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Overview of Positive PsychologyResearch Paper

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Positive Psychology

The current mainstream practice of psychology is largely directed at helping people with different mental illnesses -- many assume that the disease model implies that mental health is simply the absence of mental illness. However, there are many, such as Dr. Seligman, who are challenging these preconceived assumptions. Instead of simply focusing on the people that have negative psychological states, researchers like Dr. Seligman would also like to include normal people as well as those who have beneficial psychological predispositions. Positive psychology is an emerging field that focuses on happiness and well-being and many have made the argument that these states can be fostered in individuals using different tools and techniques. However, positive psychology is somewhat controversial within psychology and some researchers have also suggested that psychologists should take caution before trying to make the claim that they know how to make people happy. This analysis will look at both sides of the issue and discuss some of the evidence and the claims that are made relative to the emerging and interesting field of positive psychology.

Dr. Seligman's TED Talk

Dr. Seligman gives a fascinating TED Talk in which he briefly introduces the field of positive psychology. Dr. Seligman opens his TED Talk with a story about an interview he was asked to do with CNN in which he had to prepare a sound bite that first was composed of just one word in regard to the state of psychology (Seligman, 2008).

At first Dr. Seligman simply said "good." Then he was not to use two words in which he responded "not good." Finally they allowed him to use three words and he said "not good enough." However, to understand why Seligman does not believe that the current state of psychology is not good enough, he first outlines the challenges found within the disease model and all the advancements that psychology has made along these lines.

Throughout the entire history of psychology, most of the work has been directed at helping people who have mental diseases. The current disease model implies that the mental health is the simply the absence of mental illness -- however, intuition alone suggests that it is probably not the case. Furthermore, Dr. Seligman claims that there are roughly sixteen psychological diseases that people can have that impact their mental health and modern psychology can help with almost all of them and completely cure two of them according to Seligman (Seligman, 2008). However, the focus on only disease has left psychology somewhat limited in its scope to do to help normal people; "psychology was all about finding out what's wrong with you, spotting the looney ... " While it is a virtuous act to help the less fortunate people with their psychological problems, this approach could potentially leave out the rest of the population who could benefit from the scientific method and all the advances of the modern understanding of psychology.

Many researchers have attempted to better understand happiness throughout the course of history. Many different factors have been investigated such as marriage, their salaries, culture, and relationships among many others (Boehm & Lyumbomirsky). Yet these circumstantial variables have largely been unable to explain what exactly makes people happy. It has been argued that happiness is largely based on some form of subjective experience that can be difficult to understand. Happy people tend to view the world and the events that affect them in a more positive light in general. A happy person can view something in a positive or pleasant fashion while an unhappy person may view the same experience in a negative manner. However, no one has yet been able to provide evidence to support theories about exactly why this is the case in the psychological states within the population.

Yet, many within the discipline can now claim that they can help people with psychological issues be much happier. For example, Seligman states that now psychology can help make miserable people less miserable and he is proud of that accomplishment (Seligman, 2008). However, there were also were costs to this model and one of the costs of the mainstream focus of psychology was to ignore the possibility to help normal people live better lives. Yet with a new wave of efforts, psychology has slowly begun to broaden its perspective to serve a wider target. The new discipline is referred to as positive psychology that has… [END OF PREVIEW]

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