Researching these strengths has been responsible for the most remarkable gains in prevention. These strengths act as buffers for those genetically at risk for developing mental illness, but also help normal people to lead more fulfilling lives.
Alleviating mental illness, helping people lead more fulfilling lives and facilitating high talent were Psychologies original aims. Unfortunately the two positive aims were relegated to the background, following World War II which made Psychologies contribution to illness very lucrative.
The ‘pathology perspective’, has made headway in that 14 disorders previously undiagnosable can now be cured or suffering eased. But as Camus wrote:
The famous question of Philosophy is why one should not commit suicide. One cannot answer that question just by curing depression, there must be positive reasons for living as well.
Positive reasons abound and over the last decade people have been voting, through media attention and research dollars for more research on human strengths which facilitate optimal development.
There is a need to focus even more attention on the conditions that allow not just people, but societies to flourish. Research on courage, future-mindedness, optimism, interpersonal skill, work ethic, honesty and the capacity for insight can do just that.
This article was sourced from the, ‘Handbook of Positive Psychology’, edited by C.R. Snyder and Shane J.Lopez.
Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived is also an engaging read with the chapter on Flow being especially inspiring.
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C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (2005). Handbook of Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press.
Gillham & Seligman, M.E. P. (1999). Footsteps on the road to positive psychology. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, S163-S173.
Seligman, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive Psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5-11.