The term ‘positive psychology,’ may mislead many into viewing it as a ‘self-help’ philosophy that focuses on the power of positive thinking and on positively reaffirming oneself. But the actual discipline is much more. Its aim is to base the answers to what will make the world better on science rather than on opinions. Positive psychology was born out of a feeling that psychology as a discipline was being limited to the study of all things bad about a human being (flaws, depression, addiction) rather on the positive aspects of his life (goodness, excellence).
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The life of a human being constitutes of happy and unhappy moments. The focus of psychology was on remedying the deficits alone. There was no discipline that adequately examined what constitutes a good and meaningful life and provided information that met the needs of the common man. The bad things in life don’t take precedence over the good things. They are both equally genuine. It was therefore understood that the positive aspects of life required its own study rather than explaining it as the polar opposite of disorder theories.
It was at this juncture that Abraham Maslow introduced the term ‘Positive Psychology’ to describe a new applied scientific approach where the focus would be on healing pathology and with finding ways to help people lead fulfilling and pleasant lives. In positive psychology, the same tools that are used to prevent or treat illness/weakness in mainstream psychology are applied to identify the psychological strengths and positive emotions in an individual in order to promote positive functioning, happiness and well-being.
Positive psychology is a science that explores the factors that make life worth living that will help an individual be happy to the maximum extent possible. The good aspects of life are not experienced by simply removing the problem. Waking up not depressed and waking up radiating energy and enthusiasm are two different things. Once what is good and strong in humankind has been identified, it looks at finding ways to nurture and sustain these factors that will lead to the actualization of an individual. This will lead to an individual contributing more to the world which will ultimately lead to the building of healthier and happier societies.
The discipline with its science and application focuses on the below
- The study of positive emotion like confidence, hope and trust that are most useful not in good times but when we are faced with trials and tribulations. This ensures happiness and well-being
- The study of positive traits like strengths, virtues (integrity, equity, loyalty) and abilities (intelligence and athleticism) that are needed more in bad times than in good. Engagements in absorbing activities can make life more fulfilling
- The study of positive institutions (democracy), relationships (families, friends) and free inquiry that act as a supporting mechanism which develops our positive traits and virtues that in turn supports the growth of positive emotions. This will then ensure a positive subjective experience
Positive psychologists believe that building relationships with others depends on our communication abilities. The presence of emotional intelligence EQ influences our communication. Positive psychologists use EQ to understand our ability to feel the emotions and feelings of others.