Remember the joke about the optimist and the pessimist? Is the glass half empty for the pessimist and for the optimist – half full? It’s interesting that, objectively, both are right. But, the assessment description made, or exactly how a particular person perceives the world around him, how he calls and feels what he sees, will largely determine how he feels about himself. On a deeper level of experiences and meanings – will he dream of the unfulfilled and be disappointed not to reach the desired, or will he be able to rely on and be at least partially satisfied with what is already available to him right now?
In Search of Happiness
Almost every person dreams of happiness, whatever they think of it as. And it is this that globally constitutes the subject of positive psychology. Positive psychology seeks to make the life of an ordinary person more fulfilling.
Its basic idea is roughly the following. To develop what you have, based on your strengths, to strive for greater fulfillment, and, as a result, to become happier. Don’t seek out weaknesses and desperately rush to fight them. This is the road to nowhere, or rather to neurotic states. There is no winner in the struggle against weaknesses and shortcomings. An elementary example: in a problematic situation-we, we don’t overcome anxiety-we develop calm and confidence. Feelings and states are antagonists. Now let’s go about it in order.
Positive Psychology, Thinking, and Psychotherapy
Positive psychology, positive thinking, and positive psychotherapy are relatively young but promising areas of interest for psychologists and psychotherapists. It would be strange if psychotherapy, which initially arose in clinical practice to alleviate the suffering of the mentally ill, did not also carry over into the field of “psychological normality. It is perfect, as the master used to say! Besides, if people with severe mental pathologies became noticeably better due to psychological treatment, an ordinary person, having tried these methods on himself, should probably light up with happiness!
Some time ago, or rather at the end of the 20th century, psychologists began to deal seriously with personal effectiveness, self-actualization, and even happiness. By the way, Abraham Maslow (one of the forerunners of positive psychology and the founder of humanistic psychology in general), better known to a broader audience as the author of the motivational pyramid, was already in the middle of the last century studied (the study was informal in nature) the phenomenon of self-actualization and closely linked it to the experience of happiness. As a result, he compiled a list of 15 key characteristics or features of a self-actualizing person. Maslow considered this theory to be a model of optimal mental health. And this is the critical conclusion of his work, which is the understanding that good mental health provides a solid foundation for a fulfilled, fulfilled, and ultimately happy life. And it’s worth working hard for. Apathy, moping, increased anxiety, and aggression is all mental ill-health symptoms. And in fact, Abraham Maslow created a psychological portrait of a person capable of confronting them. In other words, if one develops the traits of psychological health, then emotional misfortune will not be so terrible. By the way, one of his subjects was Albert Einstein himself! And one of the most critical aspects of psychological health was the ability to treat things with humor.)
Nancy McWilliams worked in a similar direction. Although placing her in the humanistic school is difficult, she practices the analytical approach. But, this did not prevent her from describing from her side the criteria of mental health, among which the most significant for a constructive relationship is gratitude and the ability to admit one’s mistakes (apologize). By the way, by looking closely at a new person on these criteria, it is possible to avoid falling into an abusive, toxic relationship. Suppose you see that the person is incapable of feeling regret and never thanks anyone sincerely – stay away from him. In that case, it is a very alarming sign!
So, positive psychology can be attributed to the more general direction of humanistic psychology as one of its specific directions. Its progenitors are Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Viktor Frankl, and other coryphaeus. Humanistic psychology has continuously operated with notions of meanings, values, and values of human individuality. Within the mainstream of humanistic psychology, several popular psychotherapeutic schools have proven effective.
The name “positive psychology” was suggested and established thanks to Martin Seligman. He, in time, became chairman of the American Psychological Association (APA). He collaborated with some now very famous psychologists who, for their part, were able to bring quite interesting insights and meanings to the joint work. Take, for example, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the concept of “flow” he introduced. Literally, every second person now strives to be in the flow!
However, Seligman himself was not immediately interested in the subject of happiness. At first, the content of his research was the so-called “learned helplessness,” and thanks to him, the term entered our everyday life. Seligman showed how the ability to despair and lose faith in one’s strength developed. But later, he suggested that optimism might also be subject to some correction if helplessness was not suddenly formed. And he was not mistaken! Now we have the term “learned optimism. This optimism is essential because it allows us to bring what we have begun to a successful result. No matter how many trials and attempts it takes. After all, the main thing is not to stop!
A Few Words about the Pursuit of Happiness
We will always have something to complain about. Always. But the ability to notice and appreciate our progress and achievements is rarely a given. If you think about the reasons, it can happen for various reasons. But, first of all, from the point of view of evolution and survival – negative emotions are much more effective (however, this is another story). Yes, there will be no progress without the urge to improve things. That’s also true. But the relevant question here is: at what cost?
What’s more important to you, to prove you’re right, to earn approval or some bonus, or to feel “good enough”? I recently came across an excellent reflection question: “What do you really want, to feel that you’re right or happy?” I have to disappoint you because I am anticipating the counter-question of whether both are possible. Both are possible, but very, very rarely. Yes, very often, the choice is formulated that way. And that means you should strive for more. It’s more about balance, or the lack thereof. Unfortunately, the so-called “achievers” are rarely happy. This is the reality of the practice.
That’s why it’s essential to keep an eye on that impulse!
So what’s the catch here? Why isn’t everyone still happy if everything is so beautiful and simple?
Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, it is impossible to make everyone happy, much less once and for all. Even following the most progressive concept, we are still vulnerable to extremes and slipping into ineffective life strategies. Happiness is a process, not an outcome. That’s why it’s essential to create and maintain the proper habits of life and to strive to avoid kinks. After all, positive psychology has its weaknesses, too.
The weakness of positive psychology is a particular fixation on joy as a more excellent value, resulting in the pursuit of quick positive emotions.
The subsequent weakness of positive psychology is a certain detachment from reality due to the fact that it is the lowered emotional state, namely some anxiety and depression, that allows for a more detailed description of what is going on and for calculating risks.
In general, any concept in its extreme manifestations always looks somewhat caricatured. And the balance here is crucial. If it is observed, it may be OK with the shortcomings of the approach we have described. And on the contrary, integrating the ideas of positive psychology and combining this with your values and goals can achieve remarkable success.
So, however banal it sounds, happiness is a piecemeal product, tailor-made. It is a lost cause to achieve it by blindly following somebody else’s once-worked-out recipe.
Look for your recipes for happiness. Keep going in any case. If it’s going to be hard, come and ask for help, we’ll look for it together!
So, what can we do to form and maintain a healthy, generally positive picture of the world without falling into rabid, inadequate euphoria about what happens? Everything is for the best. So it is, but let us remember the exceptions to every rule. Here are a few recommendations:
- Form a belief in yourself that you are fundamentally OK.
- Praise yourself for your achievements. Let the small but real.
- Create a positive outlook on what is happening. Positively model your future.
- Plan specific steps. Ask yourself what I can do right now.
- Don’t hesitate to act.
- Allow yourself to joke and smile. Sometimes a few light notes of humor in a situation go a long way toward keeping you on track.
- Finally, find support among those close to you, and don’t neglect help. This is important.
How is your glass half empty or full? Are you ready to make your own efforts to become a little happier?