Selfless genes, altruism and trauma: Research and clinical implications

Music, Graham (2012) Selfless genes, altruism and trauma: Research and clinical implications. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 28 (2). pp. 154-171. ISSN Print ISSN: 0265-9883 Online ISSN: 1752-0118

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This paper examines human altruism and helpfulness and discusses how this can be theorized within psychoanalytic discourses. The importance and ‘naturalness’ of altruistic tendencies is described, and the effects of adverse experiences such as abuse and neglect on these capacities are examined. The paper integrates psychoanalytic thinking with neuroscience, attachment and developmental research and describes research which suggests that altruism and helpfulness are maybe more ‘normally’ present from an earlier age than might have been thought. It is argued that there are a range of ‘co-emerging’ capacities, such as empathy and understanding other minds, that lead to altruism and that in response to abuse and neglect such capacities often do not develop. Clinical example are used which describe patients who had suffered from adverse circumstances and who lacked empathy and altruistic tendencies, and some changes in them are illustrated.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Article first published online: 18 Apr 2012
Uncontrolled Keywords: Altruism, Trauma, Selfishness, Neuroscience, Attachment, Neglect, Helpfulness, Theory of Mind
Subjects: Emotions, Affective Psychology > Attachment/Affectional Bonds
Cognitive Processes, Theory of Mind > Theory of Mind
Human Psychological Processes > Biological Psychology
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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