Positive emotion alienated from the exercise of character leads to emptiness, to inauthenticity, to depression, and, as we age, to the gnawing realization that we are fidgeting until we die.
I believe psychology has done very well in working out how to understand and treat disease. But I think that is literally half-baked. If all you do is work to fix problems, to alleviate suffering, then by definition you are working to get people to zero, to neutral.
It used to be that whenever I introduced myself to people and told them I was a psychologist, they would shrink away from me. Because, quite rightly, the impression the American public has of psychologists is, 'You want to know what's wrong with me.'
I'm all for past influences; the question is whether they are deterministic. Freud and the behaviorists argue that what we are at any given moment is billiard balls whose past determines our future course. That doesn't take into account that we are forever generating internal representations of positive futures and choosing among them.
Positive psychology is not remotely intended to replace therapy or pharmacology. So when depressed, anxious or in panic or post-traumatic stress disorder, I am all for therapies that will work. Positive psychology is another arrow in the quiver of public policy and psychology through which we can raise wellbeing above zero.
I strongly disapprove of torture and have never and would never provide assistance in its process.
High taxes on guns and strong restrictions on their availability are the only realistic hope for avoiding many more Sandy Hooks.
Optimistic people generally feel that good things will last a long time and will have a beneficial effect on everything they do. And they think that bad things are isolated: They won't last too long and won't affect other parts of life.
Some find that very optimistic people have benign illusions about themselves. These people may think they have more control, or more skill, than they actually do. Others have found that optimistic people have a good handle on reality. The jury is still out.
There is an interesting scientific dispute about realism and optimism. Some find that very optimistic people have benign illusions about themselves. These people may think they have more control, or more skill, than they actually do. Others have found that optimistic people have a good handle on reality. The jury is still out.
The fundamentalist religions simply seem to offer more hope for a brighter future than do the more liberal, humanistic ones.
I'm trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.
Sexual performance problems, such as impotence and frigidity, are 70 to 90 percent changeable. But a homosexual who wants to be a heterosexual - that's close to unchangeable. And a transsexual - say a man who believes he's really a woman in a man's body - is completely unchangeable; you'd have to change the body to conform to the psyche.
The dirty little secret of both clinical psychology and biological psychiatry is that they have completely given up on the notion of cure.
It's no surprise that optimistic athletes, managers and teams do better. What's interesting is where they do better. It's in coming back from defeat and acting in the clutch.
The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power or goodness.
One of the things psychologists used to say was that if you are depressed, anxious or angry, you couldn't be happy. Those were at opposite ends of a continuum. I believe that you can be suffering or have a mental illness and be happy - just not in the same moment that you're sad.
There are physical characteristics which are inherited. These include things like good looks, high intelligence, physical coordination. These attributes contribute to success in life, and success in life is a determinant of optimism.
I have spent most of my life working with mental illness. I have been president of the world's largest association of mental-illness workers, and I am all for more funding for mental-health care and research - but not in the vain hope that it will curb violence.
It's my belief that, since the end of the Second World War, psychology has moved too far away from its original roots, which were to make the lives of all people more fulfilling and productive, and too much toward the important, but not all-important, area of curing mental illness.