flowing motion

The deep challenge for an ethical positive psychologist

Posted on: September 6, 2009

.  .  .  this is all, this is perfect, this is it .  .  .

Words from my friend Anand Raj .  .  .

I had a great sense of relief when I read those words.  But in other times and other places these words would have driven me to suicide.  They would have heightened my panic.  I found the place unacceptable and any conversation I had with anyone needed to begin from that sentiment.

Positive psychology and despair

Because I’ve had these soul-destroying moments in past lives, I have deep doubts about some aspects of positive psychology.

I suspect the best that a positive psychologist can do when someone is deeply miserable is to AVOID theorizing.

I suspect our theory is little more than our distaste for someone else’s misery.  So our garrulous ways add to the alienation and horror felt by our companion.  And thus, is unethical if not immoral.

We need to walk-the-talk and keep the conversation on every aspect of the situation that is positive.   Gradually, we might be able to help a person out of their dark place.

Leading when life is dark

And when life is dark for us too, maybe the best we can do is to exercise leadership.

It is not helpful, IMHO, to deny that we are in a dark place.  We need to walk-the-talk, pay active attention to real threats, and take active steps to protect ourselves.  We need to focus on positive aspects – not to cheer people up but because of the genuine merits of those things – and highlight whatever is under our control.

From that appreciation, we may be able to move forward.

But leadership must be active and sincere – even from a psychologist working for money.  It’s not enough to talk about the people we lead.  We must share the journey.

The post I had planned for this morning is more cheerful.  I’ll post that this evening!

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