0534644538 compton introduction to positive psychology


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0534644538 compton introduction to positive psychology

  1. 1. g Introduction to in io rn Positive ct ea n Psychology du L ro ge ep ga r R en William C. Compton Middle Tennessee State University fo f C ot oN ty eropPr Australia • Canada • Mexico • Singapore • Spain United Kingdom • United States
  2. 2. This book is dedicated to my wife, Barbara Whiteman, Ed.D. Her life is a remarkable demonstration of how virtues such as compassion, empathy, and a sense of humor can create positive emotions in others— especially those who are lucky enough to know her well. gPublisher / Executive Editor: Vicki Knight Print /Media Buyer: Lisa ClaudeanosEditorial Assistant: Monica Sarmiento Permissions Editor: Stephanie Lee inTechnology Project Manager: Darin Derstine Production Service: Gretchen Otto, G&S Book Services io rnMarketing Manager: Dory Schaeffer Compositor: G & S Book ServicesMarketing Assistant: Laurel Anderson Copy Editor: Karen Boyd ct eaAdvertising Project Manager: Brian Chaffee Cover Designer: Andy NorrisProject Manager, Editorial Production: Megan E. Hansen Cover Art: Digital Stock n du LArt Director: Vernon Boes Printer: Malloy Incorporated ro geCOPYRIGHT © 2005 Wadsworth, a division of ThomsonLearning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark usedherein under license. Thomson Wadsworth 10 Davis Drive Belmont, CA 94002-3098 ep gaALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this work covered USAby the copyright hereon may be reproduced or used in anyform or by any means—graphic, electronic, or mechanical, Asia r R enincluding but not limited to photocopying, recording, taping, Thomson LearningWeb distribution, information networks, or information 5 Shenton Way #01-01storage and retrieval systems—without the written UIC Building fo f Cpermission of the publisher. Singapore 068808Printed in the United States of America Australia /New Zealand ot o 4 5 6 7 08 07 06 Thomson Learning 102 Dodds Street N ty For more information about our products, contact us at: Southbank, Victoria 3006 Thomson Learning Academic Resource Center Australia er 1-800-423-0563 For permission to use material from this text or product, submit a Canada request online at http://www.thomsonrights.com. Nelson op Any additional questions about permissions can be submitted by 1120 Birchmount Road email to thomsonrights@thomson.com. Toronto, Ontario M1K 5G4Pr CanadaLibrary of Congress Control Number: 2004104480 Europe/Middle East /Africa Thomson Learning 0-534-64453-8ISBN 13: 978-0-534-64453-6 High Holborn HouseISBN: 0-534-64453-8 50/51 Bedford Row London WC1R 4LR United Kingdom
  3. 3. Brief ContentsPreface ix Part III gAcknowledgments xi Positive Traits 129 in 7 Excellence, Aesthetics, Creativity, io rn and Genius 131Part I 8 Positive Mental Health: Thriving ct eaPositive Psychology and Flourishing 151 nFoundations 1 9 Interventions for Enhanced du L Well-Being 1751 An Introduction to Positive Psychology 3 ro ge 10 Religion, Spirituality, and Well-Being 1962 Emotions and Motivation ep ga in Positive Psychology 23 Part IV r R enPart II Positive Institutions fo f CPositive Emotional and a Look towardStates 41 the Future 217 ot o3 Subjective Well-Being 43 11 Work, Community, Culture, N ty and Well-Being 2194 Leisure, Optimal Experience, 12 A Look toward the Future er and Peak Performance 67 of Positive Psychology 2415 Love and Well-Being 86 op6 Wellness, Health Psychology, References 250 and Positive Coping 108Pr Name Index 270 Subject Index 275 iii
  4. 4. ContentsPreface ix The Early Hebrews 13 gAcknowledgments xi The Greeks 14 in Early Christianity and the Middle Ages 17Part I io rn The Virtue Theory in the Middle Ages 17 The Renaissance to the Age ofPositive Psychology ct ea Enlightenment 18Foundations 1 Romanticism and the Nineteenth n du L Century 19Chapter 1 ro geAn Introduction to Positive The Twentieth Century 20 Positive Psychology Today 20 ep gaPsychology 3 Summary 21Welcome to Positive Psychology! 3 Chapter 2 r R en Definition of Positive Psychology 3 Emotions and Motivation in fo f C The Dimensions of Positive Psychology 4 The Scope of Positive Psychology 4 Positive Psychology 23 Positive Psychology and Emotion 23 ot oWhy Positive Psychology Is NeededToday 5 The Basic Emotions 23 N ty Early Missions of Psychology 5 The Evolutionary Need for Positive er Importance of Positive Emotions to Emotions 24 Both Mental and Physical Health 5 The Biology of Positive Emotions opBasic Themes and Assumptions and Pleasure 24of Positive Psychology 6 The Different Roles of Positive andPr The Good Life 6 Negative Emotions 25 Past Assumptions about Human The “Broaden-and-Build” Model of Behavior 7 Positive Emotions 26 Assumptions about Human Emotions 9 Emotional Intelligence 27 Assumptions about the Role of Science Genetic Influences on Positive in the Study of Well-Being 12 Emotions 29A Short History of Well-Being in the Moods and Psychological Well-Being 31Western World 13 Positive Psychology and Motivation 33iv
  5. 5. CONTENTS v Early Theories of Motivation 33 What Is Not Related to Happiness 58 Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 34 Money, Income, and Wealth 58 Motivation and the Pursuit of Goals 36 Gender: Are Men or WomenSummary 39 Happier? 62 Age: Is One Age Group Happier than Another? 63Part II Race and Ethnicity 63 gPositive Emotional States 41 Education and Climate 64 in Comments on Subjective Well-Being 64 io rnChapter 3 Summary 65 ct eaSubjective Well-Being 43 nThe Measurement of Subjective Chapter 4 du LWell-Being 43 ro ge Self-Report Measures of Subjective Leisure, Optimal Experience, Well-Being 44 and Peak Performance 67 ep ga The Stability of Subjective Well-Being 45 Leisure 67 Are Most People Happy or Unhappy? 46 Leisure and Life Satisfaction 67 r R en Top-Down and Bottom-Up Theories 47 What Turns an Activity into “Leisure”? 68Predictors of Subjective Well-Being 48 Flow and Optimal Experience: Being fo f C Self-Esteem 48 “In the Zone” 69 Sense of Perceived Control 48 Definition of Flow 70 ot o Extroversion 50 Contexts and Situations for Flow 70 N ty Optimism 51 Characteristics of Flow 71 Positive Relationships 52 Other Qualities of Flow 73 er A Sense of Meaning and Purpose 53 Flow and Subjective Well-Being 74 op Resolution of Inner Conflicts or Low Comments on the Theory of Flow 77 Neuroticism 53 Peak Performance 77PrFactors That Increase Subjective Peak Performance in Sports 79Well-Being 53 Training for Peak Performance 80 Should You Feel Emotions Intensely or Frequently? 54 Additional Avenues to Well-Being 81 Cognition: Is the Glass “Half Full Mindfulness 81 or Half Empty”? 54 Savoring 82 The Pursuit of Goals 58 Comments on Optimal Experiences 83 Evaluation Theory 58 Summary 84
  6. 6. vi CONTENTSChapter 5 Positive Coping 117 A Definition of Positive Coping 117Love and Well-Being 86 The Importance of DailyThe Psychology of Love 86 Hassles 117 Evolution and Love 86 Dimensions of Positive Marriage and Well-Being 86 Coping 118 The Varieties of Love 88 Comments on Wellness and Health g Psychology 125 inFinding Romance, Intimacy,and Love 92 Summary 126 io rnRelationship Satisfaction: What MakesRelationships Good? 93 ct ea Part III Personality Traits, Attributions, and n Illusions 93 Positive Traits 129 du L Interpersonal Factors 97 ro ge Environmental or Social Factors 98 Chapter 7Relationship Stability: What Makes ep gaRelationships Last? 98 Excellence, Aesthetics, Creativity, What Do Happy Couples Say about and Genius 131 r R en Their Relationships? 99 The Pursuit of Excellence 131 Theories of Relationship Stability 100 The Foundations of Excellence 131 fo f CWhat Hurts Relationships? 103 The Development of Excellence 132 Conflict 103 Resonance 135 ot o Social and Cultural Factors 104 Aesthetics and the Good Life 136 N tyHow to Nurture Relationships 105 Why Is the Aesthetic Sense Important to Well-Being? 136 erComments on Love and Well-Being 106Summary 106 Finding Beauty Outside the Arts 139 op Origins of the Aesthetic Sense 140Chapter 6 Can Tragedy and Sadness BePr Beautiful? 140Wellness, Health Psychology, Creativity 141and Positive Coping 108 What Is Creativity? 141Wellness 109 The Creative Person 143Health Psychology 110 The Creative Process 145 Psychoneuroimmunology 110 Creative Environments 147 Psychological Factors Important Genius 148 to Health 111 Summary 149
  7. 7. CONTENTS viiChapter 8 Marie Jahoda and Positive Mental Health 177Positive Mental Health: Carol Ryff and PsychologicalThriving and Flourishing 151 Well-Being 178Positive Development across Richard Coan and the Modesthe Life Span 151 of Fulfillment 179 Resilience: Healthy Adjustment to Difficult Keyes and Lopez and Complete g Childhood 151 Mental Health 180 in Generativity: Nurturing and Guiding The Values in Action (VIA) Classification 181 io rn Others 153 Flourishing and Thriving as We Age 153 Positive Psychology Interventions 182 ct ea Wisdom: What Was It That King Positive Psychotherapy 182 Solomon Had? 154 n Positive Psychology in Educational du LPositive Mental Health 158 Settings 187 ro gePositive Mental Health as InnatePotentials 158 Interventions to Increase Resilience 187 ep ga Early Psychodynamic Formulations 158 Positive Interventions Targeted toward Specific Emotions 188 Carl Rogers and the Fully Functioning r R en Person 159 Comments on Interventions 194 Abraham Maslow and Summary 194 fo f C Self-Actualization 160Positive Mental Health as Character Chapter 10Development 166 ot o Religion, Spirituality, and Authenticity: Finding One’s Well-Being 196 N ty “True Self ” 166 Religiosity and Subjective Well-Being 196 er Healthy and Adaptive Defense Mechanisms 168 Religiosity and Health 197 op Strengths and Virtues 170 Prayer and Health 198Summary 173 Why Is Religiosity Related toPr Well-Being? 198Chapter 9 A Sense of Meaning and Purpose in Life 201Interventions for Enhanced The Needs for Meaning 201Well-Being 175 Types of Meaning 201The Disease Model of Mental Illness Finding Meaning in Life 202and Its Problems 175 Comments on Religious ExperiencesToward a Classification of Strengths 176 and the Creation of Meaning 207The Dimensions of Positive MentalHealth 177
  8. 8. viii CONTENTSPsychological Theories of Spiritual Social Well-Being 228Development 208 Positive Communities and Community Intrinsic and Extrinsic Religiosity 208 Psychology 229 Cognitive-Developmental Perspectives Community Interventions 231 on Faith 208 Comments on Healthy Communities 233 Psychodynamic Perspectives Subjective Well-Being in Different on Religion 209 Cultures 233 g Comments on the Psychological Money, Wealth, and Income 235 in Perspectives on Religion 210 Democracy and Social Norms 236 io rnEastern Religions: Ideas fromBuddhism 211 Cultural Conceptualization of Emotion 236 ct ea The Buddhist Perspective on Happiness 211 Cultural Conceptualizations of Self n and Well-Being 237 du L Research on Religious Experiences and Eastern Psychology 213 Comments on Culture and ro ge Comments on Religion and Well-Being 239 Summary 239 Well-Being 214 ep gaSummary 214 Chapter 12 r R enPart IV A Look toward the Future of fo f CPositive Institutions Positive Psychology 241and a Look toward How Do We Recognize a Life Lived ot o Well, a Life Worthy of Admiration andthe Future 217 Respect? 241 N ty Expanding the Criteria for theChapter 11 er Good Life 242Work, Community, Culture, People Need Both Positive and Negative op Emotions 244and Well-Being 219 The Need for New Research Methods 245PrJob Satisfaction and Well-Being 219 Systems Theory 246 Elements of Job Satisfaction: The Person 220 Future Applications of Positive Psychology 247 Improving Job Satisfaction: The Person 222 Toward the Future with Optimism 248 Elements of Job Satisfaction: The Work Environment 223 References 250 Improving Job Satisfaction: Healthy Work Environments 226 Name Index 270 Comments on Job Satisfaction 228 Subject Index 275
  9. 9. PrefaceOne of the most enduring pursuits throughout cussed in these chapters, however, tend tothe entire history of humanity has been the define well-being or the good life in terms of a gsearch for well-being, happiness, and the good specific emotion or a cluster of emotional expe- inlife. It takes only a minor excursion into human riences. The perspectives discussed in this sec-history to realize that the answers to this ques- io rn tion have all, in one way or another, focused ontion have been extraordinarily diverse: some positive emotional states as the primary way to ct eapeople have pursued sensual pleasure, others study well-being and as one of the best indica-have sought love and the joys of intimate rela- tors of the good life. ntionships. Still others have worked toward the Chapter 3 reviews research in subjective du Lactualization of their potentials, while some well-being. Investigations into subjective well-have searched for the peace of contemplative being look at the predictors, causes, and conse- ro gespirituality. In spite of the importance of this quences of happiness and satisfaction with life.search, the question of how to define and how These studies very directly try to answer the ep gato actualize these goals remains one of the most age-old question, “What is happiness?” Chapterpersistent puzzles even today. In spite of the 4 covers studies that look at leisure, play, and r R enmany solutions offered throughout history, the what makes a person feel as if he or she is hav-question “What is happiness?” still plagues ing fun. In addition, it covers aspects of peakmany people today. Positive psychology is the performance and optimal experiencing. Chap- fo f Cnewest effort to answer that question. ter 5 takes a look at the feelings of love and emo- Chapter 1 is an introduction to this new fo- tional intimacy. In the world today, the experi- ot ocus area of psychology. Positive psychology is ences of love and intimacy are one of the mostdefined in this brief introduction, certain as- frequently desired elements of the good life. N tysumptions that are common among positive The chapter covers theoretical perspectives onpsychologists are described, and a very brief love, as well as some possible predictors of both erhistory of how the Western world has defined marital satisfaction and marital stability. Chap-well-being is presented. Chapter 2 reviews ba- ter 6 reviews a number of perspectives on well- opsic psychological research on positive emotion ness, health, and positive coping skills. Theand intrinsic motivation. Therefore, these first emotional experiences that will be of interest inPrtwo chapters present a very brief introduction that chapter include a zest for life, a sense ofto the theoretical and research contexts from physical vitality, and the ability to feel relaxed,which the new field of positive psychology has contented, and free of stress. In addition, Chap-emerged and is evolving today. ter 6 will explore the influence of psychoneu- The next four chapters cover a number of roimmunology—an area that looks at how cer-perspectives that all place a major emphasis on tain emotions, such as optimism and laughter,positive emotional states. Of course, in many are important to immune system functioning.ways most of the theories and perspectives in The next four chapters explore research andpositive psychology place a good deal of empha- theory that focus on the development and nur-sis on positive emotions. The perspectives dis- turance of positive traits. These perspectives all ix
  10. 10. x PREFACEdescribe well-being in terms of certain consis- traits that are habits of behavior. Last, Chaptertencies in behavior that can be observed over 10 looks at one of the oldest institutions fortime and over different situations. Of course, helping people bring positive traits into theirsomeone who is generally happy also exhibits lives—religion and spirituality. In sum, many ofconsistency in his or her emotional responses. the theoretical perspectives in this section havePerspectives in these chapters, however, all attempted to produce models of what humanstudy well-being by measuring personality traits, beings are like when talents, strengths, virtues,virtues, or other behavioral consistencies rather and positive character traits are habits of behav- gthan focusing on the measurement of specific ior rather than occasional visitors. inemotions. Of course, both behavior and emotion Chapter 11 covers topics relevant to an-are important to well-being. The distinction be- other major focus area of positive psychology— io rning made here between research studies is one of the development of positive institutions. Whenemphasis, not exclusion. The chapters in this most people think of psychology, they think of ct easection cover a fairly wide range of perspectives the study of persons or individuals. What is of-on well-being. ten lost when focusing on individuals is the very n du L Chapter 7 looks at states of excellence, cre- obvious fact that people exist in groups andativity, and how a sense of aesthetics can en- those groups make up families, neighborhoods, ro gehance an appreciation of life. Chapter 8 is aquick overview of the ways in which psychology communities, and societies. Therefore, the top- ics covered in Chapter 11 include discussions of ep gahas tried to define positive mental health. This job satisfaction, community psychology, and thechapter also covers some recent finding rele- cultural factors that may impact a sense of well-vant to positive mental health and resilience at being. The book ends with a final chapter on the r R endifferent points in the life span. Chapter 9 looks future of positive psychology. I hope you enjoyat how psychologists have been trying to create this all-too-brief exploration of the fascinating fo f Cnew styles of assessment and psychotherapy in new area of positive psychology.order to help people create positive personality ot o N ty er opPr
  11. 11. AcknowledgmentsI have been fascinated with how people define MTSU allowed me to continue work on theand pursue psychological well-being for the past manuscript. gthirty-five years. When I decided to pursue this Appreciation is also extended to Jason Long, ininterest through the discipline of psychology, I who did much of the research on Web sites re-found very few psychologists who recognized lated to positive psychology. Dustin Thoman io rnthe value of a career based on the study of posi- provided extraordinary assistance and enthusi- ct eative psychological development. Luckily, I have asm with all manner of necessary research tasksmanaged to find a few mentors that helped to (good luck in your doctoral program Dustin— nvalidate my interests and encouraged me to you will be a great psychologist). In addition, du Lcontinue my studies. Thomas Roberts at North- the efforts of CoTonya Mitchell and Karen Nun-ern Illinois University, Gordon Becker at the ley are gratefully acknowledged. The students ro geUniversity of Nebraska–Omaha, and Jules who have taken my Psychology of HappinessSeeman at George Peabody College of Vander- and Well-being course since 1992 also deserve ep gabilt University provided me with encourage- thanks for their interest, questions, and enthusi-ment and role models of how psychologists asm for a positive approach to psychology. The r R encan focus their careers on the study of psycho- contributions of my nephew, Dave Compton,logical well-being. are also gratefully acknowledged. Dave care- I would also like to thank my colleagues at fully reviewed much of the manuscript for gram- fo f CMiddle Tennessee State University: Tom Brin- matical and stylistic errors. Thanks, Dave!thaupt, Jerden Johnson, Rick Moffett, and Greg Thanks to Jessica Willard for the name index ot oSchmidt, who reviewed earlier drafts of the (good luck in graduate school).chapters or made very helpful suggestions about For their help and careful attention to the N tyrelevant research literature. A special thanks quality of this book, I am grateful to my pub-goes to another of my colleagues, Janet Belsky. lisher at Wadsworth, Vicki Knight, and to the erJanet has been such an enthusiastic supporter of many others who worked on the production ofthis book that I might have given up my efforts this book. opto get it into print were it not for her efforts. This book is also much better than it wouldJanet, I can’t thank you enough! have been otherwise because of the valuablePr In addition, I would also like to thank the comments provided by several reviewers. TheyCommittee on Non-Instruction Assignments are James Davis at Drury University, Michaelat MTSU for granting me a sabbatical leave Sakuma at Dowling College, and Janice M. Vidicto begin writing this book. Later, another at University of Rio Grande, as well as othergrant from the Faculty Research Committee at reviewers who wished to remain anonymous. xi
  12. 12. About the AuthorWilliam Compton has had a fascination with and enthu-siasm for ideas about psychological well-being for over g35 years. He began his search in a somewhat unusual place infor a future psychologist—as a Far Eastern Studies major io rnat the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Easternreligions. Seeking a more applied and practical approach to ct eawell-being, he entered psychology and received his doc-torate in clinical psychology from George Peabody College nof Vanderbilt University in 1987. He worked as a psycho- du Ltherapist until joining the psychology faculty at Middle ro geTennessee State University in 1989. Soon after joining thefaculty, he created a course on the psychology of well-being—at that time, one of the only courses of its kind of- ep gafered in American universities. Six years later, much of thesame material offered in this course would be gathered Photo by Rusty Rust r R entogether under a new research banner called positive psy-chology which was created by Martin E. P. Seligman.Compton is extremely grateful to Seligman and the other fo f Cfounders of positive psychology for fostering a new recog-nition of well-being in psychology. Throughout his career ot oas an academic psychologist, Compton has published pa-pers that focused on various aspects of positive mental N tyhealth. This is his first book. er opPrxii
  13. 13. Pr op er N ty ot o fo f C Foundations P A r R en ep ga R T ro ge du L Positive Psychology ct ea io rn n in g i
  14. 14. Pr op er N ty ot o fo f C r R en ep ga ro ge du L ct ea io rn n in g
  15. 15. CHAPTERAn Introductionto Positive Psychology 1 g in io rn ct ea Psychology is not just the study of weakness and damage; it is also the n du L study of strength and virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is broken; it is nurturing what is best within us. ro ge Martin E. P. Seligman ep ga fulfilling elements of human behavior. In their r R enWelcome to introduction to a special issue of the AmericanPositive Psychology! Psychologist on positive psychology, Kennon fo f C Sheldon and Laura King (2001) describe posi- tive psychology as follows:In 1998, Martin E. P. Seligman, who was then ot o What is positive psychology? It is nothing morepresident of the American Psychological Asso- than the scientific study of ordinary humanciation, urged psychologists to remember psy- N ty strengths and virtues. Positive psychology revisitschology’s forgotten mission: to build human “the average person” with an interest in finding out erstrength and nurture genius. In order to remedy what works, what’s right, and what’s improving. Itthis omission from psychology, Seligman delib- asks, “What is the nature of the efficiently func- operately set out to create a new direction and new tioning human being, successfully applying evolvedorientation for psychology. He called this new adaptations and learned skills? And how can psy- chologists explain the fact that despite all the diffi-Prfocus area positive psychology. Many psy-chologists saw his challenge to increase re- culties, the majority of people manage to live livessearch on human strengths and psychological of dignity and purpose?” . . . Positive psychology is thus an attempt to urge psychologists to adopt awell-being as a welcome opportunity. more open and appreciative perspective regarding human potentials, motives, and capacities (p. 216).Definition of Positive Psychology Therefore, positive psychology studies whatIn the most general terms, positive psychology people do right and how they manage to do it.uses psychological theory, research, and inter- This includes what they do for themselves, forvention techniques to understand the positive, their families, and for their communities. In ad-the adaptive, the creative, and the emotionally dition, positive psychology helps people develop 3
  16. 16. 4 CHAPTER ONEthose qualities that lead to greater fulfillments 3. Last, at the group or societal level, positivefor themselves and for others. Sheldon, Freder- psychology focuses on the development,ickson, Rathunde, Csikszentmihalyi, and Haidt creation, and maintenance of positive in-(2000) provide another prospective: they define stitutions. In this area, positive psychologypositive psychology as “the scientific study of addresses issues such as the developmentoptimal human functioning. It aims to discover of civic virtues, the creation of healthyand promote factors that allow individuals, com- families, the study of healthy work envi-munities, and societies to thrive and flourish.” ronments, and positive communities. Posi- g tive psychology may also be involved in in- inThe Dimensions of Positive Psychology vestigations that look at how institutions can work better to support and nurture io rnThe range of possible interest areas in positive all of the citizens they impact.psychology is quite large; however, some broad ct ea Therefore, in many ways, the focus of posi-dimensions have been used to define the new tive psychology is the scientific study of positivearea in a general way. In order to nurture talent n human functioning and flourishing at a number du Land make life more fulfilling, positive psychol- of levels, such as the biological, personal, rela-ogy focuses on three areas of human experience tional, institutional, cultural, and global (Selig- ro ge(Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) that helpto define the scope and orientation of a positive man & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). ep gapsychology perspective. The Scope of Positive Psychology 1. At the subjective level, positive psychology r R en looks at positive subjective states or posi- These definitions and dimensions give a general tive emotions such as happiness, joy, satis- sense of positive psychology. It will be helpful to faction with life, relaxation, love, intimacy, give a partial list of topics that may be studied fo f C and contentment. Positive subjective states by a positive psychologist (a complete or com- also can include constructive thoughts prehensive list would be quite exhaustive). Evi- ot o about the self and the future, such as opti- dently, people are quite good at doing things mism and hope. Positive subjective states well. In fact, the ways in which a person can ex- N ty may also include feelings of energy, vital- cel is much more extensive than has been rec- ity, and confidence, or the effects of posi- ognized in psychology. er tive emotions such as laughter. With that introduction, here is an A to Z list 2. At the individual level, positive psychology of possible topics: altruism and empathy, build- op focuses on a study of positive individual ing enriching communities, creativity, forgive- traits, or the more enduring and persistent ness and compassion, the role of positive emo-Pr behavior patterns seen in people over tions in job satisfaction, the enhancement of time. This study might include individual immune system functioning, lifespan models of traits such as courage, persistence, hon- positive personality development, styles of psy- esty, or wisdom. That is, positive psychol- chotherapy that emphasize accomplishments ogy includes the study of positive behav- and positive traits, savoring each fleeting mo- iors and traits that historically have been ment of life, strengthening the virtues as way to used to define “character strengths” or vir- increase authentic happiness, and the psycho- tues. It can also include the ability to de- logical benefits of Zen meditation (see Snyder & velop aesthetic sensibility or tap into cre- Lopez, 2002; Aspinwall & Straudinger, 2003; ative potentials and the drive to pursue www.positivepsychology.org). One of positive excellence. psychology’s early accomplishments was to help
  17. 17. AN INTRODUCTION TO POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 5psychologists pay attention to what people do velopment of intelligence. Other researchersright. Once psychologists began to notice the studied how changes in the environments ofmany ways that human beings succeed in life, schools, the workplace, and families could helpthese neglected aspects of behavior became the human beings to be more creative and find la-focus of theory, research, and intervention tent and yet untapped potentials. While consid-strategies. At this point, it is helpful to discuss erable work has been done in terms of this mis-why the perspective of positive psychology is sion, few studies have looked at how to nurtureneeded today. This will be followed by a discus- genius and talent. This second mission for psy- gsion of related themes and assumptions that chology has been relatively ignored over the incontribute to a conceptualization of the good years.life and to positive psychology. The third early mission of psychology was io rn to make normal life more fulfilling. Obviously, there is more to living a satisfied and happy life ct eaWhy Positive Psychology than simply getting one’s immediate needs met in a reasonable amount of time. People need n du LIs Needed Today challenges, tasks that test their skills, opportu- nities for learning new ideas and developing tal- ro gePsychology has not always focused on the adapt- ents, as well as the freedom to reinvent them- selves throughout their lives. However, just asable, the healthy, and the positive aspects of hu- ep ga with the nurturing of genius, the creation ofmanity. In fact, for many years professional psy- more life fulfillment was, unfortunately, largelychology largely ignored the study of the positive ignored as psychology concentrated on other r R enside of human behavior. Seligman (2000) noted areas of research. For instance, while the ac-that prior to World War II there were only three complishments in finding treatments for mentalmajor missions in psychology: to cure mental ill- fo f C illness were impressive, from a practical stand-ness, to find and nurture genius and talent, and point their achievement was to help peopleto make normal life more fulfilling. move from a state of negative emotionality to ot o what might be described as a state of neutralEarly Missions of Psychology emotionality. The question of how one moved N ty from the neutral position to a positive place ofThe first early mission was to cure mental ill- er enhanced adaptability, well-being, and happi-ness. The terrible consequences of mental ill- ness was not central to the direction that psy-ness for many people, their families, and the op chology was then taking. Much of the emphasiscommunity demanded that psychology use the in positive psychology is to remedy the relativemethods of science to seek solutions to thisPr neglect of these areas. It has taken up the chal-problem. Over the years, psychology and medi- lenge to focus attention on how to nurture ge-cine have been remarkably successful. In the nius and talent as well as how to help peopleearly 1950s, no real cures existed for the major lead lives that are more fulfilling.types of mental illness. Today, there are realcures for many types of mental illness, such aspanic disorder and depression, and highly effec- Importance of Positive Emotionstive treatments exist for others, such as schizo- to Both Mental and Physical Healthphrenia and bipolar disorder (Seligman, 1994). The second early mission of psychology was Positive psychology is also needed today be-to find and nurture genius and talent. Many of cause scientific research is revealing how impor-the early studies in this area focused on the de- tant positive emotions and adaptive behaviors
  18. 18. 6 CHAPTER ONEare to living a satisfying and productive life. For eliminate negative emotions and problematicmuch of the twentieth century, many scientists behaviors.assumed that the study of positive emotions was Positive psychology represents another di-somewhat frivolous at best and probably unnec- rection for psychology by focusing investiga-essary. Many assumed that psychology should tions of who we are as human beings in morefocus on more pressing social problems, such as positive directions. In some ways, positive psy-drug abuse, criminal behavior, or the treatment chology is an attitude that people can take to re-of serious psychological disorders like depres- search, to other people, and to themselves. gsion. This assumption is only partially correct. It With this in mind, a person may reasonably ask, inis quite true that psychology does need to study just what are the ideas and attitudes that helpserious social and psychological problems. In shape positive psychology? The next section de- io rnfact, positive psychologists do not reject the scribes a number of the basic themes and per-need to study and attempt to eliminate the ter- spectives that have helped to create and shape ct earible social and personal costs of these prob- positive psychology today.lems. Recent research, however, suggests that n du Lthe study of positive emotions can actually helpto fight these problems. For instance, some ro genewer forms of psychotherapy focus on the de-velopment of positive emotions and adaptive Basic Themes and Assumptions of Positive Psychology ep gacoping strategies rather than focusing on nega-tive emotions, internal conflicts, and anxietiesformed in childhood. These forms of psy- The Good Life r R enchotherapy can be quite successful in helpingpeople emerge from debilitating psychological One of the major themes that define positive fo f Cproblems (see Chapter 8). psychology is a focus on the elements and pre- Recent studies also support the important dictors of the good life. The term “good life” mayinfluence that positive emotions and adaptive be somewhat unfamiliar to many students of ot obehavior have on a number of positive outcomes psychology. The only connection that somein life. People who experience and express pos- people have with this phrase comes from its pop- N tyitive emotions more often are likely to be satis- ular use of the term as a reference to having ex- erfied with their lives and have more rewarding treme wealth, power, prestige, and beauty. Thatinterpersonal relationships. They are more pro- use of the phrase “the good life” is quite incor- opductive and satisfied at their job, are helpful to rect, however. In fact, the idea of the good lifeother people, and are more likely to reach de- comes from philosophical speculations aboutPrsired goals in life (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, what holds the greatest value in life or what is the1999). Interestingly, people who experience and nature of the highest or most important “good.”express positive emotions often are also more When we apply this idea to human life, “thelikely to be physically healthier, more resistant good life” refers to the factors that contributeto illness, and may even live longer than others most to a well-lived and fulfilling life. Nicholas(Danner, Snowdon, & Friesen, 2001). There- Dent says, “Things that are good may also before, the study of positive emotions and adaptive considered from the point of view of how theybehavior can offer real benefits to learning how will contribute to a well-spent or happy humanto build more fulfilling lives, both by helping life. The idea of a complete good is that whichpeople reach their potentials and by helping to will wholly satisfy the complete need and destiny
  19. 19. AN INTRODUCTION TO POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 7of humans, the summum bonum” (in Hon- points and details that go into ideas about thederich, 1995, p. 322). Qualities that help define good life.the good life are those that enrich our lives,make life worth living, and foster strong charac-ter. Seligman (2002a) defines the good life as Past Assumptions“using your signature strengths every day to pro- about Human Behaviorduce authentic happiness and abundant gratifi-cation” (p. 13). For a number of years, much research in psy- g In positive psychology, the good life has chology was based on the assumption that hu- inbeen seen as a combination of three elements: man beings are driven by base motivations suchpositive connections to others, positive individ- as aggression, egoistic self-interest, and the pur- io rnual traits, and life regulation qualities. Aspects suit of simple pleasures. Because many psychol-of our behavior that contribute to forging posi- ogists began with that assumption, they in- ct eative connections to others can include the ability advertently designed research studies thatto love, the presence of altruistic concerns, the supported their own prior assumptions. There- n du Lability to forgive, and the presence of spiritual fore, the older view of humanity was of a speciesconnections to help create a sense of deeper that barely keeps its aggressive tendencies in ro gemeaning and purpose in life. Positive individualtraits can include, among other elements, a check and manages to live in social groups more out of motivated self-interest than out of a gen- ep gasense of integrity, the ability to play and be cre- uine affinity for others or a true sense of com-ative, and the presence of virtues such as cour- munity. Both Sigmund Freud and the early be-age and humility. Finally, life regulation quali- haviorists believed the humans were motivated r R enties are those that allow us to regulate our primarily by selfish drives. From that perspec-day-to-day behavior in such a way that we can tive, social interaction was possible only by fo f Caccomplish our goals while helping to enrich exerting control over those baser emotions.the people and institutions that we encounter Therefore, people were always vulnerable toalong the way. These qualities include a sense of eruptions of violence, greed, and selfishness. ot oindividuality or autonomy, a high degree of The fact that humans actually lived together inhealthy self-control, and the presence of wis- social groups was seen as a tenuous arrange- N tydom as a guide to behavior. ment that was always just one step away from er In summary, one of the distinguishing fea- violence.tures of positive psychology is a focus on what An unfortunate offshoot of this assumption opconstitutes the type of life for human beings was the idea that people are motivated by athat leads to the greatest sense of well-being, “survival of the fittest” mentality. This theory ofPrsatisfaction or contentment, and the good life. social behavior has been termed Social Darwin-In addition, positive psychology views the good ism. Darwin, however, never proposed this the-life not just as an individual achievement that is ory! It was, in fact, created by nineteenth andremoved from the social context. On the con- early twentieth century thinkers who wishedtrary, if it is to be a worthwhile definition of “the to support the current social hierarchy. Theygood,” the good life must include relationships sought to find in Darwin’s theory a way to justifywith other people and with the society as a social disparities by saying that those who hadwhole. The definition of the good life has so far more wealth and power deserved to have itbeen rather broad and somewhat abstract. The because they were the “fittest” (Honderich,rest of this book will flesh out some of the finer 1995). However, psychological theory has never
  20. 20. 8 CHAPTER ONEsubscribed to this idea, and positive psychology In addition, while knowledge of how peoplecertainly does not either. adjust well to life’s ups and downs is extremely important, in the past psychology paid less at- tention to how people move beyond simple ad-People Are Highly Adaptive justment to actually flourishing and thriving inand Desire Positive Social Relationships the face of change. That is, some people do notA new vision of human beings has been emerg- just adapt to life—they adapt extraordinarilying from psychological research. According to well. Some adapt so well that they serve as role gthese newer perspectives, socialization and the models of incredible resiliency, perseverance, inability to live in groups are highly adaptable and fortitude. One of the goals of positive psy-traits (Buss, 2000). Newer psychological think- chology is to understand how those people io rning views the ability to interact peaceably in so- manage to accomplish such high levels of thriv-cial groups as a trait that would actually enhance ing and flourishing. ct eathe evolutionary advantage of the species. That It is interesting to note that some of theseis, as the human race developed, those people ideas are even beginning to move into the of- n du Lwho could live together in groups would have an fices of psychotherapists as they work withadvantage over those who could not. Therefore, people experiencing psychological distress (see ro gethey would be more likely to survive and pass ontheir genetic material to their children. Chapter 9). For instance, Volney Gay (2001) has recently challenged the idea that the repression ep ga of negative experiences during childhood is the primary factor in the development of adultPeople Can Thrive and Flourish psychological distress. Gay’s argument is that r R enPositive psychology seeks to investigate what the anxiety, depression, and worry that go alongpeople do correctly in life. As in Sheldon and with adult distress actually occur because fo f CKing (2001)’s definition, positive psychology people cannot recollect joy, which in turn leadsrecognizes that many people adapt and adjust to to a retreat from active participation in life.life in highly creative ways that allow them, and Therefore, the real work of the psychotherapist ot othose they come in contact with, to feel good is to help her or his clients reconnect with andabout life. All too often, psychological research rekindle the joy in life that has been hidden and N tydisplays a blatant bias toward assuming that suppressed. erpeople are unwitting pawns to their biology,their childhood, or their unconscious. Positive oppsychology takes the position that in spite of the Strengths and Virtuesvery real difficulties of life, we must acknowl- Are Central to Well-BeingPredge that most people do quite well. Most Another distinguishing feature of positive psy-people at least try to be good parents, to treat chology is that discussions of virtues and whatothers with some degree of respect, to love used to be called “good character” are impor-those close to them, to find ways to contribute tant to conceptualizations of the good life. Posi-to society and the welfare of others, and to live tive psychology recognizes that any discussiontheir lives with integrity and honesty. These of what constitutes the good life must inevitablyachievements should be celebrated rather touch on virtues, values, and character develop-than explained away as “nothing but” biolog- ment. It is not possible to discuss the dimen-ical urges or unconscious attempts to ward off sions of an admirable and fulfilling life withoutanxiety and fear. introducing discussions of virtues such as hon-
  21. 21. AN INTRODUCTION TO POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 9esty, fidelity, or courage. This is not to say that have welcomed them. For instance, Corey L.positive psychologists advocate certain virtues M. Keyes & Shane Lopez (Keyes, 1998; Keys &and values simply because they personally ad- Lopez, 2002) have argued that a complete clas-mire them. Science cannot address in any ulti- sification system for mental health should in-mate or absolute sense what values a person clude three general components: emotionalmust believe in or practice in her or his life. Sci- well-being, psychological well-being, and socialence will never be able to say, for instance, that well-being.everyone should value happiness as the ulti- Related to this idea is the recognition that gmate goal of life. However, a science of positive differences may exist in how cultures conceptu- inpsychology does have a role in the investigation alize, encourage, or teach their children aboutof values. the nature of happiness and the good life (see io rn Over thirty years ago, M. Brewster Smith Matsumoto, 1994). In general, the search for(1969) said that psychology cannot decide happiness is a universal quest. Nonetheless, a ct eawhich values are “best.” What psychology can fascinating variety of ideas about the specificdo is investigate the consequences of holding nature of happiness exists among cultures of the n du Lcertain values. For instance, psychology can world. One of the more prominent distinctionsuse scientific methods to investigate the conse- is between cultures that view happiness as an ro gequences of living a life based on the values ofhonesty, integrity, tolerance, and self-control. emotion that individuals achieve through their own unique efforts and those that view it as a ep gaIn addition, scientific methods can be applied in more collective experience—a joint product ofany cultural setting or in any society around the persons and their immediate family environ-world to discover what values tend to enhance ments. (These distinctions will be covered in r R enthe quality of life for everyone in a community. more detail in Chapter 11.) Positive psychology,Therefore, the consequences of holding certain as well as all of psychology, is beginning to fo f Csocial values can be investigated within that spe- explore cross-cultural comparisons that maycific culture. In addition, scientific methods can enhance our understanding of how peoplebe used to investigate the possibility that cer- throughout the world experience psychological ot otain values are found almost universally and, well-being.therefore, may represent a common core of vir- N tytues that have grounded many cultures over ertime (see Chapter 8). Assumptions about Human Emotions opPersons Exist in Social Contexts The Predictors of PositiveA final theme of positive psychology is the rec- Emotions Are UniquePrognition that people exist in social contexts and Another basic theme in positive psychologythat well-being is not just an individual pursuit. concerns the relationships between positiveOf course, positive psychology is not alone in emotional states and well-being. Psychologistsrecognizing the importance of the social context used to assume that, if a person could eliminatefor human behavior. What positive psychology their negative emotions, then positive emotionshas done is to embrace ideas about positive would automatically take their place. Indeed,social environments, such as social well-being many people who hope to win large sums ofand empowerment. Many of these ideas were money on the lottery are driven by this assump-adopted from community psychology (see tion. They assume that money will eliminateChapter 11), but many positive psychologists negative emotions such as worry and desire,
  22. 22. 10 CHAPTER ONEand then they will be happy. In reality, while the identical. There are unique psychological pro-elimination of distressful and debilitating nega- cesses that help a person move from feeling neg-tive emotions is a worthy goal for psychology, ative emotions such as anxiety and depression towhen it is accomplished positive emotions are a position of neutral emotionality. At the samenot the inevitable result. After negative emo- time, other equally unique psychological pro-tions are gone, what remains for many people cesses help a person move from neutral emo-might be termed a state of neutral emotionality. tionality to greater happiness, life satisfaction,In order to move from a neutral position to and joy in life. Many of these positive psycholog- gmore positive emotions, some other procedures ical processes will be the subjects of the chapters inneed to be followed. to follow. Michael Argyle (1987) illustrates this point. io rnHe noted that the probability of experiencing All Positive Emotions Are Not the Samenegative emotionality is predicted by a number ct eaof factors, such as unemployment, high stress, Enjoyment and Pleasure At this point,and low economic status. It should be quite ap- some readers may ask, is positive psychology n du Lparent, however, that happiness and psychologi- then simply a way to help people feel good allcal well-being are not automatically achieved the time? Can we sum up positive psychology ro gewhen a person has a job, is under normal stresslevels, and is middle class. Under those cir- with the popular phrase, “If it feels good, do it!”? Many scientists are fond of saying that the ep gacumstances, a person feels better but is not basic motivating factor in behavior—humannecessarily as happy as he or she could be. Just and nonhuman alike—is the desire to avoideliminating one’s negative feelings does not au- pain and find pleasure. Could this, in fact, be r R entomatically create human strengths, virtues, and the secret of a fulfilled and happy life? Is thethe capacity to thrive and flourish. Just because goal of life simply to find as much pleasure and fo f Csomeone is relatively free of anxiety, depression, as little pain as possible? Is the highest goodand worry, they do not automatically exhibit in- simply defined as pleasure? A few distinctionsspiring instances of courage, self-sacrifice, hon- between the types of positive emotions may be ot oesty, and integrity. Another example comes from helpful in answering these questions.Christopher Peterson and his colleagues (Peter- Mihayi Csikszentmihalyi (1990) said that N tyson et al., 2000 cited in Peterson & Steen, 2002). pleasure can be defined as the good feeling erTheir study of pessimism and optimism showed that comes from satisfying needs and meetingthat optimism was reliably associated with posi- expectations. These expectations can come optive mood. If someone was optimistic, then he or from our biological needs for rest, food, or sex,she tended to also experience positive moods. for example. They can also come from socialPrHowever, the degree of pessimism had no sig- conditioning. This type of pleasure might comenificant link to mood. People who tended toward from obtaining socially desirable status symbols.pessimism could be in bad moods or fairly neu- While pleasurable experiences can be fun andtral moods. Therefore, simply decreasing a per- can add some positive experiences to our life,son’s degree of pessimism may have no major im- they often do not produce any psychologicalpact on whether a person feels happy or not. It growth or development. Pleasurable experi-may only make them less pessimistic. To increase ences must be continually renewed. Nonethe-positive mood, a person has to increase optimism less, pleasure is undoubtedly important to lifein addition to decreasing pessimism. So, while satisfaction.some of the predictors of positive emotionality Seligman (2002a) made a distinction be-and negative emotions are similar, they are not tween bodily pleasures and the higher plea-
  23. 23. AN INTRODUCTION TO POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 11sures. Bodily pleasures are based on biological tempted to identify subgroupings of the waysneeds, such as the examples given above. Higher in which people define and pursue well-being.pleasures are experiences that feel good but are One of these groupings that are seen frequentlyalso more cognitively complex and tend to have in positive psychology research is between he-a more lasting effect on mood. Examples of the donic and eudaimonic approaches to well-beinghigher pleasures include joy, vigor, mirth, and (Ryan & Deci, 2001).excitement. These all involve cognitive opera- The hedonic approach is similar to, but nottions as well as the stimulation of bodily plea- identical to, the perspective on pleasure that gsure. The question of real interest is how expe- was discussed above. Hedonism is one of the inriences are interpreted and made meaningful. oldest approaches to a definition of the good In general, the simple proposition that we life, and it focuses on pleasure as the good life’s io rnbehave in order to increase physiological plea- basic component. Hedonism in its narrowestsure and to avoid physiological pain is violated and most restricted form is the belief that the ct eafrequently enough that it simply cannot serve as pursuit of well-being is fundamentally the pur-the ultimate basis for any serious inquiry into suit of individual sensual pleasures. While the n du Lthe good life or psychological well-being (Par- single-minded pursuit of pleasure is one of therott, 1993). If the good life cannot consist solely oldest approaches to the good life, this form of ro geof pleasure, then what about enjoyment? Howdoes enjoyment differ from pleasure? hedonism has been seen as self-defeating and unworkable by most societies throughout his- ep ga Csikszentmihalyi (1990) said that enjoy- tory. Nearly everyone realizes that sensual plea-ment involves meeting expectations or fulfilling sures are short-lived, that they result in a con-a need and then going beyond those expecta- stant struggle to repeat them, and that when r R entions to create something new, unexpected, or focused on exclusively they produce no lastingeven unimagined. Enjoyment has within it the changes in personality and no personal growth. fo f Csense of accomplishment and novelty. Enjoy- The hedonic approach, however, does not havement creates something new and expands our to be simple self-indulgence or a “me first” atti-possibilities and potentials. Therefore, one of tude toward life. ot othe tasks of positive psychology is to investigate The broader form of hedonism, however,how people create both pleasurable experiences includes the idea that pleasure is the basic mo- N tyand a deeper sense of enjoyment in life. Fur- tivating force behind most human behaviors but erther, positive psychology seeks to find out how also recognizes that certain pleasures requireepisodes of enjoyment throughout life can help positive social interactions with other people. opto create a sense that life has been lived well. For instance, some variations of the hedonic ap- proach view family life or civic involvement asHedonic and Eudaimonic Well-BeingPr ways to maximize pleasure and contentment forThe distinction between pleasure and enjoy- all people involved. Applying this more “civi-ment is related to another major theme that is lized” definition of hedonic well-being to theoften found in positive psychology. This is the good life, the goal is to create high levels of hap-difference between hedonic and eudaimonic piness for oneself and for other people. Thisconceptualizations of well-being (eudaimonia form of hedonism has been a basic assumptioncan also be spelled as eudaemonia). As has been behind many conceptualizations of the good lifesuggested, definitions of what constitutes the throughout history and is very much alive todaygood life are numerous and are focused on an (see Kahneman, Diener, & Schwartz, 1999).amazing variety of goals. In an attempt to bring Given this caveat, the main goal of the hedonicsome order to this variety, researchers have at- perspective is to increase happiness in a variety
  24. 24. 12 CHAPTER ONEof ways. The good life is defined in terms of pos- tion, positive psychology also includes a rec-itive emotions such as happiness, contentment, ognition that the tragic elements in life cansatisfaction, or joy. This approach focuses on enrich our experience of being human (Wool-finding and fostering positive emotionality. folk, 2002). There must be a reason why people The eudaimonic approach, on the other throughout history have been drawn to plays,hand, tends to focus on well-being as a function paintings, poetry, and even music that expressof fulfilling one’s potential. In this case, well- sadness, tragedy, and defeat. It may be that inbeing may or may not be associated with the max- order to appreciate the positive in life we must gimization of happiness. Eudaimonic well-being also know something of the negative. Positive inis, however, most associated with the fulfilling of psychology does not deny that every effortone’s “true nature” and finding one’s “true self ” should be made to help eliminate problems as- io rn(Ryan & Deci, 2001). The eudaimonic approach sociated with social injustices and social in-may also be associated with living one’s life in ac- equalities. ct eacord with the values and virtues that are the most Having recognized the place for negativedesirable and most indicative of the highest emotions, however, we note that the desire to n du Lgood. The focus of this approach is on expanding be happier and more satisfied with life is uni-potentials and cultivating personal growth. For versal. People simply operate better within ro geinstance, Alan Waterman (1993) referred to theeudaimonic dimension as “personal expressive- whatever world they live if they are more opti- mistic, hopeful, and can rely on solid supportive ep ganess.” He found that this approach to well-being relationships. Interestingly, some of the findingswas associated with activities that allowed oppor- from positive psychology approach universaltunities that help develop a person’s best poten- applicability. For instance, Ed Diener (2000b), r R entials and the realization of the true self. one of the preeminent researchers on well- Since the time of the ancient Greeks, the being, said that the closest thing psychology has fo f Chedonic and the eudaimonic approaches to to a “general tonic” for well-being is to improvewell-being have played a major role in defining happiness. One of the best things a person canhow people think about the nature of the good do to increase quality of life is to help others in- ot olife. In addition, research has supported the crease their level of happiness and life satisfac-idea that these two conceptualizations are im- tion. This applies to people at all levels of in- N typortant in how psychology thinks about and come and psychosocial adjustment. ermeasures well-being even today (Waterman,1993; Compton, Smith, Cornish, & Qualls, Assumptions about the Role op1996; McGregor & Little, 1998; Ryan & Deci, of Science in the Study of Well-Being2001).Pr One of the most distinguishing features of posi-Negative Emotions Are Still Important tive psychology is an insistence that researchAt this point, it should be emphasized again that must follow the standards of traditional scien-positive psychologists do not wish to limit the tific investigations. Positive psychology is cer-topics of study but rather to expand the topics to tainly not the first attempt by psychologistsinclude aspects of human flourishing. Positive to study well-being and the good life. Frompsychology does not deny that there are many the very beginnings of psychology, some re-problems in the world that need attention. It is searchers have been interested in studyingalso obvious that at times negative emotions can healthy personality development and optimalbe necessary for survival. We would be far too states of well-being. Many of these investiga-vulnerable if we completely eliminated fear, tions, however, were theoretical, scholarlyanxiety, or skepticism from our lives. In addi- analyses, or in-depth case studies of individuals.
  25. 25. AN INTRODUCTION TO POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 13For example, in the early part of the twentieth much greater emphasis on the use of scientificcentury many investigations into psychological methods to study well-being and positive adap-well-being and the nature of the good life began tation (see, e.g., Strack, Argyle, & Schwartz,first as scholarly studies or as observations of 1991; Kahneman, Diener, & Schwartz, 1999).clients in psychotherapy. Attempts were then In addition, much of the emphasis in humanis-made to move the results of those studies into tic psychology—particularly early humanisticthe psychological laboratories for further exper- psychology—was on theories of optimal per-imental research or into real-life situations to sonality development such as self-actualization. ghelp people increase well-being. Unfortunately, While positive psychology also investigates po- inmany attempts to move results into the labora- tentials for greater psychological development,tory were difficult or even impossible. it places greater emphasis on the well-being io rn Viewing many of these past difficulties, a and satisfaction of the “average” person on thenumber of positive psychologists have seen a street (see Sheldon & King, 2001). In most ct eaneed to reverse the direction of information studies, positive psychologists have focused onflow. That is, many positive psychologists hope the benefits of simply being more happy and n du Lto build an experimental knowledge base in satisfied with life.the psychological laboratory and then move ro gethose results out into real-world arenas such asschools, clinics, and workplaces. To further this A Short History of Well-Being ep gaend, many of the founders of positive psychol-ogy have placed considerable emphasis on pro- in the Western Worldmoting and developing opportunities for exper- r R enimental research on psychological well-beingand the potentials we have for even greater ful- One of the more important ways to understand fo f Cfillment in life. any field is to look at the history of how ideas in As mentioned, positive psychology is not that field have developed over time. Positivethe first attempt by psychologists to focus re- psychology is the latest effort by human beings ot osearch on positive emotions, healthy adaptation, to understand the nature of happiness and well-and the development of human potentials. Most being, but it is by no means the first attempt to N tyrecently, the humanistic school of psychology solve that particular puzzle. Therefore, the next erhas focused on many of the same goals as posi- section of this chapter turns to a very brief his-tive psychology. Abraham Maslow, one of the tory of how people in the Western world have opfounders of humanistic psychology, even had a answered the question, “What is happiness?”chapter titled “Toward a Positive Psychology” in Other cultures have different histories of well- being; however, space limitations do not permitPrhis seminal book, Motivation and Personality(1954). Even today, humanistic psychologists a cross-cultural review. Nevertheless, Chap-study what is healthy, adaptive, creative, and ter 10 presents a short section on how Easternthe full range of human potentials. Humanistic psychology thinks about well-being, and a briefpsychology and positive psychology differ in exploration of cross-cultural ideas on well-beingtheir emphases on empirical research and the will be covered in Chapter 11.application of research findings. Over the years,a number of humanistic psychologists have The Early Hebrewsbeen actively involved in empirical styles of re-search (see Bohart & Greenberg, 1997; Green- Judaism is one of the most influential factors inberg & Rice, 1997; Cain & Seeman, 2002). the development and proliferation of the West-However, positive psychologists have placed a ern worldview. The religion and culture of the
  26. 26. 14 CHAPTER ONEancient Hebrews represent one of the three pil- The new element that was introduced intolars of knowledge that have sustained Western Greek society during its Golden Age was theculture—the other two being the Greek civi- idea that the good life and the proper path tolization and Christianity. The ancient Hebrews happiness could be discovered through logicdeveloped a new social identity by developing a and rational analysis. That is, neither the godsrelationship with their personal God. For the nor the social traditions of the culture need beHebrews, many of the rules that governed their the ultimate arbitrator of individual values andrelationship to God were expressed as prohibi- goals. The general answer to the happiness gtions. For the ancient Hebrews, the main list question was that human beings could decide inof prohibitions was the Ten Commandments. for themselves what paths most reliably lead toIn general, these are prohibitions against self- well-being. io rncenteredness, greed, and irrational anger, aswell as requirements to accept the God of the Socrates ct eaancient Hebrews as the only true God. The person most responsible for the new direc- Philosophically, this approach to the search tion in Greek intellectual life was Socrates n du Lfor happiness has been called a divine com- (c. 469 – 399 BCE). He turned rationality tomand theory of happiness. According to this questions of human knowledge and especially ro getheory, happiness is found by living in accordwith the commands or rules set down by a su- to ideas on the nature of the good life or what we really need to be truly happy. In his method, ep gapreme being (see Honderich, 1995). In its most Socrates affirmed the Delphic motto, “Knowbasic form, this theory says that if one follows thyself.” The search for truth must be centeredthe commands, there will be rewards. In addi- on an exploration of the unchanging truths of r R ention, if one does not follow the commands, the human psyche (Robinson, 1990). He be-there will be punishments. Therefore, for the lieved that true happiness could be achieved fo f CHebrew patriarchs, and later for many Chris- only through self-knowledge, which would re-tians, true happiness was related to a religious veal wisdom and the true nature of the person’spiety that was based on submission to God’s soul. Yet to know what is truly good, and not just ot osupreme authority and a rejection of self- self-indulgent or socially expected, a personcentered and simple hedonistic behaviors. The must know the essence or the core of virtue— N tyinfluence of this worldview on Western cul- one must know “the good” or the core element erture for the next 2,500 years cannot be over- of the good life. Socrates believed that once theemphasized. true nature of “the good” is known, it will be au- op tomatically desired and will then motivate vir-The Greeks tuous behavior. However, Socrates distrustedPr the perceptual forms of knowledge. For him,The second pillar that has sustained the in- true wisdom must be found in a reality that ex-tellectual and moral developments in the West- presses timeless and unchanging truths. Anyern world was the legacy of the Greek cul- search or well-being based on the sensory expe-ture. While the Jewish traditions were largely riences or the emotions cannot reveal that truthinfluential in the development of ethical, moral, because they are constantly changing in re-and religious beliefs, the Greek culture would sponse to external circumstances.set the stage for developments in philosophy,science, art, and psychology for the next Plato2,500 years. In fact, in the Greek world can be Following in Socrates’ footsteps was his mostfound the original core of most of the significant important student, Plato (427– 347 BCE). Platophilosophical ideas of the Western world. also believed that changeable sensory experi-