Guilt, Shame And Anxiety by Peter R. Breggin (book review).

December 30, 2014 | By | Reply More

Now here’s a book that you need this time of year. Peter Breggin’s book ‘Guilt, Shame And Anxiety’ stands by its sub-title ‘Understanding And Overcoming Negative Emotions’. Although its nearly a third of the book before he gets down to the nitty-gritty, what he is addressing is the effects of a poorly brought up childhood affecting the rest of your life and ultimately how it continues with how you affect your own children. This book is targeted at an American audience but some aspects should be familiar to dysfunctional parents across the world, although whether they would read a book such as this is debatable. The prime target is adult children bringing some understanding into any trauma they had when young and how it affects them today. I should point out that he doesn’t bog you down with jargon and isn’t a difficult read.


From the start of the book, Breggin is really putting things into context, showing human behaviour in the competitive sense and for protecting your own family from early to present man. When that gets broken up, then it can be disastrous. If a person has an anxious childhood then it can persist into adulthood. In short, we carry our fears permanently unless you can rationalise or beat them from overcoming you. The strongest one of these Breggin points out is neglect. A child has to feel wanted and loved if they are to develop well.

Just in case you think need a refresher, Breggin also includes a list of stress factors that is just short of abuse but can have an effect on children before exploring the more gross levels. When it comes to bullying from any source, no one is really safe. It did make me wonder how not all of us need some sort of therapy but that’s more a British thing.

The second part of the book explores guilt, shame and anxiety and reading this makes me wonder how come I’m so reasonably balanced despite being bullied at school. Mind you, remove the problem can help, too. A lot of what Breggin urges is to figure out for yourself what disturbs you on your own. His lists for the major things that might be affecting you are. If you have any problems in these three categories, then they are surely listed here. Purely from a fictional writer pov, understanding these problems here can also be a function for anyone creating characters who have such traumas. After all, some people look to fiction to see how characters can cope so adding the right knowledge to a character can be beneficial to all. Breggin firmly places fear and anxiety under the same category. For any of them, a life-changing experience can put such problems in a different light.

Breggin does side more with medical opinion on this side of the pond, even if he doesn’t exactly put it that way. That is, check for physiological problems first, mental problems second and only as a last resort any, if at all, medication. He clearly frowns at the popping a pill for any disorder because it can do more harm from side-effects than good which I firmly applaud. If no other message gets through from this book, I hope this is the one that sinks in as the last not first option.

The briefer third section places some emphasis on maintaining some love in your lives. Not so much the physical kind but in caring for others and getting reciprocated in return. I suspect this is still targeted more at his American audience and more to do with balancing out the opposite that he sees happening in his profession.

Although I doubt this book is for everyone, Breggin does make some good points for a balanced outlook and in understanding what makes you tick. If you’re feeling down then as a self-help book for earlier emotional problems then you might actually find it a useful read.

GF Willmetts

December 2014

(pub: Prometheus Books. 317 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $19.00 (US). $20.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-61614-149-3)

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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