30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
Old School, New School
’That that don’t kill me can only make me stronger.’ So sang rapper Kanye West in his 2007 track ’Stronger’. Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, put it similarly in the nineteenth century when he wrote, ’What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.’ Their words would make an ideal motto for positive psychology — a movement that was launched by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman in his presidential address to the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in 1998. Seligman lamented the fact that psychology had for so long focused on mental ailments and distress. He called on the discipline to focus more on the positive — on people’s strengths and virtues. Today the sub-discipline of positive psychology has its own journal, international organization and regular conferences. Research in positive psychology has uncovered tentative evidence that people’s characters can be strengthened by adverse experiences, such as surviving a disaster or living with an illness. In the realm of work, productivity has been shown to rise when managers focus on their employees’ strengths; in the context of therapy, researchers have found that it helps if therapists spend time considering their clients’ strengths, not just their problems.
Psychology should spend less time focusing on people’s mental distress and more time understanding and nurturing their strengths and virtues.
Not everyone is enamoured of the positivity message. In 2009, the writer and activist Barbara Ehrenreich published a book entitled: Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Among her targets for criticism, Ehrenreich cited research showing that a positive mental attitude has no bearing on survival rates for breast cancer. Writing from first-hand experience, Ehrenreich said that the pressure to be positive is an extra burden for cancer sufferers.
SELIGMAN’S PREPARED LEARNING
MASLOW’S HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY
Look on the bright side — what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. Positive psychology can be the key to deflecting life’s little bullets.