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The Problem with Positive Psychology

By       Message Peter Michaelson     Permalink
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In an earlier book, Authentic Happiness, Seligman made a similar claim. He wrote that happiness has little to do with pleasure and much to do with developing personal strengths and character. However, his contention makes no sense because, again, the pursuit and acquisition of personal strengths and character are a vital source of pleasure. As well, happiness and pleasure cannot be separated. One might argue, in desperation, that a person could at any moment be enjoying the pleasure of sex, while not particularly happy about his life in general. But such a fine distinction would evade reality. The consistent pleasure of living one's life at higher levels of inner peace, happiness, and purpose approaches the level of bliss. This higher pleasure transcends the passing pleasures of sensation and materialism.

Seligman says our level of happiness cannot be lastingly increased--and that we can only hope to live in the upper reaches of our natural range. How ironic that positive psychology makes such a nihilistic prognosis. Our happiness can be lastingly and dramatically increased. This is achieved through deeper insight and a willingness to acknowledge and to understand our psyche's commanding presence in our daily life.

Seligman is right about one thing, though, that we need to take responsibility for our state of mind. We can start by understanding the limitations that our egocentric mentality imposes on our intelligence.

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Peter Michaelson is an author, blogger, and psychotherapist in Plymouth, MI. He believes that better understanding of depth psychology reduces the fear, passivity, and denial of citizens, making us more capable of maintaining and growing our (more...)

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