Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your…
In Authentic Happiness, the bestselling author of Learned Optimism introduces the revolutionary, scientifically based idea of "Positive Psychology." Positive Psychology focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses, asserting that happiness is not the result of good genes or luck. Happiness can be cultivated by identyfying and using many of the strengths and traits that listeners already possess -- including kindness, originality, humor, optimism, and generosity. By frequently calling upon their "signature strengths," listeners will develop natural buffers against misfortune and the experience of negative emotion -- elevating their lives to a fresh, more positive place. Drawning on groundbreaking psychological research, Seligman shows how Positive Psychology is shifting the profession's paradigm away from its narrow-minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength, and positive institutions. Our signature strengthts can be nurtured throughout our lives, yielding benefits to our health, relationships, and careers. Seligman provides the "Signature Strengths Survey" that can be used to measure how much positive emotion listeners experience, in order to help determine what their highest strengths are. Authentic Happiness shows how to identify the very best in ourselves, so we can achieve new and sustainable levels of authentic contentment, gratification, and meaning.… (lisätietoja)
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Saanut innoituksensa tästä:
|Kanoninen teoksen nimi
|Teoksen muut nimet
|Kirjaan liittyvät elokuvat
|Palkinnot ja kunnianosoitukset
|Epigrafi (motto tai mietelause kirjan alussa)
Tiedot englanninkielisestä Yhteisestä tiedosta. Muokkaa kotoistaaksesi se omalle kielellesi.
Escher got it right.
Men step down and yet rise up,
the hand is drawn by the hand it draws,
and a woman is poised
on her very own shoulders.
Without you and me this universe is simple,
run with the regularity of a prison.
Galaxies spin along stipulated ares,
stars collapse at the specified hour,
crow's u-turn south and monkeys rut on schedule.
But we, whom the cosmos shaped for a billion years
to fit this place, we know it failed.
For we can reshape,
reach an arm through the bars
and, Escher-like, pull ourselves out.
And while whales feeding on mackerel
are confined forever in the sea,
we climb the waves,
look down from clouds.
—From Look Down from Clouds (Marvin Levine, 1997)
Tiedot englanninkielisestä Yhteisestä tiedosta. Muokkaa kotoistaaksesi se omalle kielellesi.
Suppose you could be hooked up to a hypothetical “experience machine” that, for the rest of your life, would stimulate your brain and give you any positive feelings you desire. Most people to whom I offer this imaginary choice refuse the machine. It is not just positive feelings we want, we want to be entitled to our positive feelings. Yet we have invented myriad shortcuts to feeling good; drugs, chocolate, loveless sex, shopping, masturbation, and television are all examples. (I am not, however, going to suggest that you should drop these shortcuts altogether.)
The belief that we can rely on shortcuts to happiness, joy, rapture, comfort, and ecstasy, rather than be entitled to these feelings by the exercise of personal strengths and virtues, leads to legions of people who in the middle of great wealth are starving spiritually, Positive emotion alienated from the exercise of character leads to emptiness, to inauthenticity, to depression, and, as we age, to the gnawing realization that we are fidgeting until we die.
I needed to come up with my central theme in short order and begin gathering sympathetic people to carry it out. The closest I could come to a theme was “prevention.” Most psychologists, working in the disease model, have concentrated on therapy, helping people who present themselves for treatment once their problems have become unbearable. The science supported by NIMH [National Institute of Mental Health] emphasizes rigorous “efficacy” studies of different drugs and different forms of psychotherapy in hope of marrying “treatments of choice” to each specific disorder. It is my view that therapy is usually too late, and that by acting when the individual was still doing well, preventive interventions would save an ocean of tears. This is the main lesson of the last century of public health measures: Cure is uncertain, but prevention is massively effective—witness how getting midwives to wash their hands ended childbed fever, and how immunizations ended polio.
Can there be psychological interventions in youth that will prevent depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse in adults? My own research for the previous decade had been an investigation of this question. I found that teaching ten-year-old children the skills of optimistic thinking and action cuts their rate of depression in half when they go through puberty (my previous book, The Optimistic Child
, detailed these findings). So I thought that the virtues of prevention and the importance of promoting science and practice around it might be my theme.
Six months later in Chicago, I assembled a prevention task force for a day of planning. Each of the twelve members, some of the most distinguished investigators in the field, presented ideas about where the frontiers of prevention lay for mental illness. Unfortunately, I was bored stiff. The problem was not the serious ness of the issue, or the value of the solutions, but how dull the science sounded. It was just the disease model warmed over and done up proactively, taking the treatments that worked and enacting them earlier for young people at risk. It all sounded reasonable, but I had two reservations that made it hard to listen with more than half an ear.
First, I believe that what we know about treating disordered brains and minds tells us little about how to prevent those disorders in the first place. What progress there is been in the prevention of mental illness comes from recognizing and nurturing a set of strengths, competencies, and virtues in young people—such as future-minded personal skills, courage, the capacity for flow, faith, and work ethic. The exercise of these strengths then buffers against the tribulations that put people at risk for mental illness. Depression can be prevented in a young person at genetic risk by nurturing her skills of optimism and hope. An inner-city young man, at risk for substance abuse because of all the drug traffic in his neighborhood, is much less vulnerable if he is future-minded, gets flow out of sports, and has a powerful work ethic. But building these strengths as a buffer is alien to the disease model, which is only about remedying deficits.
Second, beyond the likelihood that injecting kids at risk for schizophrenia or depression with Haldol or Prozac will not work, such a scientific program would attract only yeomen. A renovated science of prevention needs the young, bright and original scientists who historically have made the real progress in any field.
HAPPY BUT DUMB?
In spite of evidence like this, it is tempting to view happy people as airheads. Blonde jokes are consoling to cannier but less popular brunettes, and as a high school wonk (“know” spelled backward), I found some solace as many of my cheery good-old-boy classmates never seemed to get anywhere in real life. The happy-but-dumb view has very respectable provenance. C. S. Peirce, the founder of pragmatism, wrote in 1878 that the function of thought is to allay doubt: We do not think, we are barely conscious, until something goes wrong. When presented with no obstacles, we simply glide along the highway of life, and only when there is a pebble in the shoe is conscious analysis triggered.
Exactly one hundred years later, Lauren Alloy and Lyn Abramson (who were then brilliant and iconoclastic graduate students of mine) confirmed Peirce’s idea experimentally. They gave undergraduate students differing degrees of control over turning on a green light. Some had perfect control over the light: It went on every time they pressed a button, and it never went on if they didn’t press. For other students, however, the light went on regardless of whether they pressed the button. Afterward, each student was asked to judge how much control he or she had. Depressed students were very accurate, both when they had control and when they did not. The nondepressed people astonished us. They were accurate when they had control, but even when they were helpless they still judged that they had about 35 percent control. The depressed people were sadder but wiser, in short, than the nondepressed people.
More supporting evidence for depressive realism soon followed. Depressed people are accurate judges of how much skill they have, whereas happy people think they are much more skillful than others judge them to be. Eighty percent of American men think they are in the top half of social skills; the majority of workers rate their job performance as above average; and the majority of motorists (even those who have been involved in accidents) rate their driving as safer than average.
Happy people remember more good events than actually happened, and they forget more of the bad events. Depressed people, in contrast, are accurate about both. Happy people are lopsided in their beliefs about success and failure: If it was a success, they did it, it’s going to last, and they’re good at everything; if it was a failure, you did it to them, it’s going away quickly, and it was just this one little thing. Depressed people, in contrast, are evenhanded in assessing success and failure.
There is an exciting possibility with rich implications that integrates all these findings: A positive mood jolts us into an entirely different way of thinking from a negative mood. I have noticed over thirty years of psychology department faculty meetings—conducted in a cheerless, gray, and windowless room full of unrepentant grouches—that the ambient mood is on the chilly side of zero. This seems to make us critics of a high order. When we gather to debate which one of several superb job candidates we should hire as a professor, we often end up hiring no one, instead picking out everything that each candidate has done wrong. Over thirty years, we have voted down many young people who later grew up to become excellent, pioneering psychologists, a virtual who’s who of world psychology.
So a chilly, negative mood activates a battle-stations mode of thinking: the order of the day is to focus on what is wrong and then eliminate it. A positive mood, in contrast, buoys people into a way of thinking that is creative, tolerant, constructive, generous, undefensive and lateral. This way of thinking aims to detect not what is wrong, but what is right. It does not go out of its way to detect sins of omission, but hones in on the virtues of commission. It probably even occurs in a different part of the brain and has a different neurochemistry from thinking under negative mood.
Choose your venue and design your mood to fit the task at hand. Here are examples of tasks that usually require critical thinking: taking the graduate record exams, doing income tax, deciding whom to fire, dealing with repeated romantic rejections, preparing for an audit, copyediting, making crucial decisions in competitive sports, and figuring out where to go to college. Carry these out on rainy days, in straight-backed chairs, and in silent, institutionally painted rooms. Being uptight, sad, or out of sorts will not impede you; it may even make your decisions more acute.
In contrast, any number of life tasks call for creative, generous, and tolerant thinking: planning a sales campaign, finding ways to increase the amount of love in your life, pondering a new career field, deciding whether to marry someone, thinking about hobbies and noncompetitive sports, and creative writing. Carry these out in a setting that will buoy your mood (for example, in a comfortable chair, with suitable music, sun, and fresh air). If possible, surround yourself with people you trust to be unselfish and of good will.
A corollary of the enmeshment with others that happy people have is their altruism. Before I saw the data, I thought that unhappy people—identifying with the suffering that they know so well—would be more altruistic. So I was taken aback when the findings on mood and helping others without exception revealed that happy people were more likely to demonstrate that trait. In the laboratory, children and adults who are made happy display more empathy and are willing to donate more money to others in need. When we are happy, we are less self-focused, we like others more, and we want to share our good fortune even with strangers. When we are down, though, we become distrustful, turn inward, and focus defensively on our own needs. Looking out for number one is more characteristic of sadness than of well-being.
HAPPINESS AND WIN-WIN: EVOLUTION RECONSIDERED
Barbara Fredrickson’s theory and all these studies utterly convinced me that it was worth trying hard to put more positive emotion into my life. Like many fellow occupants of the chilly half of the positivity distribution, I comfortably consoled myself with the excuse that how I felt didn’t matter, because what I really valued was interacting successfully with the world. But feeling positive emotion is important, not just because it is pleasant in its own right, but because it causes much better commerce with the world. Developing more positive emotion in our lives will build friendship, love, better physical health, and greater achievement. Fredrickson’s theory also answers the questions that began this chapter: Why do positive emotions feel good? Why do we feel anything at all?
Broadening and building—that is, growth and positive development—are the essential characteristics of a win-win encounter. Ideally, reading this chapter is an example of a win-win encounter: if I have done my job well, I grew intellectually by writing it, and so did you by reading it. Being in love, making a friend, and raising children are almost always huge win-wins. Almost every technological advance (for example, the printing press or the hybrid tea rose) is a win-win interaction. The printing press did not subtract an equivalent economic value from somewhere else; rather it engendered an explosion in value.
Herein lies the likely reason for feelings. Just as negative feelings are a “here-be-dragons” sensory system that alarms you, telling you unmistakably that you are in a win-lose encounter, the feeling part of positive emotion is also sensory. Positive feeling is a neon “here-be-growth” marquee that tells you that a potential win-win encounter is at hand. By activating an expansive, tolerant, and creative mindset, positive feelings maximize the social, intellectual, and physical benefits that will accrue.
While these data are based on a small sample of poor people, they are surprising and not easily dismissed. Overall, Biswas-Diener’s findings tell us that extreme poverty is a social ill, and that people in such poverty have a worse sense of well-being than the more fortunate. But even in the face of great adversity, these poor people find much of their lives satisfying (although this is much more true of slum dwellers in Calcutta than of very poor Americans). If this is correct, there are plenty of reasons to work to reduce poverty—including lack of opportunity, high infant mortality, unhealthy housing and diet, crowding, lack of employment, or demeaning work—but low life satisfaction is not among them. This summer Robert is off to the northern tip of Greenland, to study happiness among a group of Inuit who have not yet discovered the joys of the snowmobile.
How important money is to you, more than money itself, influences your happiness. Materialism seems to be counterproductive: at all levels of real income, people who value money more than other goals are less satisfied with their income and with their lives as a whole, although precisely why is a mystery.
Given that there is probably a set range that holds your present level of general happiness quite stationary, this chapter asks how you can change your life circumstances in order to live in the uppermost part of your range. Until recently it was the received wisdom that happy people were well paid, married, young, healthy, well educated, and religious. So I reviewed what we know about the set of external circumstantial variables (C) that have been alleged to influence happiness. To summarize, if you want to lastingly raise your level of happiness by changing the external circumstances of your life, you should do the following
- Live in a wealthy democracy, not in an impoverished dictatorship (a strong effect)
- Get married (a robust effect, but perhaps not causal)
- Avoid negative events and negative emotion (only a moderate effect)
- Acquire a rich social network (a robust effect, but perhaps not causal)
- Get religion (a moderate effect)
As far as happiness and life satisfaction are concerned, however, you needn’t bother to do the following:
- Make more money (money has little or no effect once you are comfortable enough to buy this book, and more materialistic people are less happy)
- Stay healthy (subjective health, not objective health matters)
- Get as much education as possible (no effect)
- Change your race or move to a sunnier climate (no effect)
You have undoubtedly noticed that the factors that matter vary from impossible to inconvenient to change. Even if you could alter all of the external circumstances above, it would not do much for you, since together they probably account for no more than between 8 and 15 percent of the variance in happiness. The very good news is that there are quite a number of internal circumstances that will likely work for you. So I now turn to this set of variables, which are more under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (and be warned that none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly.
Positive emotion can be about the past, the present, or the future. The positive emotions about the future include optimism, hope, faith, and trust. Those about the present include joy, ecstasy, calm, zest, ebullience, pleasure, and (most importantly) flow; these emotions are what most people usually mean when they casually—but much too narrowly—talk about “happiness.” The positive emotions about the past include satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, pride, and serenity.
It is crucial to understand that these three senses of emotion are different and are not necessarily tightly linked. While it is desirable to be happy in all three senses, this does not always happen. It is possible to be proud and satisfied about the past, for example, but to be sour in the present and pessimistic about the future. Similarly, it is possible to have many pleasures in the present, but be bitter about the past and hopeless about the future. By learning about each of the three different kinds of happiness, you can move your emotions in a positive direction by changing how you feel about your past, how you think about the future, and how you experience the present.
Emotions about the past range from contentment, serenity, pride, and satisfaction to unrelieved bitterness and vengeful anger. These emotions are completely determined by your thoughts about the past. The relation of thinking to emotion is one of the oldest and most controversial issues in psychology. The classical Freudian view, which dominated psychology for first seventy years of the twentieth century, holds that the content of thought is caused by emotion:
Your younger brother innocently compliments you on your promotion and you feel the stirrings of rage. Your thoughts are a fragile raft bobbing on this roiling sea of emotion starting with jealous feelings of having been displaced in your parents’ affection by him, floating toward memories of neglect and belittling, and finally to an interpretation that you are being patronized by the undeserving, overprivileged brat.
There is a large mass of evidence for this view. When an individual is depressed, it is much easier for her to have sad than happy memories. Similarly, it is very difficult to conjure an image of bone-chilling rain on a hot, dry, and cloudless summer afternoon. Injections that boost adrenalin (a common side effect of cortisone-containing drugs) generate fear and anxiety, biasing the interpretation of innocent events toward danger and loss. Vomiting and nausea create taste aversions to what you last ate, even if you know that it wasn’t the sauce béarnaise but the stomach flu that caused the illness.
Thirty years ago, the cognitive revolution in psychology overthrew both Freud and the behaviorists, at least in academia. Cognitive scientists demonstrated that thinking can be an object of science, that it is measurable, and most importantly that it is not just a reflection of emotion or behavior. Aaron T. Beck, the leading therapist of cognitive therapy, claimed that emotion is always generated by cognition, not the other way around. The thought of danger causes anxiety, the thought of loss causes sadness, and the thought of trespass causes anger. Whenever you find yourself in one of these moods, all you have to do is to look carefully and you will find the train of thought that led up to it. A mass of evidence also accrued supporting this view. The thoughts of depressed individuals are dominated by negative interpretations of the past, of the future, and of their abilities, and learning to argue against these pessimistic interpretations relieves depression to just about the same extent as antidepressant drugs (with less relapse and recurrence). Individuals with panic disorder catastrophically misinterpret bodily sensations such as a racing heart or shortness of breath as a harbinger of a heart attack or stroke, and the disorder can be virtually cured by showing them that these are merely symptoms of anxiety, not of cardiac disorder.
These two opposite views have never been reconciled. The imperialistic Freudian view claims that emotion always drives thought, while the imperialistic cognitive view claims that thought always drives emotion. The evidence, however, is that each drives the other at times. So the question for twenty-first century psychology is this: under what conditions does emotion drive thinking, and under what conditions does thinking drive emotion?
Some of our emotional life is instantaneous and reactive. Sensual pleasure and ecstasy, for example, are here-and-now emotions that need little if anything in the way of thinking and interpretation to set them off. A hot shower when you are caked with mud just feels
good; you don’t need to think “The muck is coming off” in order to experience pleasure. In contrast, though, all emotions about the past are completely driven by thinking and interpretation:
- Lydia and Mark are divorced. Whenever Lydia hears Mark’s name, she remembers first that he betrayed her, and she still feels hot anger—twenty years after the event.
- When Abdul, a Palestinian refugee living in Jordan, thinks about Israel, he imagines the olive farm he once owned that is now occupied by Jews. He feels unmitigated bitterness and hatred.
- When Adele looks back over her long life, she feels serene, proud, and at peace. She feels she overcame the adversities of being born a poor black female in Alabama, and that she “sucked that lemon dry.”
In each of these vignettes (and on every other occasion on which an emotion is aroused by the past), an interpretation, a memory, or a thought intervenes and governs what emotion ensues. This innocent-looking and obvious truth is the key to understanding how you feel about the past. More importantly, it is the key to escaping the dogmas that have made so many people prisoners of their past.
Charles Darwin’s version is that we are the products of a very long line of past victories. Our ancestors became our ancestors because they won two kinds of battles: for survival, and for mating. All that we are is a collection of adaptive characteristics finely tuned to keep us alive and to bring us reproductive success. The “all” in the last sentence may not be faithful to Darwin, but it is the operative word in the belief that what we will come to do in the future is a determined product of our ancestral past. Darwin was an unwitting accomplice in this imprisoning view, but Marx and Freud were self-consciously militant determinists. For Karl Marx, class warfare produced “historical inevitability” that would lead ultimately to the collapse of capitalism and to the ascendancy of communism. Determination of the future by large economic forces is the warp and woof of the past, and even “great” individuals do not transcend the march of these forces; they merely reflect them.
For Sigmund Freud and his legion of followers, every psychological event in our lives (even the apparently trivial, such as our jokes and our dreams) is strictly determined by forces from our past. Childhood is not just formative, but determining of adult personality. We “fixate” at the childhood stage in which issues are unresolved, and we spend the rest of our lives attempting, in futility, to resolve these sexual and aggressive conflicts. The great bulk of therapy time in the consulting rooms of psychiatrists and psychologists—before the drug revolution and before the advent of behavior and cognitive therapy—was devoured by minute recollections of childhood. It probably remains the predominant topic in talk therapy to this very day. The most popular self-help movement of the 1990s also came directly from these deterministic premises. The “inner child” movement tells us that the traumas of childhood, not our own bad decisions or want of character, causes the mess we find ourselves in as adults, and we can recover from our “victimization” only by coming to grips with those early traumas.
I think that the events of childhood are overrated; in fact, I think past history in general is overrated. It has turned out to be difficult to find even small effects of childhood events on adult personality, and there is no evidence at all of large—to say nothing of determining—effects. Flushed with enthusiasm for the belief that childhood has great impact on adult development, many researchers, starting fifty years ago, looked carefully for support. They expected to find massive evidence for the destructive effects of bad childhood events such as parental death or divorce, physical illness, beatings, neglect, and sexual abuse on the adulthood of the victims. Large-scale surveys of adult mental health and childhood loss were conducted, including prospective studies (there are now several score of these, and they take years and cost a fortune).
Some support appeared, but not much. If, for example, your mother dies before you are eleven, you are somewhat more depressive in adulthood—but not a lot more depressive, and only if you are female, and only in about half the studies. Your father’s dying has no measurable impact. If you are born first, your IQ is higher than your siblings’, but only by an average of one point. If your parents divorce (excluding the studies that don't even bother with control groups of matched families without divorce), you find slight disruptive effects on later childhood and adolescence. But the problems wane as you grow up, and they are not easily detected in adulthood. The major traumas of childhood may have some influence on adult personality, but only a barely detectable one. Bad childhood events, in short, do not mandate adult troubles. There is no justification in these studies for blaming your adult depression, anxiety, bad marriage, drug use, sexual problems, unemployment, aggression against your children, alcoholism, or anger on what happened to you as a child.
This means that the promissory note that Freud and his followers wrote about childhood events determining the course of adult lives is worthless. I stress all this because I believe that many of my readers are unduly embittered about their past, and unduly passive about their future, because they believe that untoward events in their personal history have imprisoned them. This attitude is also the philosophical infrastructure underneath the victimology that has swept America since the glorious beginnings of the civil rights movement, and which threatens to overtake the rugged individualism and sense of individual responsibility that used to be this nation's hallmark. Merely to know the surprising facts here—that early past events, in fact, exert little or no influence on adult lives—is liberating, and such liberation is the whole point of this section. So if you are among those who view your past as marching you toward an unhappy future, you have ample reason to discard this notion.
Another widely believed theory, now become dogma, that also imprisons people in an embittered past is the hydraulics of emotion. This one was perpetrated by Freud and insinuated itself, without much serious questioning, into popular culture and academia alike. Emotional hydraulics is, in fact, the very meaning of “psychodynamics,” the general term used to describe the theories of Freud and all his descendants. Emotions are seen as forces inside a system closed by an impermeable membrane, like a balloon. If you do not allow yourself to express an emotion, it will squeeze its way out at some other point, usually as an undesirable symptom.
In the field of depression, dramatic disconfirmation came by way of horrible example. Aaron (Tim) Beck's invention of cognitive therapy, now the most widespread and effective talk therapy for depression, emerged from his disenchantment with the premise of emotional hydraulics. I was present at the invention; from 1970 to 1972 I did a psychiatric residency with Tim as he groped toward cognitive therapy. The crucial experience for Tim, as he narrated it, came in the late 1950s. He had completed his Freudian training and was assigned to do group therapy with depressives. Psychodynamics held that you could cure depression by getting them to open up about the past, and to ventilate cathartically about all the wounds and losses that they had suffered.
Tim found that there was no problem getting depressed people to re-air past wrongs and to dwell on them at length. The problem was that they often unraveled as they ventilated, and Tim could not find ways to ravel them up again. Occasionally this led to suicide attempts, some fatal. Cognitive therapy for depression developed as a technique to free people from their unfortunate past by getting them to change their thinking about the present and the future. Cognitive therapy techniques work equally well at producing relief from depression as the antidepressant drugs, and they work better at preventing recurrence and relapse. So I count Tim Beck as one of the great liberators.
Anger is another domain in which the concept of emotional hydraulics was critically examined. America, in contrast to the venerable Eastern cultures, is a ventilationist society. We deem it honest, just, and even healthy to express our anger. So we shout, we protest, and we litigate. “Go ahead, make my day,” warns Dirty Harry. Part of the reason we allow ourselves this luxury is that we believe the psychodynamic theory of anger. If we don’t express our rage, it will come out elsewhere—even more destructively, as in cardiac disease. But this theory turns out to be false; in fact, the reverse is true. Dwelling on trespass and the expression of anger produces more cardiac disease and more anger.
The overt expression of hostility turns out to be the real culprit in the Type A-heart attack link. Time urgency, competitiveness, and the suppression of anger do not seem to play a role in Type A people getting more heart disease. In one study, 255 medical students took a personality test that measured overt hostility. As physicians twenty-five years later, the angriest had roughly five times as much heart disease as the least angry ones. In another study, men who had the highest risk of later heart attacks were just the ones with more explosive voices, more irritation when forced to wait, and more outwardly directed anger. In experimental studies, when male students bottle up their anger, blood pressure goes down, and it goes up if they decide to express their feelings. Anger expression raises lower blood pressure for women as well. In contrast, friendliness in reaction to trespass lowers it.
I want to suggest another way of looking at emotion that is more compatible with the evidence. Emotions, in my view, are indeed encapsulated by a membrane—but it is highly permeable and its name is “adaptation,” as we saw in the last chapter. Remarkably, the evidence shows that when positive and negative events happen, there is a temporary burst of mood in the right direction. But usually over a short time, mood settles back into its set range. This tells us that emotions, left to themselves, will dissipate. Their energy seeps out through the membrane, and by “emotional osmosis” the person returns in time to his or her baseline condition. Expressed and dwelt upon, though, emotions multiply and imprison you in a vicious cycle of dealing fruitlessly with past wrongs.
Insufficient appreciation and savoring of the good events in your past and overemphasis of the bad ones are the two culprits that undermine serenity, contentment, and satisfaction. There are two ways of bringing these feelings about the past well into the region of contentment and satisfaction. Gratitude amplifies the savoring and appreciation of the good events gone by, and rewriting history by forgiveness loosens the power of the bad events to embitter (and actually can transform bad memories into good ones).
FORGIVING AND FORGETTING
How you feel about the past—contentment or pride, versus bitterness or shame—depends entirely on your memories. There is no other source. The reason gratitude works to increase life satisfaction is that it amplifies good memories about the past: their intensity, their frequency, and the tag lines the memories have. Another student who also honored her mother wrote, “My mom said that night will stay with her forever. The exercise was my chance to finally say how much she means. I was able to get something off my chest, and this time it was in a good way! For the next few days, both of us were on highs. I continually thought about the night.”
She was “on a high” because for the next several days, more frequent positive thoughts flitted through her consciousness about all the good things Mom had done. These thoughts were more intensely positive, and the tag lines inspired happiness (“What a great person”). Just the reverse is true about negative memories. The divorcee whose every thought of her ex-husband is about betrayal and lying, and the Palestinian whose ruminations about his birthplace are about trespass and hate, are both examples of bitterness. Frequent and intense negative thoughts about the past are the raw material that blocks the emotions of contentment and satisfaction, and these thoughts make serenity and peace impossible.
This is just as true of nations as it is of individuals. Leaders who incessantly remind their followers of a long history of outrages (real and imagined) their nation has suffered produce a vengeful, violent populace. Slobodan Milosevic, by reminding Serbs of six centuries of wrongs perpetrated upon them, brought about a decade of war and genocide in the Balkans. Archbishop Makarios in Cyprus continued to foment hatred against the Turks after he came to power. This made reconciliation between Greeks and Turks almost impossible and it did much to set up the catastrophic invasion by the Turkish army. Contemporary American demagogues who play the race card, invoking reminders of slavery (or the alleged outrages of reverse discrimination) at every opportunity, create the same vengeful mindset in their followers. These politicians find it politically popular in the short run, but in the long run the powderkeg of violence and hatred they manufacture is likely to wound gravely the very group they wish to help.
Nelson Mandela, in contrast, tried to undercut endless retribution. In leading South Africa, he refused to wallow in the bitter past and moved his divided nation toward reconciliation. Yakubu Gowon in Nigeria worked hard to not punish the Ibo after the Biafran rebellion was crushed in the late 1960s, likely preventing genocide. Jawaharlal “Pandit” Nehru, a disciple of Mahatma Ghandi, made sure that retributions against Muslims in India stopped after the country was partitioned in 1947. Once his government got control and stopped the killings, Musims were protected.
The human brain has evolved to ensure that our firefighting negative emotions will trump the broadening, building, and abiding—but more fragile—positive emotions. The only way out of this emotional wilderness is to change your thoughts by rewriting your past: forgiving, forgetting, or suppressing bad memories. There are, however, no known ways to enhance forgetting and suppressing of memory directly. Indeed explicit attempts to suppress thoughts will backfire and increase the likelihood of imagining the forbidden object (for example, try not to think of a white bear in the next five minutes). This leaves forgiving, which leaves the memory intact but removes and even transforms the sting, as the only viable rewriting strategy. Before I discuss forgiving, however, we need to ask why so many people hold on to—indeed, passionately embrace—bitter thoughts about their past. Why isn’t positive rewriting of the past the most natural approach to wrongs that have been done to you?
There are, unfortunately, good reasons to hold onto bitterness, and a balance sheet to be totaled up before you try to rewrite your past by forgiving (or forgetting or suppressing). Here are some of the usual reasons for holding on to unforgiveness.
- Forgiving is unjust. It undermines the motivation to catch and punish the perpetrator, and it saps the righteous anger that might be transmuted into helping other victims as well.
- Forgiving may be loving toward the perpetrator, but it shows a want of love toward the victim.
- Forgiving blocks revenge, and revenge is right and natural.
In the other column, however, forgiving transforms bitterness into neutrality or even into positively tinged memories, and so makes much greater life satisfaction possible: “You can't hurt the perpetrator by not forgiving, but you can set yourself free by forgiving.” Physical health, particularly in cardiovascular terms, is likely better in those who forgive than those who do not. And when it is followed by reconciliation, forgiving can vastly improve your relations with the person forgiven.
It is not my place to argue with you about what weights to assign to these pros and cons as you decide whether it is worth it to surrender a grudge. The weights reflect your values. My aim is merely to expose the inverse relationship between unforgiveness and life satisfaction.
This chapter asked what variables under your voluntary control (V) can lastingly help you live in the upper part of your set range of happiness. This section looked at V for the positive emotions (satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, pride, and serenity) that you feel about the past. There are three ways you can lastingly feel more happiness about your past. The first is intellectual—letting go of an ideology that your past determines your future. The hard determinism that underpins this dogma is empirically barren and philosophically far from self-evident, and the passivity it engenders is imprisoning. The second and third V’s are emotional, and both involve voluntarily changing your memories. Increasing your gratitude about the good things in your past intensifies positive memories, and learning how to forgive past wrongs defuses the bitterness that makes satisfaction impossible.
THE STUFF OF HOPE
Hope has largely been the province of television preachers, politicians, and hucksters. The concept of learned optimism brings hope into the laboratory, where scientists can dissect it in order to understand how it works. Whether or not we have hope depends on two dimensions taken together. Finding permanent and universal causes of good events along with temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope; finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune and temporary and specific causes of good events is the practice of despair. Bad events can be described in either a hopeless or hopeful manner, as in these examples:
“Men are tyrants.”
“It’s five in ten this lump is cancer.”
“I’m hung over.”
“My husband was in a bad mood.”
“It’s five in ten this lump is nothing.”
The same goes for good events:
“My wife charms my clients.”
“The U.S. will root out the terrorists.”
“My wife charms everyone.”
“The U.S. will root out all its enemies.”
People who make permanent and universal explanations for good events, as well as temporary and specific explanations for bad events, bounce back from troubles briskly and get on a roll easily when they succeed once. People who make temporary and specific explanations for success, and permanent and universal explanations for setbacks, tend to collapse under pressure—both for a long time and across situations—and rarely get on a roll.
The Bodily Pleasures
These delights are immediate, come through the senses, and are momentary. They need little or no interpretation. The sense organs, for evolutionary reasons, are hooked quite directly to positive emotion; touching, tasting, smelling, moving the body, seeing, and hearing can directly evoke pleasure. The stroking of their genitals evokes smiling in very young babies. Mother’s milk and the taste of French vanilla ice cream do the same thing in the first six months of life. When you are covered with muck, a hot shower washing it all away feels great, and this good feeling transcends the knowledge that you are getting clean. Orgasm needs no advertising agency to puff about its virtues. For some people, emptying a full bowel brings relief mixed with bliss. Vision and hearing are also tied to positive emotion, in a slightly less direct, but nonetheless immediate, way: A cloudless spring day, the ending of the Beatles’s “Hey Jude,” pictures of babies and young lambs, and sitting down in front of a blazing fire on a snowy evening are all examples of bodily pleasures.
With a bit more sophistication, complex sensations can come to bring sensual pleasure. For me these include a perfect hybrid tea rose, the opening bars of C. P. E. Bach’s “Magnificat,” a sip of a Riesling Trocken-beerenauslese, the last scene of the first act of Sunday in the Park with George, the scent of Shalimar, hearing a perfect rhyme (“On Wednesday and Saturday, but mostly on the latter day”), and my two-month-old child grasping my index finger in her little fist.
Despite the delights they so reliably bring, however, it is not easy to build your life around the bodily pleasures, for they are all just momentary. They fade very rapidly once the external stimulus disappears, and we become accustomed to them very readily (“habituation”), often requiring bigger doses to deliver the same kick as originally. It is only the first taste of French vanilla ice cream, the first wisp of Shalimar, and the first few seconds of warmth from the blazing fire that gives you a buzz. Unless you space these encounters out abstemiously, these pleasures are enormously diminished.
The high-intensity pleasures include rapture, bliss, ecstasy, thrill, hilarity, euphoria, kick, buzz, elation, and excitement. The moderate-intensity pleasures include ebullience, sparkle, vigor, glee, mirth, gladness, good cheer, enthusiasm, attraction, and fun. The low-intensity pleasures include comfort, harmony, amusement, satiation, and relaxation. For my purpose—which is to discuss how you can enhance these states in your life—it does not much matter which organization of the pleasures you choose. All of them have common roads to enhancement.
Have a Beautiful Day
This section enumerated the pleasures and the joys, and several ways to amplify them. Habituation can be countered by spacing your pleasures carefully and entering into a reciprocal surprise arrangement with a friend or lover. Savoring and mindfulness happen by sharing your pleasures with someone else, by taking mental photographs, by self-congratulation, by sharpening your perceptions (particularly using perspective shifting), and by absorption. Basking, giving thanks, marveling, and luxuriating are all means to amplifying pleasures. It is with a great deal of luck and the use of these skills that a “pleasant life” is to be found.
In ordinary English, we do not distinguish between the gratifications and the pleasures. This is truly a shame, because it muddles together two different classes of the best things in life, and it deceives us into thinking they can each be had in the same way. We casually say that we like caviar, a back rub, or the sound of rain on a tin roof (all pleasures) as well as saying that we like playing volleyball, reading Dylan Thomas, and helping the homeless (all gratifications). “Like” is the operative confusion. The word’s primary meaning in all these cases is that we choose to do these things over many other possibilities. Because we use the same word, we are inclined to look around for the same source of the liking, and we slip into saying, “Caviar gives me pleasure” and “Dylan Thomas gives me pleasure,” as if the same positive emotion existed underneath both as the basis of our choosing.
When I press people about the existence of that underlying positive emotion, I find one underneath the pleasures: great food, a back rub, perfume, or a hot shower all produce the raw feels of pleasure I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. In contrast, when I press people about the positive emotion of pleasure we allegedly feel when serving coffee to the homeless, or reading Andrea Barrett, or playing bridge or rock climbing, it is quite elusive. Some people can find a discrete emotion (“curling up on the couch with the book made me feel cozy all over”), but most cannot. It is the total absorption, the suspension of consciousness, and the flow that the gratifications produce that defines liking these activities—not the presence of pleasure. Total immersion, in fact, blocks consciousness, and emotions are completely absent.
While we moderns have lost the distinction between the pleasures and the gratifications, the golden-age Athenians were keen on it. And this is one of those several cases where they knew more than we do now. For Aristotle, distinct from the bodily pleasures, happiness (eudaimonia) is akin to grace in dancing. Grace is not an entity that accompanies the dance or that comes at the end of the dance; it is part and parcel of a dance well done. To talk about the “pleasure” of contemplation is only to say that contemplation is done for its own sake; it is not to refer to any emotion that accompanies contemplation. Eudaimonia, what I call gratification, is part and parcel of right action. It cannot be derived from bodily pleasure, nor is it a state that can be chemically induced or attained by any shortcuts. It can only be had by activity consonant with noble purpose. My citation of Aristotle may seem like academic pomposity, but in this case it is of real moment for your life. The pleasures can be discovered, nurtured, and amplified in the ways I discussed in the last section, but the gratifications cannot. The pleasures are about the senses and the emotions. The gratifications, in contrast, are about enacting personal strengths and virtues.
Mounting over the last forty years in every wealthy country on the globe, there has been a startling increase in depression. Depression is now ten times as prevalent as it was in 1960, and it strikes at a much younger age. The mean age of a person’s first episode of depression forty years ago was 29.5, while today it is 14.5 years. This is a paradox, since every objective indicator of well—being-purchasing power, amount of education, availability of music, and nutrition—has been going north, while every indicator of subjective well-being has been going south. How is this epidemic to be explained?
What does not cause it is clearer than what does. The epidemic is not biological, since our genes and hormones have not changed enough in forty years to account for a tenfold increase in depression. It is not ecological, since the Old Order Amish, living in eighteenth-century circumstances forty miles down the road from me, have only one-tenth the rate of depression as we do in Philadelphia; yet they drink the same water, breathe the same air, and provide a lot of the food we eat. And it is not that life conditions are worse, since the epidemic as we know it occurs only in wealthy nations (and carefully done diagnostic studies demonstrate that in the United States, black and Hispanic people actually have less depression than white people, even though their average objective life conditions are worse).
I have theorized that an ethos that builds unwarranted self-esteem, espouses victimology, and encourages rampant individualism has contributed to the epidemic, but I will not belabor this speculation here. There is another factor that looms as a cause of the epidemic: the overreliance on shortcuts to happiness. Every wealthy nation creates more and more shortcuts to pleasure: television, drugs, shopping, loveless sex, spectator sports, and chocolate to name just a few.
I am eating a toasted egg bagel with butter and blueberry preserves as I write this sentence. I did not bake the bagel, or churn the butter, or pick the blueberries. My breakfast (unlike my writing) is all shortcuts, requiring no skill and almost no effort. What would happen if my entire life were made up of such easy pleasures, never calling on my strengths, never presenting challenges? Such a life sets one up for depression. The strengths and virtues may wither during a life of taking shortcuts rather than choosing a life made full through the pursuit of gratifications.
One of the major symptoms of depression is self-absorption. The depressed person thinks about how she feels a great deal, excessively so. Her low mood is not a fact of life, but is very salient to her. When she detects sadness, she ruminates about it, projecting it into the future and across all her activities, and this in turn increases her sadness. “Get in touch with your feelings,” shout the self-esteem peddlers in our society. Our youth have absorbed this message, and believing it has produced a generation of narcissists whose major concern, not surprisingly, is with how they feel.
In contrast to getting in touch with feelings, the defining criterion of gratification is the absence of feeling, loss of self-consciousness, and total engagement. Gratification dispels self-absorption, and the more one has the flow that gratification produces, the less depressed one is. Here, then, is a powerful antidote to the epidemic of depression in youth: strive for more gratifications, while toning down the pursuit of pleasure. The pleasures come easily, and the gratifications (which result from the exercise of personal strengths) are hard-won. A determination to identify and develop these strengths is therefore the great buffer against depression.
To start the process of eschewing easy pleasures and engaging in more gratifications is hard. The gratifications produce flow, but they require skill and effort; even more deterring is the fact that because they meet challenges, they offer the possibility of failing. Playing three sets of tennis, or participating in a clever conversation, or reading Richard Russo takes work—at least to start. The pleasures do not: watching a sitcom, masturbating, and inhaling perfume are not challenging. Eating a buttered bagel or viewing televised football on Monday night requires no effort and little skill, and there is no possibility of failure. As Mike [Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
] told me in Hawaii:
Pleasure is a powerful source of motivation, but it does not produce change; it is a conservative force that makes us want to satisfy existing needs, achieve comfort and relaxation. . . . Enjoyment [gratification] on the other hand is not always pleasant, and it can be utterly stressful at times. A mountain climber may be close to freezing, utterly exhausted, in danger of falling into a bottomless crevasse, yet he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Sipping a cocktail under a palm tree at the edge of the turquoise ocean is nice, but it just doesn’t compare to the exhilaration he feels on that freezing ridge.
Such people ask, “How can I be happy?” This is the wrong question, because without the distinction between pleasure and gratification it leads all too easily to a total reliance on shortcuts, to a life of snatching up as many easy pleasures as possible. I am not against the pleasures; indeed, this entire chapter has set out advice on how to increase pleasures (as well as the entire panoply of positive emotions) in your life. I detailed the strategies under your voluntary control that are likely to move your level of positive emotion into the upper part of your set range of happiness: gratitude, forgiveness, and escaping the tyranny of determinism to increase positive emotions about the past; learning hope and optimism through disputing to increase positive emotions about the future; and breaking habituation, savoring, and mindfulness to increase the pleasures of the present.
When an entire lifetime is taken up in the pursuit of the positive emotions, however, authenticity and meaning are nowhere to be found. The right question is the one Aristotle posed two thousand five hundred years ago: “What is the good life?” My main purpose in marking the gratifications off from the pleasures is to ask this great question anew, then provide a fresh and scientifically grounded answer. My answer is tied up in the identification and the use of your signature strengths.
This answer will take the next several chapters to state and to justify, but it starts with the issue of getting more gratifications in your life. This is considerably more difficult than getting more positive emotion. Csikszentmihalyi has been very careful to avoid writing “self-improvement” books such as this one. His books on flow describe who has flow and who does not, but nowhere does he directly tell his readers how to acquire more flow. His reticence is partly because he comes from a European descriptive tradition, rather than from the American interventionist one. Thus he hopes that by describing flow eloquently and then stepping aside, the creative reader will invent his own ways to build more flow into his life. In contrast, I come unapologetically from the American tradition, and I believe enough is known about how gratifications come about to give advice about enhancing them. My advice, which is neither quick nor easy, is what the rest of this book is about.
Social science is not only a slap in the face of Victorian moralizing but, more profoundly, an affirmation of the great principle of egalitarianism. It is only a small step from acknowledging that a bad environment can sometimes produce bad behavior to saying that it can sometimes trump good character. Even people of good character (a main theme of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens) will succumb to a malignant environment. And thence to the belief that a bad enough environment will always
trump good character. Soon one can dispense with the idea of character altogether, since character itself—good or bad—is merely the product of environmental forces. So social science lets us escape from the value-laden, blame-accruing, religiously inspired, class-oppressing notion of character, and get on with the monumental task of building a healthier “nurturing” environment.
Character, good or bad, played no role in the emerging American psychology of behaviorism, and any underlying notion of human nature was anathema since only nurture existed. Only one corner of scientific psychology, the study of personality, kept the flame of character and the idea of human nature flickering throughout the twentieth century. In spite of political fashion, individuals tend to repeat the same patterns of behavior and misbehavior across time and across varied situations, and there was a nagging sentiment (but little evidence) that these patterns are inherited. Gordon Allport, the father of modern personality theory, began his career as a social worker with the goal of “promoting character and virtue.” The words were bothersomely Victorian and moralistic to Allport, however, and a more modern scientific, value-free term was required. “Personality” had the perfect neutral scientific ring. To Allport and his followers, science should describe what it is, rather than prescribe what should be. Personality
is a descriptive word, while character
is a prescriptive word. And so it was that the morally laden concepts of character and virtue got smuggled into scientific psychology in the guise of the lighter concept of personality.
The phenomenon of character did not go away, though, simply because it was ideologically out of step with American egalitarianism. Although twentieth-century psychology tried to exorcise character from its theories—Allport’s “personality,” Freud’s unconscious conflicts, Skinner’s vault beyond freedom and dignity, and instincts postulated by the ethologists—this had no effect whatsoever on ordinary discourse about human action. Good and bad character remained firmly entrenched in our laws, our politics, the way we raised our children, and the way we talked and thought about why people do what they do. Any science that does not use character as a basic idea (or at least explain character and choice away successfully) will never be accepted as a useful account of human action. So I believe that the time has come to resurrect character as a central concept to the scientific study of human behavior. To accomplish this, I need to show that these reasons for abandoning the notion no longer hold, then erect on solid ground a viable classification of strength and virtue.
Character was given up for essentially three reasons:
- Character as a phenomenon is entirely derived from experience.
- Science should not prescriptively endorse, it should just describe.
- Character is value-laden and tied to Victorian Protestantism.
The first objection vanishes in the wreckage of environmentalism. The thesis that all we are comes only from experience was the rallying cry and central tenet of behaviorism for the last eighty years. It began to erode when Noam Chomsky convinced students of language that our ability to understand and speak sentences never uttered before (such as “There’s a lavender platypus sitting on the baby’s rump”) requires a pre-existing brain module for language over and above mere experience. The erosion continued as learning theorists found that animals and people are prepared by natural selection to learn about some relationships readily (such as phobias and taste aversions), and completely unprepared to learn about others (such as pictures of flowers paired with electric shock). The heritability of personality (read character), however, is the final straw that blows the first objection away. We can conclude from this that however character comes about, it does not come about solely from the environment, and perhaps hardly at all from the environment.
The second objection is that character
is an evaluation term, and science must be morally neutral. I completely agree that science must be descriptive and not prescriptive. It is not the job of Positive Psychology to tell you that you should be optimistic, or spiritual, or kind or good-humored; it is rather to describe the consequences of these traits (for example, that being optimistic brings about less depression, better physical health, and higher achievement, at a cost perhaps of less realism). What you do with that information depends on your own values and goals.
The final objection is that character is hopelessly passé, nineteenth-century Protestant, constipated, and Victorian with little application to the tolerance and diversity of the twenty-first century. Such provincialism is a serious drawback to any study of strength and virtues. We could decide to study only those virtues that are valued by nineteenth-century American Protestants or by contemporary middle-aged, white, male academics. A much better place to begin, however, is with the strengths and virtues that are ubiquitous, that are valued in virtually every culture.
Led by Katherine Dahlsgaard, we read Aristotle and Plato, Aquinas and Augustine, the Old Testament and the Talmud, Confucius, Buddha, Lao-Tze, Bushido (the samurai code), the Koran, Benjamin Franklin, and the Upanishads—some two hundred virtue catalogues in all. To our surprise, almost every single one of these traditions flung across three thousand years and the entire face of the earth endorsed six virtues:
- Wisdom and knowledge
- Love and humanity
- Spirituality and transcendence
The details differ, of course: what courage means for a samurai differs from what it means to Plato, and humanity in Confucius is not identical with caritas
in Aquinas. There are, furthermore, virtues unique to each of these traditions (such as wit in Aristotle, thrift in Benjamin Franklin, cleanliness for the Boy Scouts of America, and vengeance to the seventh generation in the Klingon code), but the commonality is real and, to those of us raised as ethical relativists, pretty remarkable. This unpacks the meaning of the claim that human beings are moral animals.
So we see these six virtues as the core characteristics endorsed by almost all religious and philosophical traditions, and taken together they capture the notion of good character. But wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence are unworkably abstract for psychologists who want to build and measure these things. Moreover, for each virtue, we can think of several ways to achieve it, and the goal of measuring and building leads us to focus on these specific routes. For example, the virtue of humanity can be achieved by kindness, philanthropy, the capacity to love and be loved, sacrifice, or compassion. The virtue of temperance can be exhibited by modesty and humility, disciplined self-control, or prudence and caution.
TALENTS AND STRENGTHS
Strengths, such as integrity, valor, originality, and kindness, are not the same thing as talents, such as perfect pitch, facial beauty, or lightning-fast sprinting speed. They are both topics of Positive Psychology and while they have many similarities, one clear difference is that strengths are moral traits, while talents are nonmoral. In addition, although the line is fuzzy, talents generally are not as buildable as strengths. True, you can improve your time in the hundred-meter dash by raising your rump higher in the starting position, you can wear makeup that makes you look prettier, or you can listen to a great deal of classical music and learn to guess the pitch correctly more often. I believe that these are only small improvements, though, augmenting a talent that already exists.
Valor, originality, fairness, and kindness, in contrast, can be built on even frail foundations, and I believe that with enough practice, persistence, good teaching, and dedication, they can take root and flourish. Talents are more innate. For the most part, you either have a talent or you don’t; if you are not born with perfect pitch or the lungs of a long-distance runner, there are, sadly, severe limits on how much of them you can acquire. What you acquire is a mere simulacrum of the talent. This is not true of love of learning or prudence or humility or optimism. When you acquire these strengths, it seems that you have the real thing.
Talents, in contrast to strengths, are relatively automatic (you just know that it is C sharp), whereas strengths are usually more voluntarily (telling the cashier that he undercharged you by fifty dollars takes an act of will). A talent involves some choices, but only those of whether to burnish it and where to deploy it; there is no choice about possessing it in the first place. For example, “Jill was such a smart person, but she wasted her intelligence” makes sense because Jill displayed a failure of will. She had no choice about having a high IQ, but she squandered it by making bad choices about whether to develop her mind and when and where to deploy her smarts. “Jill was such a kind person, but she wasted her kindness,” however, does not make much sense. You cannot squander a strength. A strength involves choices about when to use it and whether to keep building it, but also whether to acquire it in the first place. With enough time, effort, and determination, the strengths I discuss below can be acquired by almost any ordinary person. The talents, however, cannot be acquired merely by dint of will.
In fact, the same thing that happened to character also happened to will. Scientific psychology gave up both concepts around the same time and for very similar reasons. Yet the concepts of will and of personal responsibility are just as central to Positive Psychology as the concept of good character is.
Interventions in Positive Psychology differ from those in psychology as usual for just this reason. Psychology as usual is about repairing damage and about moving from minus six up to minus two. Interventions that effectively make troubled people less so are usually heavy-handed, and the balance between the exercise of will and the push of external forces tilts toward the external. The actions of medications do not depend at all on will; “no discipline required” is one of the main justifications of drugs. The psychotherapies that work on disorders are often accurately described as “shaping” or “manipulations.” When the therapist is active and the patient is patient and passive, procedures such as putting a claustrophobic in a closet for three hours, reinforcing an autistic child for hugging by turning off shocks, and marshaling evidence against catastrophic thoughts for a depressive work moderately well. In contrast, therapies like psychoanalysis, in which the therapist is passive (speaking only rarely, and never acting) and the patient is active do not have a great track record of relieving mental disorders.
When we want to move from plus three to plus eight in our lives, though, the exercise of will is more important than rearranging external props. Building strengths and virtues and using them in daily life are very much a matter of making choices. Building strength and virtue is not about learning, training, or conditioning, but about discovery, creation, and ownership.
To be a virtuous person is to display, by acts of will, all or at least most of the six ubiquitous virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. There are several distinct routes to each of these six. For example, one can display the virtue of justice by acts of good citizenship, fairness, loyalty and teamwork, or humane leadership. I call these routes strengths
, and unlike the abstract virtues, each of these strengths is measurable and acquirable. In what follows I discuss, briefly enough for you to recognize each, the strengths that are ubiquitous across cultures. From this discussion and the survey below, you can decide which of these twenty-four are most characteristic of you.
Here are some of the criteria by which we know that a characteristic is a strength: First, a strength is a trait
, a psychological characteristic that can be seen across different situations and over time. A one-time display of kindness in one setting only does not display the underlying virtue of humanity.
Second, a strength is valued in its own right
. Strengths often produce good consequences. Leadership well exercised, for example, usually produces prestige, promotions, and raises. Although strengths and virtues do produce such desirable outcomes, we value a strength for its own sake, even in the absence of obvious beneficial outcomes. Remember that the gratifications are undertaken for their own sake, not because they may produce a squirt of felt positive emotion in addition. Indeed, Aristotle argued that actions undertaken for external reasons are not virtuous, precisely because they are coaxed or coerced.
Strengths also can be seen in what parents wish for their newborn
(“I want my child to be loving, to be brave, to be prudent”). Most parents would not say that they want their children to avoid psychopathology, just as they would not say that they want their child to have a job in middle management. A parent might wish that her child will marry a millionaire, but she would probably go on to explain why in terms of what marrying rich might enable. The strengths are states we desire that require no further justification.
The display of a strength by one person does not diminish other people in the vicinity. Indeed, onlookers are often elevated and inspired
by observing virtuous action. Envy, but not jealousy, may fill the onlooker’s breast. Engaging in a strength usually produces authentic positive emotion in the doer: pride, satisfaction, joy, fulfillment, or harmony. For this reason, strengths and virtues are often enacted in win-win situations. We can all be winners when acting in accordance with strengths and virtues.
The culture supports strengths by providing institutions, rituals, role models, parables, maxims, and children’s stories
. The institutions and rituals are trial runs that allow children and adolescents to practice and develop a valued characteristic in a safe (“as if”) context with explicit guidance. High school student councils are intended to foster citizenship and leadership; Little League teams strive to develop teamwork, duty, and loyalty; and catechism classes attempt to lay the foundation for faith. To be sure, institutions may backfire (think of win-at-all-cost youth hockey coaches, or beauty contests for six-year-olds), but these failures are readily apparent and widely decried.Role models and paragons
in the culture compellingly illustrate a strength or virtue. Models may be real (Mahatma Ghandi and humane leadership), apocryphal (George Washington and honesty), or explicitly mythic (Luke Skywalker and flow). Cal Ripken, and Lou Gehrig before him, is a paragon of perseverance. Helen Keller is a paragon of love of learning, Thomas Edison of creativity, Florence Nightingale of kindness, Mother Theresa of the capacity to love, Willie Stargell of leadership, Jackie Robinson of self-control, and Aung San of integrity.
Some of the strengths have prodigies
, youngsters who display them early on and amazingly well. When I taught my most recent seminar on Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, I began by asking all of the students to introduce themselves-not with the trite “I’m a junior with a double major in finance and psychology,” but by telling us a story about themselves that showed a strength. (These introductions provide a warm and refreshing contrast to my abnormal psychology seminar, in which the students usually introduce themselves by regaling us with stories of their childhood traumas.) Sarah, a perky senior, told us that when she was about ten years old, she had noticed that her father was working very hard, and that a chilliness had descended between her parents. She was worried that they might divorce. Without telling her parents, she went to the local library and read books on marital therapy, which is remarkable enough, but what really made us marvel was the rest of her story. She turned dinner conversations with the family into deliberate interventions, encouraging her parents to solve problems jointly, to argue fairly, to express their likes and dislikes about one another in behavioral terms, and so on. She was, at the age of ten, a prodigy with respect to the character strength of social intelligence. And yes, her parents are still married to one another.)
Conversely, there exist idiots
(from the Greek, for not socialized) with respect to a strength, and the archives of the Darwin Awards (www.darwinawards.com
) are a hall of fame of these individuals. In contrast to Rachel Carson (whose book Silent Spring
immortalizes her as a paragon of prudence), this fellow is an idiot of prudence:
A Houston man earned a succinct lesson in gun safety when he played Russian roulette with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Rashaad, nineteen, was visiting friends when he announced his intention to play the deadly game. He apparently did not realize that a semiautomatic pistol, unlike a revolver, automatically inserts a cartridge into the firing chamber when the gun is cocked. His chance of winning a round of Russian roulte was zero, as he quickly discovered.
Even though children grow up surrounded by a bevy of positive role models, a question of critical importance is when and why bad lessons are learned as opposed to good ones. What leads some kids to fix on Eminem, Donald Trump, or professional wrestlers as their role models?
Our final criterion for the strengths below is that they are ubiquitous
, valued in almost every culture in the world. It is true that very rare exceptions can be found; the Ik [people of the mountains of Uganda], for example, do not appear to value kindness. Hence we call the strengths ubiquitous rather than universal, and it is important that examples of the anthropological veto (“Well, the Ik don’t have it”) are rare and they are glaring. This means that quite a few of the strengths endorsed by contemporary Americans are not on our list: good looks, wealth, competitiveness, self-esteem, celebrity, uniqueness, and the like. These strengths are certainly worthy of study, but they are not my immediate priority. My motive for this criterion is that I want my formulation of the good life to apply just as well to Japanese and to Iranians as to Americans.
I believe that each person possesses several signature strengths
. These are strengths of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and (if he or she can arrange life successfully) exercises every day in work, love, play, and parenting. Take your list of top strengths, and for each one ask if any of these criteria apply:
- A sense of ownership and authenticity (“This is the real me”)
- A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first
- A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
- Continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength
- A sense of yearning to find ways to use it
- A feeling of inevitability in using the strength (“Try and stop me”)
- Invigoration rather than exhaustion while using the strength
- The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it
- Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy while using it
If one or more of these apply to your top strengths, they are signature strengths. Use them as frequently as you can and in as many settings. If none of the signature criteria apply to one or two of your strengths, they may not be the aptitudes you want to deploy in work, love, play, and parenting. Herein is my formulation of the good life: Using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of your life to bring abundant gratification and authentic happiness.
WORK life is undergoing a sea change in the wealthiest nations. Money, amazingly, is losing its power. The stark findings about life satisfaction detailed in Chapter 4—that beyond the safety net, more money adds little or nothing to subjective well-being—are starting to sink in. While real income in America has risen 16 percent in the last thirty years, the percentage of people who describe themselves as “very happy” has fallen from 36 to 29 percent. “Money really cannot buy happiness,” declared the New York Times, But when employees catch up with the Times and figure out that raises, promotions, and overtime pay buy not one whit of increased life satisfaction, what then? Why will a qualified individual choose one job over another? What will cause an employee to be steadfastly loyal to the company he or she works for? For what incentive will a worker pour heart and soul into making a quality product?
Our economy is rapidly changing from a money economy to a satisfaction economy. These trends go up and down (when jobs are scarcer, personal satisfaction has a somewhat lesser weight; when jobs are abundant, personal satisfaction counts for more), but the trend for two decades is decidedly in favor of personal satisfaction. Law is now the most highly paid profession in America, having surpassed medicine during the 1990s. Yet the major New York law firms now spend more on retention than on recruitment, as their young associates—and even the partners—are leaving law in droves for work that makes them happier. The lure of a lifetime of great riches at the end of several years of grueling eighty-hour weeks as a lowly associate has lost much of its power. The newly minted coin of this realm is life satisfaction. Millions of Americans are staring at their jobs and asking, “Does my work have to be this unsatisfying? What can I do about it?” My answer is that your work can be much more satisfying than it is now, and that by using your signature strengths at work more often, you should be able to recraft your job to make it so.
In an economy of surplus and little unemployment, what job a qualified person chooses will depend increasingly on how much flow they engage at work, and less on small (or even sizable) differences in pay. How to choose or recraft your work to produce more flow is not a mystery. Flow occurs when the challenges—big ones as well as the daily issues that you face—mesh well with your abilities. My recipe for more flow is as follows:
- Identify your signature strengths.
- Choose work that lets you use them every day.
- Recraft your present work to use your signature strengths more.
- If you are the employer, choose employees whose signature strengths mesh with the work they will do. If you are a manager, make room to allow employees to recraft the work within the bounds of your goals.
Depression shows exactly the reverse; married people have the least depression and never-married people the next least, followed by people divorced once, people cohabiting, and people divorced twice. Similarly, a primary cause of distress is the disruption of a significant relationship: when asked to describe the “last bad thing that happened to you,” more than half of a large American survey described a breakup or loss of this sort. As marriage has declined and divorce increased, the amount of depression has skyrocketed. Glen Elder, the foremost American sociologist of the family, has studied three generations of residents of the San Francisco area in California. He finds that marriage powerfully buffers people against troubles. It is the married who have best withstood the privations of rural poverty, the Great Depression, and wars. When I discussed how to live in the upper part of your set range of happiness in Chapter 4, getting married turned out to be one of the only external factors that might actually do it.
Why does marriage work so well? Why did it get invented, and how has it been maintained across so many cultures and since time out of memory? This may seem like a banal question with an obvious answer, but it is not. Social psychologists who work on love have provided a deep answer. Cindy Hazan, a Cornell psychologist, tells us that there are three kinds of love. First is love of the people who give us comfort, acceptance, and help, who bolster our confidence and guide us. The prototype is children’s love of their parents. Second, we love the people who depend on us for these provisions; the prototype of this is parents’ love for their children. Finally comes romantic love—the idealization of another, idealizing their strengths and virtues and downplaying their shortcomings. Marriage is unique as the arrangement that gives us all three kinds of love under the same umbrella, and it is this property that makes marriage so successful.
Many social scientists, swept up in the insouciance of environmentalism, would have us believe that marriage is an institution concocted by society and by convention, a socially engineered construction like Hoosiers or the class of 1991 at Lower Merion High School. Maids of honor, the religious and civil trappings, and the honeymoon may be social constructions, but the underlying framework is much deeper. Evolution has a very strong interest in reproductiveness, and thus in the institution of marriage. Successful reproduction in our species not a matter of quick fertilization, with both partners then going their own separate ways; rather, humans are born big-brained and immature, a state that necessitates a vast amount of learning from parents. This advantage only works with the addition of pair-bonding. Immature, dependent offspring who have parents that stick around to protect and mentor them do much better than their cousins whose parents abandon them. Those of our ancestors, therefore, who were inclined to make a deep commitment to each other were more likely to have viable children and thereby pass on their genes. Thus marriage was “invented” by natural selection, not by culture.
This is not just a matter of armchair speculation and just-so evolutionary storytelling. Women who have stable sexual relationships ovulate more regularly, and they continue ovulating into middle age, reaching menopause later than women in unstable relations. The children of couples who are married and stay married do better by every known criterion than the children of all other arrangements. For example, children who live with both biological parents repeat grades at only one-third to one-half the rate of children in other parenting arrangements. Children who live with both biological parents are treated for emotional disorders at one-fourth to one-third the rate of the other parenting arrangements. Among the most surprising outcomes (beyond better grades and lack of depression) are the findings that the children of stable marriages mature more slowly in sexual terms, they have more positive attitudes toward potential mates, and are more interested in long-term relationships than are the children of divorce.
Which of these three descriptions come the closest to capturing the most important romantic relationship you have had?
- I find it relatively easy to get close to others, and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often worry about being abandoned, or about someone getting too close to me.
- I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others. I find it difficult to trust them completely, to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when someone gets too close, and often love partners want me to be more intimate than I am comfortable being.
- I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to merge completely with another person, and this desire sometimes scares people away.
These capture three styles of loving and being loved in adults, and there is good evidence that they have their origins in early childhood. If you have romantic relations that meet the first description, they are called secure
, the second avoidant
, and the third anxious
Bowlby and Ainsworth, as the two pioneering infant researchers, wanted to give their field the mantle of dispassionate (literally) behavioral science, and so they called it “attachment.” But Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver, freer spirits in the psychology of the 1980s, realized that Bowlby and Ainsworth were really investigating not just the behavior of attachment but the emotion of love, and not just in infants but “from the cradle to the grave.” They propose that the same way you look at your mother when you are a toddler operates in intimate relations all through your life. Your “working model” of your mother gets deployed later in childhood when dealing with siblings and best friends, in adolescence it is superimposed on your first romantic partner, and even more so in marriage. Your working model is not rigid; it can be influenced by negative and positive experiences at these times. It dictates three different paths of love, however, across a variety of dimensions.
- Memories. Secure adults remember their parents as available, as warm, and as affectionate. Avoidant adults remember their mothers as cold, rejecting, and unavailable, and anxious adults remember their fathers as unfair.
- Attitudes. Secure adults have high self-esteem and few self-doubts. Other people like them, and they regard other people as trustworthy, reliable, good-hearted, and helpful until sad experience proves otherwise. Avoidant adults regard other people with suspicion, as dishonest and untrustworthy (guilty until proven innocent). They lack confidence, especially in social situations. Anxious adults feel they have little control over their lives, find other people hard to understand and predict, and so are puzzled by other people.
- Goals. Secure people strive for intimate relations with those they love and try to find a good balance of dependence and independence. Avoidant people try to keep their distance from those they love, and they put a greater weight on achievement than on intimacy. Anxious people cling; they fear continually, and they discourage autonomy and independence in the people they love.
- Managing distress. Secure people admit when they are upset, and they try to use their distress to achieve constructive ends. Avoidant people don’t disclose. They don't tell you when they are upset; they do not show or admit to anger. Anxious people flaunt their distress and anger, and when threatened they become too compliant and solicitous.
Here is a secure adult talking about her romance:
We’re really good friends, and we sort of knew each other for a long time before we started going out—and we like the same sort of things. Another thing which I like a lot is that he gets on well with all my close friends. We can always talk things over. Like if we’re having any fights, we usually resolve them by talking it over—he’s a very reason. I can just be my own person, so it’s good, because it’s not a possessive relationship. I think we trust each other a lot.
In contrast, here is an avoidant adult:
My partner is my best friend, and that’s the way I think of him. He’s as special to me as any of my other friends. His expectations in life don’t include marriage, or any long-term commitment to any female, which is fine with me, because that’s what my expectations are as well. I find that he doesn’t want to be overly intimate, and he doesn’t expect too much commitment, which is good. Sometimes it’s a worry that a person can be that close to you, and be in such control of your life.
And finally, here is an anxious adult:
So I went in there . . . and he was sitting on the bench, and I took one look, and I actually melted. He was the best-looking thing I’d ever seen, and that was the first thing that struck me about him. So we went out and we had lunch in the park . . . we just sort of sat there and in silence—but it wasn’t awkward. Like, you know, when you meet strangers and can’t think of anything to say, it’s usually awkward? It wasn’t like that. We just sat there, and it was incredible—like we’d known each other for a real long time, and we’d only met for about 10 seconds, so that was—straightaway, my first feelings for him started coming on.
In diary studies of couples having all the permutations of styles, two main findings emerge. First, secure people are more comfortable being close, they have less anxiety over the relationship, and most important, they are more satisfied with the marriage. So the optimal configuration for a stable romance is two securely attached people. But there are plenty of marriages in which only one of the partners is secure. How do these turn out? Even if only one of the partners is secure in style, the other partner (avoidant or anxious) is also more satisfied with the marriage than he or she would have been with a less secure partner.
There are three aspects of marriage that secure styles particularly benefit: caregiving, sex, and coping with bad events. Secure partners are better ministers of care to their mates. The secure partner is not only closer, but more sensitive to when care is wanted and when it is not wanted. They contrast with anxious partners, who are “compulsive” caregivers (dispensing care whether their mate wants it or not), and with avoidant people (who are both distant and insensitive to when care is needed).
Sex life follows from the three love styles as well. Secure people avoid one-night stands, and they don’t think that sex without love is very enjoyable. Avoidant people are more approving of casual sex (although, strangely, they don’t actually have more of it), and they enjoy sex without love more. Anxious women get involved in exhibitionism, voyeurism, and bondage, while anxious men just have less sex.
Two studies of couples during the Persian Gulf War found that when a marriage runs into trouble, secure, anxious, and avoidant people react differently. One of the studies was done in Israel; when Iraqi missiles began to land, the secure people sought support from others. In contrast, avoidant people did not seek support (“I try to forget it”), and anxious people focused on their own states, with the result that anxious and avoidant people had higher levels of psychosomatic symptoms and of hostility. From the American side of the war, many soldiers went off to battle and were separated from their mates. This experiment of nature gave researchers a window on how people with the different styles of love reacted to separation and then to reunion. Like Mary Ainsworth’s infants, securely attached men and women had higher marital satisfaction and less conflict after the soldiers returned.
My central theme to this point is that there are several routes to authentic happiness that are each very different. In Part I of this book, I discussed positive emotion, and how you can raise yours. There are three importantly different kinds of positive emotion (past, future, and present), and it is entirely possible to cultivate any one of these separately from the others. Positive emotion about the past (contentment, for example) can be increased by gratitude, forgiveness, and freeing yourself of imprisoning deterministic ideology. Positive emotion about the future (optimism, for example) can be increased by learning to recognize and dispute automatic pessimistic thoughts.
Positive emotion about the present divides into two very different things—pleasures and gratifications—and this is the best example of radically different routes to happiness. The pleasures are momentary, and they are defined by felt emotion. They can be increased by defeating the numbing effect of habituation, by savoring, and by mindfulness. The pleasant life successfully pursues positive emotions about the present, past, and future.
The gratifications are more abiding. They are characterized by absorption, engagement, and flow. Importantly, the absence—not the presence—of any felt positive emotion (or any self-consciousness at all) defines the gratifications. The gratifications come about through the exercise of your strengths and virtues, so Part II of the book laid out the twenty-four ubiquitous strengths, and it provided tests for you to identity your own signature strengths. In Part III, I discussed ways of deploying your signature strengths in three great arenas of life: work, love, and parenting. This led to my formulation of the good life, which, in my view, consists in using your signature strengths as frequently as possible in these realms to obtain authentic happiness and abundant gratification.
In the hope that your level of positive emotion and your access to abundant gratification has now increased, I turn to my final topic, finding meaning and purpose in living. The pleasant life, I suggested, is wrapped up in the successful pursuit of the positive feelings, supplemented by the skills of amplifying these emotions. The good life, in contrast, is not about maximizing positive emotion, but is a life wrapped up in successfully using your signature strengths to obtain abundant and authentic gratification. The meaningful life has one additional feature: using your signature strengths in the service of something larger than you are. To live all three lives is to lead a full life.
Tiedot englanninkielisestä Yhteisestä tiedosta. Muokkaa kotoistaaksesi se omalle kielellesi.
(Napsauta nähdäksesi. Varoitus: voi sisältää juonipaljastuksia)
I plunge ahead breathlessly and tell Bob [Robert Wright
] that NonZero
might just explain this. Could it be, I speculate, that negative emotion has evolved to help us in win-loss games
? When we are in deadly competition, when it is eat or be eaten, fear and anxiety are our motivators and our guides. When we are struggling to avoid loss or to repel trespass, sadness and anger are our motivators and our guides. When we feel a negative emotion, it is a signal that we are in a win-loss game. Such emotions set up an action repertoire that fights, flees, or gives up. These emotions also activate a mindset that is analytical and narrows our focus so nothing but the problem at hand is present.
Could it be that positive emotion, then, has evolved to motivate and guide us through win-win games? When we are in a situation in which everyone might benefit—courting, hunting together, raising children, cooperating, planting seeds, teaching and learning—joy, good cheer, contentment, and happiness motivate us and guide our actions. Positive emotions are part of a sensory system that alerts to us the presence of a potential win-win. They also set up an action repertoire and a mindset that broadens and builds abiding intellectual and social resources. Positive emotions, in short, build the cathedrals of our lives.
“If this is right, the human future is even better than you predict, Bob. If we are on the threshold of an era of win-win games, we are on the threshold of an era of good feeling—literally, good feeling.”
“You mentioned meaning and a theological angle, Marty?" The dubious look does not leave Bob’s face, but I am reassured by the absence of any lemon-sucking lip movements that the idea that positive emotion and win-win games are intertwined makes sense to him. “I thought you were a nonbeliever.”
“I am. At least I was. I’ve never been able to choke down the idea of a supernatural God who stands outside of time, a God who designs and creates the universe. As much as I wanted to, I never been able to believe there was any meaning in life beyond the meaning we choose to adopt for ourselves. But now I’m beginning to think I was wrong, or partly wrong. What I have to say is not relevant to people of faith, people who already believe in a Creator who is the ground of personal meaning. They already are leading lives they believe to be meaningful, and by my notion are
meaningful. But I hope it is relevant for how to lead a meaningful life to the nonreligious community, the skeptical, evidence-minded community that believes only in nature.”
A process that continually selects for more complexity is ultimately aimed at nothing less than omniscience, omnipotence, and goodness. This is not, of course, a fulfillment that will be achieved in our lifetimes, or even in the lifetime of our species. The best we can do as individuals is to choose to be a small part of furthering this progress. This is the door through which meaning that transcends us can enter our lives. A meaningful life is one that joins with something larger than we are—and the larger that something is, the more meaning our lives have. Partaking in a process that has the bringing of a God who is endowed with omniscience, omnipotence, and goodness as its ultimate end joins our lives to an enormously large something.(Napsauta nähdäksesi. Varoitus: voi sisältää juonipaljastuksia)
You are vouchsafed the choice of what course to take in life. You can choose a life that forwards these aims, to a greater or lesser degree. Or you can, quite easily, choose a life that has nothing to do with these aims. You can even choose a life that actively impedes them. You can choose a life built around increasing knowledge: learning, teaching, educating your children, science, literature, journalism, and so many more opportunities. You can choose a life built around increasing power through technology, engineering, construction, health services, or manufacturing. Or you can choose a life built around increasing goodness through the law, policing, firefighting, religion, ethics, politics, national service, or charity.
The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power, or goodness. A life that does this is pregnant with meaning, and if God comes at the end, such a life is sacred.
Viittaukset tähän teokseen muissa lähteissä.
Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (3)
In Authentic Happiness, the bestselling author of Learned Optimism introduces the revolutionary, scientifically based idea of "Positive Psychology." Positive Psychology focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses, asserting that happiness is not the result of good genes or luck. Happiness can be cultivated by identyfying and using many of the strengths and traits that listeners already possess -- including kindness, originality, humor, optimism, and generosity. By frequently calling upon their "signature strengths," listeners will develop natural buffers against misfortune and the experience of negative emotion -- elevating their lives to a fresh, more positive place. Drawning on groundbreaking psychological research, Seligman shows how Positive Psychology is shifting the profession's paradigm away from its narrow-minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength, and positive institutions. Our signature strengthts can be nurtured throughout our lives, yielding benefits to our health, relationships, and careers. Seligman provides the "Signature Strengths Survey" that can be used to measure how much positive emotion listeners experience, in order to help determine what their highest strengths are. Authentic Happiness shows how to identify the very best in ourselves, so we can achieve new and sustainable levels of authentic contentment, gratification, and meaning.
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