Good Reasons for Bad Feelings Book Summary By Randolph M. Nesse

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In Good Reasons for Bad Feelings (2018), author Dr.

Randolph Nesse offers a compelling description of the link between evolution and mental health.

This book bridges the gap between evolutionary biology and psychiatry by providing readers with insight into why we have various kinds of feelings, ranging from a typical mood to more intense emotions.


Nesse explores how our evolved brain systems influence our development as thinking, feeling humans through an examination of human evolution.

He then explains how this knowledge can be used to inform treatment when it comes to mental health disorders.

With this revolutionary approach, Good Reasons for Bad Feelings strives to understand where our feelings originate and aid us in understanding ourselves better.

Good Reasons for Bad Feelings Book

Book Name: Good Reasons for Bad Feelings (Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry)

Author(s): Randolph M. Nesse

Rating: 4.1/5

Reading Time: 28 Minutes

Categories: Psychology

Author Bio

Good Reasons for Bad Feelings is written by Randolph M.

Nesse, MD, a pioneer in the field of evolutionary medicine.

He has made major contributions to research in this area and is widely respected as an expert in his field.

Nesse was one of the authors of the seminal book Why We Get Sick and he's also the founding director of the Center for Evolution and Medicine at the University of Arizona, a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and president of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.

He is an adept author who brings his immense knowledge to bear on this book to help us understand why our feelings can be both good and bad.

A Deeper Understanding Of The Reasons Behind Our Emotional Responses And Dysfunctions

Emotional Responses

Good Reasons for Bad Feelings by Randolph M.

Nesse provides readers with a fresh perspective on the timeless question of why we feel the way we do.

In his book, Nesse explains why our species is still dealing with so many dysfunctions and messy emotions – and it all has to do with evolution.

Through scientific research and evidence, Nesse argues that there are plenty of legitimate reasons for the uncomfortable feelings we experience every day.

Rather than think of them as simply an annoyance or something that holds us back, Nesse encourages us to reframe things in terms of how these systems have been beneficial to us as a species over time.

He takes a deep dive into topics such as jealousy, sexual satisfaction, and drug-seeking behaviours to explain how they can be seen in a different light when viewed from an evolutionary standpoint.

By understanding the reasons behind our emotions, it helps us feel better about ourselves and gain insight into how our ancestors have shaped our modern-day lives.

Natural Selection Limits The Possibilities For Human Evolution

Natural selection has been responsible for giving us many advantages over the years, such as opposable thumbs and sensitive vocal cords.

When married with our evolved brains, these traits enable us to create and express incredible things.

But, at the same time, they’ve also made us vulnerable to many physical and mental ill-health conditions that we struggle against today.

This is because our environments have changed with us and ushered in certain threats that our bodies weren’t prepared for.

Things like processed food filled with sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats – once rare items – are now commonplace.

Our bodies didn’t evolve with moderation in mind, so this sudden abundance has led to health issues like obesity, heart disease and even eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Regrettably, natural selection likely won’t help improve the situation; it doesn’t care about health or longevity but only emphasizes traits for chances of reproduction.

This means that seeking immunity from diseases brought about by our current volatile environment falls on humanity’s shoulders alone.

In order to continue advancing towards a healthier future, we must be aware of both the beneficial qualities natural selection has given us (like increased sensory awareness) as well as its downsides (like putting pleasure before security).

Only then can we make wise decisions to reduce risks while using what evolution has bestowed upon us to chart our course forward.

Feeling Unwanted Emotions Can Serve Important Purposes In Our Lives

Our emotions don’t only help us stay alive; they also play a major role in helping us continue our species.

Evolutionary science teaches us that we have emotions because they help increase the chance of passing on our genes.

It’s not just humans either; this is true for many animal species.

Take romantic jealousy, for instance: research between 1976 and 2005 showed that 34% of female murder victims in the US were killed by their romantic partners.

Jealousy might seem like an irrational emotion, but it serves a purpose – increasing the chances that your own genes are passed down.

The same can be said of other seemingly negative emotions like anxiety and sadness – they exist to warn us against loss or potential danger, and make sure that we remain safe.

Positive feelings like enthusiasm or joy can guide us to recognize a good opportunity, whereas feelings of fear allow us to avoid dangerous situations and protect our personal safety.

In short, improving our understanding of how our emotions fit into evolution will help doctors provide better care for their patients dealing with imbalance.

Doctors should acknowledge the importance of these emotions in helping people survive and pass on their genes, rather than treating them simply as something to be suppressed.

Understanding The Evolutionary Purpose Of Anxiety Can Help Us Cope


When we experience anxiety and random panic attacks, it can be difficult to understand why they occur.

However, it is important to take a closer look into why these feelings exist in order to better handle them.

Anxiety is an evolutionary trait which has been passed down for generations.

It helps us become aware of potential dangers in our environment and reacts accordingly to keep us safe.

This is despite the fact that the feeling of anxiety can sometimes be triggered by a false alarm or by a threat that doesn’t really exist.

However, understanding why anxiety and panic attacks appear in response to certain situations can actually be helpful in treating them.

Knowing that reactions such as shallow breathing, rapid heart beat etc are part of an internal warning system can help us recognize it for what it is – something trying to protect us – instead of something that needs to be avoided oroccur’s when there isn’t any danger.

Additionally, medications like antidepressants can be useful too since they reduce symptoms while allowing individuals to live free from panic attacks over time which allows their bodies and minds recognize the environment as safe again even after they’ve ceased taking the medication.

So although anxiety and panic attacks may seem irrational or out of control at first glance, having an evolutionary understanding of them can provide insight on how best to cope with these emotions.

Why Our Moods Matter: How Low Moods Can Lead To Clinical Depression

Depression, which can leave us feeling low and demoralized, is a symptom of a dysfunction in the regulation of mood.

In today’s increasingly complex society, it can be difficult to determine when a bad mood has crossed over into depression.

To understand why we experience different types of moods it’s important to look back to our hunter-gatherer days.

In those times our emotions served an important purpose – they indicated when we had gathered enough resources and needed to move onto another task.

A change in our mood would inform us how intensely we should act in any given situation for the best results and even tell us when it was time to stop and move on if something was too much effort.

So when you find yourself facing a lower than usual mood in your life today, it could be telling you that you need to leave a situation that isn’t meeting your needs or simply that it’s time for a change of plans or pace.

Trying to push on in spite of this can lead to longer lasting depression if what you’re trying isn’t working out as hoped.

The Evolutionary Purpose Of Mood Regulation And How Cognitive Therapy Can Help Treat Depression

Depression is a complicated issue, and it can be difficult to track down its root cause.

As such, some doctors treat the symptoms as individual diseases through a practice known as VSAD – Viewing Symptoms as Diseases.

This approach of treating the symptoms without addressing the root problem isn’t ideal.

Fortunately, understanding an evolutionary perspective on depression can help us identify the source of our problems instead of just focusing on the symptoms.

Our mood regulation system has been in place for millions of years to help us deal with the circumstances of our lives, and we must take into account three factors that influence it: our environment, how we relate to it and how our brains are functioning.

Thus, preparing ourselves to truly understand and treat depression begins by looking within and acknowledging personal problems which can lead us out of distressful moods instead of simply attributing them to a chemical imbalance or inherited family trait.

Cognitive therapy can also be useful in treating depression as it works towards helping people gain a different perspective on their lives so that they may make progress in overcoming their struggles once again.

An evolutionary approach helps us move away from seeing moods simply as symptomatic diseases that are unrelated to reality; rather understanding these emotions opens up avenues towards tackling its real causes for a durable solution with sustainable benefits in tackling chronic mental health issues.

Creating A Method To Identify The Causes Of Depression: Introducing The Social Acronym


Psychiatrists widely agree that emotional states are often caused by external factors, such as social resources, occupation, children, income and abilities, health and other personal resources, love and sexual intimacy.

While these factors may be easy to identify on paper, in real life the individual’s story is always unique.

That is why it is essential for psychiatrists to take a more personalized and individualized approach when treating a patient with depression or any mood disorder.

Rather than relying solely on nomothetic explanations (generalizing trends across a large population), they must also assess each patient’s individual circumstances in order to discover the true underlying cause(s) of their mood disorder.

At Natures Nutrition, we believe that with the right approach, we can create better understanding of patients’ mental health issues which will help medical professionals develop better treatments for mood disorders.

With a more holistic approach that takes into account all factors affecting an individual’s emotional state – including both idiographic and scientific explanations – psychiatry can be improved greatly.

The Unselfish Nature Of Altruism: Exploring The Theories Of Kin Selection And Social Selection

Kin selection and social selection may help us understand how we evolved to be selfless and altruistic.

Kin selection was proposed by British biologist William Hamilton in 1964, and it refers to our genetic connections with other humans; sharing food with your relatives, for example, makes sense from an evolutionary perspective because a part of the genetic code is shared.

This idea explains why members of the same species will work together cooperatively for the benefit of the group.

Social selection looks specifically at how different traits might be favored when choosing a mate.

The biologist Mary-Jane West-Eberhard suggested that individuals would look for partners who demonstrate unselfish behaviors like altruism, generosity and loyalty; over time these qualities become more common in the population.

Unselfishness, then, becomes a desirable trait that is passed down through generations, thus explaining some of our behavioral patterns today.

We Pay A Price For Our Capacity To Care About Others: Grief And Anxiety

Our natural desire and capacity to form deep and caring relationships come with both great rewards and difficult costs.

Not only do we worry about pleasing others so that our memories live on, but we can also end up torn between two different people when trying to make them both happy at the same time.

When facing these high-stakes decisions, social anxiety can rear its head in full force.

Moreover, when it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one, lamenting is an unavoidably painful yet also essential experience.

It allows us to reflect on past events and phases of our lives and gives us a more acute awareness of how to protect our other children from similar fates; it motivates us all collectively to remember the destructive power of driving while under the influence.

The grief felt by one family will undoubtedly be shared among many, leading to greater caution and care taken in future cases.

All in all, while we must accept that love is not all sunshine and butterflies, understanding the good reasons for bad feelings can help us appreciate how powerful emotions like grief bring communities together in solidarity during tragic times.

Why Unsatisfying Sex Is Surprisingly Common Despite Its Role In Reproduction


Many of us yearn for romantic partnerships that combine great physical chemistry with loyalty, kindness and financial success.

But what we don’t realize is that these desires can lead to perpetual dissatisfaction in our intimate relationships, even if they bring us the optimal genetic advantage for our offspring.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, a natural result of our evolutionary biology is that reproductive efficiency can come at the cost of sexual satisfaction.

While men are able to quickly reach orgasm and pass on their genes, women experience a delay in pleasure because ovulation requires certain conditions for successful pregnancy.

To counteract this difference, 25 percent of American women cannot reach an orgasm at all.

Our culture’s blinding obsession with flawless beauty only adds to this disappointment.

With unrealistic expectations filling magazines and movies everywhere we look, it’s easy to feel unworthy – which makes it difficult for many people to enjoy an honest connection with someone else without comparison or judgement.

Ultimately, nature has placed the priority of effective reproduction over sexual satisfaction – making intimacy between partners more than just a physical act but a thoughtful endeavor as well.

How Our Inability To Self-Regulate Is Undermining Our Health And Wellbeing

Our modern world has given us access to food and drugs that our hunter-gatherer ancestors could have never imagined.

But unfortunately, the weight-regulation mechanism we’ve inherited is unable to manage the abundance of both that we currently have access to.

Supermarkets are stocked with delicious foods from around the globe, and many are packaged in a way that makes them hard to resist.

We can’t help but eat more than what’s necessary and spend too much time on it.

This has resulted in obesity as well as serious eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.

Drugs present another problem; they provide extreme pleasure but no regulation system exists to tell us when enough is enough, leaving individuals open to addiction and other destructive behaviors.

We’re at odds with how our bodies were designed to handle overabundance of food and drugs – the result being dire in some cases.

By bringing together evolutionary biology and psychiatry, we can gain more insight into how these problems can be addressed.

Wrap Up

The final takeaway from Good Reasons for Bad Feelings by Dr.

Randolph Nesse is that evolutionary biology holds the key to understanding why we experience certain emotions and behaviors, even if those feelings are unpleasant.

By recognizing that our internal systems evolved in an effort to regulate us, we can gain insight into issues such as mood and eating disorders – rather than treating individual symptoms, it’s important to understand what the root cause of these dysfunctions might be.

By doing so, we can learn to understand and work towards rectifying those deeper issues in order to lead healthier lives.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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