Surprisingly, until recently, psychology didn’t study happiness. The focus was on what made people miserable, and how to help them become less miserable. This misery could be depression, anxiety, phobias, addictions or bad relationships. But the goal was to change people, and make them feel better.
Positive Psychology is the brain child of Martin Seligman. This version of psychology is still founded on systematic observation, empirical research, and replication. It is not so much a new psychology as a change of focus. Using the same tools as always, psychology is aiming at something different: feeling good. Going from feeling bad to feeling not so bad is not the same as feeling good. Being less miserable might lead you to believe that the goal is to feel nothing (“I no longer feel bad”). But Seligman maintains that there should be something beyond not feeling bad.
We know this makes sense from our personal experience. We don’t get together with our friends simply to feel less bad. We get together to create and share our happiness. We don’t want to limit ourselves to lowering our defenses. We also want to experience contentment, happiness and hope.
So when you think of psychology, broaden your view beyond the diagnosing of disorders, or even the neutral emotion of exploring brain chemistry and neural pathways. Psychology is also about improving our creativity, self-knowledge, understanding, parenting and teamwork.
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