Comment: Seligman makes this extremely positive [perhaps even unrealistic] appraisal of the progress that "negative psychology" has made, almost to imply that this progress is sufficient and now we can move on to study something else. I also note that this is self–referential: "At least 14 disorders, previously intractable, have yielded their secrets to science and can now be either cured or considerably relieved (Seligman, 1994)" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 6).
"We have come to see that statistical notions of 'normality' are no real help in giving psychological meaning to mental health and illness: they beg the question or fail to come to grips with it. We have become suspicious of the once regnant concept of adjustment, as it has fallen into disrepute at the hands of social critics and moralists (e.g., Riesman, 1950) who see it as a pseudoscientific rationalization for conformist values, and of psychological theorists (e.g., White, 1959) who are challenging the sufficiency of the equilibrium model in which it is rooted. And from many quarters we encounter the call for a more positive view of mental health than is involved in the mere absence of manifest mental disorder. Since the appearance of Jahoda's useful book (1958) that reviewed the considerable array of proposals toward such a conception of optimal human functioning, the flow of suggestions has not abated" (Smith, 1961, p. 299).
Schneider, K. (2011). Toward a humanistic positive psychology why can't we just get along? , (1), 32–38. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. I propose that despite the nay–saying 1) positive psychology is justifiably a branch of humanistic psychology, and 2) a humanistic positive psychology would be salutary to the profession of psychology. From the standpoint of theory, I show how positive psychology shares humanistic psychology's concern with what it means to be fully, experientially human, and how that understanding illuminates the vital or fulfilled life. However, I also show how the findings of positive psychology, particularly in the area "happiness" research – or what has recently been termed "human flourishing," stop short of the fuller aforementioned aims. Specifically, I show how positive psychology appears to oversimplify both the experience of human flourishing and its social–adaptive value. While the positive psychology findings on flourishing are useful in limited contexts, e.g., in terms of their implications for the attainment of pleasure, physical health, and cultural competency, they are inadequate with respect to the more complicated contexts of creativity, emotional depth, and social consciousness. I will detail the nature of these discrepancies, such as their implications for perception of reality, psychological growth, and capacity for self–reflection, and consider their role in an expanded vision of human resiliency.
Ruini, C., & Fava, G. (2012). Role of well-being therapy in achieving a balanced and individualized path to optimal functioning. , 291-304. doi:10.1002/cpp.1796 A specific psychotherapeutic strategy for increasing psychological well-being and resilience, well-being therapy (WBT), based on Ryff's conceptual model, has been developed and tested in a number of randomized controlled trials. The findings indicate that flourishing and resilience can be promoted by specific interventions leading to a positive evaluation of one's self, a sense of continued growth and development, the belief that life is purposeful and meaningful, the possession of quality relations with others, the capacity to manage effectively one's life and a sense of self-determination. A decreased vulnerability to depression, mood swings and anxiety has been demonstrated after WBT in high-risk populations. School interventions based on the principles of WBT have been found to yield both promotion of well-being and decrease of distress compared with control groups. The differential technical characteristics and indications of WBT are described, with a special reference to the promotion of an individualized and balanced path to achieve optimal human functioning, avoiding the polarities in positive psychological dimensions. KEY PRACTITIONER MESSAGE: A specific psychotherapeutic strategy, well-being therapy, for modifying the levels of psychological well-being has been developed and tested. In controlled trials, it has yielded significant benefits in clinical populations, particularly as to vulnerability to affective alterations. Well-being therapy may help in achieving flexibility and balance in psychological dimensions that underlie optimal human functioning. Best results are achieved when it is applied to the sub-acute phase of mood and anxiety disorders, in a sequential model. Well-being therapy may have a preventive role in general populations and particularly in children.
Schneider, S. L. (2001). In search of realistic optimism: meaning, knowledge, and warm fuzziness [Special issue]. , (3), 250–263. doi:10.1037/0003–066X.56.3.250 Is it better to be realistic or optimistic? A realistic outlook improves chances to negotiate the environment successfully, whereas an optimistic outlook places priority on feeling good. But are realistic and optimistic outlooks necessarily in conflict? The author suggests that the fuzzy nature of accuracy typically places only loose boundaries on what it means to be realistic. As a result, there are many forms of optimism that do not, in principle, yield unrealistic assessments. Nevertheless, there remain numerous "optimistic biases" that do involve self–deception, or convincing oneself of desired beliefs without appropriate reality checks. The author describes several ways that realistic and unrealistic optimism can be differentiated and explores the impact of this distinction for current views of optimism. This critique reveals how positive psychology may benefit from a focus on personal meaning and knowledge as they relate to making the most of life.
Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. , (4), 814–834. doi:10.1037/0033–295X.108.4.814. Research on moral judgment has been dominated by rationalist models, in which moral judgment is thought to be caused by moral reasoning. The author gives 4 reasons for considering the hypothesis that moral reasoning does not cause moral judgment; rather, moral reasoning is usually a post hoc construction, generated after a judgment has been reached. The social intuitionist model is presented as an alternative to rationalist models. The model is a social model in that it deemphasizes the private reasoning done by individuals and emphasizes instead the importance of social and cultural influences. The model is an intuitionist model in that it states that moral judgment is generally the result of quick, automatic evaluations (intuitions). The model is more consistent than rationalist models with recent findings in social, cultural, evolutionary, and biological psychology, as well as in anthropology and primatology.
Day, J. M. (2009). Religion, spirituality, and positive psychology in adulthood: A developmental view [Special issue]. , (4), 215–229. doi:10.1007/s10804–009–9086–7. For decades, psychologists have been interested in the question whether, and how, religious and spiritual behavior, in terms of beliefs, attitudes, practices, and belonging, could be scientifically studied and assessed in terms of their relative good, or ill, for human well–being. This article considers contributions of religious commitment and spiritual practice to well–being and cognitive–developmental theoretical models and related bodies of empirical and clinical research regarding religious and spiritual development across the life cycle, with particular attention to questions related to positive adult development.
Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well–being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index [Special issue]. , (1), 34–43. doi:10.1037//0003–066X.55.1.34. One area of positive psychology analyzes subjective well–being (SWB), people's cognitive and affective evaluations of their lives. Progress has been made in understanding the components of SWB, the importance of adaptation and goals to feelings of well–being, the temperament underpinnings of SWB, and the cultural influences on well–being. Representative selection of respondents, naturalistic experience sampling measures, and other methodological refinements are now used to study SWB and could be used to produce national indicators of happiness.
Davis, C. G., & Asliturk, E. (2011). Toward a positive psychology of coping with anticipated events. , (2), 101–110. doi:10.1037/a0020177. Many people appear to be quite resilient to significant stress suggesting that they may possess an orientation to events and life that is resistant to such threats. We propose that one significant aspect of this orientation is the tendency to view adversities as something that can happen to anyone and is reflected in the tendency of people entering uncertain contexts to prepare by imagining a range of possible outcomes, both desired and undesired. This preparatory work facilitates the immediate implementation of effective problem solving and support seeking strategies should the desired outcome seem in doubt. We refer to this orientation as the realistic orientation and review evidence suggesting that such an orientation is associated with realistic– but not unrealistic– optimism and smooth adaptation to adversity.
Hart, K. E., & Sasso, T. (2011). Mapping the contours of contemporary positive psychology. , (2), 82–92. doi:10.1037/a0023118. This paper seeks to quantify scholarly interest in the rapidly emerging field of Positive Psychology (PP) and to empirically map the contours of the discipline using six different methodologies. Results document extraordinary growth in the last decade and confirm that scholars in this area have devoted the lion's share of their attention to two of the three 'Pillars' of PP as proposed by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000): (1) the study of positive subjective experience and (2) positive personal traits. While interest in positive institutions has been somewhat sparse, there has been increased concern with the topics of 'resilience' and eudaimonia (broadly defined). The latter developments help to dispel the myth that PP is an elite endeavour solely concerned with Pollyanna–style 'happiology' in people who find themselves in idyllic circumstances. Hopefully the results of our content analysis of the field will encourage instructors who teach PP to provide their students with a well–balanced curriculum, one that accurately reflects the heterogeneity of the field, and one that mirrors recent scholarly trends.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). If we are so rich, why arenʼt we happy? , (10), 821–827. doi:10.1037//0003–066X.54.10.821. Ever since systematic thought has been recorded, the question of what makes men and women happy has been of central concern. Answers to this question have ranged from the materialist extreme of searching for happiness in external conditions to the spiritual extreme claiming that happiness is the result of a mental attitude. Psychologists have recently rediscovered this topic. Research supports both the materialist and the mentalist positions, although the latter produces the stronger findings. The article focuses in particular on one dimension of happiness: the flow experience, or the state of total involvement in an activity that requires complete concentration.