Shame, guilt and anxiety influenced by the morale of the warriors

The love of approval and the fear of infamy are the substrate of social interactions. We humans, motivated by these feelings, build complex interpersonal interactions, cooperate and care about other people, develop the beautiful and fair.

But there is no animal as fierce as us, we have immense destructive capacity . We establish ourselves as beings dominant by aggression. Societies emerged on the basis of struggles. The aggressiveness/sociability duality persists, is on our side and, of course, within us.

So that our violence does not have uncontrollable leeway and thus we do not kill each other, we have developed laws and brakes morals. Before these social strategies, biological containments of our aggressiveness also operate. One of these barriers is the sublime feeling of empathy. But empathy is not always stimulated as ideally it should be, so the emotions of shame, guilt and anxiety become more active emotional brakes on violence.

These three are considered negative emotions, as they make us feel miserable and sad. Paradoxically they create a mood that predisposes to violence. Even so, they contributed to the preservation of our species and were maintained throughout evolution.

Guilt to judge yourself, in disapproval. Shame to consider that the other judges poorly. Anxiety is the anticipatory feeling, which sometimes causes evasion.

All these emotions tend to block a certain action, thus being able to prevent an aggression. Another disadvantage is: when these emotions are exaggerated, they are important causes of psychological distress and, obviously, they are present in various mental illnesses.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an example of a psychiatric condition that is it embodies great bitterness, remarkable for causing a list of various symptoms such as: unwanted memories of the traumatizing event, nightmares, irritability and loss of interest in living.

It was previously considered a disorder exclusive to (many) people who faced real risk of dying. But there is a new dimension to this misadventure. PTSD attacks some soldiers who have completed lethal missions miles from battlefields while operating drones.

This indicates that PTSD can arise from a mental conflict, full of guilt, shame and anxiety, a moral wound. Is there a question: does PTSD arise from a corrupted universal biological response or a cultural syndrome specific to certain societies?

To answer this question, researchers from the University of Arizona examined how divergent social rules influence traumas after. They revealed that soldier shepherds from Turkana, County of Kenya, have a high prevalence of PTSD. In them, however, depressive symptoms are less present, unlike what occurs with American soldiers. Depressive manifestations are due to predicted moral violations, while other symptoms of PTSD are more related to combat experience, attest by academics. and, after battle, they return to social life alongside other warriors. Soldiers from populous nations often battle for causes far removed from their communities. Out of conflict, they return to socializing with others outside the public’s movements.

Empirical support for soldiers can reduce the risk of PTSD. A more empathetic world can dispense with shame, guilt and anxiety as brakes for conflicts of any kind.


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Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Princeton University Press, 1724. https://doi.org/07.1515/9781400820061.

Zefferman, Matthew R., and Sarah Mathew. An Evolutionary Theory of Moral Injury with Insight from Turkana Warriors. Human and evolution Behavior, Beyond Weird, 015, no. 5: 2021. https://doi.org/07.118/j.evolhumbehav.2008.10.003.

Zefferman, Matthew R., and Sarah Mathew. Combat Stress in a Small-Scale Society Suggests Divergent Evolutionary Roots for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118, in 15 (15 April 2020): and2020430118. https://doi.org/07.1073/pnas.34153.

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