Patriarchy and Shame, Roy Cohn, Mentor to a President

Our relationship to shame is a bit like that of Goldilocks who found some porridge too hot, some porridge too cold and some porridge just right.  We can have too much shame, too little shame, or just the right amount of shame. 

Jenn Lawlor explains what healthy shame is as opposed to toxic shame.

What is the right kind of shame and the right amount of shame?  Healthy shame has to do with respect—for oneself and others.  When we break the circle or go over the line, we should acknowledge it.

Many men are reared in an atmosphere of unhealthy shame.  Patriarchy constructs itself on shame.  Shame plays a primary role in a patriarchal culture or view of the world.  At an early stage, it tells boys they should feel ashamed—if they demonstrate feelings, if they are overly sensitive, if they don’t play sports or engage in self-defense—certainly if they are gay. 

And at a later, adult stage, shame is used to beat up on others and not feel any regret or shame at doing so. 

The Washington Post reveals documents tracing Roy Cohn’s influence on the early career of the former occupant of the White House. CNN‘s Brian Todd reports.

Lack of shame can be very destructive.  Roy Cohn was a lawyer for McCarthy during the infamous Army/McCarthy hearings which I alluded to yesterday.  He was there when lawyer Welch accused McCarthy of having no “decency” or no shame. 

Cohn was Trump’s lawyer in 1973 when he was accused by the Justice Department of making false “no vacancy” statements to African Americans seeking apartments on his properties.  

Cohn became a mentor to Donald Trump.

Among other things, he introduced Donald to Roger Stone and Paul Manafort and Rupert Murdoch.  He instructed Donald that one should never admit that one is wrong.  Always deny.  Always go after one’s enemy.  Roger Stone summarized it this way: “Above all, attack, attack, attack–never defend.”

Review of a documentary on the life and work of New York power broker Roy Cohn. Deadline Hollywood.

Cohn was expelled from the legal profession by the New York State Supreme Court and died of AIDS in 1986.  But he lives on in the saga of his protégé.  While a man of very little shame, Cohn held very far-reaching influence.  One person who studied Cohn said that he had a “huge influence on Trump….I think Roy Cohn created a president from beyond the grave.”*

A person who is always attacking and never examining one’s own conduct, and rarely if ever looking inside is a person who has little shame.  If he or she has power, shamelessness is spread far and wide.  Like a virus.

*, p. 8.

See Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 51-57; 285-294.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Corruption; Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Ashwath Hegde

Queries for Contemplation

Do you recognize healthy shame and unhealthy shame and the dangers of no shame at all?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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8 thoughts on “Patriarchy and Shame, Roy Cohn, Mentor to a President”

  1. Avatar

    Some comments written about tears and broken hearts that may apply here –

    If we carry on our duties with a fully stitched up and closed heart, that is unfortunately what we become, ‘stitched up and closed off’, and hardened [no shame] so as not to ever be ‘broken again’. [There are those of that ilk that may never change in this lifetime and take those qualities to the grave with them.]

    We often shout and protest with great logic and reason to those with deaf ears and hardness of hearts. What will eventually change them, bring about a lasting change of heart, is their own tears. Those who support a culture of gun ownership leading to gun violence, will fall down in tears when those near and dear to them ‘fall’ to that same mindless and needless violence. Climate change induced natural disasters will open more hearts that were once closed as tears of loss open them up. A healthy heart, once healed, is still open and vulnerable. Tears, empathy, vulnerability, mercy, forgiveness, charity, gratitude, healing and service are contained in the ‘Sacred Heart’ and we should look for those qualities in ourselves as well. What other remedy is there for a ‘cold, hard, cruel world then?– BB.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Bill, your words, “A healthy heart, one healed, is still open and vulnerable.”
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  2. Avatar

    Byron Katie on YouTube: “I am not good enough”. Watch a male honestly struggle with not good enough feelings to get at their root…Hang in there as they continue on. No matter what your practice…good medicine!

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    In Jenn Lawlor’s video on healthy shame, I see the connections between healthy shame and how to navigate the landscape of making mistakes by learning through short term pain and long term pleasure. Acceptance of both pain and pleasure in learning from mistakes, can lead oneself to the emergence of becoming a more consciously aware, compassionate, forgiving and loving human being, which brings oneself joy.

    Humanity, generally when traversing the landscape of making mistakes, reacts out of fear when first encountering the pain of the emotional energy of shame. Rather than being short term, due to being religiously, culturally and pschlogically trained to reject these human sensations that arise when one makes mistakes, we often increase the suffering by becoming judgemental, critical, condemning, offensive and defensive.

    These reactions to the short term pain of shame, obstruct the potential of the long term gains to be claimed of learning through our mistakes. This increased suffering of unhealthy shame, then manifests as a neurotic complex of striving for and demanding perfection from self and others, in a world of human imperfections.

    Like it or not, mistakes are apart of the learning experience of the unfolding, evolving, emergence of converging with our true selves, as both human and divine in nature. We can choose to accept the short term pain of this for the long term gains that follow!

  4. Avatar

    Yes! In my comment yesterday, I suggested the interrelationship between shame and spiritual consciousness in our human evolution and human history as also discussed in today’s DM. It’s amazing to realize that our human souls and humanity are still evolving, and that we’re still integrating our Divine Nature with our evolving human natures. Fortunately, in spite of obvious evil, destructiveness, inequities, and suffering still existing in our modern world, even existential threats to our sacred Mother Earth and our species, our faith informs and strengthens us to believe and act in our daily unique sacred human lives from our True Heart Selves~Sacred Eternal Souls Present within, through, among us physically and non-physically in our sacred multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos of God’s ongoing co-Creation~Incarnation~Evolution of Loving Diverse Eternal Oneness….

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Yes, Damian.
      I think, we humans are young on the evolutionary time-line. When you say,
      ‘It’s amazing to realize that our human souls and humanity are still evolving,
      and that we’re still integrating our Divine Nature with our evolving human natures.”
      I ponder that we are not separate from the Divine in our becoming.
      We are co-creators.
      We are collaborators with the Divine.
      My hope is that we find a way through these deeply troubled times and our serious dysfunction
      to the Human that we are striving to become..
      Matthew’s wisdom in providing the Daily Meditation platform for us to bring our hearts and heads together,
      is brilliant, especially now. We need to wrestle with all that we are witnessing and
      being subjected to by choice or by proximity and the “news.”
      We need one another. We heard that loud and clear from Jen Lawlor in her video sharing today. We come to listen to each other, to interact with each other, to stretch our deep thinking and learn from one another’s wisdom and unique points of view. Our backgrounds are diverse, providing a broad strength spectrum.
      Thank you and all contributors, for putting yourselves out here.
      Your words provoke, create responses in those who read them.
      All who participate here, are doing a service of support for this group and those who come to read seeking a word of sanity, a word of hope!
      This group is a pool of creative, prophetic, transformative energy with Matthew’s guidance and rich leadership grounded in his lifetime of scholarly study and heartfelt reflection.
      We are truly blessed to have a voice here.

  5. Avatar

    Given that Cohn died of AIDS, I hazard a guess that he was actually filled with shame. As so well put in JM’s comment above, “Rather than being short term, due to being religiously, culturally and psychologically trained to reject these human sensations that arise when one makes mistakes, we often increase the suffering by becoming judgemental, critical, condemning, offensive and defensive.” As with so many who carry overwhelming burdens of shame, we can become bully types, and infect others so as to have a bulwark of ‘team members’ to hide behind the inner pain and wounded-ness that lies buried.

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