Embarrassment is inevitable from time to time. For each of us situations arise for which we simply are unprepared. At times this is a matter of circumstances demanding more of us than we had anticipated. In other instances we cannot cope because we have expected too much of ourselves (or others have).
At times like these, it is natural for certain adaptive emotional and physiological reactions to occur. We experience these as embarrassment. The response of embarrassment is not a personal flaw. On the contrary, it is a socially oriented readjustment pattern that acts to reestablish more orderly, adequate behavior. In showing embarrassment, the flustered person (sometimes unwittingly) reveals his responsiveness to the discrepancy between expected and actual performance. This offers the blunderer a chance to get himself together while remaining in consensual accord with the rest of the group. At the same time, perceiving his reaction, his audience is in a position to help him to reestablish his earlier state of unselfconscious ease.
The others have the opportunity to respond by offering the reassuring acceptance of disarming themselves as being just as capable of making the same mistakes. This is what the contributors to this book have done for me. I feel less pained and alone in my embarrassment, standing among these other naked therapists. (pp. 247)