flowing motion

4 big reasons why we initally find positive psychology puzzling

Posted on: January 5, 2010

At first, I was suspicious about positive psychology

I came to positive psychology some 10 years ago and like many people, I was deeply suspicious. Life is not about happiness, I thought. Life is about effectiveness. Life is about dealing with reality.

I still think that is what life is all about but I have also changed my “mental model” of happiness

Many people encountering positive psychology and happiness for the first time feel the same suspicious. And they write columns in newspapers and the speak on radio and TV about why focusing on happiness is wrong-headed.

A straight-forward summary of the puzzle of positive psychology

Gaye Prior writing from Zimbabwe, commented the post I wrote yesterday on poiesis and auto-poiesis and has captured the debates very clearly.

I realise that you write often of happiness and I wonder how you define what happiness is? It seems to me that many people might describe happiness as pleasure, which to me is more of an ephemeral thing and not happiness in the least. Pleasure does not give life meaning and purpose and love. These are more important to me than passing enjoyment and survive even in the face of tragedy, horror, awfulness and loss.

All over the web people write about happiness and often it sees to me, living here, to be more about pleasure than purpose. I know your blog is more about work and how positive psychology pertains to that and that you may have already done this and I missed it before I found you blog. Perhaps you could just [give] me the reference?

4 puzzles of positive psychology

I’ll answer her query at four levels

#1 The contribution of pleasure, engagement and meaning to well-being.

#2  Happiness at difficult times and in difficult places.

#3  The ‘maths’ of happiness and why positive psychologists agree that much of enjoyment is “passing”.

#4  How conventional psychology is a ‘straw man’.

I’ll leave this here for today and summarize each of the issues in a separate post.

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5 Responses to "4 big reasons why we initally find positive psychology puzzling"

Thank you for your thorough response. I am grateful for it as now I don’t feel as if I am missing something that others (all over the blog world especially) get. I am looking forward to your further writing but would ask you to remember that I am only an accountant not a psychologist or a statistician and so sometimes your technical language takes some comprehending. It is far from my own discipline!

G

Hmmm I also wanted to say that I am not suspicous of positive psychology – mostly because having known you so long I figure that anything you invest energy in must have considerable merit. But reading your blog today I realised that how one defines happiness is crucial and I didn’t understand yours.

And living here amongst daily tragedy and loss and awfulness and horror I have been rethinking my own understanding of what happiness is and whether I want to invest energy in seeking it. I am hoping that your understanding would inform my own.

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[…] forgot to finish my series on the 4 puzzles of positive psychology, but I was reminded by lines I read in Khalil […]

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