For Tomkins, shame occurs when a child experiences the refusal of their attachment. When the child looks away because it feels that it’s been refused or rejected by its mother, that is the exemplary moment of shame.

In my own work, I argue that the feeling of the world withdrawing from you and therefore throwing you back on yourself could be described as shame, but that says nothing about the experience of it. The broken circuit could also involve anger, numbness, hunger, a desire to self-stimulate, a compulsion to repeat, the pleasure of a recognition, grief, and/or curiosity, and these wouldn’t merely be defenses against the impact of the pure feeling of shame, but actually different responses to being affectively cut off.

-Lauren Berlant