Understanding and Overcoming Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety: Based on the Theory of Negative Legacy Emotions.
Peter R. Breggin
I have spent more than half a century as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist trying to understand human suffering. Why does every single one of us come out of childhood suffering from guilt and shame? Where does anxiety fit in? How much influence does bad parenting have in causing these emotions? How can we limit their painful impact on ourselves, our children, and those we seek to help?
Peter R. Breggin
Human beings are the most social and the most violent creatures on Earth. The combination of cooperation and aggression enabled us to dominate our ecosystem. However, the existence of violent impulses would have made it difficult or impossible for humans to live in close-knit families and clans without destroying each other. Nature’s answer was the development of guilt, shame and anxiety—internal emotional inhibitions or restraints specifically against aggressive self-assertion within the family and other close relationships.
The theory of negative legacy emotions proposes the first unitary concept for the biopsychosocial function of guilt, shame and anxiety, and seeks their origin in biological evolution and natural selection. Natural selection favored individuals with built-in emotional restraints that reduced conflicts within their family and tribal unit, optimizing their capacity to survive and reproduce within the protection of their small, intimate societies, while maintaining their capacity for violence against outsiders. Unfortunately, these negative legacy emotions are rudimentary and often ineffective in their psychosocial and developmental function. As a result, they produce many unintended untoward effects, including the frequent breakdown of restraints in the family and the uninhibited unleashing of violence against outsiders.
Breggin, PR. (2015). Understanding and Helping People with Hallucinations Based on the Theory of Negative Legacy Emotions. The Humanistic Psychologist, 43: 70-87.
This article applies the new concept of negative legacy emotions to understanding and helping people suffering with psychosis and hallucinations. The theory of negative legacy emotions proposes that guilt, shame, and anxiety result from biological evolution, specifically to inhibit human self-assertion, willfulness, and aggression in personal and family relationships. Because human beings are so violent, the species would have destroyed itself if natural selection had not favored individual humans with inhibitory or restraining emotional reactions in personal relationships. Unfortunately, negative legacy emotions are crude responses that can worsen aggression and fail to provide adequate guidelines for ethical adult living.
The Utmost Discretion: How Presumed Prudence Leaves Children Susceptible to Electroshock. Children & Society, 28, (2014) pp. 231-241
Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, Simon Adam, Peter Breggin and Brenda A. LeFrançois
This article examines the controversial and largely publicly undocumented practice of administering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT or electroshock) to children who are undergoing psychiatric treatment. Conventional psychiatric beliefs and practices are challenged, along with a presentation of the history of scientific research which questions electroshock's 'effectiveness' and outlines its brain-damaging and incapacitating effects. As such, we provide counterarguments regarding the legitimacy of ECT as a treatment option, deconstructing the principle of presumed prudence in its use. Our analysis leads us to conclude that the 'principle of presumed prudence' should be eschewed in favour of the 'precautionary principle', in order to underscore and uphold the medical ethos 'to do no harm' and to ensure the application of children's rights within the psychiatric system. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and National Children's Bureau.
Peter R. Breggin, MD
Based on the author's extensive clinical, forensic and research experience, this article addresses the scientific and moral question of whether it is ever in the best interests of a child to be given a psychiatric drug. The focus is on the diagnosis Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and stimulant drugs, and on the diagnosis Bipolar Disorder and antipsychotic (neuroleptic) drugs. The conclusion is that we should work towards a prohibition against giving psychiatric drugs to children, and instead focus on safe and effective alternative ways of meeting the needs of children within their families, schools and society. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and National Children's Bureau.