1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

Positive Psychology – studying what has gone right, rather than wrong in both individuals and societies October 5, 2010

I was pleased to learn about one interesting recent branch of Psychology, which does just he contrary to the common psychological studies and practices:  Positive psychologists seek “to find and nurture genius and talent”, and “to make normal life more fulfilling”, not simply to treat mental illness. By scientifically studying what has gone right, rather than wrong in both individuals and societies, Positive Psychology hopes to achieve a renaissance of sorts.

The purpose of Positive psychology was summed up in 2000 by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: “We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities.”. Yes, finally somebody got it!

As a born psychologist I of cause see the problems and illnesses of human beings and societies very well. But honestly, it’s getting so boring! Why can’t we all start learning how to enjoy the beauty of life and not to make our lives difficult for ourselves and for others?

According to positive psychologists, for most of its life mainstream psychology (sometimes also referred to as ‘psychology as usual’) has been concerned with the negative aspects of human life. There have been pockets of interest in topics such as creativity, optimism and wisdom, but these have not been united by any grand theory or a broad, overarching framework. This rather negative state of affairs was not the original intention of the first psychologists, but came about through a historical accident. Prior to the Second World War, psychology had three tasks, which were to: cure mental illness, improve normal lives and identify and nurture high talent. However, after the war the last two tasks somehow got lost, leaving the field to concentrate predominantly on the first one. How did that happen? Given that psychology as a science depends heavily on the funding of governmental bodies, it is not hard to guess what happened to the resources after World War II. Understandably, facing a human crisis on such an enormous scale, all available resources were poured into learning about and the treatment of psychological illness and psychopathology.

This is how psychology as a field learnt to operate within a disease model. This model has proven very useful. Martin Seligman highlights the victories of the disease model, which are, for example, that 14 previously incurable mental illnesses (such as depression, personality disorder, or anxiety attacks) can now be successfully treated. However, the costs of adopting this disease model included the negative view of psychologists as ‘victimologists’ and ‘pathologisers’, the failure to address the improvement of normal lives and the identification and nurturance of high talent. Just to illustrate, if you were to say to your friends that you were going to see a psychologist, what is the most likely response that you would get? ‘What’s wrong with you?’. How likely are you to hear something along the lines of: ‘Great! Are you planning to concentrate on self-improvement?’.

Many psychologists admit that we have little knowledge of what makes life worth living or of how normal people flourish under usual, rather than extreme, conditions. The Western world has long overgrown the rationale for an exclusively disease model of psychology.

Perhaps now is the time to readdress the balance by using psychology resources to learn about normal and flourishing lives, rather than lives that are in need of help. Perhaps now is the time to gather knowledge about strengths and talents, high achievement (in every sense of this word), the best ways and means of self-improvement, fulfilling work and relationships, and a great art of ordinary living carried out in every corner of the planet. This is the rationale behind the creation of positive psychology.

However, positive psychology is still nothing else but psychology, adopting the same scientific method. It simply studies different (and often far more interesting) topics and asks slightly different questions, such as ‘what works?’ rather than ‘what doesn’t?’ or ‘what is right with this person?’ rather than ‘what is wrong?’

The reason why I broke up with my psychology studies was exactly this one: I was fed up with learning what’s wrong with all of us. I prefered to know what’s right and I was obviously not alone!

What a truly positive development 🙂


(image by me)


16 Responses to “Positive Psychology – studying what has gone right, rather than wrong in both individuals and societies”

  1. axinia Says:

    in fact, this is exactly what made Sahaja yoga that atractive for me at that time (when i broke with psychology) – that it was looking into the best in people, and bringing this best on the surface, making a person to a flourishing flower…

  2. Triveni Says:

    It is so true. Even a normal person gets so frustrated when he/she just keeps seeing what is wrong with themselves or others or the world. It all gets too depressing. But once we start ignoring the negative and start looking and enjoying the positive energy, the joy is enormous. This is one of the main teaching I learnt from about Sahaja Yoga. 🙂

  3. Not truly “new”,Maslow had formulated his pyramid decades ago.
    Neither less, dividing into positive/negative, remains very questionable in psychology like in each other field.Perception of reality is inclusive!

  4. mahesh chendake Says:

    Last two days I was in work shop on patient’s safety and importance of check list in life where I learn two new things i e avoid blem culture and develop system culture where errors/risks can be identified and eliminated earlier rather than discarding person even he/she is a garbage and loop hole in team so you look forward positively not even in problem but in daily routine where,perfectness, effectiveness and efficiency expected and there is scope to identify human /mechanical errors and to overcome /eliminate it rather than just bleming on each other and avoiding once’s responsibility when anything goes wrong.
    and second bridging know – do gap through effective communication which can change total vision of a person towards others and my own work/responsibility. After that just one thought came in my mind,
    So once we understand importance of sahajayoga we have to follow it like check list along with avoiding blem culture and adapting system culture, even we do not forgot and follow principle laid by mother we will be more happy and close to mother or even enjoy in her heaven. what separate mother has told.? check list is nothing but the bring the person in balance and to look forward for positive /success!!! even of topic i feel to add as it relate with positive psychology.

    • mahesh chendake Says:

      Don’t do wrong , Don’t see wrong,don’t speak wrong !!!! but just check that any thing wrong is happening around me and how i can avoid this and to look forward to eliminate it’s repeated occurrence by studding route cause even it may be multi factorial or system failure or human error ,of course find and encourage and even learn positive stress free behavior which will change whole environment around me to trustworthy,happy,confident and will also report ‘concerns’ by just developing a code for risk concern so everybody will be aware and risk will eliminate and people can enjoy safety. rule is applicable to every action. even Nuton used to say why i should remember all numbers just refer the list and remain stress free, and even keep your brain free from any risk concern of forgetfulness so it can work more effectively.!!!!!

  5. Our neurology gives a bird crap about “Don t” or other no-no s!
    “Don t think now of a white elephant!” SEE!

  6. I feel the picture of cute li’l Elias surrounded by bubbles is quite apt to accompany this post, Axinia 🙂 but not for the reasons you felt it was apt 😉

    Yes, as you can expect, I believe these so-called “positive psychologists” are nothing but bubble-dwellers, wannabe bubble-dwellers and bubble-chasers 😐 and their brand of “psychology” is a sham and deserves to flop and burst like the shambolic bubble it is 😐

    A bubble-psychologist is worth as much as a bubble-doctor or a bubble-dentist – in other words, they are worth as much as the bubbles they like to dwell in.

    As a born psychologist I of cause see the problems and illnesses of human beings and societies very well. But honestly, it’s getting so boring! Why can’t we all start learning how to enjoy the beauty of life and not to make our lives difficult for ourselves and for others?

    Axinia dear, imagine what would happen if all doctors and dentists began to feel the same way that they are doing something that is “so boring” day in and day out 😕 It would be something like this:
    Patient: Doc, I’m suffering from recurring bouts of severe, unbearable chest pain 😥

    Bubble doc: Chest pain, what’s that? You see, my dear fellow, your body is such a marvel of nature. It’s so beautiful, you know, you are more complex and sophisticated than the most complicated machine ever imagined. Your heart, that you seem to be complaining about, is more powerful and reliable than the best pump in the universe. It so beautiful, and you are complaining of pain?

    Patient: You’re right doc, but I’m really suffering 😥 Whenever I’m in pain, my heart seems as if it is about to explode, and I also have difficulty in breathing normally 😦

    Bubble doc: My friend, you are only looking at the negative side. Learn to be positive, I say! Just imagine the sheer beauty of your heart continuously pumping out blood as well as purifying the blood with every cycle and you will be able to see the absolute beauty of it all.

    Patient: 😯 Pardon me, doc, but I’m suffering from severe chest pain and breathing difficulty, don’t you understand 😕

    Bubble doc: Yes, yes, I do, I’m a doc after all. They taught me all these utterly boring things and how to cure them.

    Patient: At last! Now, what is the course of treatment you are going to prescribe? The pain is really horrible 😦

    Bubble doc: I’m not going to go near such boring stuff again, seeing what is wrong with your body. I’m going to advise you to look at the sheer beauty of it all – one must learn to look only at positive stuff, that’s the proper way!

    Patient: @&%$&#(@(@@…!!!

    Patient: (Unable to speak properly, blood dripping from his mouth) Ddoc, I f-fell d-downn th-the sss-ttairs aa-nndd bb-brrokk ss-somm tt-teeeethth 😥

    Bubble dentist: Open your mouth! There – I see you have four broken teeth and your jaw could also be broken.

    Patient: Pp-plleezz dd-do ss-sommth-thiiinnng dd-doc, ii-ttzz vv-vvery vv-vverrry pp-ppainff-fful 😥

    Bubble dentist: My dear fellow, you have only four broken teeth. Learn to look at the positive things. You have twenty-eight fabulous teeth left in your beautiful mouth. They are like beautiful pearls of joy, bringing a smile to your face. Just ignore these boring broken teeth, and learn to look at the sheer beauty of the pearls in your mouth.

    Patient: DD-ddoccc, II-I’mm bbb-bleeeddinn bb-bbaddly 😦

    Bubble dentist: Oh, it’s so boring you see! Your broken teeth and your blood. You must not even think of these negative things. Just imagine all the remaining twenty-eight pearls of glory in your beautiful mouth and all will be fine. Go now, and enjoy the beauty of your pearls in front of the mirror and be glad to see the beauty of it all.

    Patient: 😯 😯 😯 @@@-&&&-tttt-LLLL-eeeeee…!!!


    Aahhhh, I laugh to see the world
    so beautiful in this bubble of mine,
    Aahhhh, I laugh to see the world
    so wonderful in this bubble of mine,
    Is it you, dear lord of the beautiful spirit,
    it is you?
    Answer me, answer me,
    Respond, respond, respond quickly!
    No No! it’s no longer you!
    it’s no longer your serene face;
    It’s the daughter of a bubble king…


  7. Psychology is about the observation of real human process who are not black and white, but are…in all their complexity.
    Dividing psychology in non psychological therms,but moralin ones like “positive/negative” leads very fast into the horror of those deciding WHAT/WHO is “positive” and WHAT/WHO is negative”.
    Dont forget the hypocrite statement above the entrance of the concentration camp “Each his own!”.

  8. nimirel Says:

    The “positive” in Positive Psychology refers to strengths, optimal functioning, and flourishing. Nonetheless. it does not imply that the rest of psychology is negative, although it is understandable that the name may imply that to some people. It asserts that human goodness and excellence is just as authentic as distress and disorder, that life entails more than the undoing of problems. Suffering and well being, however, are both part of the human condition, and psychologists should be concerned with both

    Not only did Aristotle and other Greek philosophers lay out the groundwork thoughts of what Positive Psychology still regards as the foundation of the good life and happiness, but also Rogers and Abraham Maslow had focused on what makes people be at their best.

    What matters most to someone? What makes life worth living?
    One person’s wisdom can be another person’s folly. Positive psychology research is discovering some things that might not be considered wisdom to all.

    It is a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology.It’s the scientific study of what goes right in life, from birth to death and at all stops in between.

    Nowhere does this definition say or imply that psychology should ignore or dismiss the very real problems that people experience. Nowhere does it say or imply that the rest of psychology needs to be discarded or replaced. The value of positive psychology is to complement and extend the problem-focused psychology that has been dominant for many decades.

  9. The way to hell is paved with good intention.
    This “positivism” has been far too often a way of social class division(see the social history of IQ tests or immigration standard tests.
    Strengths…a very questionable notion in a driven neoliberal out bursting “positivism” neglecting all evidences of failure and violence, what we can be call psychopathic.Being “well adapted & well “functioning” in such a society can be the opposite of being TRULY human.Is the elbow kicking “ability” superior in the “lick up, kick down, look away” positioning ranking? Or is it the ability to resist to it? I made my ethical choice perceiving the “results” of both.
    Having worked in psychiatry, I can assure you to have noticed that often the STRONGEST in structures takes the black sheep scapegoat role of naming the “disturbance” all agree on, to avoid hypocritical participation to a collective or familial mad system.I had often the impression that some surrealistic expressions of these existential disease was far more “healty” as the a careerism flattering up to self abandon, or let me share a picture : the office staff who had no contact with the “sick people” beside their dossiers, wearing white blouses to be perceived by visitors as “non belonging to the sick,but those “in charge”.To notice: the clinical staff did mostly wear his casual clothes.
    Arnu Gruen has written books about this”mad society” games.

    The NEED to divide life experiences in such hierarchical parameters is philosophical AND psychological questionable right at the word “go!”.
    What phobias of “unfittingness” of commonly accepted “well behaving” standards are the sources?.Why is the middle class obsessed to define reality into Above “goodness”/Underachieving?
    We should have learn more WISE prudence through History when it comes to classify life experiences.

    “Positivism” is mostly the sound good noise made in times willing to broom the shadows under a nice/nescius/ignorant carpet till they rotten there to danger waste.”positivism” is” VERY NEGATIVE” and uterly DANGEROUS.And you can bet on who instruments these meme and has shortime speculative profits doing so.
    See the evil “charity” games of the nerds& fat cat unions “in power”.Beware of those wonderfools!They are not ashamed of discriminatory “modern” eugenicist concepts AGAIN!.

    • “Positivism” is mostly the sound good noise made in times willing to broom the shadows under a nice/nescius/ignorant carpet till they rotten there to danger waste.”positivism” is” VERY NEGATIVE” and uterly DANGEROUS.

      Bravo! :applause: Impeccably said! :applause: 🙂

      Vous avez appelé un chat un chat! Bravo!!! (Excusez-moi pour mon mauvais français, s’il vous plaît :neutral:)


      • How friendly of you! I saw we had understood something in common!bises

        • Merci, mon ami 🙂

          Strengths…a very questionable notion in a driven neoliberal out bursting “positivism” neglecting all evidences of failure and violence, what we can be call psychopathic.Being “well adapted & well “functioning” in such a society can be the opposite of being TRULY human

          I agree whole-heartedly with that. Aiming to develop a TRULY human attitude can indeed be the opposite of developing bubble-dwelling attitudes. “Positivism” – neglecting all evidences of failure and violence is similar to “burying one’s head in the sand” behaviour supposedly exhibited by ostriches and some other birds.

          When faced with a danger or an unpleasant thing, the ostrich supposedly buries its head in the mud in the belief that the danger/unpleasant thing has ceased to exist just because it cannot see the thing with its own head buried in the mud.

          It’s similar to the attitude of bubble-dwelling in humans – building a warm, cosy bubble around oneself and dwelling in blissful ignorance inside it. Bubble-dwelling can be blissful and addictive but is highly dangerous, self-defeating and leading to doom in the end for the ones afflicted by it.

          Un Terrien extraterrestre


  10. By the way, Axinia, what are the bubbles that the li’l kid seems to be looking at 😕 Are they soap bubbles blown out of one of those kids’ toys, or did you decide to add a bit of bubbly digital imagination while toying with the picture 😉


  11. By the way my experiences with what Maslow would consider as “peak experiences” are about recognising our all common ground interaction, and not some “special privileged” balcony view on life!

  12. Cher humaniste tres terrien mais non territorial, comme moi!

    When I observe the immense quantity of blogs bursting out a manic concept of “positivim”, I guess they are an attempt to promulgate the old order insisting on a speculative participation to “its all right!I its ALL RIGHT!”( some English reader might remember that sound as “new labour” replaced labour”!) meme.
    A bit like kids singing out loud in the dark forest where they got lost, for the more innocent ones, and a bit of a predatory singsong “how to coach little fish to swim into my purse” eternal happy day rhetoric for the worse ones.

    Only by comparing the idea of Maslow about an inner fulfilled state of mind able of a creative social interaction, with the actual “goals” describing a human “optimum”, we can see the distortion of values who occurred over the last decades.

    Nimirel speaks of “strengths” ,” optimal functioning”,”flourishing”, “goodness”, “excellence”, and I can help smelling neoliberal “bounty&performance” in this flagrant bouquet.

    We have truly to make a choice in psychology, If we salivate like a well trained dog at the bell of “sound good noises”, or if we belong to those who slap the face of the “think for us” pusher trying to tell us “its only for his best!”.

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