Psychology, Life, and Overcoming Negative Emotions

   At the age of eighteen as a Harvard college student, Dr. Breggin began working as a volunteer in a state mental hospital and was soon directing the Harvard-Radcliffe Mental Hospital Volunteer Program. This experience set the direction of the two thrusts of his ongoing work as a psychiatrist: critiquing the prevailing biological psychiatry and encouraging more positive person-centered and relationship-based therapies. From the beginning, he saw caring, thoughtful approaches as the best hope for helping people with emotional problems, including the most distressed and disturbed individuals.
   For several decades, Dr. Breggin has been developing a new approach to understanding and overcoming guilt, shame and anxiety, which he sees as the root of most of what becomes labeled “emotional problems” and “mental illness.” His most recent book, Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions, represents the culmination of this work in psychology. It presents a new biological evolutionary approach to understanding the origins of our most demoralizing emotions and how to overcome them. His earlier book, The Heart of Being Helpful, more specifically addresses how to help people as a therapist, friend or family member. These two books together present his most important experiences, studies and conclusions in regard to self-help and therapy.
   As a supplement to Dr. Breggin’s books, this section of Dr. Breggin’s papers provides an assortment of his scientific articles and book chapters. The next section is especially focused on his many papers examining psychiatric drugs, electroshock, psychosurgery, involuntary treatment and other problems in psychiatry.

Understanding and Overcoming Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety: Based on Theory of Negative Legacy Emotions (2015)

Chapter 5 of Promoting Psychological Well-Being in Children and Families. Edited by Bruce Kirkcaldy. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 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 […]

Read More

Biological evolution of guilt, shame and anxiety (2015)

Breggin, PR. (2015). The biological evolution of guilt, shame and anxiety: A new theory of negative legacy emotions. Medical Hypotheses 85, 17–24 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 […]

Read More

Understanding and Helping People with Hallucinations (2015)

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 […]

Read More

22 Guidelines for Counseling and Psychotherapy (2008)

Breggin, PR (2008). Practicle Applications: 22 Guidelines for Counseling and Psychotherapy. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 10, 43-57, 2008. This article describes 22 principles for the conduct of therapy or counseling, most of which are also applicable to all human relationships. The creation of a safe space and a caring, trustworthy relationship is essential to […]

Read More

Empathic self-transformation in therapy (2002)

Breggin, PR (2002). From Dimensions of Empathic Therapy, Springer Publishing Company, pp. 177-89. Empathy lies at the heart of being helpful to other human beings. However, empathy does not necessarily spring forth spontaneously from us in all situations or toward all of our patients and clients. Many clients will challenge our ability to understand and […]

Read More

Empowering social work in the era of biological psychiatry (2001)

Breggin, PR (2001). Empowering Social Work in the Era of Biological Psychiatry. [The annual Ephraim Lisansky lecture of the University of Maryland School of Social Work.] Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 3(3): 197-206. Although I am a psychiatrist, it seems to me that social work, along with counseling, embodies my own values as much as […]

Read More

Empathic self-transformation and love in individual and family therapy (1999)

Breggin, PR (1999). Empathic Self-Transformation and Love in Individual and Family Therapy The Humanistic Psychologist, 27(3), 267-282. ABSTRACT: Empathic self-transformation and a healing presence are key to successful therapy. Empathy, the willingness and ability to understand and care about the suffering of another person, requires a loving attitude. Love, in this context, is defined as […]

Read More

Psychotherapy in emotional crises without resort to psychiatric medication (1998)

Breggin, PR (1997). Psychotherapy in Emotional Crises without Resort to Psychiatric Medications. The Humanistic Psychologist 25(1), 2-14. ABSTRACT: Mental health professionals are being pressured to rely upon the medical model, including psychiatric diagnosis and medication. But there are many reasons not to tum to psychiatric drugs in emotional crises, including their impact on the brain […]

Read More