An Evolutionary Approach to Shame-Based Self-Criticism, Self-Forgiveness, and Compassion

Paul Gilbert, Lydia Woodyatt

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Why does self-criticism arise and why might we get stuck in it? This chapter explores the physiological, social-cultural, and evolutionary theories that may help us to understand the experience of self-criticism. Experiences of stigma, shame, guilt, and self-criticism are embedded in innate potentials for human experience that are social. Motives for both competition and caring have evolved within humans. Competition motives shape our experiences of shame, humiliation, and self-criticism, while caring motives may shape our experiences of guilt, compassion, and empathy. Understanding these contrasting motivational underpinnings can help to tease apart the different facilitators and inhibitors of self-forgiveness. This chapter also explores self-compassion as a component of self-forgiveness and how this is a key resource for addressing unhelpful or hostile self-criticisms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of the Psychology of Self-Forgiveness
    EditorsLydia Woodyatt, Everett L Worthington, Michael Wenzel, Brandon J Griffin
    Place of PublicationSwitzerland
    Number of pages13
    ISBN (Electronic)9783319605739
    ISBN (Print)9783319605722
    Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2017


    • evolution
    • self-criticism
    • shame
    • guilt
    • humiliation
    • attachment
    • motivation


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