Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Dialectic of Happiness

Buddha Quote

There is certainly a strong discourse around the Positive Psychology movement.

As the move to take Psychology away from the traditional roots of a focus on the psychopathology of illness, to one of a focus on resilience, character strengths and virtue, strong voices have emerged to challenge what might be considered a limited view of the world promoted by the positive psychology thinkers.

As I set out on my own path to explore the ideas around happiness, I am conscious of the many colleagues that I have in the field of Psychology who are fine upstanding people, and who have no greater focus in their careers than to relieve the suffering of others by using their skills and knowledge in the best way that they know how, essentially doing the best they can with what they have.

Nowhere have I read any declaration from Positive Psychology proponents that the mainstream psychology field is negative or of reduced importance. Clearly there is suffering in the world and that suffering has a place in human development, however one has to make a determination for oneself as to how to approach the world that we live in, and I have chosen to align myself with the Positive Psychology movement. I say this with a recognition that The Happiness Lens is not rose coloured, I do not live in some Pollyanna like world; this would be impossible as I am faced on a regular basis with the after effects of the damage the world and other people can create, but I am making a choice. Self-determination is a significant characteristic in achieving personal growth and happiness, and here I walk the talk.

I do believe that the tools promoted by the PP movement have the capacity to move us forward and assist those of us that need it to have greater well-being. Health after all is more than the absence of illness. But I accept the dialectic, and hope that the synthesis of differing views is a place where we all can be satisfied.

Positive Happiness

Positive Psychology is not specifically the study of happiness, although happiness is a concept that we are all familiar with, it is the study of what makes life worth living. There are examples throughout history of people overcoming the most difficult of circumstances, perhaps the greatest example of this for me comes through in the writing of Viktor Frankl, a man who’s now very famous story shows how he survived the Concentration Camps of Nazi Germany and emerged a better man who was able to go on and contribute  to the world. Refusing to be victimized by his experience, he found the meaning in his experience. Everything begins as a thought, and it is this idea that has become the focus of my life in recent times. How can I be more masterful of my thoughts and therefore be happier.

I am by the way a happy person in general, I have a family that I love and who love me, I have work that I find valuable and challenging, and I have access to resources that stimulate me, including the physical environment of British Columbia Canada where I live.

As a therapist working in mental health I was taken by the writings of Epictetus, the Stoic Philosopher, who said that “Men are disturbed not by things which happen, but by the opinions about the things” or simply it’s not what happens to us that causes us problems, its what we think about those things. Epictetus might be the worlds first self-help guru…..

Epictetus also pointed out that change is inevitable, and I am changing at this time, my thoughts have changed as I have been exposed to the Positive Psychology framework, although saying that I was not blind it previously, I just hadn’t found the framework. I’m not a slow learner, but I certainly missed the start of the movement. I am also keeping my dreams alive and I will be exploring my world of possibilities in future posts.

But for now it’s Valentines day and I’m going for lunch with my darling wife.