Cover image for Guilt, shame, and anxiety : understanding and overcoming negative emotions
Guilt, shame, and anxiety : understanding and overcoming negative emotions
Breggin, Peter Roger, 1936-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, New York : Prometheus Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
317 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


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BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF531 .B735 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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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, which 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.

Author Notes

Peter R. Breggin, MD , has for many decades led successful efforts to reform the mental health field and to promote empathic therapies. His scientific work has provided the foundation for modern criticism of psychiatric drugs and diagnoses. He has authored dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books including the bestsellers Toxic Psychiatry (1991) and Talking Back to Prozac (1994, with Ginger Breggin) and more recently, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal (2013).

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This engrossing self-help guide from psychiatrist Breggin (Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal) relies on a speculative account of how human evolution still affects our emotional well-being today. Breggin's premise is that many emotional problems stem from the conflict between two central human impulses rooted in evolution: the need for intimacy and a propensity for aggression. He goes on to argue that the three titular emotions served early humans by bridging these two impulses, inhibiting the most incendiary emotions so that familial and societal relationships could survive. By this reasoning, those people with the highest capacity for self-restraining emotions were those who survived and passed on their genes. Breggin thus intends to help readers free themselves of these no longer necessary, negative "legacy" emotions. Criticizing the main run of self-help tomes as inconclusive, Breggin claims that it is indeed possible to willfully oust guilt, shame, and anxiety from our emotional repertoires. He proceeds to show how negative legacy emotions are exacerbated by developments in language and childhood trauma. Breggin conveys empathy and maintains a clear, conversational tone while spelling out his prescriptions for overriding destructive impulses in a variety of real-world situations. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

A Harvard-trained psychiatrist and former consultant to the National Institute of Mental Health, Breggin has published numerous peer-reviewed papers and books (the latter include The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Process, 1997), often presenting alternatives to drug therapy. In addition, he established the Center for the Study of Empathetic Therapy, Education, and Living to promote caring and effective therapy. Here he explores the biological and evolutionary nature of what he terms "negative legacy emotions" and describes a plan to overcome their crippling aspects. He has an easy-to-read writing style and conveys complex research findings in everyday language. A key strength of this volume is that Breggin makes his case by drawing on current research findings rather than by relying on anecdotal evidence. Accordingly, though it is essentially a self-help guide, the book will be useful in an academic setting as well as to lay readers. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. --Melissa Hawthorne, Texas A&M University-Commerce

Table of Contents

Stanley KrippnerPeter R. Breggin, MD
Forewordp. 9
Part 1 Understanding Negative Legacy Emotions
Introduction to Part 1p. 15
Chapter 1 The Most Violent and Most Loving Creature on Earthp. 17
Chapter 2 Our Human Legacy of Stone Age Emotionsp. 27
Chapter 3 Our Brains Are Made Up of Peoplep. 37
Chapter 4 The Social Carnivore Emerges from Africap. 45
Chapter 5 Instincts for Language, Morality, and Spiritualityp. 51
Chapter 6 We Are Born Helpless and Dependentp. 65
Chapter 7 Why None of Us Escape Emotionally Free from Childhoodp. 71
Chapter 8 Nature's Anger Managementp. 77
Chapter 9 When Abuse Overwhelms the Childp. 83
Chapter 10 Bullying, Domestic Violence, and Posttraumatic Stressp. 99
Chapter 11 Don't People Need Some Guilt and Shame?p. 107
Part 2 Achieving Emotional Freedom
Introduction to Part 2p. 121
Chapter 12 Taking the Three Steps to Emotional Freedomp. 123
Chapter 13 Identifying Feelings of Guilt, Shame, and Anxietyp. 131
Chapter 14 Recognizing Feelings of Anger and Emotional Numbnessp. 135
Chapter 15 Negative Things We Tell Ourselvesp. 137
Chapter 16 How Our Bodies Tell Us about Guilt, Shame, and Anxietyp. 141
Chapter 17 Rejecting Guilt and Self-Destructive Feelingsp. 155
Chapter 18 Overcoming Shame and Defensive Feelingsp. 163
Chapter 19 Conquering Anxiety and Helpless Feelingsp. 175
Chapter 20 Mastering Angerp. 185
Chapter 21 Breaking Out of Numbnessp. 193
Chapter 22 How to Run Our Minds and Livesp. 201
Chapter 23 Facing Real-Life Challengesp. 211
Part 3 Freedom to Love
Introduction to Part 3p. 219
Chapter 24 Love Is Joyful Awarenessp. 221
Chapter 25 Let's Talk about Sexp. 225
Chapter 26 Love Is Not the Same as Relationshipp. 227
Chapter 27 What to Do When Love Is Lostp. 233
Chapter 28 Guidelines for Maintaining a Loving Partnershipp. 237
Chapter 29 Empathic Self-Transformationp. 241
Chapter 30 Where to Turn When All Seems Lostp. 243
Chapter 31 Last Resorts That Seldom Work Outp. 251
Chapter 32 Love as Our Highest Purposep. 255
Appendix A About Psychiatry and Psychiatric Drugsp. 261
Appendix B Darwin Was No Darwinistp. 265
Afterword and Acknowledgmentsp. 271
Aboutp. 273
Notesp. 275
Bibliographyp. 287
Indexp. 299