July 7, 2015

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 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.