Published on November 19, 2007
Positive Psychology: Positive Psychology The Science of Human Strengths A starting place: A starting place Martin Seligman APA President 1996 Psychology split into two camps: Academics more interested in science. Clinicians interested in practice of psychotherapy. Hoped to bring science and practice together. Nikki and the weeds: Nikki and the weeds Seligman’s inspiration. Weeding garden. 5-year old daughter throwing weeds. Seligman irritated, yelled at Nikki. “Daddy. From when I was 3 until I was 5, I was a whiner. I whined every day. On my 5th birthday, I decided I wasn’t going to whine anymore. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch.” An epiphany: An epiphany Seligman resolved to change. His purpose in life was not to correct his daughter’s shortcomings. Instead, raising her to nurture the strength she displayed (social intelligence). Can psychological science be about identifying and nurturing strengths? His mission as APA president. Seligman Experiment: part 1: Seligman Experiment: part 1 Escapable shock. Had coping mechanism. Press nose button to terminate shock. “Active” Inescapable shock. Got shock. No coping mechanism. No way to terminate shock. “Passive Seligman Experiment: part 2: Seligman Experiment: part 2 All groups received the same condition: escapable shock. Put in shuttle box. Light dimmed. 10 second later got shock unless they jumped to safe side. Shuttle box behavior: Shuttle box behavior Dogs in the escapable shock quickly learned to jump to safe side. Dogs in inescapable shock did not jump to safe side. Agitated at first but later laid down and took the shock. Dogs in inescapable shock group learned helplessness Parallels with Reactive Depression: Parallels with Reactive Depression Triggered by traumatic life event (ex. death of loved one). Passivity Difficulty in learning responses that bring relief. Physical symptoms. Stress related disorders. Directive Therapy: Directive Therapy Dogs that had been exposed to inescapable shock. Remove barrier and push them to safe side. Reinstall barrier and force them over it. Eventually learn to jump. Parallels to Treating People: Parallels to Treating People Encourage depressed people to get back into life. Ex: not willing to leave home. Small steps. (Go out to movie, then mall.) Increase difficulty. Show them they do have control over their lives. Motivational, learning and emotional gains. Prevention of Helplessness: Prevention of Helplessness Seligman suggests the best prevention for helplessness is early experience with mastery. Based on life histories of people who were resilient in situations likely to cause helplessness. Self-efficacy, competence already in existence. Served as a buffer. Human strengths : Human strengths Despite all the difficulties of life, majority of people manage to live with dignity and purpose. Positive psychology adopts a more optimistic perspective on human potential, motives, and capacities. Humanistic psychology with scientific methods. Positive subjective states: Positive subjective states Positive emotions. Happiness. Satisfaction with life. Optimism and hope. Sources of energy and confidence. Positive individual traits: Positive individual traits Character strengths and virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance and Transcendence. Creativity and excellence. FLOW by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi Positive institutions: Positive institutions Develop and sustain institutions that enrich human potential. Healthy families Work environments. Schools. Whole communities. Reduce high risk behavior by punishing or supporting alternatives. A brief history lesson: A brief history lesson Pre WWII, psychology had better balance. Treating mental illness. Nurturing genius and talent. Studies of normal life and happiness. Important of relationships and group membership. Leadership styles. After the war: After the war Focus on treatments for mental illness. GI’s coming home with “combat fatigue”. In treatment at VA hospitals. Now called PTSD. Money went towards developing new treatments. 1955, introduction of drugs for the treatment of depression and psychosis. Education programs : Education programs After war, seemed more appropriate to focus on helping children with developmental disabilities. Gifted programs encouraged but not funded. Exceptional children are on both ends of the spectrum. Nurture genius and talents as well. Expand focus: Expand focus Positive psychology supports efforts to eliminate social problems such as drug abuse, criminal behavior and mental illness. Study the protective factors as well as the risk factors. Positive emotions and traits that could be used to combat problems. Risk and protective factors: Risk and protective factors Drug abuse risk factors: Family history, peer influence, unemployment. Protective factors: Strong family values, positive peer influence, employment counseling. Most people do not abuse alcohol. Most gamblers can control themselves. Positive gambling ads. Message of hope rather than fear. Shares ideas with Humanistic Psychology: Shares ideas with Humanistic Psychology Abraham Maslow Positive instincts to fulfill human potential. Strong motivating force to do good. Be the best that they could be. Self-actualization. Client-centered therapy of Carl Rogers Maslow rejected Freud’s ideas: Maslow rejected Freud’s ideas Psychoanalysis based on what went wrong. Theories based on clinically ill patients. Repressing strong sexual urges. Animal passions. “Why pick the wolf?” Why live in social groups?: Why live in social groups? Freud: social groups control innate aggression. Maslow: need for belongingness. Current view: social behavior highly adaptive. Evolutionary advantage. Improve survival rate. Social behavior in our genes. Humanistic Psychology: Humanistic Psychology Positive side Optimistic view of humankind. Human abilities. Growth potential. Healthy personality. Pyramid of needs Negative side Non-scientific. Philosophy rather than psychology. Need evidence to support beliefs. Self-actualizers rare. Practical applications. Positive Psychology emphasis on research.: Positive Psychology emphasis on research. Most people adapt and adjust to life in creative ways. Resilience: Bounce back after loss. Go beyond recovery. Life takes on new meaning and focus. Study this strength and resilience using scientific method. What makes life worth living. The Greeks had a word for it.: The Greeks had a word for it. Plato and Aristotle described the deeper and more balanced for the good life. Eudaimonia: literally, “having a good guardian spirit.” “Possessed of true well-being.” A person is truly happy when he has what is worth desiring. Living according to virtues and values. Fulfilling one’s potential Plato (or is it da Vinci) by Raphael More than Maslow: More than Maslow Fulfilling one’s potential sounds a lot like self-actualization. Maslow believed only a few people could reach self-actualization. Elitist. Positive psychology has wider view. “Average” individuals hold potential. Study regular people with large samples. Prevention over treatment: Prevention over treatment Positive psychology seeks to shift some of the focus from treatment to prevention. Help more people if we can prevent problems before they exist (primary). Or intervene before they get worse (secondary). Treatment (tertiary). Saving the drowning: Saving the drowning Women driving down a road near a river with a strong current. Sees teenager in danger of drowning. Stops car. She pulls teen to shore when another appears in the torrent. Then another and another. She keeps pulling people out for two hours. Other people stop cars to help her save teens. Finally the woman starts walking up stream. “Where are you going?” the people ask. “Don’t you see there are more to be saved?” Her reply?