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Embracing the dark side of life with positive psychology

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... The first wave focused on the brighter side of human nature, but this 'happyology' stance attracted great criticism for being overly-simplistic (Lomas, 2014). Initial articulations of positive psychology also appeared overly-focused on the individual, with a lack of attention given to relationships, teams, groups, organisations and communities. ...
... Around 2007, there was a call amongst psychologists to consider a more balanced approach to positive psychology to overcome the criticisms of the first wave and develop a more meaningful concept (Lomas, 2014). This second wave prompted consideration for both positive and negative emotions. ...
... Now, it is worth stating that, within the field, it is recognised that the concept of 'positive' can be somewhat problematic . Theorists of a critical persuasion have pointed out that qualities or states that might be deemed 'positive' can be detrimental to wellbeing under certain circumstances, while ostensibly 'negative' ones may conversely promote flourishing (Wong, 2011;Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon, & Worth, 2015). For example, optimism can be harmful if it becomes unrealistic or 'excessive' (e.g., leading to misperception of risk, and subsequently to health risk behaviours; Weinstein et al., 2005); likewise, pessimism can be adaptive in certain cases (e.g., if it prompts pre-emptory faultfinding and problem solving; Norem, 2001). ...
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The past few decades have seen an extraordinary explosion of interest in mindfulness, both in academia and in Western society more broadly. Central to this burgeoning enthusiasm has been the development of mindfulness-based interventions, which have had great success in treating physical and psychological health issues across diverse patient groups. However, for all their merits, these interventions have mostly been formulated in the context of clinical practice, and as such have tended to endorse a ‘deficit’ model of the person (which conceptualises humans as inherently dysfunctional or deficient, and views the role of therapeutic disciplines as being limited to the correction of such defects). Thus, nearly all mindfulness-based interventions are concerned with treating dysfunction or illness, from stress and depression to pain and discomfort. As necessary as such interventions are, this has meant that mindfulness has been largely decontextualised from its original purpose within Buddhism as a means for radical personal transformation. However, in recent years, the emergent field of positive psychology has been at the forefront of efforts to create mindfulness-based interventions that capture more of the missing spirit of the original Buddhist teachings. These new interventions will hopefully augment existing interventions, helping us to collectively further explore and appreciate the exciting promise of mindfulness.
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