Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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The Ring of Fire: Shame, Fame, and Rock 'n' Roll

Susan D. Raeburn
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 22 Number 1: Page 3 (March 2007)

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Abstract: A healthy sense of shame is a source of personal power¿it acknowledges that to be human is to be limited, provides humility, connects one with his or her core dependency needs, and allows people to ask for help when necessary. Toxic shame, on the other hand, becomes a core identity of worthlessness and a motivator of self-destructive and addictive behavior. Toxic shame is the byproduct of insecure attachments and shame-based family rules and systems and is transferred across generations unconsciously and procedurally via criticism, rejection, invalidation, verbal or physical abuse, and other forms of emotional abandonment. This paper describes key psychological processes associated with shame and explores how they may interact with the business of popular music for musicians, using the publicly described life of Johnny Cash as a clinical example. Based on the events depicted in the 2006 film Walk the Line and his autobiography, this case study of Johnny Cash explores clinically significant events in his childhood and adult life and explores how shame processes may have been implicated in those events and their outcomes. This paper provides a speculative clinical overview of both life-affirming, protective factors and destructive toxic-shame factors in his life as played out in his drug addiction and eventual recovery.

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