Understanding The Mechanisms of Guilt & Shame
Shame & Guilt Are Among The Most Painful Human Emotions
No one wants unbidden reminders that we did something to disappoint ourselves or others. But while guilt and shame feel terrible, they are not always “bad emotions.”
Guilt and shame can lead to depression, anxiety, and paranoia, but they also nudge us to behave better or to avoid situations in the future that caused us pain. When we act in a way we are not proud of, the brain broadcasts a signal that prompts us to alter our conduct.
Studies suggest that guilt and shame serve an important, adaptive function important for human survival.
ScamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime - is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. Victims Shame & Guilt
Remember, while this article attempts to explain guilt and shame to help you understand what you are feeling, you have nothing to be ashamed of, nor feel guilty about. You are the victim of a crime and were expertly manipulated.
Guilt is aversive and—like shame, embarrassment, or pride—has been described as a self-conscious emotion, involving reflection on oneself. People may feel guilt for a variety of reasons, including acts they have committed (or think that they committed), a failure to do something they should have done, or thoughts that they think are morally wrong.
What Is Guilt?
When one causes harm to another, guilt is a natural emotional response. Guilt is self-focused but also highly socially relevant: It’s thought to serve important interpersonal functions by, for example, encouraging the repair of valuable relationships and discouraging acts that could damage them. But in excess, guilt may needlessly burden those who experience it.
Can Guilt Be Helpful?
Given how uncomfortable guilt can feel, it can provide a strong motivation to apologize, correct or make up for a wrong, and behave responsibly. Since doing so helps preserve social bonds and avoid harm to others, guilt, despite being a “negative” feeling, can sometimes be good. Research suggests that guilt-proneness may be related to empathy as well as trustworthiness.
Does Everyone Feel Guilt?
Not necessarily. The degree to which people feel guilt varies and those with certain personalities may experience relatively little (if any) guilt. A lack of guilt and remorse is one characteristic that experts have used to diagnose psychopathy.
What Is The Difference Between Guilt And Shame?
Shame and guilt are two closely related concepts. While each has been defined in different ways, guilt is typically linked to some specific harm, real or perceived, and shame involves negative feelings about one’s self more generally.
Are Some People Prone To Guilt And Shame?
Excessive guilt can be a feature of certain forms of mental illnessMental Illness Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors., including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The tendency to feel shame has also been associated with depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms. Factors such as social stigma related to one’s characteristics may also make shame more likely
How to Cope With Guilt
Feeling guilt after a misdeed is normal and can often be remedied by apologizing and taking steps to make up for whatever pain or offense has been caused. But many feel guilt that is out of proportion to the harm they have caused or even disconnected from any real harm. In such cases, it may be necessary to reflect on the reasons for one’s feelings of guilt—perhaps in conversation with a counselor or therapist, especially when an underlying mental healthMental health Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". According to WHO, mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health". condition may be involved.
Why Do I Feel Guilty About Everything?
Though pervasive feelings of guilt are not necessarily a sign of an underlying mental health condition, they can be. Widely used criteria include regular feelings of “excessive or inappropriate guilt” among the symptoms of major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, and guilt plays a role in other disorders as well. The guilt may be related to repeatedly thinking about minor failures or stemming from things that are not actually within a person’s control.
Can you feel guilty for something that isn’t your fault?
Yes. Someone may feel survivorSurvivor A Scam Survivor is a victim who has been able to fully accept the reality of their situation. That they were the victim of a crime and are not to blame. They are working on their emotional recovery and reduction of any trauma either on their own, through a qualified support organization, or through counseling or therapy. And has done their duty and reported the crime to their local police, national police, and on Anyscam.com guilt despite bearing no responsibility for circumstances that have harmed others. People with certain kinds of mental illness may feel unwarranted guilt as part of their condition—such as guilt for “bad” intrusive thoughtsIntrusive thoughts Intrusive thoughts can, without warning or desire, thoughts and memories associated with the trauma. These intrusive thoughts and memories can easily trigger strong emotional and behavioral reactions as if the trauma was recurring in the present. The intrusive thoughts and memories can come rapidly, referred to as flooding, and can be disruptive at the time of their occurrence., in the case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
What are some ways to feel less guilty?
When guilt stems from something you did to someone, apologizing and seeking to avoid repeating your behaviorBehavior Behavior / Behavioral Actions Otherwise known as habits, behavior or behavioral actions are strategies to help prevent online exploitation that target behavior, such as social engineering of victims. Changing your behavior is the ONLY effective means to reduce or prevent scams. is one clear way to respond and could help you achieve self-forgivenessForgiveness What Is Forgiveness? Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.. But sometimes guilt is unrelated to actual misbehavior or becomes counterproductive. Remedies for unnecessary guilt may include reflecting on factors that were beyond your control, acknowledging what you know now that you didn’t in the past, and considering whether your standards for yourself are too unforgiving.
Can Therapy Help With Guilt?
Yes. Given that guilt can be excessive or undeserved and that guilt can be an aspect of some mental health conditions, therapy can be helpful for addressing intense guilt. There are evidence-supported treatments for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions that involve pronounced feelings of guilt (though therapy may be helpful even in the absence of a diagnosed condition).
The experience of shame—a feeling of being unworthy, bad, or wrong—can be extremely uncomfortable. Shame has the potential to change the way we see ourselves and may lead to long-lasting social, professional, and sexual difficulties.
The word “shame” means different things to different people, though shame is different from guilt and embarrassment. Guilt is usually understood to involve negative feelings about an act one has committed, while embarrassment deals with a societal reaction. Shame, on the other hand, involves negative feelings about oneself, and although a person can be shamed by peers or society in general, shame can also be experienced secretly.
Unresolved shame can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Shame may also be a symptom of some mental health diagnoses, such as body dysmorphia, or the product of a traumatic experience, such as rape or sexual assault.
Living with shame, regardless of the shame’s source, can be a lonely and demoralizing experience. Therapy can help by addressing the underlying cause. When shame is due to a past misdeed, the right therapist can support a person to make amends or move on.
Shame: A Universal Emotion
Most research suggests that people from all cultures, environments and geographic regions experience shame. Research on facial expressions even suggests that expressions associated with shame and guilt are widely recognizable, even among people viewing images of those from vastly different cultures.
Cultural factors play a major role in how a person experiences shame and which experiences are likely to induce shame. For instance, in collectivist cultures, a person may experience shame due to someone else’s actions. A 1998 study found that, compared to American college students, Chinese college students experienced higher levels of shame when a sibling was caught cheating.
In many cultures, public shaming is used as a way to control or punish behavior. Fear of bringing shame to oneself or one’s family may play a role in people’s decision to obey the law, treat others fairly, or work hard. More recently, public shaming has moved online. Businesses may face an onslaught of negative comments in response to political or religious commentary. In 2015, a dentist received thousands of negative reviews, threats, and hostile comments on his social media after he killed a beloved lion.
Research consistently shows that shame can have catastrophic effects on mental health and behavior. Feelings of shame have been linked to suicidal actions and gestures. Shame may also deter people from seeking treatment for mental health issues or make it difficult to apologize for wrongdoing.
Where Does Shame Come From?
The experience of shame can be deeply unpleasant. People experiencing shame are struck by the overwhelming belief that they—as opposed to their actions or feelings—are bad. In some people, this may inspire a change in behavior. In others, shame can be paralyzing.
Shame has many sources. Sometimes a person is plagued by feelings of shame without a clear cause. This is more common among people with mental health diagnoses. Some studies have linked conditions such as depression or social anxiety to shame. Because mental health conditions remain stigmatized, a person experiencing shame due to a mental health condition may continually become more ashamed of themselves and their condition, exacerbating symptoms and making it difficult to seek help.
Some Other Common Causes Of Shame Include:
- Cultural norms. Many cultures stigmatize certain sexual interactions, such as homosexual sex or sex between unmarried people. People who transgress these cultural norms may feel shame. In collectivist cultures, some people experience shame when loved ones violate cultural or moral norms.
- Self-esteem issues. People with low self-esteem may struggle with feelings of shame even when they can point to no specific source of the shame.
- Religious conditioning. Many religions urge people to feel shame for violating religious prescriptions. Some use shame to “inspire” people to do better.
- TraumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. and abuse. People who experience trauma and abuse often experience shame. Childhood sexual abuse is a common cause of shame in adulthood, especially among adults who feel embarrassed about their abuse experiences. Some abusive families shame members who set clear boundaries or who call the abuse what it is. Gaslighting—attempting to convince someone that their perceptions are wrong—can lead to shame.
Research on frontotemporal dementia, which causes people to engage in socially inappropriate behavior, offers some insight into the brain origins of shame. The right pregenual anterior cingulate is damaged in this form of dementia. Other studies also suggest this brain region plays a role in embarrassment. So it’s possible that this brain region somehow plays a role in feelings of shame.
Though the terms “shame” and “guilt” are sometimes used interchangeably, most research on these emotions has found that they are distinct experiences. One study, for example, found that experiences of guilt and shame differed across numerous dimensions, including self-consciousness, self-control, inferiority, the expectation of punishment, and a person’s sense of alienation from others.
Although popular wisdom suggests that shame is more likely to happen with public transgressions, a 1996 study undermines this claim. Researchers asked 182 college students to describe experiences of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. They found that shame was no more common in public contexts than guilt. Moreover, students often reported feeling shame and guilt when they were alone.
Shame may last a brief time, or it may be a core experience of the self. For some people, feelings of shame may begin in childhood and continue well into adulthood. These people may be conscious of such feelings. Others may be unaware of their shame, and hide it under behaviors such as addiction, angerAnger Anger, also known as wrath or rage, is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, trigger, hurt or threat. About one-third of scam victims become trapped in anger for extended periods of time following a scam. A person experiencing anger will often experience physical effects, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Some view anger as an emotion that triggers a part of the fight or flight response. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically. Anger can have many physical and mental consequences. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them", psychologists point out that an angry person can very well be mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability., or narcissism. Some people respond to shame by engaging in self-harm.
Living With Shame
Living with shame can be painful and difficult, as it can prevent people from meeting core needs, such as the maintenance of self-esteem, hope for the future, friendship and intimacy, productivity, and love.
Studies of shame consistently find that this emotion can play a role in suicide. People who feel guilt may have the ability to take action to overcome their guilt. Embarrassment, likewise, is often a transient state. But shame fundamentally affects a person’s sense of self, potentially triggering or worsening suicidal thoughts.
Research published in 2017 found that college students see shame as a risk factor for suicide. More than 1,000 college students read a vignette in which a person felt either shame or guilt for a traumatic experience. Students who read the shame vignette were more likely to link the depicted trauma to thoughts of suicide.
What Is Shaming?
Shaming is an attempt to make another person feel ashamed. Shaming targets who a person is, not what they do. Telling a child they are bad is an act of shaming. Shaming also sometimes appeals to religious or social norms. Publicly airing a person’s misdeeds is usually an attempt to shame them.
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SCARS provides the leading Support & Recovery program for relationship scamRelationship Scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money! Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam? victims – completely FREE!
Our managed peer supportPeer support Peer support occurs when people provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other. It commonly refers to an initiative consisting of trained supporters and can take a number of forms such as peer mentoring, reflective listening (reflecting content and/or feelings), or in a support group. Peer support is also used to refer to initiatives where colleagues, members of self-help organizations and others meet, in person or online, to give each other connection and support on a reciprocal basis. Peer support is distinct from other forms of social support in that the source of support is a peer, a person who is similar in fundamental ways to the recipient of the support; their relationship is one of equality. A peer is in a position to offer support by virtue of relevant experience: he or she has "been there, done that" and can relate to others who are now in a similar situation. Trained peer support workers such as SCARS Volunteers receive special training and may be required to obtain Continuing Education Units, similar to clinical staff. Some other trained peer support workers may also be law-enforcement personnel and firefighters as well as emergency medical responders. groups allow victims to talk to other survivorsSurvivor A Scam Survivor is a victim who has been able to fully accept the reality of their situation. That they were the victim of a crime and are not to blame. They are working on their emotional recovery and reduction of any trauma either on their own, through a qualified support organization, or through counseling or therapy. And has done their duty and reported the crime to their local police, national police, and on Anyscam.com and recover in the most experienced environment possible, for as long as they need. Recovery takes as long as it takes – we put no limits on our support!
SCARS is the most trusted support & education provider in the world. Our team is certified in trauma-informedTrauma-Informed Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” A trauma-informed approach to care acknowledges that health care needs to have a complete picture of a patient’s life situation — past and present — in order to provide effective care services with a healing orientation. Adopting trauma-informed practices can potentially improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, and health outcomes. care, grief counselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health counseling., and so much more!
To apply to join our groups visit support.AgainstScams.org
We also offer separate support groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers. for family & friends too.
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SCARS Printed Books For Every Scam SurvivorSurvivor A Scam Survivor is a victim who has been able to fully accept the reality of their situation. That they were the victim of a crime and are not to blame. They are working on their emotional recovery and reduction of any trauma either on their own, through a qualified support organization, or through counseling or therapy. And has done their duty and reported the crime to their local police, national police, and on Anyscam.com From SCARS Publishing
Each is based on our SCARS Team’s 32 plus years of experience.
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SCARS GREEN BOOK
Self-Help Self-Paced Recovery Program Guide
LEARN HOW TO RECOVER ON YOUR OWN
This program is designed to help scam victims struggling to recover on their own and for those who want to understand the overall process. You can be using other resources, such as trauma counseling or therapy, qualified support groups, or completely independent – on your own!
The SCARS Steps program is a complete program and is provided for the purpose of helping scam victims to overcome this experience. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues and challenges that a victim may have and help guide them through their recovery. But each person is different and it is important to understand your own reasons for being vulnerable to being scammed.
After the trauma of being scammed, you need to take steps to recover and move on. This may be an alternative to counseling in the short term, but we still encourage you to seek out professional help & support. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues, challenges, defects, or problems that a victim may have in a generalized way.
The SCARS GREEN BOOK will help you recover from your scam offline and it will always be there when you need it!
SCARS SLATE BOOK – Let Us Explain What Happened!
A Guide For Families & Friends Of Scam Victims
HOW TO HELP ROMANCE SCAM VICTIMS FOR FAMILIES & FRIENDS OF SCAM VICTIMS
This SCARS Publishing book represents a complete guide to help the families and friends understand how these scamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime - is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. work and how to help the victim.
The SCARS Slate Book should be purchased by family and friends to better understand what happened to the victim and the traumatic impact on them. But it can also be shared by the victim so that they do not have to explain to family and friends about the scam. This publication is to help others to help Scam Victims to make it through this traumatic experience and recover.
Each person is different and it is important to understand how relationship scamsRelationship Scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money! Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam? work and why people are vulnerable; to being scammed, how they were lured in, then groomed and manipulated. This understanding is essential in helping them through the process of ending the scam and then on to recovery. The SCARS Slate Book will provide the information necessary to help support a victim through this process.
SCARS RED BOOK
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ORGANIZE YOUR INFORMATION TO MAKE THE REPORTING PROCESS SIMPLE!
Helps you get and stay organized. This publication is to help Scam Victims organize their crime information. Complete this information before reporting to the police then bring this book with you
Before or after reporting to the police the RED BOOK gives you a dedicated tool to record all the essential facts of this crime. The Victim, the Scammers, the Money, and your Police interactions. Everything that really matters can be easily recorded for your immediate use and for the future!
As we have seen, money recovery/repayment programs can become available years after the scam ends and you need to keep all the details of this crime in case it is needed. We have also seen scammers being extradited to the U.S. and other countries, this will help in the event you testify or give statements, Additionally, this helps you have your information ready to qualify for victims’ benefits, compensation, or aid.
The Official SCARS RED BOOK is your way of recording all the important facts of this crime so that you do not lose essential information, Complete the RED BOOK then put it away with the confidence that you will have it if or when it is needed.
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My thoughts as a victim, 6 months out.
You had me at Welcome to Hell!
This made me laugh at the thought of tv set to CSPAN!
First circle: yes, exactly total shock and confusion. What the hell happened to me?!
Second circle: I can see how this happens. After feeling so helpless and out of control, it feels good to feel in control and ‘on the other side’ even though that’s not really true for a long time.
Third circle: I understand this. What if it was real? Did I make a mistake? Is this the one in a trillion that’s actually not a scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. but the love of my life? Searching for confirmation.
Fourth circle, yes I want my money back but I accepted somehow right from the revelation that it was all a scamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime - is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. that I would likely never get it back. So I just told myself okay it is what it is. I will survive without it. If I get it back great. I say this now, not sure if my feelings will change.
Fifth circle: Of course I have felt rageRage Anger, also known as wrath or rage, is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, trigger, hurt or threat. About one-third of scam victims become trapped in anger for extended periods of time following a scam.
A person experiencing anger will often experience physical effects, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Some view anger as an emotion that triggers a part of the fight or flight response. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically.
Anger can have many physical and mental consequences. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them", psychologists point out that an angry person can very well be mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability. at times but for me it comes out in tears. I haven’t felt real rage yet. I say yet because I don’t know if it’s coming. I will resist it because it doesn’t serve me at all.
Sixth circle: I avoided this after tasting it when first coming out of my scam and ending up in the arms of the ‘hate’ Facebook groups before finding SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims.
Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS.. It’s nothing but misery and definitely the wrong road to take. In my opinion this would keep me in a perpetual cycle of useless negative energy that isn’t going to help me move forward. A massive backwards move.
Seventh circle: I have been here. I don’t want to ever feel that again. Total desperation and hopelessness. I’m grateful for my life, the good and bad.
Eight circle: I’m not sure what to think about this one. My family DID try to intervene about a month into the scam. I was already in. It was too late. I denied what they were trying to tell me. I believed the scammer more. What does this say about me? I ask myself this…am I just a bad person? Or was it that the manipulation and trust relationshipTrust Relationship What Is Trust In A Relationship? Trust is the faith you have in someone that they will always remain loyal to you, honest, reliable, or love you. To trust someone means that you can rely on them and are comfortable confiding in them because you feel safe with them. It is the building block for any relationship without which the foundation will always remain shaky. was already so strong I could not resist? That’s how it felt. During the relationship I would have left for Canada without even blinking an eye. I was dangerous to myself.
Ninth circle: I’m personally accept what happened. I know I’m vulnerable and I’m not forgetting that.
Escape: I’m clawing myself out and away, with the help of this group/SCARS.
I think the article was very thought provoking and interesting!