Psychology has made great strides with mental illness, and what makes a person unhappy. Past scientific evidence shows that we have a fixed range of happiness. New research however demonstrates that it can be lastingly increased. Many believe that happiness is inauthentic. Seligman refers to this view of human nature as the rotten-to-the-core dogma. Positive Psychology has three pillars: the study of positive emotion, positive traits and positive institutions.
Chapter 1: Positive Feeling and Positive Character
Two interesting studies were conducted. One was involving nuns that wrote biographical sketches upon taking their vows. Those that expressed more cheerfulness on average lived longer. The other study involved college yearbook photos of women. Those with a genuine smile were more likely to marry, stay married and be happier than their fake smile counterparts. Author Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. focuses on three questions in the first half of the book. 1. Why has evolution endowed us with positive feeling? What are the functions and consequences of these emotions, beyond making us feel good? 2. Who has positive emotion in abundance and who does not? What enables these emotions, and what disables them? 3. How can you build more and lasting positive emotion into your life? Positive feelings are not what people want. They want to be entitled to those feelings. Those that use shortcuts to good feelings end up with feelings of emptiness. The positive feeling that is a result of the use of strengths and virtues and not short cuts is authentic. The feeling one gets after a kind act towards another far outshines that of a shortcut. Positive Psychology chose twenty-four strengths using three criteria; valued in almost every culture, valued in their own right, and they must be malleable. There are six core virtues: * Wisdom and knowledge
* Love and humanity
* Spirituality and transcendence
Some strengths are tonic and some are phasic. Tonic strengths are displayed almost daily while phasic ones are demonstrated when faced with a challenge. Strengths that are deeply characteristic to a person are referred to as signature strengths. The second part of the book focuses on how to identify signature strengths. Chapter Two: How Psychology Lost Its Way and I Found Mine
Seligman while traveling on vacation with his family anxiously awaits the news of whether or not he was elected as the president of the American Psychological Association (APA). He looks back on the transformations in the science of psychology as well as his career in the field. At the end of the World War II psychology is a small profession of academics trying to find the basic process of learning and motivation. Soon after the war, they began to treat troubled veterans and after years of dispensing therapy, they become synonymous with treating mental illness. He spends more than thirty years studying learned helplessness in animals then humans. Ten years into the study, he discovers that some never give up when given insolvable problems while others are helpless to begin with. He receives the announcement that he has won the election for presidency of the APA by a landslide. He needed to come up with a mission for his tenure. His theme would be prevention. Psychology has focused on treatment. He proposed that intervening when someone is still well could greatly diminish the need for treatment in the future. While spending time with his young daughter, he had an epiphany. He realized that raising her was not about correcting her shortcomings but nurturing her strengths. Could there be a psychological science about this? He had found his mission. Chapter Three: Why Bother to Be Happy?
During evolution, complicated animals acquired an emotional life. Why would this occur? Comparing negative and positive emotions is the first clue to figuring this out. Negative emotions are the first line of...