violates Samâ€™s borders to act according to his inner moral compass.
This has also been a recurring theme throughout the showâ€™s so far six seasons. How do we act when we are convinced to do the right thing â€“ are we willing to force it upon another? Itâ€™s been done before. Dean sold his soul to get Sam back, thereby installing tremendous fear and guilt in Sam. Sam went for his plan with Ruby, thereby leaving Dean with issues of abandonment, self-doubts, and the like. John sold his soul to save Dean and trapped his son in serious guilt issues. I could go on.
At this point, Sam has been forced to take back this damaged soul by Dean. Dean has been forced to act this way by his inner sense of integrity. Thereâ€™s a lot of violence within those menâ€™s souls. I wonder how they still keep going and not give up when they see that all their efforts usually lead to destruction and pain.
I think it only works because there is still a lot of dignity and strength within them â€“ but they need to protect that from the assaults of the demonic and heavenly world.
Sam will probably not keep still when he is back in his body. He will know something is wrong with him, since restoring his soul with a barrier to keep back the tide means exactly that. He will feel that there is something else. He will know that having been in hell (which he probably will remember) means that he didnâ€™t get out unscathed. And, inquisitive as he has always been, he will go scratching at that wall.
It will in all likelihood leak anyhow. Thatâ€™s how the human psyche works â€“ when triggered by certain elements it leaks hints of memories. I expect nightmares. Perhaps hallucinations. Feelings of confusion he canâ€™t explain.
I feel so very much for these guys. Neither is saved now. Sam with his trauma that will surface sooner or later. Dean trapped in his mind knowing that he forced something upon his brother and didnâ€™t give him a chance to decide for himself.
All are marred. Beyond repair? I donâ€™t know, yet. Their relationships will never be the same. They will be caught in a battle for souls, it seems, with their own damaged. How do you survive? How do you keep loving the other after such an ordeal?
All, Sam, Dean, Bobby, the whole remaining family, are at a turning point. And I? My God â€“ I canâ€™t shed the shiver deep inside. I feel reminded of personal wounds that I had hoped to have overcome for good. But, even the resident therapists keeps learning â€“ you canâ€™t bury wounds forever or pretent they donâ€™t exist. You can only learn to live with them.
If this doesnâ€™t hold true for Sam and Dean Winchester, â€˜I never writ nor no man ever lovedâ€™ (to use the words of immortal Shakespeare for the umpteenth time). Their battle is only just beginning.