Does positive psychology work?

The Psychology of well-being – Martin Seligman

Individual Perception may be far from reality. Our thinking determines behaviour, performance, our well-being and health, and indeed longevity into old age. Even religious experience and mores spring from the mind. Emotions may relate to chemical and neuronal stimulation of specific areas of the brain. Learning how to think is a vital component to a good educational experience.

Hamlet: Why then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 239–251

What brings Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—two of Hamlet’s acquaintances from the university—to Denmark isn’t Lady Fortune but, as Hamlet suspects, King Claudius. Claudius is worried about Hamlet’s seeming distraction, thinking it might be a threat to the state and to the king himself. Claudius coerces Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who aren’t too bright, into service as spies, hoping they can lull the prince into revealing the true cause of his “antic disposition” [see p. 2].

When Hamlet calls Denmark a prison, therefore, the metaphor is apt. He is mentally and physically confined by the gaze of the king and his agents, and he feels trapped in the court’s general degradation—”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” as Marcellus had said [see p. 135].

Hamlet is a prisoner of his own thinking, and of his knowledge that his stepfather is a fratricide and his mother incestuous. When he states that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” he’s not indulging in ethical relativism as much as wishing for blissful ignorance. He’s also implicitly damning the naïveté of the king’s new yes-men.

Increasingly performance oriented organisations such as sporting bodies, educational institutions, business, government organisations and medical personnel are turning to the skills of psychologists for inspiration to meet their expectations.

World renowned Psychologist Martin Seligman has been a “hit” in Adelaide, speaking at the public forum “Adelaide, Thinkers in Residence.

Dr Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., is one of the most widely know psychologists of our time. He has spent over 40 years working on the issues of depression, optimism and pessimism. His ‘learned helplessness’ theory is one of the most influential psychology theories of last century, shedding light on problems such as depression, child abuse and domestic violence.

In 1996, Dr. Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association, by the largest vote in modern history. Since 2000, his main mission has been the promotion of the field of positive psychology.

Dr Seligman is currently working with the US Government on wellbeing and resilience for the whole armed forces, focusing on the use of positive psychology to combat post-traumatic stress and suicide rates. He has worked with both the US and UK governments in education settings. He continues to have a strong focus on training psychologists in positive psychology – individuals whose practice can make the world a happier place, in a way that parallels clinical psychologists having made the world a ‘less unhappy’ place.

Dr Seligman is currently Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is well known in academic and clinical circles and is a best-selling author, having written 20 books and 200 articles on motivation and personality. Among his better-known works are Flourish (2011), Authentic Happiness (2002), Learned Optimism (1991), What You Can Change and What You Can’t (1993), The Optimistic Child (1995), Helplessness (1975, 1993) and Abnormal Psychology (1982, 1988, 1995, with David Rosenhan).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s