Psychologists and Psychiatrists spent much of the past century
exploring mental illness. Their efforts led to the comprehensive Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Eventually a group of social scientists decided to explore and
identify factors necessary to develop one’s true personal potential. “Be all you can be” is a perfect way to describe the ultimate
hopes of the positive psychology movement.
Martin E.P. Seligman Ph.D. a Professor of Psychology at the
University of Pennsylvania has deftly summarized an enormous amount of
research in his very readable text Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize
Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. He also hosts a comprehensive
website that contains revealing self-tests.
My Limited Take on Authentic Happiness
Dr.Seligman suggests that millions of people waste much of their
personal potential because the societies within which they live fail to
promote the deliberate identification and expression of strengths and
virtues. The worship of materialism, craving for instant pleasure and
immersion in the twilight world of TV among other traps insulate people
from sources of “authentic happiness.” He asserts, “Authentic happiness comes from identifying and
cultivating your most fundamental strengths and virtues and using them
every day in work, love, play, and parenting.”
The first step is to identify your strengths and virtues by
completing the free Values in Action Signature Strength Questionnaire on Dr.Seligman’s website. Once your values are identified, the challenge is to
tailor your life to allow opportunities for their expression. Authentic
Happiness arises from within when you surrender to your true nature.
Since I began reading psychology, philosophy and religious
textbooks in 1972 I have never encountered a more believable pathway to enlightenment. (Higher consciousness.)
Exceptional Human Beings
Michelangelo is one of the finest examples of a human being having
successfully explored and expressed his uniqueness through art.
According to Wikipedia; “For Michelangelo, the job of the sculptor was to free
the forms that were already inside the stone. He believed that every
stone had a sculpture within it, and that the work of sculpting was
simply a matter of chipping away all that was not a part of the statue.”
The Positive Psychology movement strives to identify methods we
may use to free our true selves from the “soft stone” Mother Nature
created us from and also from the socialized spell of false personality. More contemporary examples include Sir Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi and Canada’s own Terry Fox.
Key Points of Positive Psychology
Positive Psychology in Action
- Seek a life imbued with meaning,
purpose and gratification.
- Attach yourself to a noble cause
such as the Military Families Fund or other charity.
- Cultivate an optimistic outlook.
- Invest in a happy marriage or other
- Develop a rich and fulfilling social
- Minimize resentments and worry.
- Avoid expressing anger and
hostility (Venting anger damages health.)
- Learn to forgive.
- Space out your pleasures to avoid habituation.
- Congratulate yourself when you’ve
accomplished a goal.
- Seek opportunities for Flow, the state of mind that likely indicates psychological growth.
- Limit TV watching.
- Remembering that rich people are, on
average, only slightly happier than poor people is a potent
way to eliminate envy.
To sample the effects of Positive Psychology with little effort try the
following “gratitude exercise” which structures the age old adage “count
your blessings.” Place a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed. Set
aside about five minutes before going to sleep to note what you’ve
appreciated about your life over the past 24 hours. This may include
good health, loving relationships, a roof over your head, and a peaceful
community. Do this for two weeks and see whether your general outlook
improves – I bet it will.