Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions
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With the first unified theory of guilt, shame, and anxiety, this pioneering psychiatrist and critic of psychiatric diagnoses and drugs examines the causes and effects of psychological and emotional suffering from the perspective of biological evolution, child development, and mature adult decision-making. Drawing on evolution, neuroscience, and decades of clinical experience, Dr. Breggin analyzes what he calls our negative legacy emotions—the painful emotional heritage that encumbers all human beings. The author marshals evidence that we evolved as the most violent and yet most empathic creatures on Earth. Evolution dealt with this species-threatening conflict between our violence and our close-knit social life by building guilt, shame, and anxiety into our genes. These inhibiting emotions were needed prehistorically to control our self-assertiveness and aggression within intimate family and clan relationships.
Dr. Breggin shows how guilt, shame, and anxiety eventually became self-defeating and demoralizing legacies from our primitive past that no longer play any useful or positive role in mature adult life. He then guides the reader through the Three Steps to Emotional Freedom, starting with how to identify negative legacy emotions and then how to reject their control over us. Finally, he describes how to triumph over and transcend guilt, shame, and anxiety on the way to greater emotional freedom and a more rational, loving, and productive life.
capability he really had. Biologists and textbook authors Jon C. Herron and Scott Freeman estimate that “spoken language arose sometime between 3.3 million and 530,000 million years ago.”2 I have an intuition about dating the development of language. Our “controlled use of fire” dates back at least one million years.3 Fire required social cooperation to keep it alive from day to day. People surely gathered around it to stay warm and safe at night. When I imagine my fellow human beings huddled
disorders as originating in dysfunctional nurturing in childhood. Scientific studies of premature and normal-term infants show that “kangaroo care” with cuddling brings lasting improvements in the infant's physical, intellectual, and emotional health.4 We are born to be bathed in love and human connection, and, for our entire lives, our emotional well-being will depend upon the quality of our relationships with each other. The lives of chimpanzees further demonstrate the importance of early
charges up to focus on the danger. In a split second, you remember what to do. You carefully brake the car without swerving and bring it safely to a stop. Meanwhile, the deer meanders across the road a few feet ahead of your car. Instead, suppose you react with anxiety. Overcome with helplessness, you let your foot freeze on the accelerator, and you crash; or you overreact, slam on the brakes, and skid into a tree; or you panic, start screaming, and fail to do anything to prevent crashing into
or apathetic without enduring losses or harm at the hands of other people, often in childhood and again in adulthood. Getting in touch with our feelings is likely to require learning to trust people again. The three steps to emotional freedom begin with identifying our painful feelings. At the same time, promise yourself not to act on painful feelings as they arise inside you. That will make it safer to get beneath the numbness. Remind yourself that, no matter how bad you feel, these emotional
documents the chronic brain impairment (CBI) that all psychiatric drugs can cause over months and years with progressive loss of mental acuity and quality of life.1 My medical book Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2008), which laypersons can easily read, presents the most thorough analysis of how biopsychiatric interventions “work” by disabling the brain. It, too, presents scientific background for the views expressed in this book and the summary that follows. The evidence that