Sunday, October 24, 2010

Can Positive Psychology bring anything to the show?

Positive Psychology can be criticised for being too reductionist, lacking a strong philosophical base, and for being - well, too positive. Whilst these criticisms have some merit, there is a lot of good research and discussion happening in the positive psychology world, and the task is to harvest this rather than debunk it.

I'll post some more ideas on this in due course, but here are some thoughts.

  • If positive psychology can show that interventions increase subjective well-being, can it also show what interventions increase the richer notion of eudaimonia (or flourishing, or the good life)?
  • Will the same interventions that increase subjective well-being increase eudaimonia?
  • Will other interventions, for example those aimed at enhancing meaning or wisdom, have more effect on eudaimonia than subjective well-being?
  • Can the work on flow and strengths increase eudaimonia?
  • Here's one way that they might ... By knowing and focussing on our strengths, we have more chance of achieving our life goals. 
  • Here's another ... By turning the activities that will help us achieve our life goals into flow activities, we will be more motivated to carry them out
So I believe a dialogue  between positive psychology and those interested in enhancing eudaimonia is important - and yes, positive psychology can bring something to the show

1 comment:

Aaron Agassi said...

I actually oppose that bullet point last point, because it twists Positive Psychology to the intrinsic malpractice that is Behavior Modification, by seeking motivators towards compliance, rather than following innate motivations as sovereign in their own right, and thence seeking to really improve circumstances

I am lukewarm as to Positive Psychology interventions. They only improve upon the self deceiving delusional behavioral suggestion of willful positive thinking, in that the suggestions, counting ones blessings, are better and more reasonably selected so as not to affront credulity. But even that still violates the injunction against suggestion. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is receptive to the patient's own unvarnished feelings, happy or unhappy. Critiquing depressive thought patterns or: "mental behaviors" is still just Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

It is the latter day Eudemonism of Positive Psychology that appeals, and not the rest of its dubious grab-bag. Eudemonism seeks for the right way of living ones best, not being reasonable and simply making do, more cheerfully. Know more at: