Positive psychology and redefining the future of the field

martin-seligman-croppedAfter posting that article a couple weeks ago about “The Habits of Supremely Happy People,” I wanted to get to know more about the person who founded this era of “Positive Psychology.” Little did I know that he actually gave a TED talk back in 2004…and you all know how much I love my TED talks. Dr. Selgiman is also the father of the idea of learned helplessness theory, which is the idea that depression or other types of illnesses may result from our perception that we don’t have control over an outcome of a situation. However, we’re talking about mental illnesses as much today.

Today is about what we can do to foster the good in people whether a serious mental illness exists or not. What’s great about Dr. Seligman’s talk is that it points to both the good and the bad in psychology. While the good can be the potential treatment and impact we can have on people’s lives, the the bad can be the fact that we’ve often neglected how to strengthen people’s resolve. He says we’ve come to be too focused on what’s wrong with people instead of figuring out what’s right with people and how do we strengthen that. From that came Seligman’s movement of Positive Psychology, which he describes in the video as having 3 aims. Psychology should be:

  1. as concerned with strength as with weakness
  2. as interested in building the best things in life as repairing the worst.
  3. as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling and with nurturing high talent as with healing pathology.

One interesting aspect to the talk was when he was talking about what bring about happiness? Why are some people extremely happy? He says it’s not they these people have less bad events, are more religious, make more money, but it’s the fact that these people are more sociable. This is so true and really resonated with me because in thinking about what depression is and many other types of disorders, there is a self-focus that happens. Even Dr. Aaron Beck, the father of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, talks about this as saying that when we focus on our symptoms we draw more attention and awareness to them, perpetuating the problem that created it. I even wrote a blog about this a few weeks ago (click here for more).

And in case you still had any doubts regarding the benefits of mindfulness, he talks about how mindfulness is often a quality used to enhance the pleasures of life. It extends those feelings of joy as you immerse yourself and allow yourself to feel the emotions deeply. It allows you to lean into those moments of joy.

I think Martin Seligman is onto something. I think there definitely should be more of a focus on building up the strengths than focusing on the negatives. We should create a field where we can enhance where people are at, wherever that is, and at the same time be able to help those with more severe pathologies. What do you think though? Don’t you see psychology headed in this direction of mindfulness and focus on the positive?

Related links:

Rubin Khoddam, PhD Clinical Psychology student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.

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Categories: Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, Videos

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4 replies

Trackbacks

  1. Love’s Micro Moments of Connection | boldcorsicanflame's Blog
  2. The Happiness Advantage – How Internal Determines External! | Psych Connection
  3. What’s your definition of happiness? « Psych Connection
  4. How Happiness Happens from the Inside-Out | Psych Connection

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