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Positive psychology - The second wave.

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Positive psychology It is nearly twenty years since Martin Seligman used his 1998 American Psychological Association presidential address to inaugurate the notion of 'positive psychology.' The rationale for its creation was Seligman's contention that psychology had hitherto tended to focus mainly on what is wrong with people, on dysfunction, disorder and distress. There were of course pockets of scholarship that held a candle for human potential and excellence, like humanistic psychology. Nevertheless, on the whole, he argued that concepts such as happiness did not attract much attention or credibility in mainstream psychology. Emerging to redress this lacuna, positive psychology soon became a fertile new paradigm, encompassing research into a panoply of processes and qualities that could be deemed 'positive,' from overarching constructs such as flourishing, to more specific concepts like hope. Of course, none of this was radically new: many of these topics had been studied empirically for years by scholars in disparate fields, and indeed had been debated for centuries, millennia even.
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Positive psychology The second wave
Draft copy
Dr. Tim Lomas,
University of East London, School of Psychology,
t.lomas@uel.ac.uk
Positive psychology
It is nearly twenty years since Martin Seligman used his 1998 American Psychological Association
presidential address to inaugurate the notion of ‘positive psychology.’ The rationale for its creation
was Seligman’s contention that psychology had hitherto tended to focus mainly on what is wrong
with people, on dysfunction, disorder and distress. There were of course pockets of scholarship that
held a candle for human potential and excellence, like humanistic psychology. Nevertheless, on the
whole, he argued that concepts such as happiness did not attract much attention or credibility in
mainstream psychology. Emerging to redress this lacuna, positive psychology soon became a fertile
new paradigm, encompassing research into a panoply of processes and qualities that could be
deemed ‘positive,’ from overarching constructs such as flourishing, to more specific concepts like
hope.
Of course, none of this was radically new: many of these topics had been studied empirically
for years by scholars in disparate fields, and indeed had been debated for centuries, millennia even.
However, part of the appeal of the new field was that it created a conceptual space where these
diverse topics all of which shared the ‘family resemblance’ (à la Wittgenstein) of pertaining to
wellbeing could be brought together and considered collectively. Thus, as a novel branch of
scholarship focused specifically and entirely on ‘the science and practice of improving wellbeing’
(Lomas, Hefferon, & Ivtzan, 2015, p.1347), it was a welcome new addition to the broader church of
psychology.
The critical response
However, it was not without its critics. A prominent focus of concern was the very notion of
‘positive’ which underpinned the entire field. Essentially, positive psychology appeared to be
promulgating a rather polarising positive-negative dichotomy. Certain phenomena were labelled as
positive, and thus presented as inherently desirable. The necessary corollary, of course, is that
contrasting phenomena were implicitly conceptualised as negative, positioned as intrinsically
undesirable. So, for example, optimism tended to be valorised as an unmitigated good, and
pessimism as a categorical impediment to wellbeing. Some scholars did paint a more nuanced
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picture; for instance, Seligman (1990, p.292) cautioned that one must be ‘able to use pessimism’s
keen sense of reality when we need it.’ However, in terms of the broader discourse of the field, and
its cultural impact, a less nuanced binary message simplistically valorising ostensibly positive
phenomena held sway.
While seemingly offering an upbeat message linking positive emotions to beneficial
outcomes, such as health (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998) this valorisation of positivity was
problematic, for various reasons. Firstly, it often failed to sufficiently appreciate the contextual
complexity of emotional outcomes. For instance, ‘excessive’ optimism can be harmful to wellbeing
(e.g., contributing to underappreciation of risk), while pessimism may be beneficial, such as when it
prompts proactive coping (Norem, 2001). Of even greater concern was Held’s (2002, p.965)
suggestion that this emphasis on positivity contributed to a ‘tyranny of the positive,’ to the cultural
expectation that one should be upbeat, with social censure for people who could not find the
requisite positivity. Similarly, in the work arena, Ehrenreich (2009) accused organisations of
compelling forced jollity as a way of hindering dissent and cajoling more out of workers. Perhaps
most perniciously, this ‘tyranny’ fed into a pervasive cultural discourse in which negative emotional
states are not simply seen as undesirable, but pathological. As Horwitz and Wakefield (2007) suggest
in The Loss of Sadness, dysphoric emotions that were previously regarded as natural and inherent
dimensions of the human condition have largely been re-framed as disorders, and certainly as
problematic. And, positive psychology arguably contributed, albeit unwittingly, to this process.
The emergence of the second wave
The above critiques could be regarded as undermining positive psychology. However, my colleagues
and I take a different view: stimulated by these concerns, we feel the field is responding receptively,
evolving into what we describe as ‘second wave’ positive psychology (SWPP) (Wong, 2011; Lomas &
Ivtzan, 2015; Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon, & Worth, 2015). If the ‘first wave’ is characterised by
valorisation of the positive, SWPP recognises that wellbeing actually involves a subtle, dialectical
interplay between positive and negative phenomena. This recognition challenges that idea that
wellbeing is coterminous with constructs like ‘happiness’; rather, it becomes a more expansive term,
one that includes negative emotions if these serve some broader sense of ‘being/doing well.’ For
instance, Pollard and Davidson (2001, p.10) define wellbeing as ‘a state of successful performance
across the life course integrating physical, cognitive and social-emotional function.’ One could see
how ostensibly negative emotions, like prudent anxiety, could subserve this larger goal. More
specifically, SWPP is underpinned by four dialectical principles: appraisal; co-valence;
complementarity; and evolution.
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The principle of appraisal states that it can be hard to categorise phenomena as either
positive or negative, since such appraisals are fundamentally contextually-dependent. For instance,
as noted above, ‘excessive’ optimism can lead to miscalculations of risk, whereas pessimism may
promote prudence. One could problematize most dichotomies in this way. McNulty and Fincham
(2011) showed that prosocial emotions like forgiveness can be harmful if it means one tolerates a
situation that one might otherwise resist, such as an abusive relationship; conversely, ‘anti-social’
emotions like anger can impel one to resist iniquities, and drive progressive social change. Even
happiness and sadness are not immune from such considerations. Superficial forms of happiness
might forestall efforts to pursue deeper states of fulfilment, or tranquilise us into acquiescing to
social contexts that ultimately undermine our wellbeing. Conversely, sadness may be thoroughly
appropriate, such as in response to loss; it may even have real salutary value, a humane response to
suffering perhaps, or a refined aesthetic response to transient beauty. As we dwell on such
considerations, clear-cut determinations of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ become harder to make.
It is not just that such appraisals are difficult; the second principle of co-valence reflects the
idea that many phenomena comprise positive and negative elements (Lazarus, 2003). This is even so
for arguably the most cherished of all human phenomena: love. While there are many forms of love
from the passion of eros to the selflessness of agape all are a dialectical blend of light and dark.
There are many ways of viewing this dialectic, but all are variations on the poignant lamentation of
C.S. Lewis (1971) that, ‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung
and possibly broken.’ Thus, even while love contains pleasure, joy and bliss, it also harbours worry,
anxiety, and fear. However, this recognition of co-valence leads us inexorably to the third principle:
complementarity. The potential dysphoria inherent in love is not an aberration, but the very
condition of it. The light and dark of love are inseparable, complementary and co-creating sides of
the same coin. Consider that the stronger and more intense one’s love for another, the greater the
risk of heartbreak. As Bauman (2013, p.6) eloquently puts it, ‘to love means opening up to that most
sublime of all human conditions, one in which fear blends with joy into an alloy that no longer allows
its ingredients to separate.’
Finally, the principle of evolution contextualises the very idea of SWPP. Just as SWPP is
defined by an appreciation of dialectics, it is itself an example of a dialectical process, in Hegel’s
sense of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. One might view mainstream psychology, with its apparent
concern with ‘negative’ aspects of human functioning, as the thesis. In critiquing this and embracing
ostensibly positive phenomena, positive psychology presented itself as the antithesis. However,
critics subsequently discerned flaws in this antithesis, as elucidated above. Crucially though, from a
Hegelian perspective, this does not necessarily mean an abandonment of positive psychology, a
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reversion back to the original thesis. Rather, the next stage in this dialectical process is ideally
synthesis, in which the truths of both thesis and antithesis are preserved, while their flaws are
overcome. SWPP is just such a synthesis, moving away from a binary classification of phenomena
valorising positivity while condemning negativity towards a more nuanced appreciation of the
dialectical complexities of wellbeing (King, 2001).
Delving into the nuances
Thus, SWPP is concerned with exploring the dialectical nuances of flourishing, the delicate interplay
of light and dark. While this exploration can take many forms, I would like to share one way I have
been engaging with these issues. In particular, I have been absorbed by the way some cultures have
developed concepts relating to this kind of dialectical appreciation that appear to be lacking in
English. Indeed, another prominent criticism of positive psychology is that its conceptualisations of
wellbeing are rather culturally-specific reflecting the North American context in which the field
emerged yet it presents these as if universally applicable (Lomas, 2015). The charge is that while
concepts in positive psychology have largely been derived from research with ‘WEIRD’ participants
Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010) the
field has often tended to presume that these findings can be generalised to other cultures. However,
mindful of these critiques, positive psychology is becoming increasingly appreciative of cultural
differences in constructions and experiences of wellbeing.
For my own part, this burgeoning cross-cultural sensitivity has focused on language. More
specifically, I have begun to create a lexicography of so-called ‘untranslatable words’ relating to
wellbeing, gathered from across the world’s cultures. The general premise of the lexicography is that
a culture’s values and traditions are encoded in its language, which in turn shapes the experiences
and understanding of that culture’s members, a perspective broadly referred to as the Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis. The more specific premise of the lexicography is that untranslatable words words for
which English purportedly lacks an equivalent term offer a unique window onto concepts that may
be particular to a given culture (Wierzbicka, 1997). Moreover, these words may not just enhance our
understanding of other cultures, but might possibly enrich people’s emotional landscape, enabling
them to recognize and articulate phenomenological states that had hitherto gone unconceptualised.
Thus, I hope this lexicography might help people (from all cultures) to develop a richer interior
world, and experience and express new dimensions of wellbeing (although this is currently just
speculation, and will require a programme of empirical enquiry to substantiate it).
In starting to build the lexicography, I undertook an analysis of 216 such words (Lomas,
2016). Moreover, through grounded theory analysis, I developed a conceptual ‘map’ of the terms,
thereby expanding the nomological network of concepts within positive psychology. The words were
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organised into three overarching categories, each of which contained two main themes: feelings
(comprising positive and complex feelings); relationships (comprising intimacy and pro-sociality); and
character (comprising personal resources and spirituality). I shall finish here by elucidating this
theme of complex feelings, as its words provide a beautiful illustration of the kind of complex,
ambivalent constructs that SWPP is concerned with.
Before introducing this theme, there are two general caveats relating to this project. Firstly,
it can be difficult to understand a word in isolation without knowing how it relates to other linguistic
terms in a system (the great insight of structuralism), or how it is deployed in context. That said, this
does not mean that learning foreign words is impossible or valueless if these conditions are not met.
Take, for instance, a word like karma, which has been adopted into English to refer broadly to
causality with respect to ethics. Most English speakers who use this word probably do not know how
it relates to other Sanskrit terms, nor its wealth of meanings in the context of Hindu and Buddhist
teachings. Nevertheless, such speakers evidently find the word useful, and arguably deploy it in ways
that are not completely discordant with its original meanings. Secondly, the definitions in this
lexicography are neither complete, nor final and canonical. For a start, words are polysemous; as
such, each of these words would ideally have its own entire article, delving into its multidimensional
nuances. Moreover, while the explications here are based on definitions offered by dictionaries and
scholars, my interpretations are inevitably subjective and partial (particularly since I’m from a WEIRD
society myself!). However, I’m hoping that this lexicography will evolve with the help of scholars
throughout the world, who may be able to add to and refine it in a spirit of collaboration. Indeed, a
webpage has been set up for this purpose: www.drtimlomas.com/lexicography. With that in mind,
we turn to the words themselves.
‘Untranslatable’ words related to complex feelings
The theme of complex feelings is arguably the most intriguing section of the lexicography. It contains
concepts and processes that are beautifully ambivalent and co-valenced, and are thus emblematic of
SWPP, reflecting the dialectical nature of flourishing. These are not all words for feelings per se, but
include terms that either: (a) relate in some way to complex feelings; or (b) embody a dialectical
mode of appreciation. Regarding the latter, arguably the exemplary concept in this respect is the
Chinese notion of yin-yang (陰陽), associated with Taoism. Separately, yin means cloudy/overcast,
and yang ‘in the sun’ (shone upon). Together, they imply the two sides of a mountain (one sunlit,
one in shadow), and thus articulate the idea of ‘holistic duality,’ i.e., that reality comprises co-
dependent opposites. This notion is an overarching motif for this entire class of terms: in their
various ways, the words here are a dialectical blend of positive and negative, light and dark, together
creating a rich and complex sensibility. Within this overall theme are a number of sub-themes.
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The first sub-theme is an evocation of hope and anticipation. Words here are truly co-
valenced, a tantalising blend of savouring the future, combined with fear that it will not come to
pass. In Italian, magari both an adverb and an interjection roughly means ‘maybe,’ but also
encompasses ‘in my dreams’ and ‘if only,’ encapsulating both a hopeful wish and wistful regret.
Similarly, in Indonesian, the auxiliary verb belum means ‘not yet,’ but with an optimism that an
event might yet happen. In German, Vorfreude is an intense, joyful anticipation derived from
imagining future pleasures. Rather more melancholic is the Korean han (), a culturally vital term
expressing sorrow and regret, yet also embodying a quiet patience, hoping that whatever adversity
is causing the sadness will eventually be righted.
Related to han are words pertaining to longing and yearning that are at the heart of their
respective cultures (Wierzbicka, 1997; Silva, 2012). In Portuguese, saudade is a melancholic longing
or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away, either spatially or in time; indeed, as Silva
points out, it can reflect a vague wistfulness for phenomena that may not even exist, like a better
future. Similarly, the German Sehnsucht translates as ‘life longings,’ and captures an ‘intense desire
for alternative states and realizations of life,’ even (or especially) if these are unlikely to be attained
(Scheibe, Freund, & Baltes, 2007, p.778). Toska (tоска) in Russian and hiraeth in Welsh articulate a
complex mix of nostalgia, wistfulness, and longing for one’s homeland. Likewise, in Japanese,
natsukashii (懐かしい) is a nostalgic longing for the past, featuring a delicate blend of happiness for
fond memories, yet sadness that those times are no longer.
Related to words articulating longing are terms expressing desire for freedom. In German,
Fernweh is described by Gabriel (2004, p.155) as the call of faraway places,’ or homesickness for a
place one has never been to. Here too is the well-known Wanderlust, a wonderful example of a
foreign term that has been adopted into English, arguably because it fulfilled some unmet need,
articulating a phenomenon with which English speakers were familiar, and yet lacked their own
native word to capture it. Indeed, as De Boinod (2007, p.5) says, ‘The English language has a long-
established and voracious tendency to naturalize the best foreign words.’ (It is my hope that the
other words in this lexicography will prove similarly useful!) Related to Wanderlust is the Spanish
vacilando, which depicts the idea of wandering, where the act of travelling is valued more than the
destination. In Russian, prostor (простор) captures a desire for spaciousness, roaming free in
limitless expanse, not only physically, but creatively and spiritually (Pesmen, 2000). Finally, the
strange German term Waldeinsamkeit articulates the feeling of solitude when alone in the woods, a
mysterious state described by (Schwartz, 2007, p.201) as the ‘pseudo-magical pull of the untamed
wilderness; a place of living nightmares caught between the dreamscape and Fairyland.’
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Finally, there are words capturing complex aesthetic states, evoked through contemplation
of the transient mysteries of life. Japanese is particularly rich in these terms, possibly because
Japanese culture has traditionally been steeped in dialectical models of cognition and appreciation
(Uchida & Ogihara, 2012). With these concepts, it feels like we are at the very heart of SWPP, so I
shall end by dwelling on these in a little more depth.
The aesthetics of the second wave
The first term of interest is aware (哀れ). This expresses the bittersweetness of a brief, fading
moment of transcendent beauty, while the compound mono no aware (物の哀れ) articulates the
pathos of understanding that the world and its beauty are transient in this way. As expressed by
Yoshida Kenkō (1283-1350), ‘If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino… how things
would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty’ (cited in (Keene,
1967, p.7). In Zen a Buddhist tradition nearly synonymous with Japanese culture the pre-eminent
symbol of mono no aware is the cherry blossom, whose fragile efflorescence captivates attention
during the bloom of spring. Crucially, appreciation of its beauty is heightened by awareness of its
transiency, in a way that would be missing if its florets were a permanent feature of the landscape.
Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), arguably the greatest master of the Haiku, captured this sense of mono
no aware with particular genius: ‘Summer grasses –; the only remains; of warriors’ dreams.’ Thus, as
Prusinski (2013, p.23) says, with mono no aware, ‘the beauty lies not in the object itself, but in the
whole experience, transformation, and span of time in which the object is present and changing.’
A second term at the heart of Japanese aesthetics is wabi-sabi, an intriguing counter-balance
to the ephemerality of mono no aware: wabi () refers to imperfect beauty, and sabi () to aged
beauty; together, they capture the strange, desolate beauty of aged or imperfect phenomena.
Whereas mono no aware points towards erosion, wabi-sabi reminds us that in this process of
changing, a certain dignity is nonetheless retained. Think of the mysterious power of old ruins, and
the reverential qualities of depth and meaning they can evoke. This sense is depicted by Tanizaki
(1933, pp.11-12) in his classic exposition of Zen aesthetics In Praise of Shadows. He describes
preferring a ‘pensive lustre to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an
artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity… We love things that bear the marks of grime, soot, and
weather, and we love the colors and the sheen that call to mind the past that made them.’
Finally, we have yūgen (幽玄), described by Suzuki (1959, pp.220-221) as evoking obscurity,
mystery, unknowability, and yet not ‘utter darkness.’ It reflects the notion that the mysteries of
existence may be ineffable and elusive, and beyond rational understanding, but may nevertheless be
sensed in some inchoate, intuitive way. Moreover, gen does not simply depict awareness of these
strange depths, but the sense that one is moved to one’s core by these mysteries, without quite
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knowing why. Kamo no Chōmei (1212) characterises yūgen thus: ‘It is like an autumn evening under
a colorless expanse of silent sky. Somehow, as if for some reason that we should be able to recall,
tears well uncontrollably’ (cited in Dyrness and kärkkäinen, 2008, p.65).
Western psychology arguably has constructs that are similar to yūgen, like the profound
state of elevation Maslow (1972) labelled peak experiences.’ Deeply profound and illuminating,
peak experiences go far beyond mere hedonic pleasure or even fulfilment, involving qualities like
awe and self-transcendence. However, what is especially unusual and potent about yūgen is the
apparently ‘ordinary’ nature of the phenomena that can evoke it. This is reflected in this haiku by
Basho, often regarded as the ultimate expression of yūgen (Watts, 1957): ‘On a withered branch; A
crow is perched; In the autumn evening.’ Conceptualisations of peak experiences tend to imply that
these can only be experienced on some literal or metaphorical (e.g., developmental) summit. With
yūgen though, there is the profound experience of the ordinary which is within everyone’s reach –
being revealed as extraordinary, as if lifting a veil on the sacred. Yūgen is thus an apposite place to
finish here, a perfect example of how untranslatable words can usher us into new dialectical modes
of appreciation, and reveal hitherto hidden dimensions of flourishing.
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... We can more readily perceive subtle phenomena that we may ordinarily miss, discount, or avoid, including messages from our bodies (Caplan et al., 2013;Siegel, 2009). As we allow ourselves to encounter and integrate the range of human experiences, we move toward a more complex yet synthesized self (Lomas, 2016;Maslow, 1962;Siegel, 2020). ...
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As humans, our tendency is to reduce uncertainty, leading us to want to hold things still rather than accept the inevitable change that comes (Langer, 2009). However, psychological and behavioral attempts to do so can result in clinging to outdated and erroneous information, limiting our perspectives and narrowing opportunities for meaningful choice. In this paper, we merge Western psychology and Eastern wisdom traditions and build upon conceptions of mindfulness from both perspectives, to present our theory of the micromoments mindset as a tool for well-being. We define a micromoment as both the instant opening into conscious awareness of the present moment, as well as the brief stretch of experience that follows, until awareness recedes. A micromoments mindset is the cognitive prioritization toward these openings. It serves as both an entryway into mindfulness and the experience of being more mindful within the micromoment. We argue that tapping into micromoments throughout our days can facilitate factors of well-being, particularly agency and connection, so that we have more tools for living with intention in the world of uncertainty and flux in which we find ourselves. We also present the PEACE framework for optimizing well-being within micromoments.
... Establecer los límites de la mala práctica en PP, también es, por supuesto, el objetivo de la Anti-Psicología Positiva. Se comienza a hablar de la "segunda ola" de la PP (Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon y Worth, 2015;Lomas, 2016aLomas, , 2016bLomas, , 2016cLomas e Ivtzan, 2016), lo cual parece ser totalmente incorrecto, además de que no es razonablemente justificable. La PP siempre ha tenido, y continúa utilizando, el mismo discurso de felicidad lingüística y de la auto-promoción disciplinaria y académica (Jarden, 2012). ...
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El libro es una dura crítica a la teoría de al psicología positiva. Luis Fernández-Ríos sólo hizo un largo Prólogo, que agradezco al autor Julio Alfonso Piña López la invitación. El autor del libro (Anti - Psicología Positiva) expone sus ideas acerca de la psicología positiva de forma sencilla, clara y precisa. Vale mucho la pena leerlo.
... Establecer los límites de la mala práctica en PP, también es, por supuesto, el objetivo de la Anti-Psicología Positiva. Se comienza a hablar de la "segunda ola" de la PP (Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon y Worth, 2015;Lomas, 2016aLomas, , 2016bLomas, , 2016cLomas e Ivtzan, 2016), lo cual parece ser totalmente incorrecto, además de que no es razonablemente justificable. La PP siempre ha tenido, y continúa utilizando, el mismo discurso de felicidad lingüística y de la auto-promoción disciplinaria y académica (Jarden, 2012). ...
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Libro con prólogo del Dr. Luis Fernández-Ríos (Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, España), conformado por cinco capítulos, en los que se plantean cuestionamientos al movimiento de la Psicología Positiva desde la perspectiva de la Psicología Conductual (con énfasis en la Psicología Interconductual).
... Indeed, positive psychology in its most holistic definition, includes the bittersweet moments, suffering, regrets, and acknowledges that the good life has both bright and dark sides (King, 2001), with meaningful complementarity between both sides (Lomas, 2016). Positive psychology aims for a comprehensive and balanced understanding of the human conditioninclusive of the good days, bad days, and all the days in between-a nuanced grasp of our happiness and our suffering (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). ...
Article
The practice of memento mori– acting on the Latin phrase that translates to “remember we must die,” has the profound potential to wake us up and breathe more life into our lives. While focusing on the end of our days may sound more morbid than meaningful, the contemplation of death allows us to appreciate the scarcity of the very time we’re looking to make the most of. In a world consumed with expanding the length of our lives, cultivating a more intimate familiarity with death can help us expand the metaphoric width and depth of our lives as well. We make our lives wider when we fill them with vitality and gusto– expanding the breadth of the pleasurable experiences that life has to offer while blasting us out of our autopilot tendencies. We make our lives deeper when we infuse them with meaning and purpose– elevating ourselves out of empty or mundane existences into lives that feel like they matter. This capstone explores how the field of positive psychology, with its dialectical appreciation of the positive and negative phenomena in life, is uniquely poised to explore the traditionally taboo topic of death. With the heft of all its theory, research, and practice, existential positive psychology encourages us to courageously confront death to live with more meaning and vitality... to pursue lives truly worth living.
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In the last two decades, there is a rapid growth of the research initiative on Positive Psychology not only internationally but also in Greece. The present special issue aims at bringing together, highlighting, and promoting research and applications of Positive Psychology in Greece. At first, the authors introduce readers to the history and roots of Positive Psychology and focus on how research on Positive Psychology flourished in Greece. Moreover, emphasis is given on the core concepts of Positive Psychology, namely wellbeing, experiencing positive emotions, psychological resilience, and character strengths. Authors focus on the research conducted in Greece, the psychological instruments that measure them, and the applications of Positive Psychology, e.g. positive education, positive organizations, positive psychotherapy, and positive psychology interventions. To close with, the authors introduce readers to the eleven articles, which are included in the present special issue by presenting their main findings.
Chapter
From education, health and business to public policy and infrastructure, an agenda for building the positives, and not merely reducing the negatives, has now been set across the MENA region. We are confident that researchers, policymakers and practitioners will get on board along with organizations, educational institutions, ministries, non-profits, and other stakeholders to ask big, bold questions that add, challenge and enrich what we love and know to be true about the region. Yet, questions, challenges and many unknowns remain; thus, we end this book with the practical in mind and set forth some future directions and closing thoughts.
Thesis
Diversity training has grown over the last twenty years and has recently surged in the wake of the global protests for racial justice and equality sparked by the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that non-Hispanic Whites will no longer be the majority racial group by the year 2044. The emerging majority will be composed of Asians, Blacks, Latinx, and other races. To prepare for this multicultural shift and help increase connectivity between groups, especially in the current COVID-19 era of working from home and Black Lives Matter, companies are investing heavily in diversity training. Diversity training aspires to help workers learn about and appreciate differences as a pathway to more egalitarian behaviors and practices, and diversity also aids in the economic success of the business. Yet current diversity training effects can encompass the opposite. For example, social dominance challenges, power and status needs, in-group and out-group divisions, fragility, negativity, and mixed results in terms of bias reduction, behavior change, and equality in the workplace. This paper will explore how applied positive psychology may help to ameliorate these negative effects and therefore increase the odds of meaningful long-term change.
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Positive welfare and related terms such as good welfare, happiness, and a good life are increasingly used in the animal welfare science literature. Overall, they highlight the welfare benefits of providing animals opportunities for positive experiences, beyond the alleviation of suffering. However, the various terms remain loosely defined and are sometimes used interchangeably, resulting in discrepancy. In this perspective article, we lay out the terms and concepts used in the literature. We identify two distinct views: "hedonic positive welfare," arising from likes and wants and their positive outcomes on welfare; and "positive welfare balance," as an overall positive welfare state based on positive experiences outweighing negative ones. Eudaimonia, satisfaction with one's life, may emerge as a third view. We propose a framework that is applicable across the different views. The "Vienna Framework" outlines different facets: frequency, duration, arousal, context, previous experience, individual differences, sense of agency, and long-term benefit. The framework aims to encourage researchers to consider the relevance of these facets for their own research, to indicate how the facets are affected by different interventions (e.g., greater sense of agency in enriched compared to non-enriched animals), or to compare different topics with respect to the different facets (e.g., high arousal of play behavior and low arousal of social affiliation). We encourage researchers to carefully consider and clearly state how their work falls along these views and facets, conceptually, and operationally. This should prevent dilution of the meaning of positive welfare and thereby preserve its potential to improve the welfare of animals.
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Although much attention has been paid to culture-specific psychopathologies, there have been no comparable attempts to chart positive mental states that may be particular to certain cultures. This paper outlines the beginnings of a positive cross-cultural lexicography of ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to well-being, culled from across the world’s languages. A quasi-systematic search uncovered 216 such terms. Using grounded theory, these words were organised into three categories: feelings (comprising positive and complex feelings); relationships (comprising intimacy and pro-sociality) and character (comprising personal resources and spirituality). The paper has two main aims. First, it aims to provide a window onto cultural differences in constructions of well-being, thereby enriching our understanding of well-being. Second, a more ambitious aim is that this lexicon may help expand the emotional vocabulary of English speakers (and indeed speakers of all languages), and consequently enrich their experiences of well-being. The paper concludes by setting out a research agenda to pursue these aims further.
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Critical theorists have accused positive psychology of paying insufficient attention to cultural variation in the way wellbeing is constructed and experienced. While there may be some merit to this claim, the field has developed a more nuanced appreciation of culture than its critics suggest. However, it could also be argued that positive psychology has not sufficiently appreciated or absorbed the wealth of literature within cross-cultural psychology pertaining to wellbeing. This paper aims to forge a bridge between positive psychology and cross-cultural psychology by introducing the idea of ‘positive cross-cultural psychology,’ an interdisciplinary conceptual space for existing and future cross-cultural research on wellbeing. Moreover, the paper offers a meta-theoretical perspective on trends within this literature. It is suggested that crosscultural research is underpinned by two broad orienting perspectives: a ‘universalising’ perspective, which holds that, despite apparent cultural differences, people share a common human nature; and a ‘relativising’ perspective, which argues that people are strongly shaped by their cultural context. However, the paper finally argues that most research can actually be seen as offering a synthesising perspective – labelled here as ‘universal relativism’ – which recognises universals in the ways wellbeing is sought, constructed and experienced, but allows for extensive variation in the ways these universals are shaped by culture.
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Positive psychology has tended to be defined in terms of a concern with ‘positive’ psychological qualities and states. However, critics of the field have highlighted various problems inherent in classifying phenomena as either ‘positive’ or ‘negative.’ For instance, ostensibly positive qualities (e.g., optimism) can sometimes be detrimental to wellbeing, whereas apparently negative processes (like anxiety) may at times be conducive to it. As such, over recent years, a more nuanced ‘second wave’ of positive psychology has been germinating, which explores the philosophical and conceptual complexities of the very idea of the ‘positive.’ The current paper introduces this emergent second wave by examining the ways in which the field is developing a more subtle understanding of the ‘dialectical’ nature of flourishing (i.e., involving a complex and dynamic interplay of positive and negative experiences). The paper does so by problematizing the notions of positive and negative through seven case studies, including five salient dichotomies (such as optimism versus pessimism) and two complex processes (posttraumatic growth and love). These case studies serve to highlight the type of critical, dialectical thinking that characterises this second wave, thereby outlining the contours of the evolving field.
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Since its emergence in 1998, positive psychology has flourished. Among its successes is the burgeoning field of applied positive psychology (APP), involving interventions to promote wellbeing. However, the remit of APP is currently unclear. As such, we offer a meta-theoretical conceptual map delineating the terrain that APP might conceivably cover, namely, the Layered Integrated Framework Example model. The model is based on Wilber’s (J Conscious Stud 4(1):71–92, 1997) Integral Framework, which features the four main ontological ‘dimensions’ of the person. We then stratify these dimensions to produce a comprehensive conceptual map of the person, and of the potential areas of application for APP. For example, we deconstruct the collective dimensions of Wilber’s framework using the levels of Bronfenbrenner’s (Am Psychol 32(7):513–531, 1977) experimental ecology. The result is a detailed multidimensional framework which facilitates a comprehensive approach to promoting wellbeing, and which charts a way forward for APP.