The most critical function of restorative practices is restoring and building relationships. Because informal and formal restorative processes foster the expression of affect or emotion, they also foster emotional bonds. The late Silvan S. Tomkins’s writings about psychology of affect (Tomkins, 1962, 1963, 1991) assert that human relationships are best and healthiest when there is free expression of affect or emotion— minimizing the negative, maximizing the positive, but allowing for free expression. Donald Nathanson, former director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute, added that it is through the mutual exchange of expressed affect that we build community, creating the emotional bonds that tie us all together (Nathanson, 1998). Restorative practices such as conferences and circles provide a safe environment for people to express and exchange emotion (Nathanson, 1998).
Tomkins identified nine distinct affects (Figure 4) to explain the expression of emotion in all humans. Most of the affects are defined by pairs of words that represent the least and the most intense expression of a particular affect. The six negative affects include anger-rage, fear-terror, distressanguish, disgust, dissmell (a word Tomkins coined to describe “turning up one’s nose” in a rejecting way) and kins, 1987). So an individual does not have to do something wrong to feel shame. The individual just has to experience something that interrupts interest-excitement or enjoyment-joy (Nathanson, 1997a). This understanding of shame provides a critical explanation for why victims of crime often feel a strong sense of shame, even though it was the offender who committed the “shameful” act (Angel, 2005).
Nathanson (1992) has developed the Compass of Shame (Figure 5) to illustrate the various ways that human beings react when they feel shame. The four poles of the compass of shame and behaviors associated with them are:
• Withdrawal—isolating oneself, running and hiding
• Attack self—self put-down, masochism • Avoidance—denial, abusing drugs, distraction through thrill seeking
• Attack others—turning the tables, lashing out verbally or physically, blaming others
Nathanson says that the attack other response to shame is responsible for the proliferation of violence in modern life. Usually people who have adequate self-esteem readily move beyond their feelings of shame. Nonetheless we all react to shame, in varying degrees, in the ways described by the Compass. Restorative practices, by their very nature, provide an opportunity for us to express our shame, along with other emotions, and in doing so reduce their intensity. In restorative conferences, for example, people routinely move from negative affects through the neutral affect to positive affects (Nathanson, 1998).