Psychopathology & Therapy
The Good Life (Philosophy)
Humor and Laughter
Thinking and Reasoning
Cognitive Illusions and Fallacies
Positive psychology, the term, was first used in 1954 by Abraham Maslow in a book chapter where he noted that the "science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side. It has revealed to us much about man's shortcomings, his illness, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his full psychological height. It is as if psychology has voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction."
One of the underlying questions behind a portion of positive psychology research is whether it is possible to improve individual levels of well-being. This issue has significant relevance for individuals, public policy, and the health-care system.
In one sense, positive psychology is thousands of years old, dating back to the thoughts of ancient philosophers and religious leaders who discussed character virtues, happiness, and the good society. More recendy, in the last 100 years there have been behavioral scientists who have conducted scholarship and research on positive topics.
If affluence alone does not create a good life, what does? Concern for how to live a good life is natural once people's basic needs are met and threats are relatively contained. Unlike ancient societies, however, we have gained an enormous respect for the power of science in understanding, and therefore, we do not seek to understand human strengths only through rational thought but also through systematic scientific research. Positive psychology is a product of the importance now placed on science and the realization that we have the opportunity as never before in human history to create quality lives for ourselves.
Although individualism allows people freedom, once material needs are met there is little guidance as to what should come next. Furthermore, individualism can create its own socil etal problems when individuals are not given sufficient grounding in positive psychology because they can make individual choices that are harmful to the group or nation. When individualism is pursued I without concern for the well-being of the broader society, the outcomes can be destructive. Positive psychology emphasizes not only the actualization of the individual, but development within the framework of his or her contributions to other people and the world.
We attempt to answer a central question: How is it that our fleeting experiences of joy, interest, or love—which can be so easily squelched or dismissed—produce lasting gains in strengths and well-being? At the end of the chapter we will address a larger question of particular interest to positive psychology: What is the role of positive emotion in a full and well-lived life?
Consensus is emerging that emotions are best conceptualized as multicomponent response tendencies. Emotions involve not just subjective feelings but also attention and cognition, facial expressions, cardiovascular and hormonal changes, and more, unfolding over a relatively short time span. Positive emotions subjectively resemble positive sensations (e.g., satiety, comfort) as well as undifferentiated positive moods.
An appraisal of pleasantness can arise when a stimulus fulfills a biological need, when it contributes to a personally relevant goal, or when it remedies a noxious or goal-inconsistent state.
The specific positive emotions individuals feel also vary due to personality differences, cultural differences, and variations in the ability to make fine distinctions among emotions.
Fredrickson's broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions holds that positive emotions "broaden" people's momentary thought—action repertoires and lead to actions that "build" enduring, personal resources.
Positive emotions lead to broadened and more flexible response tendencies, widening the array of thoughts and actions that come to mind. Joy, for instance, creates the urge to play, whether physically, socially, or intellectually. Interest creates the urge to explore, take in new information and experiences, and expand the self in the process. Love—which we view as an amalgam of several positive emotions— creates urges to play with, learn about, and savor our loved ones.
The personal resources accrued during states of positive emotions are durable, oudasting the transient emotional states that led to their acquisition. These resources can be drawn on whenever they are needed, even if the individual does not feel positive at that moment.
Participants are asked to make a choice about a figure that can be categorized based either on its global, overall shape or on its local details. Positive emotions, with their broadened focus, produce a preference for the global level, : whereas negative emotions often produce a preference for the details.
Wadlinger & Isaacowitz tracked participants' eye movement and found that induced positive emotion broadens visual search patterns, leading to increased attention to peripheral stimuli.
Isen and colleagues tested the effects of positive states on a wide range of cognitive outcomes, ranging from creativity puzzles to simulations of complex, life-ordeath work situations. Her work demonstrates that positive emotions produce patterns of thought that are notably unusual.
What work there is suggests that flexibility and openness are important attributes of positive emotions' cognitive effects, and these effects can enhance or hinder performance depending on the task and the context.
Broadened social attention takes the form of enhanced attention to others and reduced distinctions between self and other or between different groups. Participants experiencing positive emotions report more overlap between their concept of themselves and their concept of their best friend and become more imaginative and attentive regarding things they could do for friends... Positive emotions also broaden social group concepts and break down an essentialized sense of "us versus them".
A review of the human literature by Lyubomirsky et al. found that positive emotions lead to outcomes ranging from satisfaction at work and in relationships to physical health and effective problem solving.
Consistent with this view, studies have shown that grieving individuals who experienced some level of positive emotions alongside their negative ones showed greater psychological well-being a year or more later and that this occurs partly because positive emotions were associated with the ability to take a longer view and develop plans and goals for the future.
Finding occasional opportunities to feel positive emotions seems to have alleviated some of the negative effects of a prolonged narrowed mind-set.
Research on pessimism and depression recognizes a self-reinforcing downward spiral; we are now finding evidence that positive emotions contribute to an upward spiral of increasing resources, life successes, and overall fulfillment.
People who experience high levels of positive emotions tend to experience less pain and disability related to chronic health conditions, fight off illness and disease more successfully, and even live longer. We believe that these findings may be explained by the ability of positive emotions to lift people out of stressed, narrowed states.
It is already established that the physiological changes that accompany negative emotions are beneficial for decisive, short-term action but detrimental to long-term health, and that there are benefits to properly regulating the stress response.
We have also discovered that people who are generally resilient against negative events recover more quickly and that they do so by self-generating positive emotions during the recovery process.
A review by Ashby, Isen, and Turken suggests that the broaden effect may be associated with release of mesolimbic dopamine, I which enhances cognitive flexibility, set switching, and proactive curiosity. Notably, this is the same neurological system Berridge and Robinson I associated with the motivational component of positive affect.
So far, the empirical evidence suggests that the broaden effect is common to many positive emotions and may describe their most general shared effect on cognition and attention. However, different positive emotions should also have distinct thought—action repertoires, subjective components, and physiologicaleffects.
How does a broad mind-set affect perceived familiarity with and interest in a new relationship partner? In a learning situation, is it likely to increase interest in the topic at hand or increase the tendency to switch between topics? In what situations does it lead to heuristic use versus careful processing?
Positive psychology's domain includes both the hedonic definition of happiness—good moods and pleasurable experiences—and the eudaemonic definition—personal growth, meaningful occupation, and connection with others. These have sometimes been portrayed as conflicting...We see the emerging view of positive emotions as undoing this dichotomy.
Positive emotions help undo the lingering cardiovascular effects of stressors, but people in particularly dangerous circumstances may have good reason to remain ready to act, even when a threat appears to be gone. Additionally, there is some suggestion that extremely high levels of positive emotions, untempered by sufficient negative emotions, can degrade performance. We would like to develop a nuanced understanding of when positive emotions can help resolve a negative situation and when they might be dangerous, excessive, or unacceptably costly.
Negative emotions help us respond to threats, avoid risks, and appropriately mark losses, while positive emotions help us take advantage of everything life has to offer.
The practice of positive psychology is about facilitating good lives, or about enabling people to be at their best. The breadth of the definition is indicative of just how broadly we see the field of positive psychology applications. Positive psychology is not a "thing" as such, but much more an approach, a way of doing things, and it is this that inspires its applied breadth.
Previously we have defined applied positive psychology as the application of positive psychology research to the facilitation of optimal human functioning," and we went on to note that this work would be carried on "at the level of the individual, the group, the organization, the community, or the society...across the full range of human functioning, from disorder and distress to health and fulfilment".
While happiness is indeed important—and also much neglected in traditional psychology research and practice—it is also important to recognize that it is not the only outcome variable, or even, necessarily, the most important one. When we define positive psychology applications as being about facilitating good lives, or about enabling people to be at their best, we are referring to a vast constellation of positive states, traits, experi- : ences, groups, communities, organizations, societies, and environments that people may deem desirable.
Positive psychology promotes nonmedical model—based ways of understanding human experience. It is through these new ways of thinking that positive psychology has the potential to be of most interest to clinical, counseling, and health psychologists, and counselors and psychotherapists. Indeed, we are careful to note that much of what is now considered under the rubric of positive psychology has historical roots in counseling psychology and humanistic psychology, among others, and we should be mindful of the lessons that can be learned from these approaches.
The assumptions of a positive clinical psychology: Assumption No. 1: Positive clinical psychology is concerned with everyday problems in living, not just extreme maladaptive functioning. Assumption No. 2: Psychopathology, clinical problems, and clinical populations, differ "only in degree," rather than in kind, from normal problems in living, falling somewhere on a "continuum" of human functioning. This is a "dimensional model" rather than a categorical model. Assumption No. 3: Psychological disorders are not analogous to biological or medical diseases. Rather, they are reflective of problems in the person's interactions with his or her environment, and not only and simply of problems within the person himself or herself. Assumption No. 4: The role of the positive clinical psychologist is to identify human strengths and promote mental health as assets that buffer against weakness and mental illness.
Applying the principles and major tenets of positive psychology to psychotherapy led Seligman, Rashid, and Parks to develop positive psychotherapy...This therapeutic approach rests on the central premise that building positive emotions, strengths, and meaning are efficacious in the treatment of psychopathology. Its fundamental assumptions are similar to those of positive therapy in that it holds that people have an inherent tendency for growth and fulfilment; that positive emotions and strengths are authentic and real, rather than epiphenomena of psychological disorders; and that focusing on strengths and meaning is a means for ameliorating psychopathology. Preliminary work has indicated that positive psychotherapy is at least as efficacious for major depression as traditional pharmacological treatments.
Until recently, it was believed that people's overall levels of happiness were essentially unchangeable. Happiness seems to have some genetic basis, and people quickly return to their baseline state of happiness following improved life circumstances (the "hedonic treadmill" effect), both of which led many scientists to conclude that happiness change I initiatives were doomed. More recently Diener, Lucas, and Scollon have argued that these traditional assumptions about the hedonic treadmill need to be revised, and Lyubomirsky and colleagues have I suggested that 50% of happiness is genetic, 10% is due to life circumstances, and 40% is determined by the actions we choose to perform.
Fordyce found that 14 activities increased happiness, such as spending more time socializing, strengthening your closest relationships, and becoming more active. Notably, the successful interventions seemed to focus on intentional activities, as Lyubomirsky et al. would suggest.
The role of positive psychology in education is primarily focused on encouraging and rewarding the multitude of talents and strengths a child has, by presenting opportunities for displays of these talents and strength each day, rather than for penalizing them for their deficits.
Is positive psychology the province only of positive psychologists? Or even only of psychologists? We argue, comprehensively, that it is not. Positive psychology is not restricted, and should not be restricted, to just psychology. It is a much broader approach to the questions of what it means to be human and to live well, and these questions cut across a host of disciplines, including, for example, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, ethics, economics, and public policy.
Triandis defines culture as consisting of ''shared elements that provide the standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating, communicating, and acting among those who share a language, a historic period and a geographic location".
In today's research within the field of positive psychology, two main views have emerged in terms of how to view strengths from a cultural perspective. Though both camps stipulate that all cultures have strengths, one camp proposes that some strengths exist universally across cultures, whereas the other believes that what is called a strength or a virtue is determined by cultural values and context.
Many scholars have chosen to operate from a culturally embedded viewpoint as opposed to a culture-free stance. It seems clear that a decision regarding what types of characteristics and actions are deemed positive for a particular individual will be guided and influenced by the cultural environment and the salience of various cultural values in this individual's life.
The emerging model in psychological perspectives that take culture into account establishes that each person has a unique culture, both independently and connected to the larger society. The "human diversity model" broadens the focus of research beyond merely racial, ethnic, and cultural issues to include varied groups and populations with unique differences, strengths, and histories.
Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith have operationalized SWB (subjective well-being) as being comprised of both cognitive-judgmental and affective components. Life satisfaction, or a person's evaluation of the quality of his or her life, represents the cognitive-judgmental component of SWB. The affective components of SWB are positive (presence of) and negative (absence of) affect.
At the individual level, SWB has been found to correlate with many factors, including good health, enough education, fit between personality and culture, personal growth, purpose in life, self-acceptance, sense of self-determination, having many acquaintances, and receiving social support from many close friends.
Research looking at SWB across nations also has shown that individuals in wealthier nations report higher levels of life satisfaction, though the processes by which national wealth and well-being are connected are unclear. Philosophically, material poverty should not preclude the attainment of well-being for individuals who are oppressed or disadvantaged and relegated to lower socioeconomic levels in society, and finding other approaches to happiness, including such avenues as spirituality, optimism, and flow, is essential for these individuals to reach their maximum potential.
Self-construal theory has served as the basis for research about well-being, cognitions, and emotion among individuals from Western and non-Western backgrounds. As an example, Kitayama et al. studied Japanese and American college students and their reported emotional states in daily life. Consistent with theory, they found that "good feelings" were associated with interdependence of the self in Japan, but with independence of the self in the United States. These dimensions of self-construal have thus served as a useful framework for understanding different conceptions of the self in culture across groups.
There have been at least three conceptions of health throughout human history worldwide—pathos, salus, and hale. The pathogenic approach is the first, most historically dominant vision, derived from the Greek word pathos, meaning suffering or an emotion-evoking sympathy. The pathogenic approach views health as the absence of disability, disease, and premature death.
The second approach is the salutogenic approach, which can be found in early Greek and Roman writings and was popularized by Antonovsky and humanistic scholars. Derived from the Latin word Wats, meaning health, the salutogenic approach views health as the presence of positive states of human opacities and functioning in thinking, feeling, and behavior.
The third approach is the complete state model, which derives from the ancient word for health as being hale, meaning whok This approach is exemplified in the World Health Organization's definition of overall health as a complete state, consisting of the presence of positive state of human capacities and functioning as well as the absence of disease or infirmity. By subsuming the pathogenic and salutogenic paradigms, the whole states approach is the only paradigm that can achieve true population health in the 21st century. Borrowing from the World Health Organization's definition of health, here I define mental health as not merely the absence of psychopathology, but the presence of sufficient levels of emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing.
In 2004, the World Health Organization published an historic first report on mental health promotion, conceptualizing mental health as not merely the absence of mental illness, but the presence of". . . a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community".
In the same way that depression requires symptoms of an-hedonia, mental health consists of symptoms of hedonia such as emotional vitality and positive feelings toward one's life. In the same way that major depression consists of symptoms of malfunctioning, mental health consists of symptoms of positive functioning... Moreover, mental health, like mental illness, is identifiable only as collections of signs and symptoms that, as a syndrome, reflect an underlying state of health or its absence.
Languishing in the absence of mental health is synonymous with saying that it is a state of being mentally un-healthy. To be languishing is to be in a state of being stuck, stagnant, or empty, and devoid of positive functioning in life.
As predicted, there is a modest association between mental health and mental illness; level of mental health tends to increase as level of mental illness decreases. The modest correlation suggests that the latent constructs of mental health and mental illness are distinctive. This distinctiveness raises the empirical question of the risk of an episode of mental illness as level of mental health decrease.
The evidence indicates that the absence of mental illness does not imply the presence of mental health, and the absence of mental health does not imply the presence of mental illness. Thus, neither the pathogenic (i.e., focus on the negative) nor salutogenic (i.e., focus on the positive) approaches alone accurately describe the mental health of a population. Rather, mental health is a complete state that is best studied through the combined assessments of mental health with mental illness. Complete mental health is a state in which individuals are free of mental illness and they are flourishing.
In terms of psychosocial functioning, this meant that completely mentally healthy adults report the lowest level of perceived helplessness (e.g., low perceived control in life), the highest level of functional goals (e.g., knowing what they want from life), the highest level of self-reported resilience (e.g., that they try to learn from adversities), and the highest level of intimacy (e.g., that they have very close relationships with family and friends).
Results from this study suggest two important findings. First, adults who were completely mentally Healthy had the lowest number of chronic physical conditions at all ages. Second, the youngest adults who were languishing had the same number of chronic physical conditions as older flourishing adults. Younger languishing adults who also had MDE had 1.5 more chronic conditions than older flourishingo adults. In other words, the absence of mental health—whether it is languishing or languishing combined with a mental illness—appears to compound the risk of chronic physical disease with age.
The evidence just reviewed suggests that flourishing, a central component of complete mental health, is a desirable condition that any community, corporation, or government would want to protect or promote in its citizens. How much of the adult population is mentally healthy?
Only 17% of adults who were free of a mental illness during the past year fit the criteria for flourishing in life. Most of the adult population, that is, 51%, did not have an episode of mental illness but were only moderately mentally healthy. Worse yet, 10% of adults are mentally un-healthy, as they are languishing and did not fit the criteria for any of the four mental disorders... suggesting that languishers may not be a subsyndromal form of mental illness. In addition, 23% of adults fit the criteria for one or more of the four mental disorders measured in the MIDUS survey.
The goal of any approach to a population's mental health should be (a) the reduction of mental illness and (b) the promotion of rates of complete mental health.
In 2002, we wrote, "Current notions of professional ethics focus too heavily on avoiding or punishing misconduct rather than promoting the highest ethical conduct. We contend that. . . the prevailing models of ethics are too rule-bound or defensive". With this as a premise, we proposed, that the profession refocus its efforts in the direction, of what we termed "positive ethics." The goal of positive ethics was to shift the primary emphasis from avoiding discipline to a "more balanced and integrative approach that includes encouraging psychologists to aspire to their highest ethical potential".
We proposed that an explicit and comprehensive emphasis on positive ethics might accomplish a number of things. First, a positive emphasis might help psychologists consider ethical issues in a broader context... By looking at obligations from this perspective, psychologists could strive for their professional best instead of settling for the professional minimum.
The link between individual well-being and higher goals was recognized by Immanuel Kant. Although Kant believed that the goal of life was to fulfill one's moral obligations, he stated that "to secure one's own happiness is a duty, at least indirectly; for discontent with one's condition, under a pressure of many anxieties and amidst unsatisfied wants, might easily become a great temptation to transgression of duty". In other words, the lack of happiness may inhibit people from fulfilling their duties.
The ethical acculturation model, based on Berry's model of acculturation, is a more positive alternative to many traditional models of ethics training in which students become passive recipients of rules, principles, and guidelines. The ethical acculturation model conceives of professional development—from the first day of graduate school until retirement—as an acculturation process in which the major task is the integration of preexisting ethical values, thoughts, and traditions, with the ethical traditions and values that characterize the culture of psychology. Integration involves synthesizing one's own moral sense into professional deliberations as well as recognizing when conflicts exist between them.
Pipes: "Virtue ethics... suggests that the kind , of person someone is (in some total sense) drives what the person does and how the person thinks in the professional as well as in the personal realm".
If full ethical acculturation and excellent decision making are to be achieved, psychologists need to appreciate the variety of moral traditions that underlie both their own sense of ethics and the ethical culture of psychology.
One consequence of ethical acculturation and increased awareness of ethical traditions and decision-making strategies is that some problematic behavior may be prevented.
New Territories of Positive Life-Span Development: Wisdom and Life Longings, S. Scheibe, U. Kunzmann, P. Baltes
Even in the best scenario possible, life does not consist of unlimited opportunities and exclusively positive experiences; it always involves constraints, challenges, threats, losses, and difficult, sometimes even traumatic, life events. If one considers life as a whole, these negative experiences are often the rule rather than the exception. Therefore, one important aspect of a positive psychology is to acknowledge that negative realities do exist and that studying the ways in which people learn to accept them as important parts of life or manage to deal with them constructively is critical to gaining a better understanding of human nature and life-span development.
As we discuss in the following, wisdom and life longings both deal with life's potentials and constraints. Persons high on wisdom-related knowledge are presumably motivated to understand the complex and sometimes paradoxical nature of life, view events and experiences from multiple perspectives, and simultaneously consider the gains and losses inherent in any developmental change. Similarly, life longings involve at the same time ideal conceptions of self and development (personal Utopias of life) and a sense of incompleteness and imperfection, leading to ambivalent, bittersweet emotions. Persons with moderate- to high-level expressions of life longings may be highly critical of themselves and their lives, may have high ideals and seek to attain them, and at the same time, may realize that perfection is an ideal rather than a goal that can be reached.
However, wisdom and life longings may contribute to a good life and a positive development by facilitating personal growth and a balancing of various, sometimes conflicting and negative, personal experiences, goals, and values.
In these models, wisdom is thought to be different from other human strengths in that it facilitates an integrative and holistic approach toward life's challenges and problems— an approach that embraces past, present, and future dimensions of phenomena, values different points of views, considers contextual variations, and acknowledges the uncertainties inherent in any sense making of the past, present, and future.
A second important feature of wisdom is that it involves an awareness that individual and collective well-being are tied together so that one cannot exist without the other. In this sense, wisdom has been said to refer to time-tested knowledge that guides our behavior in ways that optimize productivity on the level of individuals, groups, and even society.
Finally, wisdom has been linked to the ancient idea of a good life which has been thought to involve a preference for personal growth and self-actualization. Therefore, the acquisition of wisdom during ontogenesis may often be incompatible with a hedonic life orientation and a predominantly, pleasurable, passive, and sheltered life. Given their interest in self-realization and the maximization of a common good, wiser people are likely to partake in behaviors that contribute, rather than consume, resources.
In the Berlin paradigm, wisdom has been defined as highly valued and outstanding expert knowledge about dealing with fundamental, that is existential, problems related to the meaning and conduct of life. These problems are typically complex and poorly defined, and have multiple, yet unknown, solutions. Deciding on a particular career path, accepting the death of a loved one, dealing with personal mortality, or solving long-lasting conflicts among family members exemplify the type of problem that calls for wisdom-related expertise.
Expert knowledge about the meaning and conduct of life is thought to approach wisdom if it meets "all" five criteria, namely (a) rich "factual knowledge" about human nature and the life course; (b) rich "procedural knowledge" about ways of dealing with life problems; (c) "life-span contextualism," that is, an awareness and understanding of the many contexts of life, and of how they relate to each other and change over the life span; (d) "value relativism and tolerance," that is, an acknowledgment of individual, social, and cultural differences in values and life priorities; and (e) "knowledge about handling uncertainty," including the limits of one's own knowledge.
Consistent with the idea that wisdom is a goal that few people—if any—will fully achieve, high levels of wisdom-related knowledge are rare. Many adults are on the way to wisdom, but very few people approach high wisdom scores as measured by the Berlin wisdom tasks. Therefore, many wise individuals may be relatively old, but most older people most likely are not wise.
Those who are open to new experiences, who have a higher level of what has been called psychological mindedness (i.e., interest in and responsiveness to the inner needs, motives, and experiences of others), who think about the how and why of an event rather than simply whether it is good or bad, or who are oriented both toward personal growth and the well-being of others display higher levels of wisdom knowledge. Higher levels of creativity and lower levels of conservative cognitive styles (i.e., adhering to existing rules, minimizing change, and avoiding ambiguous situations) and oligarchic cognitive styles (i.e., experience of tension when pursuing multiple goals) are also predictive of wisdom as measured with the Berlin paradigm.
One may attempt to develop wisdom by finding role models and mentors, pursuing certain professions, or developing certain motivational orientations and values. In the long run, this strategy may help the Individual attain sustainable improvement in wisdom.
A second way of improving one's wisdom-related knowledge is to attend structured courses explicitly designed to teach skills and thinking styles that can e considered preconditions or components of wisdom.
A third strategy of enhancing wisdom-related knowledge refers to short-term interventions that help people access and express their existing wisdom-related knowledge more effectively.
Specifically, imagining to travel around the world and reflecting on the differences and similarities among different locations, people, and cultures before dealing with a wisdom problem can improve the quality of people's wisdom-related knowledge. Finally, there is evidence that at least some individuals can improve their wisdom-related performance by consciously trying to be wise...Taken together, this evidence suggests that wisdom-related knowledge is not fixed, rather it is dynamic and can be improved by relatively simple social and cognitive strategies.
Sehnsucht (life longings) can be regarded as personalized, experiential knowledge and awareness of the fundamental conditions of life, including the incompleteness and imperfection of life. Sehnsucht denotes the recurring, strong feeling that life is incomplete or imperfect, coupled with a desire for ideal (utopian), alternative states and experiences of life.
The emotional quality of life longings is postulated to be inherently ambivalent or "bittersweet," combining pleasant feelings ' elicited by Utopian fantasies with unpleasant feelings of disappointment and frustration as these fantasies are out of reach.
Fifth is the notion that life longings elicit "reflective and evaluative processes" dealing with the consideration of one's actual developmental state, self-critical reflection on the past, present, and (expected) future, as well as an exploratory search for optimal ways of living.
Reported life longings deal primarily with social relationships, such as a fulfilling partnership, true friendship, or the lasting well-being of family members. Other frequently mentioned topics concern the selfimage or state of mind (e.g., inner peace), health (e.g., recovering from serious illness, being active until old age), leisure (e.g., traveling the world), and work-related issues (e.g., becoming head of a company).
The most notable concept related to life longings is the concept of personal goals. Like life longings, goals are directed at positive outcomes and give directionality to life. Importantly, however, goals operate primarily at the behavioral level: people strive at attaining their goals by formulating specific implementation intentions and by engaging in goalrelevant behaviors. Life longings, in contrast, are Utopian and unattainable in principle; they work mainly at the level of imagination and fantasy.
In recent studies, we found that life longings have two important developmental functions. Participants with high-level expressions of life longings reported that their life longings (a) provide a general orientation and directionality to development and (b) helped them to regulate losses and incompleteness. With regard to directionality, reflecting on aspects of life that are incomplete on the one hand, and events and experiences that would make life more complete on the other, may guide persons to select and pursue those goals that are most suited to promote a sense of well-being and meaning. In this sense, life longings may function as a vision or overarching goal from which more concrete goals are derived.
Going one step further, we also investigated the relation of life longings with subjective well-being. It is unlikely that life longings directly translate into high levels of happiness. Having very frequent and intense life longings likely is associated with a high degree of incompleteness of life and the perception that important aspirations were not and never will be reached. This should be particularly true for persons who have low control over their life longings. Indeed, we found that life longings have costs in the hedonic aspect of subjective well-being. Specifically, we found that persons with high-level expressions of life longings reported lower happiness and psychological well-being, more desire for change, and higher negative affectivity.
Life longings entail the imaginary anticipation of highly positive psychological states that surpass the status quo and elicit processes of self-critical reflection about oneself, others, and life in general-- hence, they may promote self-insight, creativity, and wisdom. Such links have been suggested in previous theoretical writings on life longings.
Several wisdom researchers have argued that wisdom I can be acquired only through learning from one's own experiences, not "vicariously" through reading books or through others' instructions. Given this reciprocal relationship, it is likely that experiencing personally the potentials and constraints of life (life longings) and knowing about the potentials and constraints of life (wisdom) may conjointly foster positive development, particularly personal growth.
Subjective Well-Being: The Science of Happiness and Life Satisfaction, E. Diener, S. Oishi, R. Lucas
Scientists who study subjective well-being assume that an essential ingredient of a good life is that the person herself likes her life. Subjective well-being is defined as a person's cognitive and affective evaluations of his or her life as a whole. These evaluations include emotional reactions to events as well as cognitive judgments of satisfaction and fulfillment. Thus, subjective well-being is a broad concept that includes experiencing high levels of pleasant emotions and moods, low levels of negative emotions and moods, and high life satisfaction.
A major concern of researchers in the field is whether self-report instruments are valid. After all, people might report that they are happy but not truly experience high subjective well-being.
Global judgments of life satisfaction do not faithfully correspond to the average mood or level of satisfaction experienced across many different moments or domains because these judgments are likely to be influenced by a person's current mood, his or her beliefs about happiness, and the ease of retrieving positive and negative information.
Although global reports are more vulnerable to judgmental biases than online reports, global reports of well-being are still valuable because (a) they offer insight into the fascinating psychological processes by which people construct global judgments about their lives, and (b) they often predict future decisions and important life outcomes, such as relationship stability, better than momentary reports of well-being.
Many theories of happiness have been proposed since Aristotle's insights. These theories can be categorized into three groups: (a) need and goal satisfaction theories; (b) process or activity theories; and (c) genetic and personality predisposition theories. Ine first constellation of theories centers on the idea mat the reduction of tensions (e.g., the elimination of pain and the satisfaction of biological and psychological needs) leads to happiness. Freud's pleasure principle and Maslow's hierarchical needs model represent this approach. In support of this view, Sheldon, Elliot, Kim, and Kasser found that the degree to which individuals' needs were met was positively associated with the degree of their life satisfaction.
Whereas need satisfaction theorists assume that the satisfaction of basic needs will result in happiness, activity theorists maintain that engagement in an activity itself provides happiness. Most notably, Csikszentmihalyi suggested that people are happiest when thev are engaged in interesting activities that match their level of skill. He called the state of mind that results from this matching of challenges and skill "flow," and he argued that people who often experience flow tend to be very happy.
Both needs theorists and activity theorists argue that subjective well-being will change as individuals approach their goals or engage in interesting activities. By contrast, trait theorists argue that there is an element of stability in people's levels of well-being that cannot be explained by the stability of the conditions of people's lives, and that subjective well-being is strongly influenced by stable personality dispositions.
These results have led some theorists to suggest that although life events can influence subjective well-being, people eventually adapt to these changes and return to biologically determined "set-points" or "adaptation levels". One reason for the stability of subjective wellbeing is that there is a substantial genetic component to it; to some degree people are born prone to being happy or unhappy.
Happy people attend to and recall the pleasant aspects of life more than others. Also, happy people tend to use broad, abstract criteria in judging their own lives, whereas unhappy people tend to use concrete criteria. Similarly, certain cognitive dispositions such as hope and optimism appear to influence subjective well-being. It is not just who we are that matters to happiness, but how we think about our lives.
Fordyce created an intervention program based on the idea that people's subjective well-being can be increased if they learn to imitate the traits of happy people, such as being organized, keeping busy, spending more time socializing, developing a positive outlook, and working on a healthy personality.
The relationship between level of happiness and important life outcomes is, however, not alwayjs linear. For instance, the highest levels of educational achievement and income were obtained by moderately happy people, not by the happiest people. Thus, the optimal ievel of happiness is not the highest possible level, but the moderate level of happiness, at least in terms educational and vocational achievement, interestingly, however, the happiest people did best when it came to romantic relationships.
Although the happy person is more likely to be from a wealthy nation and to have enough resources to pursue his or her particular goals, characteristics such as a positive outlook, meaningful goals, close social relationships, and a temperament characterized by low worry are very important to high subjective well-being.
What constitutes a good life? Few questions are of more fundamental importance to a positive psychology. Flow research has yielded one answer focusing on full involvement in the present moment. From the perspective of flow, "a good life is characterized by complete absorption in what one does".
Flow research and theory had their origin in a desire to understand this phenomenon of intrinsically motivated, or "autotelic," activity--activity rewarding in and of itself, regardless of extrinsic rewards that might result from the activity.
The conditions for entering flow include: perceived challenges, or opportunities for action, that stretch but do not overmatch existing skills; clear proximal goals and immediate feedback about the progress being made. Under these conditions, experience seamlessly unfolds from moment to moment and one enters a subjective state with the following characteristics: intense and focused concentration on the present moment; merging of action and awareness; loss of reflective self-consciousness (i.e., loss ofawareness of oneself as a social actor); a sense that one can control one's actions; that is, a sense that one can in principle deal with the situation because one knows how to respond to whatever happens next; distortion of temporal experience (typically, a sense that time has passed faster than normal); experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, such that often the end goal is just an excuse for the process.
The state is one of dynamic equilibrium. Entering flow depends on establishing a balance between perceived action capacities and action opportunities (cf. optimal arousal). The balance is fragile. If challenges exceed skills, one first becomes vigilant and then anxious; if skills exceed challenges, one first relaxes and eventually becomes bored... Shifts in subjective state provide feedback about the changing relationship to the environment. Anxiety or boredom presses a person to adjust his or her level of skill and/or challenge, in order to escape the aversive state and reenter flow.
Sports, games, and other "flow activities" provide goal and feedback structures that make flow more likely. But one can find flow in almost any activity, even working a cash register, ironing clothes, o driving a car. It is subjective challenges and skills, not objective ones, which influence the quality or a person's experience.
When attention is completely absorbed in the challenges at hand, the individual achieves an ordered state of consciousness. Thoughts, feelings, wishes, and action are in harmony... As people master challenges in an activity, they develop greater levels of skill and the activity ceases to be as involving as before. To continue experiencing flow, they must engage progressively more complex challenges. The optimal level of challenge stretches existing skills, resulting in more complex capacities for action.
As noted previously, flow theory and research ave focused on phenomenology rather than personality. The goal has been to understand the dynamics of momentary experience and the conditions under which it is optimal. The capacity to experience flow appears to be nearly universal. Nevertheless, people vary widely in the frequency of reported flow.
From the beginning, Csikszentmihalyi recognized the possibility of an "autotelic personality," a person who tends to enjoy life or "generally does things for their own sake, rather than in order to achieve some later external goal". This kind of personality is distinguished by "meta-skills," which enable the individual to enter the flow and stay in it. These meta-skills include a general curiosity and interest in life, persistence, and low self-centeredness, which result in the ability to be motivated by intrinsic rewards.
According to this model (experience sampling method), experiencing flow encourages a person to persist in and return to an activity because of the experiential rewards it promises, and thereby fosters the growth of skills over time. Several studies linked flow to commitment and achievement during high school... Because the self grows through flow experiences, we also might expect time spent in flow to predict self-esteem. Correlational studies with ESM data support this expectation.
From the perspective of the individual, the flow state is a self-justifying experience; it is, by definition, an end in itself.
We speculate that two kinds of experiences might be intrinsically rewarding: one that involves conservation of energy (relaxation), the other involving the use of skills to seize ever greater opportunities (flow). It is consistent with current understandings of evolution to suppose that both these strategies for coping with the environment, one conservative and the other expansive, were selected over time as important components of the human behavioral repertoire, even though they motivate different—in some sense, opposite—behaviors. By contrast, the two distinctly aversive situations, which organisms are presumably programmed to avoid, are those in which one feels overwhelmed by environmental demands (anxiety), or left with nothing to do (apathy).
Although it seems clear that flow serves as a buffer against adversity and prevents pathology, its major contribution to the quality of life consists in endowing momentary experience with value.
Positive Affectivity: The Disposition to Experience Positive Emotional States, D. Watson, K. Naragon
Individuals high on the dimension of positive affectivity experience frequent and intense episodes of pleasant, pleasurable mood; generally speaking, they are cheerful, enthusiastic, energetic, confident, and alert. By contrast, those who are low in positive affectivity report substantially reduced levels of happiness, excitement, vigor, and confidence. Positive affectivity is a moderately stable trait over time and individuals demonstrate consistent mood levels across different situations, such as social interactions, being alone, and working.
These two affect dimensions represent the subjective components of more general biobehavioral systems that evolved to address very different evolutionary tasks. Specifically, negative affect is a component of the withdrawal-oriented Behavioral Inhibition System. The essential purpose of this system is to keep the organism out of trouble by inhibiting behavior that might lead to pain, punishment, or some other undesirable outcome. In sharp contrast to negative affect, positive affect is a component of the approach-oriented Behavioral Facilitation System, which directs organisms toward situations and experiences that potentially may yield pleasure and reward. This system is adaptive in that it ensures the procuring of resources (e.g., food and water, warmth and shelter, the cooperation of others, sexual partners) that are essential to the survival of both the individual and the species.
What causes mean-level differences in positive affectivity? First, this trait clearly is strongly heritable. Most of the available data are based on measures of extraversion...consistent with the data for extraversion, these studies indicate that the common rearing environment essentially has no effect on the development of positive affectivity.
From these studies, it is clear that objective demographic factors are relatively weak predictors of happiness and positive affectivity. For instance, positive affectivity scores are not systematically related to age. Along these same lines, variables such as annual income, level of educational attainment, and socioeconomic status are, at best, weakly related to happiness and well-being. Similarly, men and women report virtually identical levels of happiness and positive affectivity. Thus, an individual's capacity for positive affectivity is not seriously limited by objective conditions such as gender, age, wealth, and status.
Two variables consistently have emerged as significant predictors of positive affectivity. First, positive affectivity—but not negative affectivity—is moderately correlated with various indicators of social behavior, including number of close friends, frequency of contact with friends and relatives, making new acquaintances, involvement in social organizations, and overall level of social activity.
Thus, those who are high in positive affectivity tend to be extraverts who are socially active. The undertying causality appears to be bidirectional, with social activity and positive affectivity mutually influencing each other.
Second, people who describe themselves as "spiritual" or "religious" report higher levels of happiness than those who do not; this effect has been observed both in the United States and in Europe... Why are spiritual and religious people happier? Two basic explanations have been offered. First, religion may provide people with a profound sense of meaning and purpose in their lives, thereby supplying them with plausible answers to the basic existential questions of life. Second, religious activity simply may represent a particular variety of social behavior. In other words, membership in a religious denomination allows people to congregate together, espouse shared views, and form supportive relationships.
Individuals who are high in positive affectivity feel good about themselves and their world. Consequently, they report greater satisfaction with important aspects of their lives, as well as more success across multiple domains such as work and relationships.
Positive affectivity has also been linked to resistance to developing infectious illnesses. For example, Cohen, Doyle, Turner, Alper, and Skoner aggregated daily mood scores to create measures of trait positive and negative affectivity. They then exposed participants to viruses known to cause the common cold. Those with high positive affectivity were less likely to develop a cold subsequent to exposure, even after controlling for factors such as negative affectivity and baseline immunity.
Positive affectivity also may influence health through its association with healthy behaviors, such as better sleep habits, increased exercise, and improved coping skills. Finally, there is some evidence that positive affectivity may directly affect nervous system activation and hormones that impact disease processes.
There is some evidence that individualist, rich, and democratic cultures may have higher levels of subjective well-being than collectivistic, poor, and totalitarian cultures... Other evidence suggests that temperament has a larger effect on the "actual" affective experiences of individuals (thus explaining the commonalities in affectivity across cultures), while cultural factors play a larger role m the individual's conception of their "ideal" (or most valued) affective experiences. Overall, there are more similarities than differences in the positive affective experiences of individuals from different cultures.
Various lines of evidence suggest that major life events typically ; exert a significant influence on well-being only in the short term, and that people eventually adapt to them and gradually move back to their preexisting baseline or "set-point".
Furthermore, as was discussed earlier, positive affectivity levels clearly are strongly influenced by hereditary factors that influence the functioning of the central nervous system. These data suggest that some people simply may be destined to be more cheerful and enthusiastic dian others, regardless of major life events or any systematic attempts at change.
Behavior geneticists repeatedly have attacked the overly simplistic view that evidence of heritability necessarily implies that change is impossible. As Weinberg put it, "There is a myth that if a behavior or characteristic is genetic, it cannot be changed. Genes do not fix behavior. Rather, they establish a range of possible reactions to the range of possible experiences that environments can provide".
Consequently, the genetic and biological data should not induce a fatalistic resignation; we still are free to increase our positive affectivity and to move closer toward our potential maximum.
The contemporary understanding of self-esteem is rooted in four ideas—acceptance, evaluation, comparison, and efficacy—that show strong and historically persistent resonance in American culture. To the modern mind, self-esteem seems anchored in unqualified acceptance of the child early in life, the receipt of positive evaluations from relevant others, favorable comparisons with others and with ideal versions of the self, and the capacity for efficacious action.
Self-esteem is thought to be dependent upon the child's acceptance within the social fold. It is built early on a foundation of security, trust, and unconditional love. Later, whatevever standards of evaluation are employed, positive evaluations will enhance self-esteem and negative evaluations will damage it. Likewise, self-esteem is enhanced when the person is able to make favorable comparisons with other people or with an ideal self, and it is enhanced when the person acts effectively in his or her physical or social environment.
American culture makes available numerous situations in which the individual is exposed to evaluation, imagines the evaluations others are making, or engages in self-evaluation...There are numerous occasions on which individuals reflect on how well or ill they fare in comparison with relevant others or with possible or desirable versions of themselves.
American culture does not, however, present a single face with respect to acceptance, evaluation, comparison, and efficacy... there is a countervailing communitarian impulse in American culture that mitigates its intense individualism. For some people under some conditions, selfworth is established by membership in a group and association with its members, social comparisons are between groups, and individuals take pride from group accomplishments.
One cluster of meanings emphasizes that self-esteem is not a right but a privilege, to be achieved by individual effort and development or appropriate attitudes and behavior. The other cluster emphasizes that self-esteem is an entitlement, that its acquisition should require no behavioral changes and that the individual can bootstrap himself or herself to self-affirming feelings.
A view of self-esteem as something earned by virtue of effort and accomplishment validates their way of pursuing happiness and success. For those who feel themselves not far enough along on the path, talk of earning selfesteem is a motivational spur to further effort. It provides a way of imagining a future self and, in doing so, focusing present efforts on its attainment.
The discourse of self-esteem provides a common language that Americans use to discuss felt difficulties with self-validation and in the same breath address cultural contradictions.
Self-esteem is a reflexive emotion that has developed over time in social processes of invention, that individuals learn to experience and to talk about, that arises in predictable social circumstances, and that is subject to social control.
The key term for grasping the socially constructed emotion of self-esteem is "mood," a term that I employ in its conventional sense of a generalized aroused or subdued disposition. At one extreme lies euphoria—a pervasive good feeling that the individual might describe in a variety of culturally available terms: energized, happy, "psyched," selfconfident, elated. At the other extreme lies dysphoria— a similarly pervasive feeling described in culturally opposite terms such as listless, sad, fearful, anxious, or depressed. In a state of mood closer to euphoria, the individual is aroused, organized, ready to act; in a state closer to dysphoria, the individual is more reserved, fearful, and reluctant to act.
Mood is influenced by events in the person's world but also by endogenous factors of which the individual has no knowledge. Hence, a "good" or "bad" mood may result from the reality or appearance of positive or negative events, but also independently of events as a result of malfunctioning neurotransmission.
Mood is constituted by a change in I expectation (together with the affective state evoked by the change), and thus refers to "the fine-tuning of one's perception of the general affective tone of what I lies ahead". "Emotions" are present-oriented, focused on the person's relationship to a specific goal. Whereas the experience of a positive mood implies the expectation of more positive affect in the future, the emotion of joy arises in the present as goals are attained or attained more fully than imagined.
The social order governs access to the cognitive and material means of pursuing a socially approved goal—knowing what to do and how to do it, and having the resources needed to realize a desired end. Hence, the sources of positive affect, of changes in the expectation of positive affect, and of the person's capacity to act so as to create positive events lie in culture and society. External events shape affect, mood, and emotion, resulting in a tendency for people to do what others require, encourage, or make possible. Following socially approved courses of action to approved goals produces positive affect, inclines individuals to anticipate more such affect in the future, and rewards them with positive emotions in each succeeding present.
This strong social determinism is in three ways defective. First, it does not take sufficient account of the need to interpret mood or of the potential for interpretive variability. Morris suggests that mood is figure as well as ground.
Interpretations vary, for there is no firm link between an affective state and the individual's perception of its origins or of the steps that might produce a more desired state. People make errors in attribution.
Mood is in part a product of how successfully the person has formed attachments to the social world and of how well he or she has achieved its culturally enjoined goals. A sense of membership in the social world and of proper attainment of cultural ideals engenders elevated mood; failure in these respects engenders depressed mood.
Pride is grounded in mood in much the same way as self-esteem is so anchored. But it is not the same emotion, for pride conveys images of self-respect and dignity, and the proud individual imagines an audience that applauds effort, hard work, achievement against the odds, and self-regard is deserved because it has been earned.
Similarly, to fall short of one's own goals or the expectations of one's fellows engenders the emotion of shame. One who accepts an ethic of achievement is disappointed, downcast, depressed, and most of all ashamed when he or she fails. Like pride, shame interprets mood by emphasizing the individual's responsibility for a course of action and its outcome.
Self-esteem, in contrast, answers to the opposing pole of American culture, which emphasizes "expressive" individualism. Here, success and happiness are more likely to be viewed as entitlements, or at least to be subject to relaxed standards of evaluation. Thus, one is entitled to feel happy and successful regardless of one's station in life, or at the very least one can find validation of the right to feel contentment in lesser accomplishments.
The discourse of self-esteem attempts to respond by articulating a cultural vision of a satisfying personal life that runs explicitly counter to the dominant competitive, instrumental individualism. It proposes an alternative world in which the individual has a right to an assured place, evaluations are not the sole basis of positive self-feeling, social comparison is subdued, and all have the capacity for efficacious action and the right to positive self-regard.
Self-esteem is a measure of the person's expectation of positive events and, accordingly, her or his willingness to approach objects and others. Second, and more broadly, good selfesteem is indicative of a positive and integral personal and social identity—that is, a sense that one is located securely in the social world, competent to meet its challenges, ready to participate in life with others, and able to balance social demands and personal desires.
Emotional intelligence (El) represents the ability to perceive, appraise, and express emotion accurately and adaptively; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; the ability to access and/ or generate feelings when they facilitate cognitive activities and adaptive action; and the ability to regulate emotions in oneself and others. In other words, El refers to the ability to process emotion-laden information competently and to use it to guide cognitive activities like problem solving and to focus energy on required behaviors.
The tension between exclusively cognitive views of what it means to be intelligent and broader ones that include a positive role for the emotions can be traced back many centuries. For example, the Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece focused on virtue and viewed emotion as too individualistic and self absorbed to be a reliable guide for insight and wisdom. Later, the Romantic movement in late eighteenth century and early-nineteenth century Europe stressed how emotion-rooted intuition and empathy could provide insights that were unavailable through logic alone. The modern interest in El stems, perhaps, from a similar dialectic in the field of human abilities research.
Although there is sometimes empirical utility in considering El as a unitary construct, most of our work suggests that it can be divided into four branches. The first of these branches, "perceiving emotions," involves recognizing and inputting verbal and nonverbal information from the emotion system. The second branch, "using emotions," refers to using emotions as part of cognitive processes such as creativity and problem solving. The third branch, "understanding emotions," involves cognitive processing of emotion, that is, insight and knowledge brought to bear about one's feelings or the feelings of others. Our fourth branch, "managing emotions," concerns the regulation of emotions in oneself and in other people.
Emotional perception involves registering, attending to, and deciphering emotional messages as they are expressed in facial expressions, voice tone, or cultural artifacts. A person who sees the fleeting expression of fear in the face of another understands much more about that other's emotions and thoughts than someone who misses such a signal.
Using emotions—branch 2—focuses on how emotion affects the cognitive system and, as such, can be harnessed for more effective problem solving, reasoning, decision making, and creative endeavors... Emotions also change cognitions, making them positive when a person is happy, and negative when the person is sad.
Branch 3 involves understanding emotion. Emotions form a rich and complexly interrelated symbol set. The most fundamental competency at this level concerns the ability to label emotions with words and to recognize the relationships among exemplars of the affective lexicon. The emotionally intelligent individual is able to recognize that the terms used to describe emotions are arranged into families and that groups of emotion terms form fuzzy sets.
The person who is able to understand emotions— their meanings, how they blend together, how they progress over time—is truly blessed with the capacity to understand important aspects of human nature and interpersonal relationships.
Optimal levels of emotional regulation may be moderate ones; attempts to minimize or eliminate emotion completely may stifle EL Similarly, the regulation of emotion in other people is less likely to involve the suppressing of others' emotions but rather the harnessing of them, as when a persuasive speaker is said to "move" his or her audience. Individuals use a broad range of techniques to regulate their moods. Thayer, Newman, and McClain believe that physical exercise is the single most effective strategy for changing a bad mood, among those under one's own control. Other commonly reported mood regulation strategies include listening to music, social interaction, and cognitive self-management (e.g., giving oneself a "pep talk"). Pleasant distractions (errands, hobbies, fun activities, shopping, reading, and writing) also are effective. Less effective (and, at times, counterproductive) strategies include passive mood management (e.g., television I viewing, caffeine, food, and sleep), direct tension reduction (e.g., drugs, alcohol, and sex), spending time alone, and avoiding the person or thing that caused a bad mood. In general, the most successful regulation methods involve expenditure of energy; active mood management techniques that combine relaxation, stress management, cognitive effort, and exercise may be the most effective strategies for changing bad moods.
Individuals higher in El as measured by the MEIS or MSCEIT were found to have better relationships with parents, friends, and romantic partners. They reported being more satisfied with their social relationships and the social support received from parents. They also reported having more friends, feeling less conflict and antagonism with their close friends, and having higher-quality social relationships.
In a diary study, Germany students higher on understanding emotion felt safer in interactions with others and perceived that the interaction partner found the interaction interesting and enjoyable; those higher on managing emotion felt more wanted and important during the interaction. Those high on emotion management also felt being positively perceived by members of the opposite-sex interactions.
When a culture is overflowing with eminent creators, it is said to exhibit a "Golden Age," whereas when examples of creative genius become few and far between, the culture is said to have entered a "Dark Age." Hence, creativity often is viewed as a human capacity that has both individual and sociocultural utility and value.
In particular, creativity usually is said to entail the generation of ideas that fulfill the two following conditions: (1) Creativity must be "original." These days, no one can be called "creative" who decides to "reinvent the wheel." nor can one earn that ascription for writing the lines "To be, or not to be." Creative ideas are novel, surprising, unexpected. Originality is a necessary but not sufficient criterion for creativity, which brings us to the second condition. (2) Creativity must be "adaptive." Someone who decides to make a blimp out of solid concrete can no doubt claim considerable originality, but whether this strange idea "can fly" is quite a different matter.
The reason for this lack of consensus is that''creativity can manifest itself in three distinct ways. First, creativity may be viewed as some kind of mental "process" that yields adaptive and original ideas. Second, it can be seen as a type of "person" who exhibits creativity. Third, creativity can be analyzed in terms of the concrete "products" that result from the workings of the creative process or person.
The Remote Associates Test, or RAT...is based on the premise that creativity involves the ability to make rather remote associations between separate ideas. Highly creative individuals were said to have a flat hierarchy of associations in comparison to the steep hierarchy of associations of those with low creativity. A flat associative hierarchy means that for any given stimulus, the creative person has numerous associations available, all with roughly equal probabilities of retrieval. Because such an individual can generate many associative variations, the odds are increased that he or she will find that one association that will make the necessary remote connection.
Although these tests have been validated against other criteria of creative performance, it has become clear that generalized tests do not always have as much predictive validity as measures more specifically tailored to a particular domain of creativity...Fortunately, an alternative psychometric tactic exists that is based on the assumption that the creative individual is distinctively different in various personal characteristics. Especially pertinent is the evidence that creative people display personality profiles that depart from the average person. Creative personalities tend to possess those characteristics that would most favor the production of both numerous and diverse ideas. In particular, creative individuals tend to be independent, nonconformist, unconventional, even bohemian; they also tend to have wide interests, greater openness to new experiences, and a more conspicuous behavioral and cognitive flexibility and boldness. The only major complication in this general picture is that the personality profiles of artistic creators tend to differ noticeably from those of scientific creators.
According to the empirical literature, child prodigies and intellectually gifted children tend to have enjoyed rather happy childhoods... Yet when researchers turn to highly creative individuals, a rather contrasting picture emerges. The family may have experienced severe economic ups and downs, and the parents' marriage may have fallen far short of the ideal; the child may have been sickly or have endured some physical or cognitive disability. More remarkably, early development of the future creator may have been plagued with one or more traumatic experiences, such as the loss of one or both parents in childhood or adolescence. Yet what makes these findings all the more intriguing is that the same developmental events also are associated with negative life outcomes, such as juvenile delinquency or suicidal depression.
This peculiar paradox suggests that under the right conditions, exposure to traumatic or difficult experiences early in life can make a positive contrij bution to the development of creative potential. Perhaps those who have the capacity to "rise to the challenge" will benefit, and creativity itself may be an adaptive response to such circumstances.
On the one hand are those who believe that outstanding creativity is positively associated with psychopathology, a belief that goes back as far as Aristotle. There are others, such as humanistic psychologists, who see creativity as a symptom of mental health, not illness. Based on the empirical research on this issue suggests, it appears that there is some truth in both viewpoints. On the one hand, the rates of apparent psychological disorder in samples of highly creative individuals do seem to be somewhat higher than in the general population.
Of special interest are the findings that creativity and psychopathology are positively associated with reduced latent inhibition, that is, with the reduced capacity to filter out extraneous information.
On the other hand, the empirical research also suggests that creativity and psychopathology are by no means equivalent. For one thing, creative individuals often have character traits, such as high ego-strength, which are not I found in clinical populations. However bizarre their thoughts or behaviors may be, creators remain in self command— even exploiting their eccentricities for creative ends. In addition, their symptomatology usually falls well below pathological levels. Though their profiles do not lie in the normal range, they also do not reach truly pathological levels—they are at the borderline between the normal and the abnormal.
To some extent, creative development requires a specific congruence between genetic inheritance and environmental stimulation. This intricate genetic—environmental determination helps to explain why creativity may display a highly skewed cross-sectional distribution in the general population.
It may well be that only a relatively small proportion of the population enjoys the distinctive intellectual and dispositional profile that would enable them to manifest significant levels of creativity as adults. By adopting this perspective, the primary goal would be to identify those children with the most creative potential and then place them in special programs for the gifted and talented.
A person's creativity is affected by extrinsic reward, evaluative supervision, and time pressure. Such factors often operate in very complex ways to raise or lower creativity. For instance, rewards can harm creativity under some circumstances, but enhance it under different conditions.
Some researchers have concentrated on the political, economic, cultural, and social conditions that most favor the emergence and maintenance of eras in which creativity blossoms across many creative endeavors. On the one hand, certain circumstances, such as military conflict and political anarchy, depress creative activity in most domains. On the other hand, different conditions such as the infusion of cultural diversity—through immigration, political fragmentation, or nationalistic revolt—can revive creativity.
The focus of positive psychology is on adaptive functioning, including the human capacity to maintain emotional well-being despite setback, major trauma, and the ups and downs of ordinary life. Perceived control--the judgment that one has the meanss to obtain desired outcomes and to avoid undesirable ones--is particularly relevant to this positive focus on the ability to find a meaningful life even in difficult circumstances.
Perhaps the most fundamental conceptualization of perceived control is Geary's evolutionary framework in which the desire for control serves as the basic motivation that guides all other motives, emotions, cognitions, and social behaviors. Wanting to have control has been adaptive because humans with this desire are more likely to obtain resources that are critical for survival and reproduction.
Perceptions of control are associated with better coping with stressful life circumstances. Those with more perceived control are less anxious and depressed in the face of chronic illnesses and less traumatized by victimization. In addition, those with a stronger sense of perceived control are more likely to take needed action to improve or protect their physical health.
In almost every life arena, one's sense of personal control has positive implications for emotional well-being, for the likelihood that action is taken, for physical health, and for general adaptive functioning.
Thompson and Wierson suggest that people use at least three strategies to maintain control even in difficult circumstances: changing to goals that are reachable in the current situation, creating new avenues for control, and accepting current circumstances.
First, making progress toward goals is an important source of perceived control and general wellbeing. When progress on an important goal is not possible, people who are flexible in identifying attainable alternate goals will be able to maintain a sense of control by finding satisfying, attainable alternatives...Although it would not be adaptive to relinquish goals too readily, flexibility in the face of unreachable goals helps sustain perceptions of control.
Second, identifying and cultivating the areas of personal control that are still available is an effective way to maintain overall levels of control...Because predictability enhances a sense or control, just getting information on the causes and course of one's disease and treatment options can increase perceived control.
Secondary control involves one's life circumstances as they are, instead of working to change them. Acceptance can be achieved in a variety of ways, including finding benefits and meaning in the loss and in one's life, situation. Even in an overall negative experience, 1 many individuals are able to find some benefits or advantages in their situation. ..Acceptance increases a sense of control because it helps people feel less like helpless victims and reduces the discrepancy between desired and achieved outcomes.
Perceived control can be decomposed into two parts: (a) "locus of control," which is the perception that most people's outcomes are influenced by personal action (internal) versus outside forces or other people (external); and (b) "self-efficacy," which refers to the belief that one personally has the ability to enact the actions that are necessary to get desired utcomes. Perceived control is the combination of an internal locus (i.e., outcomes depend on personal action) and self-efficacy (i.e., I have the skills to take effective action).
Is perceived control useful only if it is an accurate reflection of one's capabilities?..Those who overestimate their control tend to be better copers and more persistent on tasks...Presumably, people with more serious loss or trauma have less real control, yet perceived control is just as beneficial for those who are facing more severely restrictive or adverse circumstances as it is for those in better circumstances, indicating that control does not have to be realistic to be beneficial.
Many people may combine the best of both worlds by regularly overestimating their control, but at critical junctures, being more honest with themselves and making accurate assessments of their control. These ideas explain why people who are coping with difficult life circumstances derive benefits from perceptions of control even if these judgments are overestimations of their actual control.
Research on illusions of control in laboratory settings where the actual contingencies are manipulated has revealed that nondepressed individuals have higher estimates of their control than their depressed counterparts. It is the nondepressed as compared to the depressed individuals who are more likely to overestimate their control.
Based on the studies discussed previously in this chapter, it seems that those from collectivist cultures do not derive as much benefit from a sense of personal control as do those from cultures with more individualistic orientations.
It may be that when people make overly optimistic judgments of their control to avoid undertaking a more difficult, but effective, course of action, their illusory control may have negative effects. When motives to avoid action prevail, illusory control may discourage rather than encourage effective action.
Mindfulness...is a flexible state of mind—an openness to novelty, a process of actively drawing novel distinctions. When we are mindful, we become sensitive to context and perspective; we are situated in the present. When we are mindless, we are trapped in rigid mind-sets, oblivious to context or perspective. When we are mindless, our behavior is governed by rule and routine. In contrast, when we are mindful, our behavior may be guided rather than governed by rules and routines.
Mindlessness comes about in two ways: either through repetition or on a single exposure to information... Whether we become mindless over time or on initial exposure to information, we unwittingly lock ourselves into a single understanding of that information.
When information is given by an authority, appears irrelevant, or is presented in absolute language, it typically does not occur to us to question it. We accept it and become trapped in the mind-set, oblivious to how it could be otherwise. Authorities are sometimes wrong or overstate their case, and what is irrelevant today may be relevant tomorrow. When do we want to close the future?
Our learned emotional responses to people, things, ideas, and even ourselves control our well-being. Yet many of these responses are taken at face value. It seems easier that way than to question the underlying values and premises on which our evaluations are built.
We hold things still purportedly to feel in control, yet because they are always changing, we give up the very control we seek. Instead of looking for invariance, perhaps we should consider exploiting the power of uncertainty so that we can learn what things can become rather than what they are.
Mindfulness, characterized by novel distinction-drawing, leads us in this direction. It makes clear that things change and loosens the grip of our evaluative mind-sets so uiat these changes need not be feared.
Twentieth-century writing in epistemology teaches i that scientific theories and models are regularly • replaced by successors whose premises are radically different from those of the incumbent theories. The succession of "paradigms" of scientific knowledge does not follow a path of "linear progress" toward more truthlike theories over time.
Theories— or the models of the world or cognitive schemata that people use in order to choose between different; courses of action—regularly change in fundamental ways, and the hallmark of rationality is not being able to salvage a theory from apparent refutation by the addition of fortifying hypotheses, but rather the ability to specify the conditions under which a theory will be abandoned.
Certainly, it is no less important for the individual to question her theories than it is for science. When information is processed mindlessly, the potential for reconsideration is abandoned.
Studies of learning behavior suggest that keeping multiple perspectives of the same phenomenon "alive" at any given time is critical to die process of learning from "experience."... At the least, it is clear that learning is not likely to take place if we are closed to new information.
To argue that mindlessness is rarely if ever beneficial means that we do not want to close ourselves off to possibility. Instead, we want to be either specifically mindful with respect to some particular content or "potentially" mindful.
When we are not locked into fixed evaluations, we have far more control than we think over our well-being. We have control over the experience of the present. The prevalence of value judgments in our lives reveals nothing about the world, but much about our minds.
Many of our thoughts are concerned with whether what we or others are doing or thinking is good or bad. Evaluation is central to the way we make sense of our world, yet in most cases, evaluatlon is mindless.
A more mindful approach would entail understanding not only that there are advantages and disadvantages to anything we may consider but that each disadvantage is "simultaneously" an advantage from a different perspective (and vice versa). With this type of mindful approach, virtually every unpleasant aspect of our lives could change.
"All behavior makes sense from the actor's perspective, or else die actor would not do it." This realization makes "all negative evaluations" of people suspect, and all action based on these predictions about people of questionable worth.
The implicit message given by the culture is that there is one yardstick by which to measure not just outcomes but ourselves and others. We look for new explanations only when all seems to fail. And, as with the frog, it may be too little, too late. For evaluation to be meaningful, we need to use a common metric. The problem enters when we are oblivious to the fact that many other potential yardsticks can be used, with very different results.
When the stories we tell ourselves are compelling and so much information seems to fit our interpretation, it is hard to understand why the other person just doesn't get it. And so we become evaluative. Presently, for many of us to feel right, someone else must be wrong. This dichotomous reasoning is the cause and consequence of an implicit acceptance of a single perspective. Behavior makes sense from the actor's perspective, or else it would not have occurred. I am right, and so are you. The task of successful interpersonal relating, then, may be to search for the information to make this point clear to us or simply accept that the behavior in question must have made sense.
Findings suggest & that as observers, we are more likely to attribute other people's behavior to dispositions and our own to situations. Situational attributions help keep us in the present. Dispositional attributions hold things still, presumably to enable us to predict the future.
Not only do people see different information depending on their vantage points and motivation, but, as implied earlier, people often see the "same" information differently. All of the behavior is accounted for but with a different label that carries with it a very different evaluative tone.
We often think we know other people, and because of this assumption we don't ask, and because We don't ask, we don't learn that the "same" event may look very different to someone else.
We presume that our behavior makes sense and that all well-adjusted people would do the same thing. If someone does something different, he or she must then be "that kind of a person."
Because, as Kierkegaard noted, we live our lives going forward but understand them looking back, it is important to consider what we do as observers of other people. When we look back, we, too, are the objects of our inquiries and may treat ourselves the way others might. Those who are less evaluative of others will be less evaluative of themselves. This is the hidden cost of making downward social comparisons. We may feel temporarily good at seeing ourselves as superior to someone else, but when we turn things around, we become "him," the observed.
The power of most great literature and movies is that we come to see the sense of the actor's behavior when the actions are in some way deplorable to us. The tension between the two may be the power of the work.
Just as each individual behavior has an individual perspective on it that lends reason to the action taken, so, too, does the opposite behavior. Several seemingly mundane behaviors, both those taken as "bad" and some taken to be "good," look different when examined through this nonevaluative lens. Consider regret, making excuses, blame, and forgiveness in this new light.
Regret happens under two conditions: when we j are unhappy, and when we obscure the difference j between our perspective at time one, when we took some action, and time two, when we evaluate the action we took. Regret is a prediction of our emotions: If we had chosen differently then, we would feel better now. If we feel fine now, the need for the prediction would not arise. When it does arise, it depends on the lack of awareness of the reasonableness of the action given the circumstances we faced at the time.
But the best alternative, it would seem, is to start out with the assumption that their behavior made sense to them at the time given the circumstances as they saw them, or else they would have behaved differently. This research tells us that when we are aware of why we are doing what we are doing, there is little room for self-recrimination.
Counterfactual thinking is more likely to occur after the experience of negative outcomes than positive outcomes. Anger, depression, boredom, or essentially any unhappiness can trigger thoughts of how we might have done things differently in the past. If we proceed more mindfully, our perspective is forward-looking, not backward-looking.
When people live in a world of absolute right and wrong without regard to perspective, any explanation different from their own is taken to be an excuse.
The word "excuse" conveys an accusation on the part of the person to whom an explanation is given. It implies distrust regarding the speaker's motives and intentions. Our culture has become so tolerant of excuses that the difference between a reason and an excuse is not likely to be easily noticed. By obscuring the difference between the two, we unwittingly act as though our actions have no reasons, or that the only acceptable reason is one in which someone must look bad.
With the awareness that we are responsible for our evaluations, we are more likely to use them in a conditional way. As such, we can stay responsive to our circumstances rather than become reactive to them as absolute evaluations lead us to be.
We may stay evaluative because positive evaluation helps us feel good in the short run. As soon as we agree to accept a positive evaluation as reason to feel good about ourselves, however, we open the door for the damaging consequences of perceived failure. Surely, depression, suicide, and just feeling bad all result in whole or part from an evaluative stance. If one tries and does not succeed, one could feel like a failure. Alternatively, one could conclude that the chosen way was not effective.
If we teach people to be positive, we may unintentionally teach them to keep evaluation tied to events, ideas, and people, and thus we promote mindlessness. When mindful, we may find solutions to problems that made us feel incompetent. We may avert the danger not yet arisen. By becoming less judgmental, we are likely to come to value other people and ourselves. All told, it would seem that being mindful would lead us to be optimistic, obviating the necessity for learning how to be positive.
By contrast, mindfulness keeps us engaged and situated in the present. The mindful individual comes to recognize that each outcome is potentially simultaneously positive and negative (as is each aspect of each outcome), and that choices can be made with respect to our affective experience. Thus, the mindful individual is likely to choose to be positive and will experience both the advantages of positivity and the advantages of perceived control for well-being.
It is commonly argued that the future TP is what differentiates humans from animals, who are always in the present and lack the capacity ror abstraction and conscious intentionality required for conceptualization of the future. There is much support to suggest that the future TP is associated with several positive outcomes, such as high motivation, sense of responsibility, ability to organize and plan actions, and selfefficacy. This orientation appears predominant in students and other learners across the boundaries of culture, gender, and socioeconomic status. De Voider and Lens found evidence that an extended future TP is an influential factor in academic performance improvement. Mello and Worrell report a significant positive association of educational achievement with future positive attitudes in a large sample of academically talented adolescents.
Risk taking is a characteristic behavior of those high on either present-hedonistic and -fatalistic TP scores, which correlate positively to dangerous driving, frequent smoking, consumption of alcohol, and drugs, and sexual promiscuity. In particular, the present-fatalistic attitude is depicted in a desire to live shorter lives and has been shown to be significantly positively associated with aggression, anxiety, and depression, and negatively with educational success.
Ruminating on the past may be commonly paralleled with stagnation, yet it was found to be related to very different outcomes, depending on its valence. For example, Lyubomirsky and Nolen-Hoeksema have demonstrated that negative rumination is associated with predominantly past-negative orientation and also correlates with depression, anxiety, unhappiness, low self-esteem, and aggression. On the other hand, Bryant, Smart, and King have established that the frequency of naturally occurring positive reminiscing, a characteristic of the past-positive TP, predicted a perceived abilityto enjoy life.
Focusing predominantly on the future may bring academic success, or reminiscing may increase one's happiness, yet if a TP starts to dominate to the extent that it excludes or minimizes the others, it becomes dysfunctional. There are costs and sacrifices (often expressed through loss of human ties) associated with emphasizing an achievement-oriented future TP. Enjoying the moment and unreasonable risk taking seem to go hand in hand. Even positive past orientation has drawbacks that may include being excessively conservative, being cautious, avoiding change and openness to new experiences and cultures, sustaining the status quo, or trying to apply old solutions to the new problems.
A balanced TP has been proposed as a more positive alternative to living life as a slave to any particular temporal bias. "In an optimally balanced time perspective, the past, present and future components blend and flexibly engage, depending on a situation's demands I and our needs and values".
Essential to a balanced TP is the ability to switch between different TPs and being able to fully engage with the situation in hand, without lingering in an inappropriate temporal zone. There are early indications that people with the balanced TP are likely to be happier than the rest...Furthermore, it is possible that other TP factors can be identified, for example, an atemporal factor, concerned with abstract thinking not bound by a temporal zone.
It can be suggested on the basis of empirical evidence that in order to maximize both educational achievement and well-being, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on the development of a balanced TP. Giving equal importance, if not time, to valuing individual and community history, encouragement of social relationships, and intense experiential involvement in play and learning activities, alongside working for future rewards, may in the long run result in a more balanced and flexible society.
Optimists are people who expect good things to happen; pessimists are people who expect bad things to happen. Folk wisdom has long held that this difference among people is important in many : aspects of living. In this case, folk wisdom appears to °e right. Optimists and pessimists differ in ways that have a big impact on their lives. They differ in how they approach problems, and they differ in the wanner—and the success—with which they cope with adversity.
Scientific definitions of optimism and pessimism focus on expectations for the future, linking these 'fleas to a long line of expectancy-value models of Motivation. Expectancy-value theories assume that > behavior reflects the pursuit of goals: desired states or actions. People try to fit their behaviors to what they See as desirable. The more important is a goal to the Person, the greater is its "value".
The second element is "expectancy"—confidence that the goal can be attained. If people doubt the goal can be reached, efforts toward it may sag even before the action starts. People confident about an eventual outcome will persevere even in the face of great adversity.
Generalized expectancies—expectancies pertaining to the person's entire life space—are what we mean by "optimism" and "pessimism." It is measured by the Life Orientation Test-Revised, or LOT-R. The LOT-Rgives a continuous distribution of scores. Although we often refer to optimists and pessimists as though they were distinct groups, this is a verbal convenience. People actually range from very optimistic to very pessimistic, with most falling somewhere in between.
Another approach relies on the idea that people's expectancies for the future stem from their interpretations of the past. If past failures are interpreted as reflecting stable causes, expectancies will be pessimistic because the cause (relatively permanent) is likely to remain in force. If past failures are seen as reflecting unstable causes, the outlook for the future may be brighter because the cause may no longer be there. Some define optimism and pessimism in this way.
One influence of optimism and pessimism is on how people feel when facing problems. When people face difficulty, the emotions they experience range from excitement and eagerness to anger, anxiety, and depression. The balance among feelings relates to variations in optimism. Optimists expect good outcomes, even when things are hard. This should yield a relatively positive mix of feelings. Pessimists expect bad outcomes. This should yield more negative feelings—anxiety, anger, sadness, or despair.
People who are confident about the future continue trying, even when it's hard. People who are doubtful try to escape the adversity by wishful thinking, employ temporary distractions that don't help solve the problem, and sometimes even stop trying...Such differences in coping have emerged in several studies. Early projects found that optimistic students reported both situational coping responses and general coping styles that differed from those of pessimists.
Optimism related to problem-focused coping, especially in controllable situations. Optimism also related to positive reframing and a tendency to accept the situation's reality. Optimism related to less denial and less of an attempt to distance oneself from the problem. Thus, optimists appear generally to be approach copers, and pessimists appear to be avoidant copers.
Optimists used less fatalism, self-blame, and escapism, and they didn't focus on negative aspects of the situation or try to suppress thoughts about their symptoms. Optimists also appeared to accept unchangeable situations rather than trying to escape them.
In sum, it appears that optimists differ from pessimists both in stable coping tendencies and in the coping responses generated when confronting stressful situations. In general, optimists use more problem-focused coping strategies than pessi-. mists. When problem-focused coping is not a possibility, optimists turn to strategies such as acceptance, use of humor, and positive reframing.
Optimists appear to take action to minimize health risks. They do not simply stick their heads in the sand and ignore threats to well-being. They attend to risks, but do so selectively. They focus on risks that are applicable to them and relate to potentially serious health problems.
Some are more vulnerable to suicide than others. It is commonly assumed that depression is the best indicator of suicide risk. But pessimism is actually a stronger predictor of this act, the ultimate disengagement from life.
In sum, a sizable body of evidence indicates that pessimism can lead people into self-defeating patterns. The result can be less persistence, more avoidance coping, health-damaging behavior, and potentially even an impulse to escape from life altogether. Without confidence about the future, there may be nothing to sustain life.
Research to date suggests that optimism and pessimism are psychological constructs that are relevant to biological outcomes, though the evidence on these outcomes is less consistent than for selfreports of health.
The logic is this: Too much optimism might lead people to ignore a threat until it's too late, or might lead people to overestimate their ability to deal with it, resulting in poorer outcomes. This appears to be generally not the case. However, occasional studies do suggest adverse effects of optimism.
The most straightforward way to turn a pessimist j into an optimist is by techniques known collectively as cognitive-behavioral therapies. The logic behind these techniques is that people with problems make : negative distortions in their minds. The negative j thoughts cause negative affect and induce people to stop trying to reach their goals. Such distortions resemble what we would imagine as the interior monolog of the pessimist. The therapies aim to make the cognitions more positive, thereby reducing distress and fostering renewed effort.
It is important to recognize, though, that it can be unwise to substitute an unquestioning optimism for an existing doubt. Sometimes people are pessimistic because they have overly high aspirations. They demand perfection from themselves, hardly ever see it, and develop doubts about their adequacy. What they need is realistic goals, and practice setting alternative goals to replace what cannot be attained.
Research has linked teiism to positive mood and good morale to Perseverance and effective problem solving, to Cement in a variety of domains, to popularity, Pod health, and even to long life and freedom from trauma.
Response-outcome independence was-represented as an expectation of future helplessness then generalized to new situations to produce motivational, cognitive, and emotional deficits. The deficits that follow in the wake of uncontrollability have come to be known as the "learned helplessness phenomenon," and the associated cognitive explanation as the "learned helplessness model."
Uncontrollable bad events made anxiety and depression more likely. Previous exposure to controllable events immunized people against learned helplessness. Similarly, forcible exposure to contingencies reversed helplessness deficits.
Rothbaum, Weisz, and Snyder suggested that there are circumstances in which passivity, withdrawal, and submissiveness among people are not prima facie evidence of diminished personal control. Rather, these reactions may represent alternative forms of control achieved by aligning oneself with powerful external forces. For example, religion provides a worldview that can blunt the effects of not being able to control events.
Abramson et al. explained the contrary findings by proposing that people ask themselves why uncontrollable (bad) events happen. The person's answer then sets parameters for subsequent helplessness. If the causal attribution is stable ("it's going to last forever"), then induced helplessness is long-lasting; if unstable, then it is transient. If the causal attribution is global ("it's going to undermine everything"), then subsequent helplessness is manifest across a variety of situations; if specific, helplessness is circumscribed. If the causal attribution is internal ("it's all my fault"), the person's self-esteem drops following uncontrollability; if external, self-esteem is left intact. These hypotheses comprise the "attributional reformulation" of helplessness theory.
People tend to offer similar explanations for disparate bad (or good) events. Explanatory style is therefore a distal, although important, influence on helplessness and the failures of adaptation that involve helplessness. An explanatory style characterized by internal, stable, and global explanations for bad events has been described as "pessimistic," and the opposite style—external, unstable, and specific explanations for bad events—has been described as "optimistic". According to the attributional reformulation, explanatory style does not cause problems but rather is a dispositional risk factor.
Helplessness will be long-lasting or transient, widespread or situadonal, damaging to self-esteem or not, in accordance with the individual's explanatory style.
We know that cognitive therapy can change an individual's explanatory style from pessimistic to optimistic, reducing the extent of depressive symptoms. We also know that cognitive-behavioral interventions that impart problem- solving skills can lead individuals to explain events more optimistically, preventing depression in the future.
Explanatory style is influenced by genetics. For example, genes influence attributes like intelligence and physical, which in turn lead to more positive (and fewer negative) outcomes, which in turn may encourage an optimistic explanatory style.
We assume that the explanatory style of children can be affected by their parents through simple modeling. Children are most likely to imitate those whom they perceive as powerful and competent, and most parents—although not all—fit this description. Children are attuned to the ways in which their parents interpret the world, and they therefore may be inclined to interpret their environments in a similar manner. If, for example, children repeatedly hear their parents give internal, stable, and global explanations for negative events, they are likely to adopt these pessimistic interpretations for themselves.
Another type of parental influence involves their interpretation of their children's behaviors. Criticism implying pessimistic causes has a cumulative effect on how children view themselves. If a child says that she cannot find her house key, the parent may admonish the child as being careless, thus providing an internal, stable, and global explanation of the child's behavior.
As teachers administer fjeedback about children's performance, their comments may affect children's attributions about their successes and failures in the classroom.
Mueller and Dweck demonstrated that even praise can be detrimental to children if focused on a trait perceived as fixed. In their study, children who were praised for intelligence displayed more characteristics of helplessness in response to difficulty or failure than did children praised for effort. Whether providing positive or negative feedback, a teacher's habitual explanations for children's performances can have a critical impact on their developing explanatory style.
Of particular concern is children's exposure to televised scenes of violence. From an explanatory style perspective, the issue is not televised violence per se but how its causes are portrayed. Although to some extent television mirrors the world, its depictions of violence can be gratuitous. This is true not only of fictional portrayals but of news reports as well. When violence erupts anywhere in the world, television cameras arrive to record every facet of misery with numbing repetitiveness...In short, the medium ruminates on violence, tacitly encouraging the viewer to do the same, and rumination may take a toll, strengthening and cementing into place a pessimistic explanatory style.
Using Snyder's definition, hopeful thinking consists of the belief that one can find pathways to desired goals and the belief that one can muster the motivation to use those pathways.
A fundamental tenet of hope theory is that much of human behavior is goal directed. Goals are the mental targets that guide human action sequences. As such, goal thoughts are the foundation on which hope theory is built. Goals can be verbal or visual representations. In other words, they can be manifested as self-statements (e.g., "I want to lose weight") or as mental images (e.g., picturing that new coat you saw in a store window). Goals vary in temporal frame (i.e., short term or long term). In addition, they can vary in terms of specificity, value, and importance.
Snyder has postulated that there are two basic types of goals: "approach goals" (e.g., getting into medical school) and "avoidance goals" (e.g., not getting the flu). Research suggests that people believe hope flourishes when the probability of goal attainment is intermediate.
Pathways thinking entails the perceived ability to generate routes connecting the present to this imagined future (i.e., connecting point A to point B). Thus, an individual perceives that he or she can generate at least one workable route to the desired goal. The production of multiple pathways is important when encountering barriers to goal pursuits, and research has demonstrated that high-hope people actually are effective at generating alternative pathways to goals.
Agency is the motivational component in hope theory, and it is the perceived ability to use pathways to reach desired goals. Agency thinking involves selfreferential thoughts about the ability to initiate and sustain movement along a pathway. Agency thoughts comprise affirming self-statements, such as "I can do this"...Agency differs from self-efficacy in that agency is more global than self-efficacy. In addition, agency reflects the intention to act rather than simply perceiving the ability to do so.
An important principle of Snyder's theory is that hopeful thinking requires both the perceived ability to generate routes to a goal and the perceived ability/determination to use those routes.
Within hope theory, cognitive, as opposed to emotional, processes are emphasized. Emotions are hypothesized to be the "sequelae" of goal-directed thoughts and activities. Specifically, positive emotions stem from perceived progress (i.e., unimpeded movement or effectively overcoming obstacles) toward or attainment of a desired goal. In contrast, negative emotions result from perceived stagnation or setback in a goal pursuit.
A personal history replete with goal accomplishments and the successful overcoming of obstacles would give rise to an emotional set characterized by positive and active feelings (e.g., interest and curiosity) in the face of goal pursuits. Future goal pursuits are anticipated with the emotions that were evoked from past goal pursuits. Hence, high-hope individuals have emotion sets that routinely contain feelings of confidence and joy; whereas, low-hope individuals have emotion sets that are characterized by passive and negative feelings.
Once a particular goal pursuit is completed, the individual's appraisal of the process (i.e., success or failure) and the resultant emotions (i.e., positive or negative) cycle back to influence subsequent perceptions of pathways and agency capabilities for goals in that particular domain and in general. Repeated failures can result in the loss of hope, at least within a particular life domain. At any given point in a goal pursuit, a person may encounter a stressor. Within hope theory, a stressor/obstacle is defined as any impediment that could jeopardize a goal pursuit. Although we posit that stressors elicit some initial negative emotions in everyone, high-hope individuals are more apt to experience concomitant positive emotions because they are more likely to see stressors as challenges to be overcome.
One recent study found that among hospital patients, those who recently engaged in parasuicidal behaviors reported having lower hope than matched control patients. Moreover, the parasuicidal patients generated life goals that were less specific than their control counterparts and reported that they perceived these goals as more difficult, less likely to be achieved, and less within their control than the control patients.
An experiment using the cold-pressor task demonstrated that individuals with higher levels of trait hope were able to tolerate pain longer than individuals with lower levels of hope.
Because emotions are posited to be the sequelae of goal pursuits, and hope facilitates goal pursuits, then higher levels of hope should correspond with more optimal patterns of affectivity. Consistent with this hypothesis, Snyder and colleagues have found that hope correlates positively with positive affect and inversely with negative affect. Similarly, in a 28-day daily diary study, higher hope was found to correlate positively with positive thoughts and negatively with negative thoughts.
In a sample of older adults (mean age = 76 years), higher levels of hope were associated with greater life satisfaction and better perceived well-being, independent of objective measures of physical health and functional ability. One possible mechanism of hope's influence on psychological well-being is through meaning. Viktor Frankl argued that creating or finding meaning in life was the remedy for tie angst associated with the "existential vacuum."
When confronted with a stressor, higher- as compared to lower-hope people generate more strategies (pathways) for effectively coping with the stressor and express a greater likelihood of using these strategies. In contrast, compared to high-hope ' individuals, those with low hope are more likely to use avoidance as a coping strategy. Avoidance has been linked to distress and decreased psychological adjustment over time.
Even when goal blockages are immutable, hopeful thinking confers benefits. High-hope people should have the cognitive flexibility to find alternative goals when their initial goals are truly blocked. In contrast, individuals with low hope tend to ruminate unproductive about being stuck and cope through avoidance. By repeatedly using avoidance coping strategies, people with low hope do not learn from their past experiences. As such, they become stuck in a cycle of goal blockage, escape, and failure.
One measure of the degree to which people are interested in connecting with others is the extent to which they are concerned about others' perceptions of them. Hence, the tendency to present oneself to others in a positive light can be thought of as adaptive and prosocial. Higher levels of hope have been shown to have a slight, positive association with social desirability and positive self-presentation, suggesting that high hope people have a healthy concern about the impressions they make on others.
Hopeful thought may be an antidote to fear and frustration, which we believe to be at the heart of many ongoing ills in the world (e.g., terrorism, warfare, and the erosion of civil liberties). To the extent that we can better understand people's tears and frustrations (and the destructive actions they take in response to these feelings) as functions of thwarted goals, the more likely we are as a global community to come up with tenable, long-term solutions.
This truth is that believing that you can accomplish what you want to is one of the most important ingredients--perhaps the most important ingredient—in the recipe for success... The basic premise of self-efficacy theory is that "people's beliefs in their capabilities to produce desired effects by their own actions" are the most important determinants of the behaviors people choose to engage in and how much they persevere in their efforts in the face of obstacles and challenges.
Self-efficacy is not perceived skill; it is what I believe I can do with my skills under certain conditions. It is not concerned with my beliefs about my ability to perform specific and trivial motor acts, but with my beliefs about my ability to coordinate and orchestrate skills and abilities in changing and challenging situations. Self-efficacy beliefs are not simply predictions about behavior. Self-efficacy is concerned not with that I believe I will do but with what I believe I can do.
A self-efficacy belief is the belief that I can perform the behavior or behaviors that produce the outcome. Self-efficacy is not a personality trait. It is a set of beliefs about the ability to coordinate skills and abilities to attain desired goals in particular domains and circumstances.
The early development of self-efficacy beliefs is influenced primarily by two interacting factors. First, it is influenced by the development of the capacity for symbolic I thought, particularly the capacity for understanding I cause-effect relationships and the capacity for selfobservation and self-reflection. The development of I a sense of personal agency begins in infancy and moves from the perception of the causal relationship between events, to an understanding that actions produce results, to the recognition that they can be the origin of actions that effect their environments.
Second, the development of efficacy beliefs is influenced by the responsiveness of environments to the infant's or child's attempts at manipulation and control. Environments that are responsive to the child's actions facilitate the development of efficacy beliefs, whereas nonresponsive environments retard this development. The development of efficacy beliefs encourages exploration, which in turn enhances the infant's sense of agency.
Parents can facilitate or hinder the development of this sense of agency not only by their responses to the infant's or child's actions, but also by encouraging and enabling the child to explore and master his or her environment.
Our own attempts to control our environments are the most powerful source of self-efficacy information. Successful attempts at control that I attribute to my own efforts will strengthen self-efficacy for that behavior or domain.
Self-efficacy beliefs are influenced by our observations of the behavior of others and the consequences of those behaviors. We use this information to form expectancies about our own behavior and its consequences, depending on the extent to which we believe that we are similar to the person we are observing.
We can influence self-efficacy beliefs by imagining ourselves or others behaving effectively or ineffectively in hypothetical situations.
Efficacy beliefs are influenced by what others say to us about what they believe we can or cannot do. The potency of verbal persuasion as a source of self-efficacy expectancies will be influenced by such factors as the expertness, trustworthiness, and attractiveness of the source, as suggested by decades of research on verbal persuasion and attitude change.
Most philosophers and psychological theorists agree that a sense of control over our behavior, our environment, and our own thoughts and feelings is essential for happiness and a sense of psychological well-being. Feelings of loss of control are common among people who seek the help of psychotherapists and counselors.
Depressed people usually believe they are less capable than other people of behaving effectively in many important areas of life. Dysfunctional anxiety and avoidant behavior are die direct result of low-self-efficacy beliefs for managing threatening situations.
First, self-efficacy beliefs influence the adoption of healthy behaviors, the cessation of unhealthy behaviors, and the maintenance of behavioral changes in the face of challenge and difficulty.
Self-efficacy beliefs influence self-regulation in several ways. First, they influence the goals we set. The higher my self-efficacy in a specific achievement domain, the loftier will be the goals that I set for myself in that domain. Second, they influence our choices of goal-directed activities, expenditure of effort, persistence in the face of challenge and obstacles, and reactions to perceived discrepancies between goals and current performance.
Third, self-efficacy beliefs influence the efficiency and effectiveness of problem solving and decision making. When faced with complex decisions, people who have confidence in their ability to solve problems use their cognitive resources more effectively than do those people who doubt their cognitive skills. Such efficacy usually leads to better solutions and greater achievement.
Self-efficacy theory suggests that formal interventions should not simply resolve specific problems, but should provide people with the skills and sense of efficacy for solving problems themselves. Some basic strategies for enhancing self-efficacy are based on the five sources of self-efficacy previously noted. Performance experience. The phrase "seeing is believing" underscores the importance of providing people with tangible evidence of their success. When people actually can see themselves coping effectively with difficult situations, their sense of mastery is likely to be heightened. These experiences are likely to be most successful when both goals and strategies are specific...Specific goals allow people to identify the specific behaviors needed for successful achievement and to know when they have succeeded.
Imagining ourselves engaging in feared behaviors or overcoming difficulties can be used to enhance self-efficacy...Because maladaptive distorted imagery is an important component of anxiety and depression, various techniques have been developed to help clients modify distortions and maladaptive assumptions contained in their visual images of danger and anxiety. A client can gain a sense of control over a feared situation by imagining a future self that can deal effectively with the situation.
Physiological and emotional states. We usually feel more self-efficacious when we are calm than when we are aroused and distressed. Thus, strategies for controlling and reducing emotional arousal (specifically anxiety) while attempting new behaviors should enhance self-efficacy beliefs and increase the likelihood of successful implementation...Simply stated, collective efficacy is the extent to which we believe that we can work together lively to accomplish our shared goals.
The more efficacious spouses feel about their shared ability to accomplish important shared goals, the more satisfied they are with their marriages. The same is true of college-age dating couples...Of course, personal efficacy and collective efficacy go hand-in-hand because a "collection of inveterate self-doubters is not easily forged into a collectively efficacious force".
As Bandura has stated, we see the extraordinary feats of others but not the unwavering commitment and countless hours of perseverant effort that produced them". They then overestimate the role of "talent" in these accomplishments, while underestimating the role of self-regulation. The timeless message of research on self-efficacy is the simple, powerful truth that confidence, effort, and persistence are more potent than innate ability.
How people typically respond to life's problems is of critical importance, particularly how they appraise their problem-solving skills and whether they generally approach or avoid the many problems of life, roblems are solved by moving ahead. Some people "ring many skills and strengths in solving the multitude of problems in life, whereas others have significant problem-solving deficits. The research evidence ln this chapter will clearly indicate that how people appraise their problem solving affects not only how they cope with the problem but also their psychological adjustment.
Butler and Meichenbaum suggested that a crucial target is not just "the specific knowledge or processes that individuals may apply directly to the solution of problems, but with higher order variables that affect how (and whether) they will solve problems"; subsequently, Banduras work on self-efficacy provided empirical support for the existence of higher-order processes. Butler and Meichenbaum also emphasized the centrality of an individual's self-appraisal in his or her problemsolving ability.
Problem-solving confidence is defined as an individual's self-assurance in a wide range of problem-solving activities, a belief and trust in one's problem-solving abilities (general problem-solving self-efficacy), and coping effectiveness. The Approach-Avoidance Style, as the label implies, refers to a general tendency to approach or avoid different problem-solving activities. Personal Control is defined as a belief in one's emotional and behavioral control (thereby reflecting emotional overreactivity and behavioral control.
Taken together, it appears not only that perceived effective (as compared with ineffective) problem solvers report lower levels of depression, but also that perceived effective problem solvers under high levels of stress are particularly likely to exhibit lower depression. Thus, both positive problem-solving appraisal and its interaction with negative life events are important in predicting lower levels of depression.
These investigations indicate that diminished problem-solving appraisal is a consistent and stable predictor of hopelessness and suicidal ideation. On the contrary, increases in perceived effective problem solving were associated with lower levels of hopelessness and suicidal ideation.
Although it is unclear why people with a per-; ceived effective problem-solving style under high stress may be more able to ward off hopelessness and depression, one possible underlying mechanism may be the construct of hope, particularly agency and pathways. Research has found that hope is a significant predictor of problemfocused appraisal.
A primary conclusion is that problem-solving appraisal is associated with the consistent report of actively focusing on the problem and attempting to resolve the cause of the problem (sometimes called problem-focused coping).
In studies of college students, a more positive problem-solving appraisal has been found to be related to helpseeking variables—awareness, utilization of social support, and satisfaction with campus resources.
PST has involved teaching (a) specific component skills (e.g., problem definition and formulation); (b) a general problem-solving model; and (c) specific problem-solving skills in conjunction with other interventions.
Problem-solving appraisal is learned, and most likely based on thousands of interactions with one's environment. Thus, it is of utmost importance to examine how one's problem-solving appraisal is developed from childhood onward. For example, it may be beneficial to examine to what extent parental modeling and training affect the early development of one's problem-solving appraisal.
There's more to motivation than reducing drives and filling deficits: People seek out complex and challenging activities, intriguing people, and novel ideas. Curiosity and interest—the core of intrinsically motivated ction-—are things that classic motivation theories never explained well. Seeking new experiences, preferring complexity over simplicity, and engaging actions out of intrinsic interest are hallmarks of human action, and they lead psychology to the study of how and why people thrive on novelty and challenge.
All theories of curiosity agree that curiosity is an approach-oriented motivational state associated with exploration. When curious, people ask questions, manipulate interesting objects, read deeply, examine interesting images, and persist on challenging tasks. In short, all theories agree that curiosity's immediate function is to learn, explore, and immerse oneself in the interesting S event. In the long term, curiosity serves a broader function of building knowledge and competence. Exploring new events fosters learning new things, meeting new people, and developing new skills.
Curiosity can be defined as the recognition, pursuit, and intense desire to explore novel, challenging, and uncertain events. When curious, we are fully aware and receptive to whatever exists and might happen in the present moment. Curiosity motivates people to act and think in new ways and investigate, be immersed, and learn about whatever is the immediate interesting target of their attention.
Interest motivates people to try new things, explore complex ideas, meet intriguing people, and do novel actions. Enjoyment, in contrast, motivates people to form attachments to familiar things and to reinforce activities that were enjoyable before.
Finally, interest and enjoyment have different consequences. Interest strongly predicts exploratory action, such as how long people visually explore images, how long they listen to music, and how much time they spend on games and tasks. Unlike interest, enjoyment modestly predicts exploratory action.
To be interested in something, however, people need not appraise the event as goal-congruent: people are often interested in unpleasant, unfamiliar, and possibly unrewarding activities.
Litman has proposed two facets to curiosity: curiosity as a feeling of interest, and curiosity as a feeling of deprivation. The difference is whether people seek information out of interest or out of frustration at not knowing. These two factors emerge as distinct (although highly related) latent factors in correlational research. Litman's model raises some interesting questions about curiosity. If curiosity is defined as "wanting to know," then interest and deprivation represent two reasons for wanting to know.
Social situations are often ambiguous and challenging. These qualities are the reason that social situations offer great opportunities for self-expansion. Partners who offer greater self-expansion opportunities to us are more desirable. The desirable process of self-expansion often transfers over into the relationship itself, enhancing feelings of connectedness and behaviors that work toward the development of meaningful relationships.
People who are more curious have been shown to experience more positive social outcomes. People with greater curiosity are more receptive to the ambiguity of social activity, and they enjoy growth opportunities as a function of sharing novel events with other people and discovering new information from them.
Social anxiety, perceiving people as threatening or nonresponsive, insecure relationships, and being situated in less enriching environments can disable curiosity and exploratory tendencies.
Upon seeking and investing effort in novel and challenging activities, people with greater curiosity expand their knowledge, skills, goal-directed efforts, and sense of self. Feeling curious also appears to increase tolerance for distressing states of self-awareness that result from trying new things and behaving in ways outside of one s comfort zone.Curiosity motivates people to explore the world and challenge themselves, and it is relevant to obtaining life fulfillments.
In terms of physical well-being, 3-year-old children with greater curiosity and exploratory tendencies demonstrate greater intelligence at age 11, and older adults in their early seventies with greater curiosity live longer over a 5-year span than their less curious peers.
Recent work suggests that people with greater curiosity are more reactive to events that offer opportunities for growth, competence, and high levels of stimulation.
Moreover, there are a number of discrepancies that need to be resolved. For example, some research suggests that the pleasures of curiosity are derived from resolving ambiguity and uncertainty, whereas other work finds that the process of discovery and leaning making is intrinsically enjoyable and that positive emotions can be sustained by intentionally attending to the lingering uncertainty in a given situation.
Curiosity, which involves active tendencies to seek out, savor, and probe novel distinctions in each moment with an eye toward change and complexity as opposed to stability and familiarity. By focusing on novelty and challenge, people who feel curious challenge their views of self, others, and the world with an inevitable stretching of information, knowledge, and skills. This movement toward intrinsically valued directions appears to be a pathway to the building of meaning in life.
We argue that the facilitation of curiosity may be a useful supplement to treatments designed to increase self-awareness and introspection, cope with and derive meaning from difficult emotional material, and increase recognition, receptiveness, and reactivity to the reward cues that are often ignored or avoided in everyday life.
For Aristotle, courage lies between the extremes of cowardice and rashness. Individual situation and abilities determine cowardice and rashness, thus leading to the same action being courageous for one person and cowardly or rash for another. Stoic philosophers wrote about the courage to choose to maintain integrity in the face of life's difficulties.
Despite changes in the types of actions praised courage, courage itself is valued universally across cultures.
A variety of definitions of courage include describe it as taking an action despite internal or external opposition. The greater the opposition, the more likely the action is to be appraised as courageous, but the less likely the action is to occur in the first place. Thus, in evaluating courage theory and research, particularly when evaluating opposing states or traits, such as fear, it is important to distinguish the likelihood of the actor behaving courageously from the likelihood of an observer appraising action as courageous.
The most commonly mentioned types of courage are physical courage, facing physical risks and dangers; and moral courage or standing up for a moral principle in the face of social opposition. A more recently added third type is variously called "vital courage" or "psychological courage". Both vital and psychological courage involve transcendence of personal limitations, although vital courage also can involve very real physical risks associated with medical illnesses.
Level of risk can also be used to differentiate courageous acts. Extreme risk to life and limb in pursuit of social values is commonly called "heroism".
"Existential courage" is expressing authenticity in the face of threat to one's survival or social standing. In the Values in Action system, the universal virtue of courage is characterized by "bravery," or not avoiding threat; persistence," or finishing what one starts; "integrity, or acting authentically; and "vigor," or approaching situations with energy.
Believing that one has acted with courage may increase the chance of future courageous actions. Boyd and Ross report anecdotal evidence showing benefits in self-perception and inner resources following describing a past courageous action. Finfgeld proposes labeling oneself a courageous person promotes vital courage and personal growth.
Some social forces might reinforce courage: Hannah et al.'s model proposes that positive social forces, such as interdependence, social identity, cohesion, and informational influence, can promote courageous behavior.
Very little research has been done on the longerterm link between courage and life outcomes. Preliminary data suggest that the picture may not be entirely positive: interviews of former militia members and bomb disposal technicians about their own courageous behaviors found few if any personal benefits to courageous acts. The important goals pursued by these samples, however, may have been societal rather than personal.
It may be that courageous actions taken specifically to pursue important Hie outcomes at an individual level, such as education, medical or fertility treatment, career advancement, or even aiding a loved one rather than unknown others, will lead to an increased likelihood of personal benefit.
Relationship Connection: A Redux on the Role of Minding and the Quality of Feeling Special in the Enhancement of Closeness, J. Harvey, B. Pauwels
How can romantic couples maintain and enhance closeness? By closeness, we mean mutual satisfaction and behavior that contributes to one another's goals and hopes in life.
In this chapter, we will explore the role of the mind, thinking, and related emotions in making relationships work and work better over a developmental course. The goal is to explain how people sometimes come to feel very special in relationships, a sine que non of satisfaction and closeness.
Kelley et al. defined close relationship as "one of strong, frequent, and diverse interdependence [between two people] that lasts over a considerable period of time".
"Minding the close relationship" is a theory aimed at exploring a powerful padway to developing and enhancing closeness over time. This theory gives considerable attention to how people focus and give thought to their relationships. "Minding" is a combination of thought and behavior patterns that interact to create stability and feelings of closeness in a relationship. We define minding as "a reciprocal knowing process that occurs nonstop throughout the history of the relationship and that involves a complex package of interrelated thoughts, feelings, and behaviors."
The first component of minding refers to behaviors aimed at knowing one's partner. These include questioning your partner about his or her thoughts, feelings, and past experiences, as well as disclosing appropriately about yourself. This search to know a partner can lead t< and includes intuition. Partners often "read between the lines" to know that something is wrong with the other; often the knowledge they have about each other makes it easier for them to pick up nonverbal cues. Knowledge about a partner can facilitate this ability to see beneath surface behaviors to the emotions and motivations below.
Minding partners will also recognize that continuous change makes the process of knowing each other a major challenge. It takes energy and time for both partners to find the right forum to discuss certain issues and to feel comfortable being open and expressive.
There is often emphasis placed on "good communication" in a relationship, sometimes stressing the ability to express one's feelings often and fully. Minding theory acknowledges that accurate and frequent communication is important, but it changes the emphasis on one's own self-expression to an emphasis on the active seeking of the other's self-expression or information.
Relationship-enhancing attributions tend to be those that a ttribute positive behaviors to dispositional causes (e.g., "He came home early to spend time with me"). Negative behaviors, on the other hand, are attributed more often to external causes (e.g., "She yelled at me because she's stressed at work".) Flexibility and willingness to reexamine attributions about one's partner and the relationship characterize well-minded relationships.
Couples who are minding their relationship well will be alert to the potential corrosion of a continued period of negativity in communication, feelings, and family atmosphere. They will be aware of the destructive power of criticism, contempt, and avoidance. They will recognize that each partner needs to have a voice and feel affirmed in the behavior and decisions that characterize the relationship.
We would suggest that individuals in a well-minded relationship would more readily take into account the history of that relationship when deciding whether forgiveness can be offered, essentially using that relationship knowledge as a context for evaluating the severity of the offense and the consequences of offering (or withholding) forgiveness.
One of the key benefits of minding is that the emphasis on seeking knowledge about a partner helps to uncover negative information early, before commitment is made.
Minding behaviors include: 1. Affection: For example, this may be represented by saying, "I love you," by giving a hug or kiss to the partner, or enjoying a laugh together and saying that you enjoy a partner's company. 2. Respect. Listening to a partner's opinion reflects respect, as does introducing a partner to others with pride. 3. Support and assistance-. This may be represented by doing errands for a partner, or somethi.igto save a partner's time and energy. 4. Shared quality time: This may be represented by specifically designating a time to do something together and inquiring about one another's well-being. Working together on a project also may reflect this behavior. 5. Appreciation: This may be represented simply by saying, "Thank you." Also, in the presence of a partner, telling others how much y"u appreciate something your partner does tnty give the partner a greater sense that you are grateful for his or her positive acts.
To the degree that one's ultimate goal in benefiting another is to increase the other's welfare, the motivation is altruistic. To the degree that the ultimate goal is to increase one's own welfare, the motivation is egoistic. Accordingly, we shall use the term "altruism" to refer to "a motivational state with the ultimate "goal of increasing another's welfare." We shall use the term helping" to refer to "behavior that benefits another, regardless of the ultimate goal."
Proponents of universal egoism claim that everything we do, no matter how noble and beneficial to others, is really directed toward the ultimate goal of self-benefit. Some self-benefits of helping are obvious, as when we get material rewards and public praise or when we escape public censure. But even when we help in the absence of external rewards, we still may benefit. We may feel good about ourselves for being kind and caring or escape the guilt and shame we might feel if we did not help.
Even heroes and martyrs can benefit from their acts of apparent selflessness. Consider the soldier who saves his comrades by diving on a grenade or a man who dies after relinquishing his place in a rescue craft. These persons may have acted to escape anticipated guilt and shame for letting others die. They may have acted to gain the admiration and praise of those left behind—or benefits in an anticipated afterlife.
Altruism's proponents do not deny that the motivation for helping is often egoistic. However, they claim more. They claim that at least some of us, to some degree, under some circumstances, help with an ultimate goal of benefiting the person in need. They point out that even though we get self benefits for helping, these benefits may not be the reason we helped.
In both earlier philosophical writings and in more recent psychological works, the most frequently mentioned possible source of altruistic motivation is an other-oriented emotional reaction to seeineo another person in need. This emotional reaction has variously been called "empathy", "sympathy", "sympathetic distress", "tenderness", and "pity" or "compassion".
Formally, we define empathy as "an other-oriented emotional response elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone else."..although this definition is broad enough to include feeling empathic joy at another's good fortune, it is the empathic emotion felt when another is perceived to be in need that is hypothesized to evoke altruistic motivation.
Empathic emotion as defined is not a single, discrete emotion but includes a whole constellation of feelings. It can include feelings of sympathy, compassion, soft-heartedness, tenderness, and the like—feelings that are inherently other-oriented.
Other-oriented empathic emotion has often been thought to be the product of (a) perceiving another as in need and (b) adopting the other's perspective (i.e., imagining how the other is feeling).
However, when we encounter a person in need in daily life without having been instructed to imagine how that person feels, as we often do, the antecedents of empathy are likely to be (a) perceiving the other as in need and (b) noninstrumental valuing of the other's welfare.
Three general classes of self-benefits can result from helping a person for whom one feels empathy. Helping enables one to (a) reduce one's empathic arousal, which may be experienced as aversive; (b) avoid possible social and self-punishments for failing to help; and (c) gain social and self-rewards for doing what is good and right. The empathy—altruism hypothesis does not deny that these self-benefits of empathy-induced helping exist. It claims, however, that with regard to the motivation evoked by empathy, these self-benefits are unintended consequences of reaching the ultimate goal of reducing the other's need. Advocates of egoistic alternatives to the I empathy—altruism hypothesis disagree; they claim that one or more of these self-benefits is the ultimate goal of empathy-induced helping.
Several sources of altruistic motivation other than empathic emotion have been proposed, including an "altruistic personality", principled moral reasoning, and internalized prosocial values. There e is some evidence that each of these potential sources is associated with increased motivation to help, but it is not yet clear that this motivation is altruistic.
As with altruism, what looks like collectivism actually may be a subtle form of egoism. Perhaps attention to group welfare is simply an expression of enlightened self-interest. After all, if one recognizes that ignoring group needs and the public good in headlong pursuit of self-benefit will lead to less self-benefit in the long run, then one may decide to benefit the group as a means to maximize overall self-benefit.
Philosophers...reject appeals to collectivism because group interest is bounded by the limits of the group. Collectivism not only permits but may even encourage doing harm to those outside the group. Given these problems with altruism and collectivism, moral philosophers typically advocate prosocial motivation with an ultimate goal of upholding a universal and impartial moral principle, such as justice. This moral motivation has been called "principlism".
Batson has proposed a general model that links prosocial values and motives: The value underlying egoism is enhanced personal welfare; the value underlying altruism is the enhanced welfare of one or more individuals as individuals; the value underlying collectivism is enhanced group welfare; and the value underlying principlism is upholding a moral principle.
Concern for the welfare of a specific other person (altruism) may conflict not only with self-interest but also with concern for the welfare of the group as a whole (collectivism) or concern to uphold a moral principle (principlism).
If individuals feeling empathy act, at least in part, with an ultimate goal of increasing the welfare of another, then the assumption of universal egoism must be replaced by a more complex view of motivation that allows for altruism as well as egoism. Such a shift in our view of motivation requires, in turn, a revision of our underlying assumptions about human nature and human potential.
The empathy—altruism relationship also forces us to face the question of why empathic feelings exist. What evolutionary function might they serve? Admittedly speculative, the most plausible answer relates empathic feelings to parenting among higher mammals, in which offspring live for some time in a very vulnerable state. Were parents not intensely interested in the welfare of their progeny, these species would quickly die out.
Nor should we expect empathy-induced altruism to always produce prosocial effects. It may lead one to increase the welfare of those for whom empathy is felt at the expense of other potential prosociai goals. Research suggests that individuals are willing to act against the greater collective good or to violate their own moral principles of fairness and justice if doing so will benefit a person for whom empathy is felt.
More positively, research suggests that empathically aroused individuals may focus on the long-term welfare rather than just the short-term welfare of those in need, providing more sensitive care.
Self-verification theory is very much in the spirit of "is thinking," as it asserts that people are motivated to seek confirmation of their positive—and negative— self-views. Self-verifiers, therefore, prefer to be around "is thinkers," people who see them as they believe they "actually" are, not as they want to be, should be, or could be.
Self-verification theory begins with the assumption that once people form their self-views, these self-views come to provide them with a powerful sense of coherence and a related capacity to predict and control their worlds. Because self-views serve these critically important functions, people become invested in maintaining them, even if their self-views happen to be negativ. As a result, when given the opportunity, people will choose to interact with others who see them as they see themselves.
Not only does self-verification theory predict the relationship partners people choose, it also predicts how happy people are in those relationships and whether they remain in the relationships. Research has shown that people experience greater relationship quality and more intimacy in romantic relationships when partners verify their self-views. Conversely, people tend to withdraw from relationships in which the relationship partner fails to provide self-verification.
Self-verification is adaptive intrapsychically for the role it plays in fostering psychological coherence, reducing anxiety, improving physical health, and cultivating authenticity...Self-verification promotes psychological coherence. Psychological coherence, a sense that things are as people think they are, is a key positive outcome associated with self-verification; it has been identified as an important source of emotional comfort.
Self-verification reduces anxiety. Self-verification not only provides feelings of psychological coherence, it actually reduces anxiety. That is, research has shown that verifying feedback leads to lower levels of anxiety than nonverifying feedback... Events that are not self-verifying, therefore, increase anxiety even if they are positive, just as self-verifying events and feedback reduce anxiety even if they happen to be negative.
Strengthening the connection between selfverification and authenticity is research showing that an absence of self-verification processes is associated with inauthenticity. Horney found that neurotics strive to have others see them in a more positive way than they see themselves, reflective of a lack of self-verification strivings and inauthenticity. Specifically, neurotics often create an all-powerful, idealized image of the self to compensate for feelings of weakness and inadequacy; they subsequently portray this idealized self to others in an effort to gain approval, and, consequently, they lose touch with the real self.
Self-verification is associated with greater predictability in people's behavior, which allows interactions to flow smoothly and is also related to greater trust in relationships.
Even among people with positive self-views, those whose spouses viewed them in an "extremely" favorable way tended to withdraw from the relationship.
Cassidy posits that intimacy "is making one's innermost known, sharing one's core, one's truth, one's heart, with another"; this is the essence of self-verification— seeking out relationship partners who see you as you believe you truly are.
Feeling understood, a key part of intimacy, might be responsible for the connection between self-verification and intimacy.
Although it might be somewhat tempting to surround ourselves with others who see a glorified version of who we actually are, doing so does not bring intimacy into our lives; ultimately, it is not satisfying. To opt for the alternative of being around others who see us as we feel we actually are not only creates deep intimacy but is rewarding and validating at the deepest level.
Although self-verification has many benefits for people with positive and negative self-views, it does contribute to the perpetuation of these self-views, which may be problematic for people whose selfviews are negative.
The self-views associated with low self-esteem and depression may often be unfounded, as the basis for concluding that one is "worthless" is often quite subjective and arbitrary. Consider the example of depressed individuals who often have inaccurate, negative beliefs about their competence and likability. Self-verification predicts these individuals will choose to interact with others who see them negatively, even though the negative views are not accurate, because these relationships maintain psychological coherence, a sense that things are as one thinks they are. This cycle will perpetuate the negative, false self-views of these individuals in away that may prevent them from realizing their true capabilities and attaining happiness.
If self-verification can be maladaptive for lowself- esteem individuals (comprising approximately one-third of the population), finding a way to effectively raise self-esteem seems necessary.
Deci and Ryan support this notion by positing that fostering self-esteem in another entails "valuing the other for who he or she is and taking that other's frame of reference . . . it means beginning by accepting and relating to the self of the other. It is precisely the acceptance of self-—first by others and then by oneself— that supports the development and maintenance of true self-esteem".
Accepting what another is actually feeling, as opposed to what one thinks the individual should feel or could feel, is a necessary first step to change. In this way, self-verification constitutes a necessary first step in the process of raising self-esteem, but it is not sufficient.
Positive feedback, which challenges negative selfviews, must accompany verification but must come in manageable doses. Research has shown that positive feedback from an interaction partner can encourage an individual to internalize a new self-view, so positive comments have the potential to raise self-esteem, but they must be carried out in combination with verification.
In essence, Finn and Tonsager found that this combination of accepting another's reality or truth while slowly and gently infusing positivity raises self-esteem.
Understanding the self-verification process may offer insight not only into raising self-esteem but also into building and even defining happiness. We contend that encouraging people to accept themselves, in effect offering themselves self-verification, is a key component of happiness.
Ironically, the implicit belief that happiness can be achieved by shoehorning all experiences into positive ones may have the opposite of the effect intended. When a person does not feel that their negative feelings are validated or accepted by others in the social support network, their physical and mental health suffers. In short, acceptance is essential to enduring happiness at both an intrapsychic and interpersonal level, but it is often overlooked in the definition and measurement of happiness.
Once a self-view is formed, the individual places a psychological premium on its verification, and any attempts to deny it result in defensive reactions that can have unproductive consequences.
We suggest that to help raise the self-esteem of someone with a negative self-view, one should first offer the person self-verification and only then provide positive feedback that challenges the negative self-views. This ordered combination of acceptance plus positivity will theoretically engender positive self-views without evoking defensiveness. Once such positive selfviews are in place, the process of self-verification can resume anew, but this time it will be in the service of promoting personal and social realities that are both truthful and adaptive.
From this perspective, the key to happiness may reside not in continually striving to improve the reality of who one is but in embracing the reality and incorporating it more fully into one's self-view, relationships, and work—into one's life.
Thinking about RN initially emphasized shifting causal attributions for "negative" outcomes from sources that are relatively more central to the person's sense of self to sources that are relatively less central", a definition that incorporated only a (causal) linkage dimension. In 1989, Snyder introduced a valence dimension along with his construct of "hoping". In contrast to excuses, hoping was seen as a process of "increasing" causal linkages to positive" outcomes. Subsequently, the RN construct has incorporated both linkage and valence dimensions, contrasting excusing (self-esteem maintenance) and hoping (self-esteem enhancement) processes.
Measures of depression and negative affect are also associated with RN. Depressed individuals, for example, tend to make internalizing (linkage increasing) rather than externalizing (linkage weakening) attributions for negative events. Relatedly, dispositional (linkage-increasing) attributions for failure appear to be more typical of depression than are attributions to behaviors. Neuroticism also has been associated with greater self-handicapping tendencies, and negative mood has been associated with higher levels of trait self-handicapping over time.
RN processes are thought to be so automatic that the individual is often unaware of them. Self-schemata render certain information more easily expected and recognized..Active processing of information becomes more likely as it becomes increasingly unexpected or schema discrepant. Dealing with external audiences may also push negotiations into awareness.
Excuses are strategies for shifting causal attributions for negative outcomes away from the core (e.g., "good" and "in control") sense of self. Some excuses (e.g., denial) aim to completely sever causal linkages. Most, however, shift attributions from one internal source to another, less central, internal source.
"Consistency-lowering" excuses frustrate dispositional attributions by implicating lack of effort, lack of intention, or unforeseeable consequences. "Consensus-raising" excuses deflect dispositional attributions by advancing situational causes (e.g., task difficulty) over personal causes (e.g., ability). Both consistency- lowering and consensus-raising excuses weaken but do not sever causal linkages.
Positive linkage-focused RN is considered a developmental antecedent to high levels of hope.
Valence-shifting strategies aim to detoxify threatening outcomes. One strategy is to discredit the information. Blaming victims or invoking exonerative moral reasoning (e.g., "It was for her own good") may also soften perceived negativity. Minimizing outcomes (e.g., "It's not as bad as it looks") or redefining them ("lies" become "white lies") may also negotiate less threatening outcomes.
Another valence-shifting tactic is to find meaning in adversity. Finding benefits or "meaning" in misfortune may help restore a positive sense of self.
Additional valence-focused strategies include selectively attending to positive outcomes in order to maintain and present a favorable self-image. Such impression management can help preserve desired images when interacting with others. It may also increase levels of hope by enhancing perceptions of past successes.
According to Higgins and Leibowitz, RN "aids in coping, not because the resulting products are inherently self-enhancing or self-verifying, but rather because the individual experiences a degree of control over the self-definitional implications of the person-data transaction". Maintaining a continuous and integrated sense of self helps people unfold their lives in an orderly manner.
Emmons: "To be humble is not to have a low opinion of oneself, it is to have an accurate opinion of oneself. It is the ability to keep one's talents and accomplishments in perspective, to have a sense of selfacceptance, an understanding of one's imperfections, and to be free from arrogance and low self-esteem."
Templeton: "Inherent in humility resides an open and receptive mind...it leaves us more open to learn from others and refrains from seeing issues and people only in blacks and whites. The opposite of humility is arrogance—the I belief that we are wiser or better than others. Arrogance promotes separation rather than community. It looms like a brick wall between us and those from whom we could learn."
Humility carries with it an open-mindedness, a willingness to admit mistakes and seek advice, and a desire to learn. Also inherent in the state of humility is a relative lack of self-focus or self-preoccupation. Templeton refers to a process of becoming "unselved," which goes hand in hand with the recognition of one's place in the world. A person who has gained a sense of humility is no longer phenomenologically at the center of his or her world. The focus is on the larger community, of which he or she is one part.
In relinquishing the very human tendency toward an egocentric focus, persons with humility become ever more open to recognizing the abilities, potential, worth, and importance of others. One important consequence of becoming "unselved" is that we no longer have the need to enhance and defend an allimportant self at the expense of our evaluation of others. Our attention shifts outward, and our eyes are opened to the beauty and potential in those around us. As Means, Wilson, Sturm, Biron, and Bach observed, humility "is an increase in the valuation of others and not a decrease in the valuation of oneself".
In the theological, philosophical, and psychological literatures, therefore, humility is portrayed as a rich, multifaceted construct, in sharp contrast to dictionary definitions that emphasize a sense of unworthiness and low self-regard.
The concept of modesty focuses primarily on a moderate estimate of personal merits or achievements. As such, "modesty" does not capture other key aspects of humility such as a "forgetting of the self and an appreciation of the variety of ways in which others can be "worthy." Rather, use of the term "modesty" often extends into issues of propriety in behavior and dress, where the notion of humility is less relevant. Thus, modesty is both too narrow, missing fundamental components of humility, and too broad, relating also to bodily exposure and other dimensions of propriety.
Narcissism is not simply an overconfident, conceited dolt, but rather someone with a damaged sense of self. Attempts to shore up the self with unrealistic fantasies of grandiosity inevitably alternate with a grinding sense of emptiness and selfloathing. Other hallmarks of narcissism include a pervasive self-focus and a corresponding inability to focus on and empathize with others.
Basic research on the self and its operations suggests that humility may be a relatively rare human characteristic. The pervasiveness of "self-enhancement biases" is underscored in the social psychological literature. From this literature, we learn that the self is remarkably resourceful at accentuating the positive and deflecting the negative. For example, research consistently shows that people are inclined to take credit for "their" successes but blame other factors for "their" failures and transgressions.
People like and feel less threatened by others who are modest about their achievements, whereas boastful, arrogant behavior often results in social disapproval.
Likewise, tendencies toward self-enhancement, grandiosity, and narcissism bode poorly for longterm adjustment, especially in the interpersonal realm.
Specifically, psychological adjustment is associated with the degree to which people rate themselves more favorably than others rate them. Perez, Vohs, & Joiner also found that people who are immodest (relative to how others rate them) are more inclined toward physical aggression than are their more modest peers. Along the same lines, researchers have shown that narcissistic individuals are sensitive to interpersonal slights, quick to anger, and less inclined to forgive others. From these findings, one might infer that a sense of humility inhibits anger and aggression and fosters forgiveness.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy of the disorder may include efforts to reduce the client's egocentric bias—correcting cognitive distortions regarding the centrality and importance of the self relative to others, reducing self-serving biases, and so forth.
I will argue that it is one thing to "value" particular forms of distinctiveness and another thing to have an underlying "motive" or "need" to establish and maintain some sense of what distinguishes oneself from others. For one thing, people are generally aware of their values, whereas they may or may not be aware of their motives...An important part of my argument will be that there are many ways of being distinctive and that not all of these involve emphasizing one's difference from others.
Vignoles, Chryssochoou, and Breakwell argued that establishing some form of distinctiveness is a logical precondition for the existence of a coherent sense of identity in any cultural meaning system. A notable feature of all meaning systems is that concepts are defined in relation to each other, involving a process of differentiation...More generally, I cannot have a meaningful sense of who I am without some sense of distinctiveness from who I am not.
Crucially, both existential and evolutionary arguments suggest that distinctiveness is important in its own right and not solely because it is valued within a particular cultural worldview. Thus, the motive for distinctiveness is separated theoretically from selfesteem concerns. Nevertheless, the distinctiveness motive influences identity construction in concert with other identity motives, including pressures for self-esteem, continuity, meaning, efficacy, and belonging.
Others are most likely to mention their more distinctive attributes when asked to describe themselves, consider their more distinctive attributes as especially self-defining, and describe themselves as less similar to others than others are to themselves.
When feelings of distinctiveness are threatened or undermined, people typically report reduced psychological well-being and attempt in various ways to restore distinctiveness. In experimental studies, participants made to feel excessively similar to others report more negative emotions, are faster to recognize uniqueness-related words as self-descriptive, show a greater preference for uncommon experiences and scarce information, reduce their physical proximity to others, and increase their identification with distinctive groups... Conversely, threats to individual distinctiveness can lead to increased identification with distinctive groups and tightening of ingroup boundaries.
Vignoles et al. suggested that distinctiveness may be a necessary goal of identity processes in all cultures but that different sources of distinctiveness will be emphasized in identity depending on cultural beliefs, norms, and values.
Perhaps there has been an hisrorical transition, not in the importance of distinctiveness per se, but in how distinctiveness is typically constructed. In this process, perhaps distinctiveness seeking also has become more "problematic". Whereas in previous cultural systems distinctiveness largely would have been "ascribed" from birth by one's place in the social order, identities in the modern world are much more flexible and so distinctiveness must be "achieved" by the active efforts of the individual. Thus, even if distinctiveness always has been needed, with modernization one might expect to see an increase in effortful forms of distinctiveness seeking.
Uniqueness theory proposes that degrees of individual similarity to others are encoded at different levels of acceptability, moderate similarity being the most acceptable and very high or very low similarity (i.e., very low or very high distinctiveness) the least acceptable outcomes. In a series of studies, the authors induced feelings of varying levels of similarity in participants, finding convergent evidence for the positive value of moderate distinctiveness across various affective and behavioral outcomes. The preference for moderate over low similarity is explained by the fact that "in many situations, people want not to be unique but to be similar to others".
Although exploratory, these findings suggest that those who manage to resolve the potential conflict between distinctiveness and belonging may achieve better psychological adjustment.
It seems important also to acknowledge that not all distinctiveness seeking has beneficial consequences for the individual or for society. Distinctiveness seeking sometimes can be associated with cultural estrangement, disregard for the feelings of others, and even prejudice and discrimination. Yet, attempts to alleviate such problems by blocking distinctiveness seeking, or denying diversity, are often counterproductive, leading to greater defensiveness and fuelling intergroup conflict.
Psychological definitions of spirituality are diverse, ranging from the best of that which is human, to a quest for existential meaning, to the transcendent human dimension.
"Spirituality" represents the key and unique function of religion. In this paper, spirituality is defined as "a search for the sacred". There are two key terms in this definition: "search" and the "sacred." The term "search" indicates that spirituality is a process, one that involves efforts to discover the sacred, hold onto the sacred once it has been found, and transform the sacred when necessary. People can take a virtually limidess number of pathways in their attempts to discover, conserve, and transform the sacred. What these diverse pathways share is a common end—the "sacred." In our view, the sacred represents the substantively unique characteristic of spirituality. At its core, the sacred includes concepts of God, of the divine, and of transcendent reality.
We would describe persons as spiritual to the extent that they are trying to find, know, experience, or relate to whatever they perceive as sacred...Of course, as we will see, many seemingly secular objects do, in fact, become sacred, and when they do, they become relevant topics for the study of spirituality. With this definition in mind, we now turn to the processes that are critical to spirituality.
The search for the sacred is dynamic, rather than static, evolving rather than fixed...Some have asserted that spirituality grows out of critical life events and challenges that expose human limitations and teveal a transcendent reality beyond the self.
Shaped by internal and external factors, perceptions of the sacred take many forms. In the United States, people hold diverse images of the divine, images that range from loving, kind, and forgiving to wrathful, strict, and controlling. In short, people are able to discover the sacred in many parts of life, or life in its entirety.
Generally, involvement in the search for the sacred is associated with beneficial outcomes. People who pray and meditate more often, attend church more frequently, experience a greater sense of connectedness with the sacred, draw more on various spiritual methods of coping to deal with problems, and see the world through a sacred lens experience better health and well-being.
Spirituality, in short, is not necessarily "good." People can take destructive as well as constructive spiritual pathways in the search for destructive or constructive representations of the sacred.
At its best, spirituality is marked by pathways that are broad and deep, responsive to life's situations, nurtured by the larger social context, capable of flexibility and continuity, and oriented toward a sacred destination that is large enough to encompass the full range of human potential and luminous enough to provide the individual with a powerful guiding vision.
Small gods who are seen by people as theirs and theirs alone can also pose problems for those who fall outside this sacred umbrella. For example, in a study of 11,000 people from 11 European countries, people who believed that "there is only one true religion" were significantly more prejudiced against ethnic minorities.
The capacity to envision, seek, connect, and hold on to, and transform the sacred may be what makes us uniquely human. Spirituality cannot be reduced to purely biological, psychological, or social processes without distorting its essential character.
Following adverse life events, many people report positive outcomes, sometimes referred to as benefit finding and growth (or BFG)...Thus, individuals may report a new appreciation of their own strength and resilience, an increased sense : of self-reliance, and a keener awareness of their own vulnerability. Some people notice strengthened rela- | tionships and increased closeness with others, especially family and friends, whereas others report becoming more compassionate or altruistic.
For clarity, we refer to BFG as the constellation of positive changes that are frequently reported following trauma, illness, or major stressful life events.
Findings are consistent with BFG theory in that individuals who are not at all distressed may lack the motivation to search for meaning and thereby find benefits, and individuals experiencing very high distress levels may be precluded from finding meaning due to the extent of their suffering.
Theorists originally viewed victims' reports of benefits or gains as a positive illusory process. Over the years this view has been supplanted by three other possibilities: (a) BFG is a selective appraisal; (b) BFG is a coping strategy; and (c) BFG reflects a genuine positive change that results from facing adversity.
Surprising to many laypeople, such objective factors (including marriage, age, sex, culture, income, and life events) explain relatively little variation in people's levels of well-being. Given that circumstantial factors do not tell a satisfactory story to account for the differences between happy and unhappy people, one must look elsewhere to understand them. We propose that happy and unhappy individuals differ considerably in their subjective experience and construal of the world. In other words, happy people are inclined to perceive and interpret their environment differently from their less happy peers. This construal theory prompts us to explore how an individual's thoughts, behaviors, and motivations can explain her happiness over and above the mere objective circumstances of her life.
Objective judges did not rate events described by happy people as inherently more positive than those described by unhappy people, suggesting that happy and unhappy people experience similar events but interpret them difierently. Further supporting this finding, when participants were asked to evaluate hypothetical situations, dispositionally happy people rated the situations more positively compared with their less happy peers, even after current mood was controlled.
At its most basic level, the general finding from the social comparison domain is that happy people are less sensitive to feedback about other people's performances, even when that feedback is unfavorable... This finding supports the argument that the self-perceptions of happy individuals are relatively invulnerable to social comparisons.
Besides using different strategies in the social comparison domain, happy and unhappy people also respond distinctively when making decisions... After being accepted by individual colleges, self-described happy students boosted their liking and judgments of those colleges. To protect themselves, however, these happy students decreased their overall ratings of the colleges that had rejected them. This dissonance reduction presumably allowed the happy participants to maintain positive feelings and selfregard. By contrast, unhappy participants did not use the same strategy to maintain positivity; instead, they (maladaptively) maintained their liking for the colleges that had rejected them.
Happy people are much less likely than their unhappier peers to excessively self-reflect and dwell upon themselves... These findings suggest that unhappy people engage in negative (and maladaptive) dwelling more so than do happy people, and their excessive dwelling not only makes them feel bad, but brings about significant detrimental outcomes
Our current understanding of the differences between chronically happy and unhappy people suggests that happy people think and behave in ways that reinforce their happiness.
Another concern regarding sustainable changes in well-being is rooted in the concept of hedonic adaptation. Brickman and Campbell argued that after positive or negative life experiences, people quickly become accustomed to their new conditions and eventually return to their baseline happiness... In fact, a study comparing lottery winners and people who experienced no sudden windfall demonstrated that the lottery winners were No happier—and even appeared to obtain less pleasure from daily activities—than did non-winners.
According to Lyubommirsky and Sheldon's model, chronic happiness, or the happiness one shows during a specific period in life, is influenced by three factors—one's set point, one's life circumstances, and the intentional activities in which one engages... Counter to many lay notions of well-being, a person's circumstances generally account for only about 10% of individual differences in chronic happiness...Given that such circumstances are relatively constant, they are more susceptible to adaptation and, hence, have comparatively little impact on happiness. Thus, circumstantial factors also do not appear to be a promising route through which to achieve sustainable well-being.
The most promising factor for affecting change in chronic happiness, then, is the approximately 40% portion represented by intentional activity. Characterized by committed and effortful acts in which people choose to engage, intentional activities can be behavioral (e.g., practicing random acts of kindness), cognitive (e.g., expressing gratitude), or motivational (e.g., pursuing intrinsic significant life goals).
Preliminary evidence suggests that happiness interventions involving intentional activities can be effective in increasing and sustaining happiness... Engaging in kind acts (e.g., holding the door open for a stranger or doing a roommate's dishes) was thought to impact happiness for a variety of reasons, including bolstered self-regard, positive social interactions, and charitable feelings toward others and the community at large... Interestingly, the frequency with which kind acts were performed had no bearing on subsequent well-being. The variety of the kind acts, however, influenced the extent to which participants became happier.
Being grateful was predicted to bolster happiness because it promotes the savoring of positive events and situations, and may counteract hedonic adaptation by allowing people to see the good in their life rather than taking it for granted... Accordingly, increases in well-being were observed only in participants who counted their blessings once a week ' rather than three times a week. This finding provides further evidence supporting the argument that not only an intentional activity can successfully increase happiness, but also the way that activity is implemented is critical.
In sum, the evidence suggests that, when considering the happiest moments in one's life, strategies that involve systematic, planful integration and structuring (e.g., the processes naturally engendered by writing or talking) may diminish the accompanying positive emotions. A successful happiness-increasing strategy, by contrast, involves replaying or reliving positive life events as though rewinding a videotape.
A recent intervention study from our laboratory revealed that the well-being benefits of engaging in a happiness-inducing exercise (either gratitude or optimism) accrued only to those participants who were motivated to become happier.
One important moderator to consider in future studies is the "fit" between a person and an appropriate intentional activity—that is, the notion that not every activity is likely to benefit every person.
Meaning enables people to interpret and organize their experience, achieve a sense of their own worth and place, identify the things that matter to them, and effectively direct their energies. The term meaning in life has been used to describe the construct underlying all of these dimensions, and at its heart, meaning in life refers to people's beliefs that their lives are significant and that they transcend the ephemeral present.
Those who have dedicated their lives to an important cause, or an ideal that transcends more mundane concerns, report higher levels of meaning than other people.
Baumeister and Vohs, in their entry on the pursuit of meaningfulness in rhe previous edition of this Handbook, also argued that "the essence of meaning is connection," and that such connections are a primary way in which people attach a sense of stability to the fluctuating and dynamic conditions of their lives.
Thus, the two major unidimensional approaches to defining meaning in life have been primarily motivational (purpose-centered definitions) or cognitive (significance-centered definitions). Multidimensional definitions of meaning in life often combine these two dimensions with an affective dimension referencing people's fulfillment in their lives.
Understanding one's life as a whole necessitates comprehension at the highest level of information organization. Such comprehension subsumes ideas abour one's identity, one's world, and rhe many constituents of each and distills the most important, salient, and motivating features.
In fact, it is possible that truly meaningful moments might unfold in the absence of positive emotions. One such possibility is suggested by Frankl's emphasis on the attitude one takes toward suffering as a route to meaning.
Purpose and significance appear central to psychological definitions of meaning in life, and they capture the idea that meaning is about understanding where we've been, where we are, and where we're going...Because of these considerations, it seems prudent to define meaning in life as the extent to which people comprehend, make sense of, or see significance in their lives, accompanied by the degree to which they perceive themselves to have a purpose, mission, or overarching aim in life.
Frankl suggested that people find meaning by engaging in creative endeavors, through elevating experiences, or through their ability to reflect upon and grow from negative experiences and suffering.
Following reminders of death, people feel their lives are more meaningful if they are given the opportunity to profess support for their culture's worldview and less meaningful if they are not given that opportunity... Meaning may be further enhanced when people engage in important pursuits while operating under a clear understanding of one's worth, capabilities, and attributes.
Across many studies, most people have indicated that relationships with others are the most important source of meaning in their lives.
Life without meaning would be merely a string of events that fail to coalesce into a unified, coherent whole. A life without meaning is a life without a story, nothing to strive for, no sense of what might have been, or what has been.
Since ancient times people have been pondering a question of existential importance for each of us: What makes humans truly happy? Do we gain happiness from striving for power or wealth, from controlling the passions, from promoting the welfare of other creatures, or is happiness to be found somewhere else? Unfortunately, a definitive answer to this question has not yet emerged. Of course there have been places and times where one of the possible answers was clearly preferred. For example, the stoics praised renouncement and self-denial, whereas the epicurians extolled the pursuit of pleasure as the more certain route to happiness.
The idea that one finds happiness by maximizing individual pleasure and minimizing effort is also found in influential psychological theories, such as psychoanalysis and behaviourism - in other words, hedonism is the default motivational assumption made by many different theories of human behavior. However there is reason to doubt that the current western way of life, based mainly on hedonism and consumption, is optimal for individual well-being and societal welfare - either for most people, or for the long run.
Not only might the current western way of life be non-optimal for many individuals, it may also be non-optimal at the societal level. As we know from history, cultures aiming mainly at food and material surpluses for the pleasure of a wealthy class of people typically fail to survive, because their way of life is ecologically unsustainable.
One aim of this book is to comparatively examine different "philosophies of striving" to see which may perhaps be most sustainable in the long run in terms of its social and environmental costs. This question considers whether there is a prescription for "right striving" at the level of societies. However the primary focus of this volume concerns the individual. Specifically, we hope to examine whether any suggestion can be made for "right striving" at the level of the individual person, seeking happiness.
For humans there appear to be at least three universal conditions to survive: (1) Behavior must meet biological requirements for survival of the individual and his reproduction, (2) in socialized species where one individual depends on cooperation with others, behavior must allow or produce a minimum amount of contact and cohesion with one's fellows or with the society at large, and (3) in the long run the sum of individual behavior must allow the survival of the species, in the case of humans via sustainable ecologies and economies.
First, motive dispositions are thought to be acquired at an early age, rather than being inborn (as are biological drives). This means that we learn and can potentially unlearn them. Second, motive dispositions concern social and experiential incentives, rather than biological incentives. This means that they tend to cause more complex and sophisticated kinds of behaviors.
This book focuses on life-goals, that is, the specific motivational objectives by which a person directs his life over time. Because of their explicitly conscious status life-goals differ from biological needs and motive dispositions. Lifegoals also differ from values, because they are more closely connected with a person's intentions for his/her own life. Further, life-goals differ from one-time or short-term goals, in that they can remain salient for long periods of time.
First, strivings for achievement, agency and power may serve the requirement for an individual biological organism to be agentic and competent. We will call these goals self-enhancement goals. Such strivings represent individuals' desire to assert themselves as independent entities. Second, strivings for affiliation, intimacy, communion, relatedness, and interpersonal connection may serve the requirement that an individual get along and function harmoniously with others. These goals we will call group-enhancement goals. Such strivings represent individuals' desire to be included within dyads and collectives as interdependent entities.
Many psychologists define individual well-being as an overall estimation of one's own emotional state. From this perspective the presence of positive moods such as joy, satisfaction, contentment, or gratitude, and the absence of negative moods such as depression, anxiety, dread, and frustration, are taken as criteria for well-being.
However other conceptions of well-being do emphasize individuals' cognitive judgements concerning the quality of their lives, judgements which of course can be based on many other considerations besides high positive and low negative mood. The concept of life-satisfaction emphasizes such cognitive components of well-being, and many different forms of life-satisfaction have been identified. The concept of happiness also refers to individuals' global judgements about the quality of their lives, but is also used by philosophers to refer to the objective good.
What other factors besides life-goals influence well-being? Two groups of determinants may be distinguished: The external conditions of an individual's life on the one hand, and internal characteristics of the individual on the other. Much research has been directed at external conditions of life and their relation to well-being. It has been shown for instance that people from countries with higher income (per capita wealth), with guaranteed human rights, greater longevity, and greater access to education, enjoy more well-being on average than people from countries not providing these material and cultural resources.
Apparently, feeling well requires that some basic needs must be fulfilled, and that a minimum level of predictability, material welfare, and social justice is present. But an analysis of well-being in rich countries where the majority of the population lives far above the subsistence level shows that this is not the whole story. People who have the same material and social status still show significant variation in well-being, due to variation in their internal characteristics. Certain personality characteristics seem to be relevant for well-being. For example, high extraversion, empathy, and internal control beliefs are typically found in satisfied persons, whereas the dissatisfied have fewer social skills and tend to feel themselves as a toy to fate. In other words, there are definite patterns of stable personality traits which characterize happier (vs. unhappier) people.
The specific assumption of goal-theorists is that the functioning (and well-being) of human beings is not fully explainable in terms of either objective external conditions or stable internal traits. Additionally, we have to look at another internal feature which distinguishes us from lower forms of life: Our ability to reflect upon the past and to make new plans for the future.
Carver and Scheier's control theory model says that positive affect results when we are making fast-enough progress towards our goals. Theories focusing on discrepancy-reduction also assume that moving closer to goals is inherently rewarding. This idea that "mere progress leads to well-being" is typical of cognitive and functional perspectives upon motivation, which tend to avoid making assumptions about human needs and the "quality" of the goals that a person pursues.
However other traditions within psychology do focus on the quality of life goals; for example, organismic, existential, and humanistic perspectives all assume that < what goals one pursues, or why one pursues them, is at least as important as how well one pursues them. From this perspective, a person who succeeds very well in a particular goal may be no happier than before, if that goal concerns asocial or even antisocial outcomes, or if the person pursues them because of a sense of pressure from others. Thus these theories assume that humans have certain innate needs, inclinations, and developmental propensities, which are on the whole prosocial and growth-promoting.
Were we to conclude only that people should "be confident and try hard to achieve their goals, whatever they are," we doubt that readers would be much enlightened or impressed. Thus we try to develop empirically confirmed recommendations for which goals people should pursue, believing that "not all progress is beneficial". Those who have become aware of the environmental degradations and dehumanizing societal changes sometimes accompanying the march of industrial progress will certainly agree with this suggestion.
The process of finding and following intrinsic motivations is postulated and found to be an important determinant of growth and well-being, and indeed, of lifelong creative achievement. Of course, not all behavior can be enjoyable or intrinsically motivated; effective living requires coping successfully with many tasks which have little inherent appeal. Such coping is likely enhanced to the extent the person can overcome ambivalence, fully aligning him or herself with the tasks being performed. Thus, Self-determination theory also postulates an inherent "organismic integration process," in which the regulation of formerly externally-motivated actions is gradually internalized.
Despite their fragility, the exploratory urge, and the desire to integrate the self more fully into the social environment, are assumed to be important initial strivings within every developing human being. Furthermore, it is assumed that when individuals successfully enact these inherent growth-oriented dispositions, they experience maximum happiness, well-being, and self-fulfillment.
The PLOC continuum specifies four basic types of motivation, which vary in their degree of internalization. In the case of external motivation, the person acts only because situational forces seem to compel the behavior, or because some tangible reward awaits. Such motivation is not at all internalized, and exemplifies behaviorist reinforcement-based assumptions regarding human motivation. In the case of introjected motivation, the person acts because he or she compels himself, in order to avoid guilt or anxiety.
Such motivation is partially but not completely internalized, and exemplifies freudian or superego-based assumptions regarding motivation. In the case of identified motivation the person acts because he or she wholeheartedly subscribes to the values underlying the behavior. Such motivation is completely internalized, and exemplifies existentialist assumptions regarding positive motivation. Finally, in the case of intrinsic motivation, the person acts because of curiosity and the inherent pleasure in acting. Such motivation is automatically internalized, and is consistent with Piagettian or cognitive-developmental assumptions regarding motivation. Thus, according to self-determination theory there are two ways a behavior can be fully internalized or self-integrated; first, if it is pursued for the interest and enjoyment inherent in the doing of it, and second, if it is pursued wholeheartedly as an expression of one's values, even if it is not enjoyable for its own sake.
The question is not so much whether the goals are self-determined, but rather, whether they a/g agree with, or match, the person's true or actual condition. Has the person managed to select initiatives which properly represent his or her underlying condition and developmental personality process, thereby gaining the potential to forward that process in a significant way?
Self-concordant goals are those inspired by a person's authentic developing interests and deeply-felt personal values. In other words, such goals correctly represent the "active core" of the person, proactively shaping herself and her environment to permit further growth and expansion...However, not all goals are integrated with the self. Specifically, some goals are felt to be compelled by external or introjected forces, and also are not felt to reflect one's core values or deeper interests. In these cases, I and my colleagues argue that the person may have chosen a goal which is inappropriate for him/her. In other words, if the person cannot manage to feel authentic in the pursuit of a non-enjoyable goal, then it is likely that he or she has chosen the wrong goal.
These ideas suggest that the ability to select concordant goals is a crucial skill and developmental challenge, one with important implications for well-being and personal thriving. This is because the process of pursuing personal goals can consume considerable limited self-regulatory and functional resources. If a person's goals do not accurately represent the underlying interests and values of his/her organism, then that person may be unable to meet his or her deeper psychological needs through their pursuit. Thus, the person may exhaust important resources, in vain.
Selecting goals which correctly represent "who one really is" presumably requires complex self-perceptual abilities, in which one must take into account one's current situation, one's unfolding interests, one's deeper beliefs, and one's longer-term needs. One skill hypothesized to contribute to the process, currently being studied, is that of distinguishing lasting and broadly-representative impulses from more transient or superficial impulses. That is, one must be able to recognize what one's enduring values and interests are, so that one can resist squandering motivational energy upon dead-ends or blind alleys.
A second important skill being studied is that of distinguishing accurately between "me" and "not-me," that is, between goals which represent one's own interests and values, and goals that instead represent others' interests and values. By so doing, one is able to resist other's attempts to implant motives in one, motives which may not be in one's own best interest. Of course, while many good ideas for action can be identified by observing or listening to others (i.e., actions consistent with one's own needs and growth trends), it is also the case that many conformist and even harmful impulses are taken in from the environment - thus it is important to learn to tell the difference (an "immune system" metaphor is in some ways apt).
Other possible reasons a person might select non-concordant goals include deficiencies in level of ego- or identity-development, fears about giving up known (if unsatisfying) modes of behavior, or desires to maintain sources of positive social feedback, even if such feedback is not conducive, ultimately, to self-development.
Sheldon and Elliot found that although people intended to devote strong effort to strongly non-concordant goals, this intention had faded 2 and 4 weeks later, resulting in a failure to attain such goals. In contrast highly self-concordant goals were associated with strong initial intentions and received sustained effort over time, which led to greater goal-attainment at the end of the study. Sheldon and Elliot argued that because self-concordant goals better represent stable facets and trends within the personality, they have the person's full emotional backing. Thus they are better protected and more enduringly energized over time. In contrast, non-concordant goals may represent failures to discriminate transient impulses from deeper and more enduring interests (i.e., the person may lack the first "skill" mentioned above).
To summarize, the research discussed so far has demonstrated three positive effects of self-concordance: first, it predicts concurrent well-being, second, it prospectively predicts effort and goal-attainment, and third, it predicts greater wellbeing increases after goals are attained. Notably, self-concordance has been found to be more strongly associated with positive variables (i.e., it promotes .increases in positive mood and life-satisfaction) than negative variables (i.e., it less strongly promotes decreases in negative mood and physical symptomology). This suggests that self-concordant goal-pursuit may be more important for enhancing one's level of positive well-being, than for reducing one's level of ill-being.
Consistent with the postulates of self-determination theory, the self-concordance model assumes that humans have three basic types of psychological needs or motives: for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. That is, humans are happiest and healthiest when environments, and their own inner processes, permit them to feel effective, choiceful, and connected in their daily lives. Thus, this concept of need-satisfaction focuses on the nature of optimal experience, assuming that humans require certain types of positive experiences in order to be happy and healthy.
Extrinsic goals are assumed to be strongly shaped by culture, and typically involve obtaining symbols of social status and popular approval. In contrast intrinsic goals are assumed to emerge from natural growth tendencies, in which individuals move towards expanded self-knowledge and deeper connections with others and the community.
Supporting their general hypothesis that intrinsic goals are "better" for people, Kasser and Ryan found that strongly intrinsic individuals were higher on a variety of well-being and adjustment outcomes. 1 In contrast, extrinsically oriented persons were lower in many indices of adjustment and well-being.
I suggest that these two positive characteristics of goals (i.e., self- A concordant reasons and intrinsic content) promote well-being for the same underlying reason, namely, they both promote satisfaction of inherent psychological needs. Concerning self-concordance, it makes sense that successfully pursuing goals which well-represent one's developing interests and deeper values would provide many satisfying experiences. This is because it is logical that nature would have designed humans in such a way that when they successfully optimize their own developmental process, they should experience feelings of wellbeing. Concerning intrinsic content, it is logical that nature would have designed humans in such a way that when they successfully pursue adaptive tasks concerned with enhanced social integration and positive interpersonal relations, they should also experience satisfaction.
I suggest that psychological needs are both motives and required inputs, and that these are in fact two facets of the same behavioral and self-regulatory cycle. At one part of the cycle the needs (as motives) energize behavior, and at a later part of the cycle, the needs reward and reinforce particular behaviors that well-served the motives.
On the need or "input" side, one can argue that the needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness evolved because positive feelings in these domains serve as rewards or reinforcements for behaviors which successfully enact the three motives (behaviors which were also likely to help individuals succeed in solving important adaptive tasks). In other words, selective pressures may have favored individuals who felt good doing, and thus readily learned to repeat, successful behaviors in these important domains.
The question is, why do many people remain "stuck" in an unsatisfying way of living? One answer is that non-concordant or extrinsic individuals are doing the only thing they know how to do. When these activities do not result in satisfaction, their attempted solution is to "try even harder."... A second possible reason for nonconcordant individuals' inability to choose more satisfying goals is that they are afraid of change, which they fear will make matters even worse.... A third and related perspective is that those in this condition simply do not have the internal resources to change their way of living. Initiating a life-transformation may require much energy and optimism, which the person may not be able generate because of his or her current reduced mode of functioning.
In other words, the chronic state of nonsatisfaction that such individuals experience can lead them, ultimately, into a "downward spiral" which is very difficult to escape. Encouragingly, however, such deprivations may also at times inspire bold action, which can bring great rewards. Further, as discussed earlier in this chapter, selfreinforcing upward spirals are always possible. If one succeeds in selecting a particularly apt set of goals, and then does well at them, one can establish a new developmental trajectory and period of dynamic growth and forward motion.
Personal goals in general have been found to be associated with individual well-being. For example, Little has shown that the possession of and progression toward important personal projects are tied to long-term well-being. Moreover, goal contents have been found to be associated with well-being. For example, Emmons found that the proportion of intimacy strivings predicted positive well-being.
According to Nuttin, for example, individual motivation should be described in relational terms. It consists of a relationship between an individual's inner needs and the objects in the outer world by which those needs are typically satisfied in the individual's environment. Consistent with this, goals have been described elsewhere as "representations of a desired state of the world".
Individual motivation has often been conceptualized in terms of personal goals. Personal goals are the consciously accessible and personally meaningful objectives that people pursue in their daily lives. In recent years, personal goals have been characterized in a variety of ways, such as personal strivings, developmental goals, possible selves, life tasks, future-oriented goals and personal projects.
Some personal goals seem to concern the individuals themselves, in particular their personality, identity, and personal characteristics. This might reflect the fact that the self is an important part in behavioral regulation. For example, people draw on an enormous array of self-knowledge to construct specialized working self-concepts that enable them to function effectively in specific contexts.
Self-focused goals have been previously operationalized in terms of intentions which focus on the development of one's self, personality, identity and life-style. That is, they are concerned with changing, improving or working on various aspects of one's own personality or identity (i.e., the goal "Grow as a person").
In this study, self-focused goals are conceptualized relatively narrowly as intentions, strivings and projects that deal particularly with self, identity, life-style and personality. These goals and concerns are focused on altering or improving the self, in contrast to other kinds of goals, such as those referring to intimacy and achievement, that focus on altering or improving the external world.
Self-focused goals may have several useful functions. First, a typical situation when self-focused goals may be functional is when people are facing obstacles in obtaining their environmentally-oriented goals. Focusing on self-related matters in such situations helps individuals to investigate the possible reasons for the problems in goal attainment, such as insufficient knowledge and ineffective coping, and this provides a basis for finding more effective ways to behave...Second, it has been suggested that individual's self-exploration increases during periods of life-span development where there are numerous alternative opportunity structures and related choices.
One way to consider the nature of self-focused goals is to investigate the ways in which people appraise them. Our previous results suggest that people appraise their self-focused goals as inducing higher positive and higher negative emotions. Selffocused goals also have higher importance, but lower perceived attainability, compared to other kinds of goals. One reason for this might be that self-focused goals are typically abstract and it is hard to know when one is making progress.
On the one hand, it has been suggested that excessive thinking about oneself and focusing inward may have negative affective and cognitive consequences. Those who focus on internal aspects are more likely to became depressed and suffer from low selfesteem.
On the other hand, it has been suggested that those who focus on internal states feel better than others. Heightened self-focused attention has, for example, been associated with greater awareness and appreciation of internal states. Self-focus has also been linked to effective self-regulation. It is possible, however, that self-focused thinking is beneficial only in certain kinds of situations. One such case is when a person finds out the behaviors and related strategies he or she is deploying do not lead to success in goal attainment. In this case, focusing on self, such as one's skills and coping models, may be functional, because that helps the individual to construct more efficient ways to deal with the situation.
The finding that pursuing self-related goals seems to lead to low well-being may be due to several processes. First, it is likely that a focus on self-related goals decreases interest in working with issues concerning the key demands of the environment, such as the developmental tasks and role transitions of a particular age periods. Consequently, it is possible that focusing on self-goals decreases well-being because it diminishes individuals' efforts to cope effectively with various developmental demands...Second, it is possible that self-focused goals exemplify a ruminative type of thinking that has been shown to increase depressive mood...Finally, it is possible that those who produce self-focused goals are aware of their psychological problems, want to get rid of them, and thus identify goals with this aim.
The results reported here also suggest that self-focused goals seem to come at the expense of goals that focus on living environments, developmental demands and the outer world. For example, results suggest that the number of self-focused goals is negatively associated with achievement and family goals. In turn, cluster-analytic results suggest that a world vs. self dichotomy was the major dimension that differentiated people according to their goals.
The results further revealed that self-focused goals are particularly typical among people who report low subjective well-being, such as those showing depressive symptoms and low self-esteem, and those suffering from diagnosable mental health problems, such as eating disorder patients. It looks as individuals who are dissatisfied with their life focus on thinking about themselves, maybe as an effort to explore their self-related values, skills and competencies as a means to reach a more satisfactory life situation.
It may be that it is only when self-focused goals become permanent and independent of the lifesituation that they are detrimental for well-being. This may happen, for example, when people first face problems in dealing with certain challenges, and therefore turn to exploring their skills and coping models to overcome the obstacles or problems. If they are unable to find successful ways to cope with the situation or enter into ruminative coping, this may lead to "permanent" self-focused goals that increase their depressive symptoms.
Many theorists agree that a basic feature of living things is their tendency to move towards greater organization (or negentropy) over time, a tendency which can manifest within the individual, between individuals and groups, and even between groups of individuals. We suggest that when humans consciously align themselves with this inherent drive or tendency, for example by seeking enhanced self-organization, group organization, or planetary organization, then they are thereby afforded enhanced happiness and well-being. Put differently, humans have a deep "hunger for wholeness", i.e., a desire to connect with some larger truth or reality.
Two prominent results emerged concerning goal-perceptions. First, goals perceived as having a more long-term basis seem to better serve well-being, compared to short-term goals... Probably it is better to have both long-term and short-term goals, and best of all if the short-term goals are linked to the longer-term goals... A second goal-perception that emerged as important for well-being was the construct of self-concordance, i.e., the match of one's goals with one's implicit values and interests, which was introduced by Sheldon.
Applying the holistic principle, one can say that conscious goals that are more broadly representative of the person's deeper beliefs and underlying condition should better enhance the thriving of that organism. In contrast nonconcordant goals, which do not take account of the totality of the person, may not be as salubrious for general well-being. According to this view, it is crucial to develop the self-perceptual skill to correctly ascertain one's deeper personality-developmental possibilities, so that one may choose objectives that well-serve such possibilities.
Self-concordant goals tend to lead to self-enhancement via self-transcendence or personal growth, rather than via self-gratification, in part because they induce less intrapsychic conflict within the individual.
As suggested by the holistic principle of motivation (which views human beings as having an inherent need to connect with and enhance the broader systems in which they are embedded), one should strive for something larger. This something could include a more-encompassing view of the future, a more integrated and total version of oneself, an enhanced social group or interpersonal relationship, or even a better environment for our species and for other species also.
More specific pieces of advice concerning life-goals might include: Don't strive for goals you can't at least identify with, if not enjoy. Don't strive just for transient or short-term aims. Attempt to adapt your strivings to the predominant values of your culture, but also be prepared to question whether the goals that your culture suggest are really going to meet your needs. If you have been trying for a while and are doing well, but you still aren't happy, consider changing your goals. Don't strive too much for ego-gratifications, material objects, good looks, hedonistic pleasures, and social popularity. Don't focus too much on yourself and your problems. If you want to promote the well-being of your children, students, or clients, don't put too much pressure on them to pursue competitive or superficial self-enhancing goals. Instead encourage them to be mindful of their own deeper needs and values, and also of the needs of others and the community.
In the intergroup conflict literature a new idea is also taking hold: "integrative negotiation," in which negotiation partners do best by working together to optimize their joint outcome, rather than jockeying to outdo and exploit each other. In fact, work within the social dilemma literature has made it abundantly clear that the latter competitive attitude leads inexorably to conflict, ultimately resulting in deficient outcomes for everyone.
The finding that the pursuit of group-serving goals serves well-being is especially important. It seems unlikely that humans would have evolved a tendency to feel good doing things that did not ultimately serve their survival and adaptation; therefore, the linkage between higher-level goals and well-being provides nice indirect support for the notion that such goals are "best" or most concordant with essential human nature and adaptation.
Not only are we very capable of developing self-transcendent goals, more importantly, we are rewarded for doing so, in perhaps the most important currency of all: life-satisfaction and happiness. Given this, the problem becomes one of discovering why many people ignore or lose touch with such potentials, to the detriment of both themselves and of society. Armed with such knowledge we may find that we need only to better nurture and educate people, not genetically alter them.
If people are told again and again that human beings are egocentric beings who must compete against each other in order to serve market economy functioning, then they may eventually believe and internalize this assertion, behaving accordingly. The more people do this the more they conspire to persuade each other that this is true - thus a feedback loop is enacted, which serves to maintain the predominant cultural belief.
Positive Psychology: Historical, Philosophical, and Epistemological Perspectives, I. Jorgensen, H. Nafstad
In his famous review of the history of social psychology, Gordon Allport claimed: "one thing is certain: Platonic and Aristotelian strands of thought are found in all western theory, past and present." In fact, 50 years in advance, Allport was right, also, about positive psychology's philosophical roots: The Aristotelian tradition is a core root of positive psychology. Positive psychology concentrates on positive experiences and positive character or virtues. Hence, positive psychology strongly associates itself with the Aristotelian model of human nature. However, it is obvious that the ancient Greek philosophers formulated their frames of understanding of the human individual in a totally different social and material situation, without today's basic conditions characterized by threatening environmental pollution and a globalization that affects and changes every local culture. Thus, parts of the basis of psychology's approaches to human beings must necessarily be formulated or reformulated as to contemporarily given conditions.
"Psychology is the racket that imitates the racket called psychiatry." Positive psychology attempts to be an important corrective and demands of predominant mainstream psychology not to continue to marginalize or exclude, but bring in again and revitalize the positive aspects of human nature: positive subjective experiences, positive individual traits, and civic virtues.
Seligman formulates what may be termed the basic assumptions of positive psychology: There is a human "nature."; Action proceeds from character.; Character comes in two forms, both equally fundamental—bad character and good, virtuous (angelic) character.
Positive psychology is thus articulating the presumptions of the Aristotelian approach to human nature and development. This includes the view of the good person; the idea of the individual with a positive character, strengths, and given virtues; and the idea of the basic distinction between "man as he happens to be" and "man as he could be if he realized his essential nature".
Fiske ascertains that the predominant approach, in both psychology and the other social sciences, is the axiomatic postulate of human beings as asocial and egoistic individuals. A person is thus a priori defined as a self-interested being constantly preoccupied by consuming, using, or even exploiting the social, collective, and material world with the goal of gaining benefits or the best possible result, physically as well as psychologically.
It was the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes who was first to argue in favor of such a view of human nature. The Greek philosophy that dominated until then held the view that human beings were positive and fundamentally social by nature. Hobbes, however, launched the doctrine that maintained that human beings were basically bad, and not much could be done about it. Thus, morality cannot be anything but social contracts between self-seeking and ruthless human beings. Morality is, therefore, the same as obedience to law. This view of human nature, often termed psychological egoism, is a deeply negative view of human nature. The doctrine opposed to Hobbes', the view that human beings are born as moral beings with a potential for goodness, was proposed by Rousseau .
Thus, as Fiske and van Lange concluded, the perspective of the individual as egoistic and directed by selfinterest has been, and still is, the a priori position on core human nature in theoretical psychology. However, egoism or hedonism within psychology is more than a historic and culture-bound ideology or a major assumption of human nature. It is also modern psychology's predominant theory of human motivation. According to mainstream psychology, the individual has only one motivation system. Self-interest is regarded as the primary and true motivation, the one from which other motives, including moral and social ones, derive. Positive psychology, however, rejects this predominant negative assumption of human motivational nature. Positive psychology takes as its starting point the individual as a socially and morally motivated being.
By taking the standpoint that humans are fundamentally social and moral, positive psychology places itself again in the midst of the Greek tradition and virtue ethics. In Greek philosophy, the individual was not considered to be such an enough-unto-itself-being—an individual concerned only with taking care of his or her own interests.
In the Aristotelian frame of reference, the person who acts egoistically is making a fundamental error, which in practice excludes the person from social relationships and, therefore, from the good life. Social relationships were concerned with sharing, giving, and taking care of each other.
Aristotle thus maintained that individuals have characteristics that serve to preserve their own welfare, as well as civic virtues concerned with preserving the welfare of other(s). Central to Aristotle's philosophy of human nature is existence of a human core nature that entails positive relations and communal responsibility.
In the Aristotelian model, the virtues of the soul are of two sorts: virtue of thought and virtue of character. "Virtue of thought arises and grows mostly from teaching; that is why it needs experience and time. Virtue of character (i.e., of ethos) results from habit (ethos)." Hence, it is also clear, as Aristotle states, "none of the virtues of character arise in us naturally".
Moreover, in the Aristotelian model with its four causal factors (causa materialis, causa formalis, causa efficiens, and causa finalis), growth or change becomes a fundamental dimension of the object or phenomenon. The individual is thus understood as a being constantly driven forward by a dynamic principle, toward that which is better or more perfect.
Therefore, the Aristotelian frame of understanding is the perspective of a core human nature in which change(s) toward something good, better, or more perfect comprises a fundamental aspect. The individual is hence a being who introduces positive goals and values and strives to realize and reach them. The Aristotelian model then takes into account a teleological aspect... Aristotle's idea is that we should habituate people to realization of their positive virtues in more perfect or complex ways, so that as a goal, moral and goodness become almost instinctive.
As the philosopher Rawls states on this positive or motivational dynamic principle that Aristotle formulated: "the Aristotelian Principle runs as follows: other things equal, human beings enjoy the exercise of their realized capacities (their innate or trained abilities), and this enjoyment increases the more the capacity is realized, or the greater the complexity." Thus, it is the process of exercising that is central in the Aristotelian frame of reference.
For positive psychology, in congruence with the Aristotelian model, goodness and morality thus do not come from outside the person. They do not arise from cultural sources nor from the moral rules of society, but from the potentials of the human being himself or herself.
Positive psychology also holds a fundamental assumption that living systems are self-organizing and oriented toward such an increasing differentiation and complexity. Deci and Ryan maintained about this principle of more elaborate or complex functioning: "We suggest that it is inherent in people's nature to action in the direction of increased psychological differentiation and integration in terms of their capacities, their valuing processes, and their social connectedness."
Further, in both the Aristotelian and the positive psychology approaches, the concept of optimal functioning is associated with the concept of the good life, well-being, or happiness. Aristotle's model of the good life, eudaimonia, is "the state of being well and doing well in being well". Thus, for Aristotle, what constitutes the good for man "is a complete human life lived at its best, and the exercise of the virtues is a necessary and central part of such a life .. .".
Psychological hedonism...is thus also part of positive psychology. However, far more positive psychologists take a eudaimonic approach to the good life. The eudaimonic approach is concerned with the whole person and his or her optimal functioning and development in all areas of life.
Having the Aristotelian model of a developmental continuum from the simple to the more complex as his point of departure, Seligman postulates a model of four different forms of the good life. Seligman terms the simplest of the four forms of good life as a pleasanHife. Seligman describes the pleasant life as, "a life that successfully pursues the positive emotions about the present, past and future".
What Seligman terms a good life is more complex than the pleasant life. A good life is, according to Seligman: 'using your signature strengths to obtain abundant gratification in the main realms of one's life." A good life is, therefore, a life in which you use your special character properties, "signature strengths," in important areas of life to experience "gratifications." Authenticity is an important concept for Seligman in this connection. Authenticity describes the experience that comes from using your own special character properties to obtain "gratifications."
The third form of the good life, which is closer to the optimally functioning individual, is for Seligman the meaningful life. The meaningful life adds, in addition to the good life, an affiliation to something "larger than yourself." Seligman defines the meaningful life in the following way: "The meaningful life: using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are". Seligman, however, leaves the question of what can be conceived of as larger than yourself up to the individual to define. Moreover, it naturally follows that the most complex form of the good life is for Seligman thejulljife. This builds on all of the three previous forms of the good life and includes their characteristics. Seligman defines the full life: "Finally, a full life consists in experiencing positive emotions about the past and future, savoring positive feelings from pleasures, deriving abundant gratification from your signature strengths, and using these strengths in the service of something larger to obtain meaning".
At their best, individuals, furthermore, act both in concert with their own premises and capacities and in concert with the surroundings. Thus, positive psychology and Seligman explicitly both defend and revitalize the Aristotelian model with its emphasis on acting from both self-benefiting as well as other-benefiting virtues. Seligman also emphasizes that when the individual functions best, he or she has a good experience of life. The good life is thus not a fixed state, but for Seligman it is a life in striving toward the realization of your true positive human "potentials" in ever better ways.
One objection to the normative and universal ideals inherent in the Aristotelian position is that it does not accommodate the core principle of a multicultural perspective encompassing respect for all types of optimal functioning, development, and good life. Such a criticism was indeed made of Werner's perspective on optimal functioning.
Notions or ideas about ideal development are, in the end, inevitably created and formed in a subtle interplay between the values and ideals in society, the social and cultural conditions in which the researcher in question works, as well as the traditions of the discipline. Maintaining and giving priority to certain developmental goals and not others is thus an expression of the predominant values and power structures of the culture and time period in question.
Hence, when conceptualizing in terms of what is good or bad, wise or not wise, noble or ignoble, admirable or deplorable, positive psychology must decide how to deal with the influence of culture and social or historical time. Indeed, in the end, almost all discussions about approaches and paradigms in psychology thus are related in some way to this theme of the individual, history and social context(s), and/or the interaction among them.
It is the metatheoretical level of positive psychology that we have analyzed. It is also primarily on the metatheoretical level that positive psychology distinguishes itself from contemporary mainstream psychology and attempts to constitute a corrective, demanding that contemporary psychology reflect on and change its views of human nature.
Allport viewed the "healthy, mature person" as someone who possessed a variety of functional characteristics, including the capacity for close relationships, a positive view of himself or herself, common sense, objectivity about the self and others, the capacity for self-extension, and, perhaps most importantly, a unifying philosophy of life. Maslow, likewise, described self-actualizers as individuals who maintained a capacity for awe and peak experiences; who were creative, democratic, and unpretentious; and who possessed a nonhostile sense of humor and a deep compassion for others.
An examination of the outcomes that we seek to track, predict, or enhance tells us that these outcomes are implicitly valued.... Indeed, the essential role of happiness in the contemporary psychological conception of the good life is demonstrated by the fact that measures of alternative constructs thought to be indicative of the goodness of life, such as meaning in life, autonomy, purposeful striving, optimism, and so on, tend to be lent construct validity by their associations with measures of happiness.
Aristotle contrasted the pleasurable life with the good life and proposed the concept of eudaimonia as an I alternative to sheer hedonism. While pleasure is a straightforward concept, eudaimonia refers to a type of enjoyment that is more complex, associated with cultivating and developing virtues. Pleasure is pleasurable for the person experiencing it—it is a wholly subjective state. In contrast, eudaimonia refers to a state in which the person meets more objective standards—an observer can judge whether an experience is purely hedonistic or is, in fact, eudaimonistic...Similarly, Ryff defined eudaimonia as "a striving for perfection that represents the realization of one's true potential."
A number of constructs meant to capture "optimal experience" incorporate aspects of experience beyond enjoyment. For instance, a psychological variable that seems to resonate with Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia is intrinsic motivation. Most simply, intrinsic motivation is motivation for an activity that is innate in the activity itself. Intrinsic motivation has been identified as associated with activities that serve essential psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relat- Iedness. Self Determination Theory holds that when individuals engage in activity that satisfies these central organismic needs, they experience genuine happiness, self-esteem, and so on.
Additional research inspired by SDT has shown that lives occupied with extrinsic need satisfaction (e.g., income, material possessions), to the detriment of more organismic concerns, are lives that are likely to be characterized by alienation and low self-actualization. Flow is a more specific type of intrinsically motivated state that also bears remarkable resemblance to Aristotle's notion of eudaimonia. Flow involves being optimally challenged by experience. In flow, the demands of a situation match the individual's abilities, and the individual is engaged fully in the act of doing. In flow, the person loses self-consciousness and a sense of the passing of time and enters a different level of experience.
The absence of happiness in an individual's relationships or work may well be viewed as a signal that it's time to make a change in his or her life. If moods serve as information about how we are doing in areas we value, our level of happiness in life serves as a gauge of whether the decisions we've made, the activities in which we are engaged, and so on are indeed the ingredients for a fulfilling life.
People in individualistic nations base their quality of life on their emotional states, while the life satisfaction of those in collectivistic societies is based on not only emotional states but also societal norms. Norms dictate which qualities should be important to a life well lived. Collectivists, more so than individualists, root their quality of life decisions in whether they are living up to societal standards.
The desire for extreme wealth is also on the rise. Indeed, Myers reports that among college students the goal of making a lot of money has overtaken the goal of having an articulated philosophy of life....Research on the relation between wealth and happiness, for instance, has demonstrated that the very wealthy are not much happier than others and that the relation between wealth and happiness is very modest. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that valuing the attainment of materialistic goals over goals such as autonomy, relatedness, and competence is associated with a variety of negative outcomes including mental illness, physical illness, alienation, interpersonal problems, and so on.
In assimilation, the developing person takes new experiences and interprets them via existing structures, avoiding any true change. When a person's existing meaning structure cannot incorporate new and challenging experiences, the person must invent new ways of understanding the self and world—this developmental process is accommodation. The outcome of accommodative process is a new way of existing in the world.
The unhappy mature person might be someone who has confronted life's difficulties and come to experience the world in very complex ways but who has, perhaps, as a result, become overwhelmed by complexity or who has been rendered cynical by the vicissitudes of life. Finally, the happy mature person is one who has grappled with life's difficult circumstances and come to a sophisticated, complex view of self and world but who has also retained a capacity for joy and a sense of optimism. If both happiness and maturity are considered goods in life, it might be that the happy mature life represents the best possible scenario.
We examine the potential links between values and well-being from three perspectives. The first—the healthy values perspective—suggests that holding certain values or goals is likely to lead to positive well-being, while holding other values or goals may undermine well-being. The second emphasizes goal attainment, suggesting that well-being results from the attainment of goals that are pursued for intrinsic reasons, irrespective of the value content of those goals. The third—the congruency perspective—suggests that it is the congruency between personal values and the values prevailing in the environment that lead to a positive sense of well-being.
Self-determination theory distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic motives. Intrinsic motives derive from basic psychological needs and have the inherent potential to lead to independent satisfaction. In contrast, extrinsic motives derive from the need to obtain other people's approval, admiration, and praise and from the need to avoid social censure and punishment. Extrinsic motives or goals usually do not stand for themselves; rather, they are a means to obtain others' approval or to avoid others' sanctions. Striving for these goals does not promote well-being. Indeed, eventually, extrinsic strivings might undermine well-being because people who attribute high importance to extrinsic goals are at risk of neglecting their basic psychological needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Several studies have provided empirical evidence supporting the idea that emphasizing intrinsic goals or values over extrinsic ones is likely to have a positive effect on well-being and vice versa.
Emmons found that power aspirations correlated positively with psychological and physical distress and with negative affect. In contrast, affiliation aspirations were positively correlated with positive affect....Similarly, Kasser, and Ryan studied German and U.S. students and found that in both groups, respondents who were relatively intrinsically oriented in their aspirations reported greater self-actualization and lower anxiety.
Actions in pursuit of any value have psychological, practical, and social consequences that may conflict or may be congruent with the pursuit of other values. For example, the pursuit of stimulation values may conflict with the pursuit of security values: Stimulation values reflect the motivation for seeking change and excitement and looking for novel and daring experiences. These strivings and actions are likely to obstruct goals and actions aimed at ensuring order, stability, and security. However, the pursuit of stimulation values may be compatible with the pursuit of self-direction values that emphasize autonomy of thought and action: Seeking novelty, change, and excitement may increase and be increased by expressing independence in thought and action.
Self-direction and achievement values, which emphasize autonomy and competence, respectively, correlated positively with well-being. Tradition and conformity values, which emphasize extrinsic motivation, correlated negatively with well-being. However, correlations were relatively weak and were found only for the affective aspect of well-being.
Micro worries focus on the self or close others. For example, a person may worry that he will get cancer or lose his job. Macro worries focus on entities external to the self—the wider society, the world, or the universe.... Micro worries are, therefore, an indicator of negative well-being. Macro worries, on the other hand, were slightly, but consistently, related to positive well-being. Thus, worry about the welfare of others does not reflect poor well-being.
Sheldon and Elliot contend that self-concordant goals originate in inherent basic psychological needs and differ from other goals in two ways: First, attainment of self-concordant goals contributed to an individual's sense of well-being more than attainment of other goals. Moreover, attainment of these goals is more likely, as individuals invest sustained effort in pursuing them (because they originate in inherent basic psychological needs).
The extent of self-concordance of goals significantly predicted the amount of effort students invested in pursuing that goal, which, in turn, largely predicted the attainment of that goal.
Daily satisfaction with achievements was a stronger predictor of daily well-being for those who attributed high importance to achievement values than for those who attributed low importance to those values. Similarly, satisfaction with social life was a stronger predictor of well-being for those who emphasized benevolence values than for those who attributed relatively low importance to these values. Thus, individuals' day-to-day well-being was predicted by the satisfaction of those life domains that were important to them.
These findings support the notion that goal attainment leads to positive wellbeing. Moreover, they show that regardless of the type of values emphasized, people are happier when they attain the goals and values that are most important to them. The findings underscore the importance of identifying the factors that are most likely to increase the chances of goal attainment.
Several theories posit that congruency between individuals' value hierarchies and the values prevailing in their social environments is beneficial for their well-being.
Environments that are congruent with individuals' goals and values afford them with opportunities to attain their important goals. Incongruent environments, in contrast, do not provide people with opportunities to act on their values and, hence, block fulfillment of their important goals.
The congruency perspective takes the same view and suggests that any type of important value or goal may lead to positive well-being, provided that it is congruent with the values prevailing in the environment.
Social support is an important source of positive well-being. Lazarus and Folkman suggested that social support is needed to cope effectively with stressors. Accordingly, studies found that the effects of stressors on well-being was buffered by perceived social support, which either reduced the perceived threat of the stressor or enhanced self-esteem, which, in turn, evoked adaptive responses to the stressor.
According to intraperson consonance, personal well-being may be undermined by internal value conflict. This may happen when people enter new environments that differ substantially from those they come from. Consider, for example, a person who is the first of her family to start college or immigrants, from a culture that differs markedly from the host society. Individuals may internalize values advocated by their new environment, although these values may contradict values and goals they internalized earlier.
Does value congruency with each environment have equal effect on well-being? Probably not. Sagiv and Schwartz propose that the impact of value congruency with any environment depends on the relevance of the environment to the person's self-identity. The more important a given environment is for the person's self-identity, the stronger the impact that congruency with this environment will have on that person's well-being.
The person-environment congruency perspective—postulates that it is the fit between individuals and the environments they identify with that affects subjective well-being. Even truly intrinsic values may lead to a negative sense of well-being if a person holding such values highly identifies with an environment that rejects these values. Therefore, it is not enough to internalize intrinsic strivings—individuals have to find environments that are congruent with those strivings.
Socialization processes help individuals become more congruent with their environment. Individuals may change their own value system, so they come to internalize values and goals that may lead to well-being (e.g., values of autonomy or care for others). They may also choose to adopt values and goals that are more congruent with their environment. Finally, individuals may create or shape the environment or social situation in which they operate.
We see choice as the critical sign that we have freedom and autonomy. It is axiomatic that choice is good, and that more choice is better. This chapter argues that choice, and with it freedom, autonomy, and self-determination, can become excessive, and that when that happens, freedom can be experienced as a kind of misery-inducing tyranny. Unconstrained freedom leads to paralysis. It is self-determination within significant constraints—within rules of some sort—that leads to well-being, to optimal functioning. The task for a future psychology of optimal functioning is to identify which constraints on self-determination are the crucial ones.
Choice is essential to autonomy, which is absolutely fundamental to wellbeing. Healthy people want and need to direct their own lives. Whereas many needs are universal (food, shelter, medical care, social support, education, and so on), much of what we need to flourish is highly individualized.
But the fact that some choice is good doesn't necessarily mean that more choice is better. As we will demonstrate, there is a cost to having an overabundance of choice. As the number of choices people face keeps increasing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until, ultimately, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates.
As various assessments of wellbeing tell us, increased choice and increased affluence have been accompanied by decreased well-being. Not only do fewer people judge themselves to be happy than in previous generations, but the incidence of clinical depression and of attempted suicide have increased dramatically in this same period.
What assessments of well-being suggest is that the most important factor in providing happiness is close social relations. People who are married, who have good friends, and who are close to their families are happier than those who are not. In the context of a discussion of choice and autonomy, it is important to note that, in many ways, social ties actually decrease freedom, choice, and autonomy. Marriage, for example, is a commitment to a particular other person that curtails freedom of choice of sexual, and even emotional partners.
However, many would argue that attendant with increased choice has been a pressure to "maximize," that is, to seek the very best option available in a wide range of choice domains. It may well be the case that, for certain individuals, adding more choices to an existing domain simply makes choice more difficult, as they feel pressure to choose the "best" possible option from an overwhelming array of choices rather than simply settle for "good enough."
It would seem that maximization constitutes a recipe for unhappiness, in that those individuals who search for the best possible option are more likely to regret a choice once made.
Maximizers were also hypothesized to engage in more social comparison than satisficers—especially upward comparison, in which an individual compares him or herself to someone who is better off, as such a person would presumably provide the best "evidence" that a maximizer has not yet achieved an optimal outcome... In short, maximizers were sensitive to social comparison information and were made less happy when outperformed by a peer; satisficers showed little response to the social comparison information provided by the experimental situation, and their mood remained relatively stable throughout the study.
People with high regret scores are less happy, less satisfied with life, less optimistic, and more depressed than those with low regret scores. We also found that people with high regret scores tend to be maximizers. Concern about regret may be a major reason why individuals are maximizers. The only way to be sure that you won't regret a decision is by making the best possible decision. However, the more options you have, the more likely it is I that you will experience regret.
Postdecision regret, sometimes referred to as buyer's remorse, induces second thoughts that rejected alternatives were actually better than the one we chose, or that there are better alternatives out there that haven't been explored. The bitter taste of regret detracts from satisfaction, whether or not the regret is justified. Anticipated regret may be even worse, because it will produce not just dissatisfaction but paralysis...Anticipated regret will make decisions harder to make and postdecision regret will make them harder to enjoy.
Economists point out that the quality of any given option cannot be assessed in isolation from its alternatives. One of the "costs" of any option involves passing up the opportunities that a different option would have afforded. This is referred to as an opportunity cost. Every choice we make has opportunity costs associated with it.
The more alternatives there are from which to choose, the greater our experience of the opportunity costs will be. And the greater our experience of the opportunity costs, the less satisfaction we will derive from our chosen alternative.
As material and social circumstances improve, standards of comparison go up. As people have contact with items of high quality, they begin to suffer from "the curse of discernment." The lower quality items that used to be perfectly acceptable are no longer good enough. The hedonic zero point keeps rising, and expectations and aspirations rise with it. As a result, the rising quality of experience is met with rising expectations, and people are just running in place.
Lyubomirsky and colleagues found that social comparison information has relatively little impact on dispositionally happy people. Happy people were only minimally affected by whether the person working next to them was better or worse at an anagram task than they were. In contrast, unhappy people showed increases in assessed ability and positive feelings after working beside a slower peer, and decreases in assessed ability and positive feelings if they'd been working beside a faster peer.
The revised theory of helplessness and depression argued that helplessness induced by failure or lack of control leads to depression if a person's causal explanations for that failure are global, chronic, and personal. It is only then that people will have good reason to expect one failure to be followed by others. Tests of this revised theory have yielded impressive results. People do differ in the types of predispositions they display. People who find chronic causes for failure expect failures to persist. People who find global causes for failure expect failure to follow them into every area of life. And people who find personal causes for failure suffer large losses in self-esteem.
Heightened individualism means that, not only do people expect perfection in all things, but they expect to produce this perfection themselves. When they (inevitably) fail, the culture of individualism biases people toward causal explanations that focus on personal rather than universal factors. That is, the culture has established a kind of officially acceptable style of causal explanation, and it is one that encourages the individual to blame himself for failure. Unrealistically high expectations coupled with a tendency to take intense personal responsibility for failure make a lethal combination.
Even the trivial decisions add up. If the experience of disappointment is relentless, if virtually every choice you make fails to live up to expectations and aspirations, and if you consistently take personal responsibility for the disappointments, then the trivial looms larger and larger, and the conclusion that you can't do anything right becomes devastating.
Although at times maximizing may produce superior material outcomes (a question worth pursuing in its own right), we believe that such a strategy leads individuals to inferior psychological outcomes. We should acknowledge, though, that the causal arrow may point in the opposite direction; that is, unhappy or depressed individuals may resort to a maximizing strategy in an attempt to improve their current psychological state.
To manage the problem of excessive choice, people should decide where in life choice really matters and focus their time and energy there, letting other opportunities pass them by.
Learning to accept "good enough" will simplify decision making and increase satisfaction. Though satisficers may do less well than maximizers according to certain objective standards, nonetheless, by settling for "good enough" even when the "best" may be just around the corner, satisficers will usually feel better about the decisions they make.
So we should make an effort to limit how much we think about the attractive features of options we reject. Being a satisficer can help here. Because satisficers have their own standards for what is "good enough," they are less dependent than maximizers on comparison among alternatives.
We can vastly improve our subjective experience by consciously striving to be grateful more often for what is good about a choice or an experience, and to be disappointed less by what is bad about it...But with practice, we can learn to reflect on how much better things are than they might be, which will in turn make the good things in life feel even better.
We can mitigate regret by adopting the standards of a satisficer rather than a maximizer, reducing the number of options we consider before making a decision, and practicing gratitude for what is good in a decision rather than focusing on our disappointments with what is bad... We can make the task of lowering expectations easier by reducing the number of options we consider, and, once again, by being satisficers rather than maximizers.
Self-determination theory argues that motivational orientations that guide behavior have important consequences for healthy behavioral regulation and psychological well-being. Self-determination theory distinguishes between various types of motivation based on the reasons or goals that give impetus to behavior. Among the ways in which motivation varies, of primary consideration is the relative autonomy of an individual's activity. Autonomously motivated behavior is self-endorsed, volitional, and done willingly; that is, it is self-determined. In contrast, behavior that lacks autonomy is motivated by real or perceived controls, restrictions, and pressures, arising either from social contextual or internal forces.
The relative autonomy of behavior has important consequences for the quality of experience and performance in every domain of behavior, from health care to religious practice, and from education to work.
For more than three decades, scholarship in motivation has highlighted the primary distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for behavioral engagement. Intrinsic motivation represents a natural inclination toward assimilation, exploration, interesting activity, and mastery. Activities are intrinsically motivated when they are done for the interest and enjoyment they provide. In contrast, extrinsically motivated activities are those done for instrumental reasons or performed as a means to some separable end. This basic motivational distinction has important functional value, but SDT takes a more nuanced view, postulating a spectrum model of regulation, wherein behavior can be guided by intrinsic motivation and by several forms of extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation has been associated with a number of positive outcomes, including creativity, enhanced task performance, and higher psychological well-being.
Introjection has also been described as contingent self-esteem. A common manifestation of introjection is ego involvement, in which an individual is motivated to demonstrate ability to maintain a sense of self-worth. Although ego involvement can be highly motivating under particular circumstances, it is associated with a number of negative consequences, including greater stress, anxiety, self-handicapping, and unstable persistence.
Behaviors that t are integrated are not only valued and meaningful but also consciously assimilated into the self and brought into alignment with other values and goals. Like behaviors that are intrinsically motivated, integrated actions have an internal locus of causality and are self-endorsed; but because they are performed to obtain a separable outcome rather than as an end in themselves, they are still regarded as extrinsic.
The greater internalization and integration of regulation into the self, the more self-determined is behavior felt to be.
Cognitive evaluation theory began with the assumption that while intrinsic motivation is a propensity of the human organism, it will be catalyzed or facilitated in circumstances that support its expression and hindered under social circumstances that undercut it. Among its major tenets, CET specifies that intrinsic motivation depends on conditions that allow (1) an experience of autonomy or an internal perceived locus of causality, and (2) the experience of effectance or competence.
Among the most controversial implications of CET is the proposition that contexts in which rewards are used to control behavior undermine intrinsic motivation and yield many hidden costs that were unanticipated by reward-based theories of motivation.
Individuals come to see themselves as performing the behavior for the reward or the rewarding agent and thus not because of their own interests, values, or motivations. Accordingly, behavior becomes reward dependent, and any intrinsic motivation that might have been manifest is undermined.
Deci and Ryan review evidence showing that providing optimal challenge, positive performance feedback, and freedom from controlling evaluations facilitate intrinsic motivation, while negative performance feedback undermines it. Vallerand and Reid found that these effects are mediated by the individual's own perceived competence.
Beginning in early childhood, the ratio of intrinsic to extrinsic motivation begins to shift dramatically in the direction of extrinsic activities. Indeed, as we grow older, most of us spend less and less time simply pursuing what interests us and more and more time pursuing goals and responsibilities that the social world obliges us to perform.
Individuals who feel efficacious in performing an activity are more likely to adopt it as their own, and conditions that support the development of relevant skills, by offering optimal challenges and effectance-relevant feedback, facilitate internalization.
Baumeister, Heatherton, and Tice noted that, in general, individuals give relatively low priority to accurate self-knowledge. Instead, they pay most attention to information that enhances and validates the self-concept. The invested nature of attention can thus lead to the defensive redirection of attention away from phenomena that threaten the concept of self. Both attentional limits and selectivity biases can have adaptive value in many circumstances, but they also can hinder optimal regulation of behavior.
Attentional limits and biases provide ripe conditions for compartmentalization or fracturing of the self, wherein some aspects of self are placed on the stage of awareness and play a role in an individual's behavior, while others are actively kept backstage, out of the spotlight of attention.
An ego-invested motivational orientation uses attention to select and shape experiences or distort them in memory in a way that defends and protects against ego-threat and clings to experiences or an interpretation of them that affirms the ego. The self-centered use of attention outlined here hinders the openness to events and experience that could allow for an integration of self-aspects that could permit fuller, more authentic functioning.
Using a conditioning paradigm in which individuals were reinforced for a subtle hand movement, they demonstrated that those who were unaware that conditioning was taking place showed the fastest rates of learning. Individuals who were told in a vague way that they were being conditioned showed slower learning of the response. Those who were explicitly instructed to learn the movement response that was being reinforced displayed the slowest learning. Thus, the more conscious individuals were of the conditioning, the more difficult was the development of automatized behavior.
Collectively, this research suggests that consciousness, when brought to bear on present realities, can introduce an element of self-direction in what would otherwise be nonconsciously regulated, controlled behavior. But if behavior is to be regulated in a self-directed or self-endorsed manner on an ongoing, day-today basis, a dispositionally elevated level of attention and awareness would seem essential.
Mindfulness, which we define as an open or receptive awareness of and attention to what is taking place in the present moment. It has similarly been described as "the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us at the successive moments of perception" and, more simply, as "keeping one's consciousness alive to the present reality".
As a monitoring function, mindfulness creates a mental distance between the "I," or self and the contents of consciousness (thoughts, emotions, and motives), one's behavior, and the environment. One consequence of this observant stance, we argue, is enhanced self-awareness and the provision of a window of opportunity to choose the form, direction, and other specifics of action; that is, to act in an autonomous manner.
Although automatic processes may activate behaviors in any given moment, we contend that mindfulness of motives and the actions that follow from them can lead to an overriding or redirection of such processes.
In this vein, it is important to note that the effect of mindfulness lies not necessarily in creating psychological experiences, many of which are conditioned phenomena that arise spontaneously, but in allowing for choicefulness in whether to endorse or veto the directives that consciousness brings to awareness, thereby permitting the direction of action toward self-endorsed ends.
Mindfulness appears not only to foster self-endorsed activity at the level of dayto- day behavior but also to encourage the adoption of higher order goals and values that reflect healthy regulation.
It might then be possible that a greater dose of mindfulness helps to inoculate individuals against social and cultural forces acting to inhibit or undermine choicefulness and the self-endorsement of values, goals, and behaviors. In fact, it may be difficult in today's society to live autonomously without mindfulness, considering the multitude of forces, internal and external, that often pull us in one direction or another.
Considerable behavioral-genetic research indicates that permanently changing a person's happiness levels is very difficult, if not impossible. In other words, it appears there is a genetically determined set point for happiness. Lykken and Tellegen provided twin and adoption data to suggest that the heritability of wellbeing may be as high as 80%. This suggests that each person has a built-in attractor for happiness, which he or she can orbit around but never leave behind. In other words, the set point remains the most likely or expected value in a person's temporal distribution of happiness across the life span.
A related source of pessimism comes from research on personality traits. Traits are cognitive, affective, and behavioral complexes that are, by definition, consistent across situations and across the life span. Therefore, they may account for part of the stability of well-being. For example, McCrae and Costa have shown impressive long-term stability for neuroticism and extraversion, the two Big Five traits most closely related to well-being. Based on such data, McCrae and Costa argued that people also tend to maintain the same relative level of happiness over time.
Another source of pessimism arises from the concept of hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill. Humans quickly adapt to changes, positive or negative. Thus, although new circumstances may temporarily cause people to become happier or sadder, the effect of these new circumstances on happiness diminishes quickly or even disappears entirely, once people habituate to it.
These three ideas all suggest that "what goes up must come down." If so, instead of seeking an upward spiral, perhaps people would be better off simply accepting their current personality and happiness levels. By doing so, they might avoid experiencing upsetting fluctuations and instabilities in their mood and self-feelings and the disappointment of realizing that nothing really makes a difference.
A reason that genes are not necessarily destiny is that they influence happiness only indirectly—that is, by shaping the kinds of experiences and environments a person has or seeks to have. Thus, unwanted effects of genes could be minimized by active efforts to steer yourself away from problematic situations or to avoid maladaptive behaviors.... consistent with our theoretical model, these results suggest that new (in this case, goal-based) activities can first boost well-being and then maintain it at the new level, to the extent that the person remains successful in the activities.
Operationally, we might define a person's current happiness level in terms of his or her retrospective summary judgments about some recent period (such as the last 2, 6, or 12 months) or as the average of momentary judgments of happiness generated at multiple times during that period.
The set point is genetically determined and essentially constant. In a sense, it represents the level of happiness a person is likely to experience when all other factors in the model are equal to zero.
According to our model, positive life changes relevant to happiness fall into two broad categories—those based on changes in the circumstances, settings, and facts of a person's life and those based on changes in a person's intentional activities in life. "Circumstances" refers to demographic variables, such as age, marital status, employment status, and income. They also refer to geographic and contextual variables, such as the home and region in which the person lives, the conveniences a person enjoys, and the person's possessions.
In contrast, activities refers to the intentional and effortful practices in which a person engages. Such practices may be cognitive (i.e., regularly adopting an optimistic or positive attitude), behavioral (i.e., regularly being kind to others or regularly engaging in physical exercise), or volitional (i.e., identifying and striving for meaningful personal goals). Common to all of these is the notion of intentional effort and commitment in service of particular desired objectives or experiences.... Still, activities have the potential to create sustained positive change because of their more dynamic and varying nature and because of their capacity to produce a steady stream of positive and rich experiences. If anything can do it, activities can.
As expected, both positive activity and circumstantial changes predicted increased happiness at Time 2. However, only activity changes predicted happiness at Time 3, indicating that the earlier activity-based gains had been maintained, whereas the earlier circumstance-based gains had been attenuated...Again, however, only the activity change variable accounted for maintained change in well-being.... This finding supports an important premise of our longitudinal model—namely, that activity changes induce more varied experiences and less hedonic adaptation, relative to circumstantial changes. Again, we believe these characteristics of activity help account for its potential long-term effect on happiness.
Not all activities will help a particular person become happier. People have enduring strengths, interests, values, and inclinations, which predispose them to benefit more from some activities than others. This general "matching" hypothesis is supported by work showing that the positive effects of goal-attainment on subjective well-being are moderated by goal-person fit.
As these examples illustrate, finding intrinsically motivated activities may be crucial not only for the person's ability to initiate the activity but also for his or her ability to keep on doing the activity in the long term. If the activity becomes boring, the person may stop doing it. In this light, an important factor influencing activity's effect on happiness likely concerns how the person varies his or her activities.
Another factor may be the timing of activity; if the person does the activity too often or not often enough or at the wrong times, it may lose its efficacy. For example, Lyubomirsky, Tkach, et al. found that counting your blessings once a week may be the optimal rate or schedule.
The study of time perspective investigates how the flow of human experience is parceled into temporal categories, or time frames, usually of past, present, and future. The relative emphasis or habitual focus on any of these frames is often biased toward overusing some of them while underusing others. These learned temporal biases are influenced by culture, education, religion, social class, and other conditions. A balanced time perspective is the state and the ongoing process of being able to switch flexibly among these time frames as most appropriate to the demands of the current behavioral setting. Time perspective is a basic aspect of individual subjective experience. It also influences individual choices and actions and can become a dispositional characteristic when an individual's biased time perspective becomes a dominant way of responding.
Time perspective represents an individual's way of relating to the psychological concepts of past, present, and future. Time and its dimensions are not viewed as objective stimuli that exist independently of the person, but as psychological concepts constructed and reconstructed by the individual. One of the broadest definitions of time orientation, given by Hornik and Zakay, is the "relative dominance of past, present or future in a person's thought."
Time perspective is one of the most powerful influences on virtually all aspects of human behavior. It can shape the quality of life of individuals and even the destinies of nations, such as when a majority of individuals adopt a biased temporal orientation that overly promotes a focus on the past, or the future, or the present.
The future-oriented person always has an eye toward consequences, contingencies, and probable outcomes of present decisions and actions. He or she is dedicated to working for future goals and their attendant rewards, often at the expense of present enjoyment, delaying gratification, and avoiding time-wasting temptations. Such individuals live in a world of cognitive abstraction, suppressing the reality of the present for the imagined reality of an idealized future world.... They tend to be more successful than others, both academically and in their careers... The downside of excessive future orientation is minimizing the need for social connections, not taking time for occasional self indulgence, and not being grounded in a sense of community and cultural traditions.
The Past TP is associated with focus on family, tradition, continuity of self over time, and a focus on history. This can be either positive or negative. The Past-Positive TP reflects a warm, pleasurable, often sentimental and nostalgic view of the person's past with emphasis on maintaining relationships with family and friends. These individuals have the highest sense of self-esteem and happiness of those dominant on the other factors.... In general, a past orientation has the downside of being excessively conservative, cautious, avoiding change and openness to new experiences and cultures, and sustaining the status quo even when it is not in the person's best interest.
The Present-Hedonistic person lives in the moment, values hedonistic pleasures, enjoys high-intensity activities, seeks thrills and new sensations, and is open to friendships and sexual adventures. He or she would score highly on items such as: "It is important to put excitement in my life." That kind of person acts with little concern for the consequences of his or her actions by avoiding cost-benefit analyses and contingency planning.
The Present-Fatalistic TP, on the other hand, is associated with hopelessness and immutable beliefs that outside forces control the person's life, such as spiritual or governmental forces. It may be a rather realistic orientation for those living in poverty in ghettoes or refugee camps. It is not uncommon for the parents of poor children—living the hedonistic life—to become fatalistically resigned to be helpless in changing or improving the quality of their life.
Zimbardo and Boyd demonstrate that both Past-Negative and Present- Fatalistic perspectives are associated with strong feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, and aggression. Such temporal perspectives create a negative self-image that handicaps attempts at constructive actions.
An excessive emphasis on any given TP type at the expense of the other orientations leads to an imbalance that may not be optimal for individuals nor ideal in the long run for nations. There are costs and sacrifices associated with valuing achievement-oriented, workaholic, future TP traits over and above personal indulgences and civic and social engagement. Westerners are now spending less time on the following vital activities: family, friends, churchgoing, recreation, hobbies, and even household chores.
Zimbardo: "In an optimally balanced time perspective, the past, present, and future components blend and flexibly engage, depending on a situation's demands and our needs and values".
People with a balanced TP are capable of operating in a temporal mode appropriate to the situation in which they find themselves. When they spend time with their families and friends, they are fully with them and value the opportunity to share a common past. When they take a day off work, they get involved in recreation rather than feel guilty about the work they haven't done. However, when working and studying, they may well put on their more appropriate future TP hat and work more productively.
Kurc found that future TP, and especially possession of long-term goals, positively correlated with virtually all aspects of well-being, especially a meaningful life, social self-efficacy, and realism/persistence. On the other hand, higher levels of present preoccupation were associated with greater degrees of emotional distress and hopelessness. Bohart argues that the ability of humans to be future-oriented is fundamental for human development because it allows the sense of possibility, of being agentic, of taking responsibility, and of making choices. The association of future orientation with a greater sense of personal power and control has been supported by empirical research.
We believe that a strong, narrowly selective temporal bias in a client should alert a counselor or therapist of a fundamental platform on which many presenting problems are erected. Seemingly disparate problems may then be seen as symptomatic of a common underlying temporal misbalance, thus the need for temporal adjustment and rebalancing.
An exploration of an individual's relationship with time has the potential to direct awareness toward fuller evaluations of his or her life, toward finding the links and connections between past and present events. Doing so helps to develop a sense of continuity between temporal zones and facilitates the process of finding deeper meaning in his or her existence.
Positive psychology authors variously blame our dissatisfaction on envy of other people or of wealthier nations, unrealistic expectations, extrinsically motivated work, and failure to appreciate what we already have. All approach the same conclusion: Upward comparisons, those involving people who are superior to us, give rise to dissatisfaction and greed. We should instead focus on downward comparisons to foster reasonable expectations and a sense of gratitude.
The interaction between affect and information-seeking was conceptualized by Brickman and Bulman as a painful dilemma: When we want to learn how we might improve, we must swallow the bitter pill of our own inferiority; when we want to enhance our self-esteem, we must pay the price of foregoing useful information. However, we can escape this double bind as long as we believe that we are capable of remedying the situation.
Other studies have similarly demonstrated that attainability is a crucial element of positive upward comparisons. Attainability, however, can cut both ways. If the similarity of an inferior target becomes salient, the downward comparison can result in reduced self-esteem and increased anxiety.
Contact with upward comparison targets is not just a form of social support. Research on comparisons involving self-improvement goals indicates that we can enter into a comparison not for the purpose of judging ourselves or the target, but for the purpose of observing the target to learn how we can improve our own skills.
Another route to affectively positive upward comparisons involves reducing the significance of the domain. There is little cost in learning that we are not good at something we never cared about to begin with.
Upward comparisons are a valuable resource for learning about ourselves, improving our performance, and receiving social support from others who are well situated to offer it.
Upward comparisons are rewarding when we focus on another's performance— on the information contained in his or her superior outcomes—and assimilate these observations into ourselves.
For upward comparison to be a resource for change, persons making the comparison need to believe that they are able to change. Without a mutable self-image, we can respond to upward comparisons only by feeling irremediably inferior or by defensively discounting the domain or the target.
Incremental theorists believe that traits emerge from experience and practice and that performance can usually be improved by effort. Individuals who make effort attributions show more resilience in the face of failure than those making innate-ability attributions.
An incremental theory of intelligence is clearly beneficial if you want to receive an initially negative piece of information (i.e., that you could be doing better) and use it as a spur to improvement. But are theories of intelligence amenable to intentional change?
An informational comparison requires observing how they succeeded. Thus, the optimal comparison is with an individual whom we know well and whom we have ample opportunity to observe in action.
Choosing a target whose circumstances are too similar to ours offers us nothing to target for improvement, while choosing one who is too different makes the comparison irrelevant. Both extremes violate the same principle: We must be able to see some way of moving from our present state to the state of the target.
We would do well to choose to value domains in which there is a very wide range of possible skill levels and a great deal of progress to be made before effort begins to produce diminishing returns. This is the type of activity Csikszentmihalyi endorses as producing flow, a state of intense interest in which our ever-growing skills can be matched with everincreasing challenges.
An individual who is preparing to observe a superior target would be advised to focus on similarities between them that make the target's experience and skills relevant but on differences that make the target's state still attainable. During the observation, it is better not to focus on the target at all, but on his or her actions.
Furthermore, the literature on priming and behavioral automaticity suggests that subtle exposure to comparison targets can cause substantial assimilation of their traits, attitudes, and behaviors.
It appears that the beneficial aspects of upward comparison (learning and inspiration) can occur peripherally and automatically, whereas the negative aspects require conscious attention and self-focus. Thus, we can see engagement and interest in valued tasks as a tool for positive upward comparison and an antidote to jealousy and dysphoria.
This chapter primarily discusses targets we can learn from and interact with, but we should also acknowledge the value of heroes and role models. Comparisons with inspiringbut- distant individuals work when the domain is general and affective, but not when we're trying to iron out details of performance.
Intuitively, we can see how people who believe that the self is unchangeable would see little value in attempting to assimilate the qualities of others, and there is evidence that they are less willing to try to improve their performance in general.
To allow students to learn from one another, we should encourage them to see their abilities as fluid rather than fixed. This may be challenging in an environment built around grades, standardized tests, and grouping students by ability level (ultimately leading to grouping by opportunities for higher education).
Greater knowledge about a comparison target helps prevent common attribution errors and may also help prevent contrast comparisons in cases where the subject is inclined to believe that the target belongs to some distinct and unattainable category (e.g., nerd, genius, Asian). Competitive situations have been found to reduce this kind of detailed knowledge and to encourage students to attribute their successes and others' failures to immutable personal characteristics. Competition in general reduces opportunities to make detailed comparisons with others.
Maintaining a mutable self-image allows us to make comparisons across multiple domains and maintain flexibility in our contingencies of self-worth. While it is not beneficial to always ignore or devalue a domain in which we have failed, these strategies can provide temporary emotional relief so that it becomes easier to mobilize long-term learning strategies such as self-improvement comparisons with coworkers who outperform us.
Much research in social comparison has dealt with the question of how we can weather comparisons without feelings of condescension on one hand or inferiority and jealousy on the other. This quandary encompasses sibling rivalry, friends who, deliberately or inadvertently, measure one another's success, and couples who experience tension as one member succeeds in his or her career goals while the other flounders.
When the differences between ourselves and our friends are not so categorical, we can elaborate on or even create smaller differences. For example, we can develop new skills or interests, which overlap only partially with those of our friends, thus allowing us to find a niche free of competition. If we are achieving in different fields, it becomes more difficult to keep score on the type of informationpoor, unidimensional measures that create harmful comparisons.
The Health Belief Model, as well as related models, proposed that feelings of vulnerability, coupled with beliefs about the efficacy of a particular health behavior for reducing vulnerability, were among the key variables needed to motivate people to engage in behavior change. While there is manifold evidence for this approach, positive psychology has suggested a very different way of addressing the same issues.
In a series of studies, Sherman and colleagues have found that leading people to engage in self-affirming experiences, such as reflecting on important values, helps decrease defensiveness about health risks, and motivates people to change their health behaviors.
Why do positive experiences like self-affirmation or positive qualities like optimism help people to confront negative health information and promote positive health behaviors? Several models have proposed that positive experiences and self-affirmations work as a resource upon which individuals can draw in time of need.
Social support is defined as the perception or experience that one is loved and cared for by others, esteemed and valued, and part of a social network of mutual assistance and obligations. Social support may involve specific transactions whereby one person receives advice, instrumental support, or emotional solace from another, or it may be experienced primarily via the perception that help and support is potentially available from those with whom one is close.
Reviews of this literature have suggested that the combination of information, relaxation, and modest cognitive behavioral interventions, such as learning to think differently about the unpleasant sensations of a procedure, or developing behavioral coping techniques, such as breathing exercises, account for the success in reducing anxiety, improving coping, and fostering recovery.
Broadly speaking, our view of human nature falls into one of two camps: basically negative and destructive or positive and constructive. It has been suggested that the fundamental assumptions of mainstream psychology are those of the former. As Seligman has said: "This "rotten-to-the-core" view pervades Western thought, and if there is any doctrine positive psychology seeks to overthrow it is this one. Its original manifestation is the doctrine of original sin."
What we do as therapists, whether it is to give advice, interpret, reassure, listen, ask questions, or whatever else, is contextualized by our view of human nature. What needs to be emphasized is the paradigmatic difference between the two fundamental assumptions previously described and how an individual's approach to the artistry of therapy inevitably follows from his or her view of human nature. If people's nature is essentially driven by destructive impulses as suggested by Freud, the role of therapists is to help keep tight the constraints on those impulses. If people's nature is essentially driven by constructive impulses as suggested by Rogers, our role is to loosen the constraints on those impulses.
In a social environment characterized by conditional positive regard, people self-actualize not in a direction consistent with their actualizing tendency but in a direction consistent with their conditions of worth: Rogers: "This, as we see it, is the basic estrangement in man. He has not been true to himself, to his natural organismic valuing of experience, but for the sake of preserving the positive regard of others has now come to falsify some of the values he experiences and to perceiving them in terms based only on their value to others. Yet this has not been a conscious choice, but a natural—and tragic—development in infancy".
Psychological maladjustment develops through the internalization of conditions of worth. In contrast, in a social environment characterized by unconditional positive regard, people self-actualize in a direction consistent with their actualizing tendency toward becoming what Rogers referred to as fully functioning human beings.
Self-determination theory posits three basic psychological needs—autonomy, competence, and relatedness— and theorizes that fulfillment of these needs is essential for growth. It, therefore, defines the nutrients that the social environment must provide for intrinsic motivation to take place.
Congruent therapists who have an empathic understanding of the client's frame of reference are perceptive of how the client is feeling and of how they themselves are feeling. They are able to manage their own emotions and to use their own emotions creatively in the service of the therapeutic relationship. Therapists strive to understand the client's world from the client's perspective, and they are accepting of the client's directions in life without imposing their own agenda.
The crux of being a positive therapist is that the therapist adopts a way of thinking that fully embraces the notion that his or her task is to facilitate the client's actualizing tendency. It is our ideas about human nature that make us the psychotherapists we are.
Psychological problems are seen as resulting from the thwarting of the tendency toward actualization, and the nature of individuals' psychological problems can be understood when we know more about their developmental social-environmental conditions and the values and beliefs that they have internalized. In working to facilitate the actualizing tendency, the therapist is both helping to alleviate psychopathology and to promote well-being.
The idea that all psychological problems are best understood through the lens of the medical model and require specific treatments is an unfounded assumption. Like many other writers, we are increasingly concerned about the inappropriate medicalization of psychological problems. A positive therapy stands in sharp contrast to attempts that seek to classify every problem of living as a psychological disorder.
In helping people explore the values that are important to them, the implication is that therapy is not about social adjustment but about personal change. Much of the work that is carried out by clinical and counseling psychologists is aimed at social adjustment. This becomes a political agenda when personal change is in conflict with social adjustment.
According to hope theory, hope reflects individuals' perceptions of their capacities to (1) clearly conceptualize goals; (2) develop the specific strategies to reach those goals (pathways thinking); and (3) initiate and sustain the motivation for using those strategies (agency thinking).
According to hope theory, a goal can be anything that an individual desires to experience, create, get, do, or become. As such, a goal may be a significant, lifelong pursuit (e.g., developing a comprehensive theory of human motivation), or it may be mundane and brief (e.g., getting a ride to school). Goals also may vary in terms of having perceived probabilities of attainment that vary from very low to very high. On this point, high-hope individuals prefer stretch goals that are slightly more difficult than previously attained goals.
Indeed, whatever the system of psychotherapy, beneficial change may be attributable, in part, to hope. According to Snyder, Ilardi, Cheavens, change occurs because people learn more effective agentic and pathways and goal-directed thinking.
Before any specific treatment strategies are applied, the primary source of change is the client's expectancy that therapy will make a positive difference in his or her life. These initial improvements are analogous to increases in the agency component of hope—determination that an individual can make improvements in his or her life. Therefore, it is believed that increases in agency, as opposed to increases in pathways thinking, will be related to positive change in the first stages of therapy.
We propose that hope finding, bonding, enhancing, and reminding are the essential strategies for accentuating hope. Hope finding can strengthen clients' expectations that the therapists can and will help them. Bolstering clients' expectations for assistance simultaneously may instill hope in change and enhance the therapeutic bond between client and therapist. Hope bonding is the formation of a sound hopeful therapeutic alliance; it grounds the client in a hopeful therapeutic context. Therapists possessing high levels of hope may be most facile at meeting the important therapeutic goal of establishing an emotionally charged connection. They also may be best at collaborating on mutually agreed-on goals by engaging in productive tasks. Hope-enhancing strategies typically involve enlisting clients in tasks that are designed to: Conceptualize reasonable goals more clearly; Produce numerous pathways to attainment; Summon the energy to maintain pursuit; Reframe insurmountable obstacles as challenges to be overcome.
Hope reminding is the promotion of effortful daily use of hopeful cognitions. Goal thoughts and barrier thoughts are identified cognitive cues that stimulate the client to incorporate therapeutic techniques that have previously enhanced hopeful thought.
According to Snyder et al. hope flourishes when people develop a strong bond to one or more caregivers, allowing the person to perceive himself or herself as having some sense of control in the world. "As social creatures, we need to confide in someone about our dreams and goals". Thus, it seems that for both the therapeutic alliance and for hope to develop, a supportive environment is needed in which people receive basic instruction in goal pursuits from a positive model.
Indeed, Lopez, Floyd, et al. state that hope-enhancement strategies "are designed to help clients in conceptualizing clearer goals, producing numerous pathways to attainment, summoning the mental energy to maintain the goal pursuit, and reframing insurmountable obstacles as challenges to be overcome. The hopeful therapeutic relationship facilitates these hope components".
Therapists should encourage the development of new relationships that increase the hope in an individual's life. Associating with individuals who are supportive of goal pursuits, who challenge their peers to pursue stretch goals, and who encourage those peers to overcome barriers may help people crystallize their hopeful thought.
Research has shown that children, adolescents, and adults with higher levels of hope do better in school and athletics, have better health, have better problem-solving skills, and are more adjusted psychologically. As such, enhancing hope may have much benefit for these individuals. As people chart their own paths through life, a sense of hope can assist them in making good decisions about their goals.
Hopelessness and anxiety lessened significantly, whereas state hope increased reliably. Moreover, in comparison to members of a reminiscence therapy group, members of the hope-focused group experienced a more substantial decrease in depressive symptomatology.
DO Break a long-range goal into steps or subgoals. Begin your pursuit of a distant goal by concentrating on the first subgoal. Practice making different routes to your goals and select the best one. Mentally rehearse scripts for what you would do should you encounter a blockage. If you need a new skill to reach your goal, learn it. Cultivate two-way friendships where you can give and get advice.
DON'T Think you can reach your big goals all at once. Be too hurried in producing routes to your goals. Be rushed to select the best or first route to your goal. Overthink with the idea of finding one perfect route to your goal. Conclude you are lacking in talent or are no good when an initial strategy fails. Get into friendships where you are praised for not coming up with solutions to your problems.
DO Tell yourself that you have chosen the goal, so it is your job to go after it. Learn to talk to yourself in positive voices (e.g., I can do this!). Recall your previous successful goal pursuits, particularly when you are in a jam. Be able to laugh at yourself, especially if you encounter some impediment to your goal pursuits. Find a substitute goal when the original goal is blocked solidly. Enjoy the process of getting to your goals and do not focus only on the final attainment.
DON'T Allow yourself to be surprised repeatedly by roadblocks that appear in your life. Try to squelch totally any internal put-down thoughts because this may only make them stronger. Get impatient if your willful thinking doesn't increase quickly. Conclude that things never will change, especially if you are down. Engage in self-pity when faced with adversity. Stick to a blocked goal when it is truly blocked. Constantly ask yourself how you are doing to evaluate your progress toward a goal.
Mary Warnock sums up the central concern of existential philosophy: "Broadly speaking, we can say that the common interest which unites Existential philosophers is the interest in human freedom . . . for Existentialists the problem of freedom is in a sense a practical problem. They aim, above all, to show people that they are free, to open their eyes to something which has always been true, but which for one reason or another may not always have been recognized, namely that men are free to choose, not only what to do on a specific occasion, but what to value and how to live."
Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish intellectual whom many would consider to be one of the first existentialist thinkers, forged many of his ideas in direct opposition to the philosophical views of his contemporaries. In a similar tone, but from a different perspective, Friedrich Nietzsche, the German atheistic existentialist, lamented the philosophers of his day who dedicated their prodigious output to thinking about the world without reference to the pains and passions of being human. In his writing, Kierkegaard pillories the tendency to construct elegant systems of thought that do not correspond to everyday human experience. He compares it to a man who builds a magnificent mansion, yet lives in a shack next door.
Existential thinking, therefore, from the beginning, has always been interested in the lived experience of human beings, and it is this that enables it to inform psychotherapy. It could be argued that the writings of "Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, with their persuasive and varied attempts to convince their readers and with their astute insights into the human condition, offer a therapeutic prototype, a means of helping others to make sense of the world.
Sartre identified radical freedom with being human, and his assertion that existence precedes essence means that man is not determined, he has no essential self, and is, therefore, free to make of himself what he will. With reference to psychotherapy, it has been argued that the principle aim of any effective therapeutic approach is to enable individuals who come feeling confined or limited to regain an appreciation of their freedom as human beings.
Necessity refers to the givens of life, the things that are unavoidable, such as death and the existence of other human beings. With reference to the necessities of life, Heidegger described existence as having the quality of "thrownness." That is, we do not choose many of the givens of life, for example, our parents and the way the world is; nor do we choose to be born, but rather we are thrown into life and, therefore, have to do with it as best we can.
In contrast to necessity (what is given) stands possibility (what we can make of it). Possibility refers to the openness of existence—that humans are free to choose the way they relate to life, how they define themselves, and the way they understand the world. The existential dual concern with both possibility and limitation, therefore, provides a framework within which the practice of positive psychology can recognize human potential without succumbing to an unrealistic optimism.
Optimism represents the expectation of a favorable outcome whereas hope, being more flexible, recognizes situations in which a favorable outcome is less likely and, therefore, maintains an openness to the difficulty of the experience and a flexibility of response to its challenges. The existential approach is, therefore, to adjust Frankl's terminology, neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but it can be profoundly hopeful by finding meaning even in the face of the unchangeable givens of life such as pain, guilt, and death.
Our values are those things for which we are prepared to give up other things. One way of understanding the difference between rules and values is that whereas a rule is to be obeyed, values are realized or fulfilled. That is, we bring them into reality when we act on them. Therefore, the way we relate to ourselves, the world, and others both discloses and is dictated by the values we hold.
Frankl suggests that meaning in life is attained by the realization of values and refers to his ability to find meaning even in the Nazi concentration camp by quoting Nietzsche's maxim, "He who has a why to live for can endure almost any how".
First, wisdom identifies in the most universal sense the highest forms of expertise that humans can acquire. Studying wisdom helps reveal the strongest qualities of humans as they have evolved through the experience of succeeding generations. Certainly, only few achieve wisdom in its higher form; yet, it is those few who hold the key to what humans could be at their best.
Second, even if most of us never acquire higher levels of its manifestation, it seems worth the effort to strive for wisdom. Empirical wisdom research suggests that wisdom can be conceptualized as a more-or-less (i.e., quantitative) phenomenon. Even more to the point, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that even a little wisdom can make a difference in people's lives.
Third, wisdom is a vital component of the three spheres of positive psychology suggested by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi. Wisdom can be considered a positive personal characteristic; it involves valuable subjective experiences; and it is a life orientation that contributes to productivity and well-being at the individual, social group, and societal levels.
First, wisdom is different from other personal characteristics in that it is integrative and involves cognitive, affective, and motivational elements. Second, wisdom is an ideal: Many people may strive for wisdom, but only few, if any, will ever become truly wise. Third, wisdom sets high behavioral standards; it guides a person's behavior in ways that simultaneously optimize this person's own potential and that of fellow mortals.
Informed by cultural-historical work on wisdom, the psychological research group of Paul B. Baltes has defined wisdom as an expert knowledge about fundamental questions as to the meaning and conduct of life. Five criteria serve to describe this type of expert knowledge in more detail. The first two general, basic criteria—Jitctual knowledge and procedural knowledge—are characteristic of all types of expertise. Applied to wisdom-related expertise, these criteria are rich factual knowledge about human nature and the life course and rich procedural knowledge about ways of dealing with fundamental questions about the meaning and conduct of life.
As this definition of wisdom suggests, wisdom is neither technical nor intellectual knowledge in the more narrow sense. On the contrary, well-elaborated knowledge about the meaning and conduct of life involves knowledge about human emotions and motivations.
First, as is typical for the development of any expertise, we assume that wisdom is acquired through an extended and intensive process of learning and practice. This process requires a high degree of motivation to strive for excellence as well as supportive environmental conditions.
From a developmental point of view, we consider certain emotional experiences and dispositions to be fundamental to the acquisition of wisdom as an expert knowledge system about the meaning and conduct of life. For example, emotional stability and affective sensitivity most likely facilitate the acquisition of wisdom-related knowledge.
It is reasonable to assume that people with high levels of wisdomrelated knowledge experience potentially emotion-evoking events in quite different ways than people with low levels of wisdom-related knowledge. Wisdom, as we have defined it, refers to contextual, historical, dialectical, and holistic knowledge that represents events and phenomena on various levels of abstraction and in different time frames. As a consequence, people with high levels of wisdom-related knowledge should be better able to regard phenomena from a broader viewpoint, to relativize their emotional implications, and to adopt a detached and less emotional attitude than people with low levels of wisdom-related knowledge.
Being able to work with emotions, understand emotions, modify them, and use the information they provide to deal with the environment may be a prerequisite, concomitant, and consequence of wisdom-related knowledge.
Evidence supports the notion that wisdom-related knowledge is not simply a variant of intelligence. Certain personality traits and especially social-cognitive style show more overlap with wisdom as we have defined it. This study's correlational evidence may be seen as a first step in testing the prediction that the development of wisdom during adulthood requires not only several cognitive abilities but also noncognitive person-related resources.
People with higher levels of wisdom-related knowledge also reported less preference for values revolving around a pleasurable and comfortable life. Instead, they reported preferring self-oriented values such as personal growth and insight as well as a preference for other-oriented values related to environmental protection, societal engagement, and the well-being of friends. Finally, people with high levels of wisdom-related knowledge showed less preference for conflict management strategies that reflect either a one-sided concern with their own interest (i.e., dominance), a one-sided concern with others' interests (i.e., submission), or no concern at all (i.e., avoidance). As predicted, they preferred a cooperative approach reflecting a joint concern for their own and the opponent's interests.
Fostering the Future: Resilience Theory and the Practice of Positive Psychology, T. Yates, A. Masten
The study of risk and resilience sprang from the observation that some individuals in populations exposed to incontrovertible adversity nevertheless achieve positive developmental outcomes. The lives of these individuals exemplify patterns of resilience reflecting "the process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging or threatening circumstances". Resilience is predicated on exposure to significant threat or adversity, and on the attainment of good outcomes despite this exposure.
Within a developmental perspective, competence is conceptualized as the adaptive use of resources, both within and outside the organism, to negotiate age-salient developmental challenges and achieve positive outcomes.
Adversity refers to negative experiences that have the potential to disrupt adaptive functioning or development. Adverse experiences may operate by temporarily overwhelming all the adaptive resources of an individual, by damaging the adaptive capacity of an individual in the short or long term, or by undermining the development of an individual's adaptive systems, with lasting consequences.
In the general population, assets (resources) and risks are associated with positive and negative outcomes, respectively. Assets refer to resources in a population that enhance the likelihood of positive developmental outcomes independent of risk status (e.g., good schools, problem-solving skills, family cohesion). Assets can take the form of human capital (i.e., resources within the person) or social capital (i.e., resources stemming from connections and relationships with other people and social organizations). Risks refer to events or conditions that increase the probability of an undesired outcome in a group of people with the risk factor (e.g., premature birth, impoverished neighborhood, lead exposure). A risk factor generally predicts worse outcomes in a group of individuals who have the risk factor, but not necessarily for every individual in the group.
At the level of the child, for example, children who are able to develop flexible coping strategies and a locus of control that allows them to attribute negative experiences to external factors, while retaining the capacity to value their own strengths and assets, fare better in the face of adversity. Intelligence and a sense of humor are associated with flexible problem-solving skills, as well as with academic and social competence.
Resilience is not a trait, nor is it a cause of children's faring well in the face of adversity. Rather, resilience is what happens when adaptive systems that have developed in the lives of individual children, within themselves, their relationships, and their environments, work effectively to maintain or restore competence in development. These basic systems have evolved in the course of biological and cultural evolution to protect and promote human development and survival.
Although changing gradually, disease models still locate disorder within the individual, rather than within the transactional exchanges between the individual and many other systems at multiple levels (e.g., family, peers, school, media, neighborhood) that could play a role in adaptive and maladaptive developmental pathways.
Prevention and intervention efforts are tools for preventing deviations from adaptive developmental pathways and for righting or redirecting maladaptive developmental courses toward more positive outcomes.
A resilience framework recognizes that children possess the potential for positive development if the relational, familial, communal, structural, and sociocultural contexts within which their development is embedded adequately scaffold the development and operation of normative adaptational processes. A competence focus shifts emphasis in intervention toward the promotion and protection of basic adaptational systems that provide the individual with resources to meet the developmental expectations of a given society.
Applied positive psychology is likely to be most efficacious if interventions are initiated early and maintained over time. Positive adaptation in one developmental period provides the child with a foundation that enables successful encounters with subsequent stage-salient challenges. Conversely, maladaptation at a prior stage of development may compromise the child's capacity to negotiate future developmental challenges successfully.
Undoubtedly, early intervention is important and powerful, but development can go awry at any time. A resilience framework justifies interventions across the developmental continuum, not just in early childhood.
During developmental transitions, the individual undergoes a major reorganization and integration of adaptive capacities, such that new skills are more likely to be incorporated into (or separated out from) the individual's adaptive repertoire. Thus, efforts to induce positive developmental change may be most potent if implemented during periods of developmental reorganization and integration.
In this chapter, we have outlined the implications of resilience theory for enhancing the well-being of at-risk populations. We have argued that practical applications of resilience theory can advance our knowledge of protective processes in adverse conditions. Finally, we have suggested that both practice and theory will be enhanced by the adoption of culturally sensitive, empowerment-oriented methods.
The urge to allow the remarkable capacities for human adaptation under adversity to distract us from the plight of children living in high-risk environments is tempting. However, the capacity for children to overcome adversity under the right circumstances does not justify either our continued collusion in the perpetuation of risk, or our omission of needed protections and supports for youth. Resilience is not a characteristic of the individual; it is a developmental process that is fostered or thwarted by the scaffolding provided by the individual's sociocultural and structural contexts, and ensuing transactions between the individual and multiple levels of ecological influence.
When trying to understand what it means to be human, we cannot ignore what we value, and why. Nor does it make sense to conclude that the emergence of new capacities, such as that for reflection, is less important for the destiny of the species than the more ancient genetic programs that control so much of our mind and behavior.
Positive psychology could be described as an effort to revive some of the agenda that had mobilized humanistic psychologists in the middle of the 20th century. At the same time, it does not share Maslow's and Rogers's suspicion of abstraction and quantification, but tries instead to extend the scientific method to deal with aspects of experience that had been ignored during those decades of what has been characterized as the "dust-bowl empiricism" of the mid-20th century.
Modern men and women sometimes wonder if struggling on is worth it and seek some larger purpose to add value to who they are.... Why we are like this, we do not know. A likely explanation points to the development of the prefrontal cortex in our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago. This new feature of the brain was a great boon to humankind: It allowed a person to collect, compare, and prioritize information from all of the other parts of the brain and then to decide which course to take. The old brain was built on simple stimulus-response principles: If an apple smelled good and you were hungry, you ate it; if you saw a serpent, you either fled or you attacked it; if the serpent appeared next to the fruit, you got confused.
We have evolved a metabrain, an organ that can integrate the contents of the single-purpose modutes'oflhe nervous system and that can manipulate, interfere with, and override the old connections between stimulus and response. This new organ—which is responsible for what philosophers have been calling "self-reflective consciousness"—has emancipated humans from strict genetic programs. With its help, we can make plans, we can postpone action, we can imagine things that do not exist. Science and literature, philosophy and religion could not have taken shape without it.
But an inevitable consequence of this new ability has been that we are also able to consciously deceive others about our intentions, to plot and to lie, to compare ourselves to others and to feel envy, and to experience greed. These undesirable consequences were largely the result of the realization of selfhood brought about by the operations of the metabrain.
The realization of individuality made possible by self-reflective consciousness is often considered the most precious achievement of our species. At the same time, some of our worst traits follow from it. Having realized that we are unique, distinct from conspeciflcs and other life forms, each human tends to conclude that the preservation of his or her individual existence is the ultimate priority.
Paradoxically, self-reflection also ushers in the possibility of self-doubt. As humans realized that they were independent individuals with a short lifespan, the question of what choices would lead to a meaningful life became increasingly urgent.
The realization of individuality brought about a sense of isolation and finitude, but it also gave the impression of autonomy and freedom. Trusting the creative independence of the mind, from the Age of Reason to the Atomic Age our ancestors could be at least somewhat confident that they could resolve the riddle of existence. But even this support was to be removed in time.
Even more recently, neuropsychology and behavioral genetics have come up with new and more systematic evidence that undermines a naive belief in the objectivity and autonomy of thought. The chemical basis of moods suggests that how happy or sad we feel does not depend on the operations of the mind but is determined at a lower level by molecular processes impervious to consciousness.
Perhaps the dominant method currently used by professionals to help people develop more constructive thoughts and behaviors is some kind of talking therapy. This holds for consultations with clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, and a variety of other mental health and development professionals, including nurses, social workers, organizational trainers, life coaches, and educational psychologists. Mental health caregivers often aim to improve the situation by focusing on what is wrong and teaching people to control, cope with, or "cure" the problem.
The psychobiological approach, favored by psychiatrists, assumes that the problem is basically biological, often some neurochemical imbalance, so its answer is to prescribe drugs such as Prozac to rectify the imbalance. The approach favored by most clinical psychologists is cognitive-behavioral. Here the problem is assumed to be one of faulty thinking, so the prescription is to change bad habits of thought with healthier forms of thinking. Clients are encouraged to test the reality of their assumptions and challenge and dispute their reasoning to arrive at more positive and appropriate interpretations of situations and strategies for dealing with them.
In contrast, humanistic (or experiential) models lay more stress on emotions and the need to disclose your feelings and possibly to act them out expressively to help deal with unfinished business; catharsis is encouraged. Finally, there are various systemic group methods, such as family therapy. Many psychotherapeutic approaches assume the problem is in the individual's head and try to tackle the problem by doing something solely with the individual. Family therapy assumes that the problem arises from the dynamics of the group and attempts are made to improve these through group discussion, observation, and intervention.
In the self-help literature, there seems to be much less emphasis on talking about your problem(s) and much more emphasis on looking to the future and elaborating where you would like to be. Instead of trying to analyze the problem and attempting to fix it, you are often encouraged to start from a vision of where you would like to be and work out what steps you can take to get there. There is often an emphasis on positive thinking, developed from Coue through Carnegie to the present-day emphasis on positive affirmations.
Social support is one factor that shows a positive correlation with life satisfaction. People who are married and cohabiting and people who belong to groups generally tend to report themselves more satisfied with life than those who are less socially embedded. People who are socially supported also do better on various health measures, and they tend to recover more quickly from illness. People also tend to rate themselves happier in the present when they are with friends than when they are alone.
Most of the Western approaches to personal development are concerned with changing thoughts—the contents of consciousness—whereas spiritual approaches like Buddhism seem more concerned with redirecting attention and refining the instrument of perception. This offers a strategy that bypasses much of the usual Western psychological focus on problems and goals in favor of allowing one's mind to work in a better way, through the aid of practices such as meditation and mindfulness.
By directing attention toward focusing on the present and detaching from identification with troubles, one gives both problems and desires less attention than in therapy or self-help and perhaps avoids the danger of fanning the flames of pointless rumination and childish emotion. Instead, one is encouraged to be here now and to view the world from a more-encompassing perspective.
Mainstream approaches to personal development currently seem to suggest that personal issues are best helped through discussion of their problematic nature with an expert helper, such as a clinician, counselor, or other mental health professional.
My studies suggest that there is a relationship among cognitive style, what people find difficult to change, and the kind of technique found to be helpful. Those with a preference for feeling on the MBTI seem to find disassociation strategies particularly helpful, for example. This makes sense as they are more primed to be engulfed by feelings.
Talking therapy may be contraindicated altogether in certain posttraumatic cases and where there is a risk of adverse restimulation setting off a downward spiral of negative thinking. In many countries, posttraumatic counseling is almost mandatory if you are a crime victim or in a serious fire, train crash, or other trauma. Yet research suggests that reliving the problem makes the situation worse for some people.
Elsewhere, insight into a problem may be insufficient to effect change. Prochaska's work suggests that although insight may be useful early in the change process, later support which helps embed new behavior and more constructive habits appears to be more critical. So where people know what they want and are committed to trying, social support may be the more critical factor.
It would be preferable if development rhetoric recognized the importance of more active, social, and intuitive routes to achieving the good life more explicitly. The work of positive psychologists and others detailing the merits of positive, embodied, and embedded approaches to development is already helping to legitimize practice in this area. However, positive psychology still inclines to a cognitively oriented approach to improving well-being, which champions the need for clear goals and planned action within a positive frame.
The findings in this study suggest that a wider range of processes help people to develop well-being than those typically advocated by clinicians and mental health professionals. One of the most popular was quieting the mind. A significant proportion of the sample valued approaches based on engaging with the world, being socially embedded, and in some cases building a positive attitude, finding purpose, and orienting toward the future. Many of the strategies that people found to be helpful are in line with key principles and practices advocated in positive psychology.
One implication is that clinicians, counselors, and mental health professionals might incorporate development strategies that recognize the importance of quieting the mind, physical activity, engagement with the world, social support, and building on strengths rather than just reflection...The suggestion of widening the range of strategies employed is not an argument against talking therapies per se but rather one of balance. Notions of counseling and competency dominate our approaches to personal development and are increasingly prevalent in other domains.
In the therapeutic century that we've just lived, it was the job of the therapist to minimize negative emotions: to dispense drugs or psychological interventions which make people less anxious, less angry, or less depressed. So the job was minimizing dysphoria. But there is an alternate approach to dysphoria: learning to function well in the face of dysphoria—dealing with it.
This posture emerges from the most important research finding in the field of personality of the last quarter of the 20th century: that most personality traits are highly heritable. The dysphorias often, but not always, stem from personality traits. As such. I believe that they are modifiable, but not only within limits.
The negative emotions and the negative personality traits have strong biological limits, and the best you can ever do with the palliative approach is to get people to live in the best part of their set range of depression or anxiety or anger.
It's my belief that when you deploy your signature strengths, when you find out, for example, that you're an unusually kind person and you decide to use your kindness more and more in your work, that it maintains itself. It takes hold. It's not fighting the mountain. It's a large effect that gets bigger and bigger. You don't need a therapist to help you much with it; you don't need booster sessions; and it doesn't melt some time after the intervention.
The "pleasant life" consists of having as many pleasures as you possibly can and having the skills that amplify those pleasures. The first skill for amplifying pleasure is timing. The pleasures in general, which are all defined by raw feelings— the ecstasies, the raptures, the thrills, the orgasms—all of these have the property of French vanilla ice cream...This, however, is not remotely what Aristotle meant by happiness...or eudaimonia, the engaged life.
When Aristotle talked about the pleasures of contemplation, he did not mean that somehow when we contemplated a philosophical issue that we felt orgasms or that we had any kind of emotion at all. Rather, what Aristotle meant was that we are one with the act, at one "with the music," with what Mike Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow". Time stops. We feel completely absorbed and immersed in what we are doing.
What is the relationship of flow to the strengths and virtues? My hypothesis is that the engaged life has a fairly simple formulation. The engaged life consists in identifying your signature strengths and then using them as much as you can in work, in love, in play/in parenting. What you derive from that is more flow, but not necessarily more pleasure. That is, the engaged life consists in recrafting your life to use these strengths as much as you can. So I hypothesize that the second form of happiness is the engaged life. The engaged life, I want to claim, is vastly less biologically constrained than is the pleasant life. Everyone has strengths and virtues, and the trick is to know what they are and then to be creative enough to deploy them as much as possible.
The one thing we know about meaning is that meaning consists in attachment to something larger than you are. And the larger the thing to which you can credibly attach yourself, the more meaning your life has. I believe that we are moral animals, that we are biologically demanding of meaning. The meaningful life is something over and above the pleasant life or the engaged life. With just those two, we often wake up with the gnawing fear that we're fidgeting unto death. Meaning is the antidote to that fear. The third happy life, the meaningful life, consists of identifying your signature strengths and then using them to belong to and in the service of something that you believe is larger than you are.
In conclusion, I want to suggest that positive psychology in the next decade, if we do it well, may invent and validate a group of interventions that bring happiness in all three senses of pleasure, engagement, and meaning. These exercises may be self-accreting and self-maintaining. These will not be interventions in the sense of manipulation; rather, they require a sense of ownership, choice, will, and responsibility.
Psychology after World War II became a science largely devoted to healing. It concentrated on repairing damage using a disease model of human functioning. This almost exclusive attention to pathology neglected the idea of a fulfilled individual and a thriving community, and it neglected the possibility that building strength is the most potent weapon in the arsenal of therapy. The aim of positive psychology is to catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life.
The field of positive psychology at the subjective level is about positive subjective experience: well-being and satisfaction (past); flow, joy, the sensual pleasures, and happiness (present); and constructive cognitions about the future--optimism, hope, and faith. At the individual level it is about positive personal traits--the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, futuremindedness, high talent, and wisdom. At the group level it is about the civic virtues and the institutions that move individuals toward better citizenship: responsibility, nurturance, altruism, civility, moderation, tolerance, and work ethic.
Before World War II, psychology had three distinct missions: curing mental illness, making the lives of all people more productive and fulfilling, and identifying and nurturing high talent... There have been huge strides in the understanding of and therapy for mental illness... But the downside was that the other two fundamental missions of psychology--making the lives of all people better and nurturing genius--were all but forgotten... Psychology came to see itself as a mere subfield of the health professions, and it became a victimology. We saw human beings as passive foci: stimuli came on and elicited responses.
Psychology's empirical focus then shifted to assesing and curing individual suffering. There has been an explosion in research on psychological disorders and the negative effects of environmental stressors such as parental divorce, death, and physical and sexual abuse. Practitioners went about treating mental illness within the disease-patient framework of repairing damage: damaged habits, damaged drives, damaged childhood, and damaged brains.
The message of the positive psychology movement is to remind our field that it has been deformed. Psychology is not just the study of disease, weakness, and damage; it also is the study of strength and virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is wrong; it also is building what is right. Psychology is not just about illness or health; it also is about work, education, insight, love, growth, and play.
We have discovered that there are human strengths that act as buffers against mental illness: courage, future-mindedness, optimism, interpersonal skill, faith, work ethic, hope, honesty, perseverance, the capacity for flow and insight, to name several. Much of the task of prevention in this new century will be to create a science of human strength whose mission will be to understand and learn how to foster these virtues in young people.
My own work in prevention amplifies a skill that all individuals possess but usually deploy in the wrong place. The skill is called disputing, and its use is at the heart of "learned optimism."... In "learned optimism" training programs, we teach both children and adults to recognize their own catastrophic thinking and to become skilled disputers. This training works, and once you learn it, it is a skill that is self-reinforcing.
This, then, is the general stance of positive psychology toward prevention. It claims that there is a set of buffers against psychopathology: the positive human traits. The principle holds that by identifying, amplifying, and concentrating on these strengths in people at risk, we will do effective prevention... We now need to call for massive research on human strength and virtue. We need to develop a nosology of human strength. We need to measure reliably and validly these strengths.
Science and practice that relies on the positive psychology worldview may have the direct effect of preventing many of the major emotional disorders. It also may have two side effects: making the lives of people physically healthier, given all we are learning about the effects of mental well-being on the body; and reorienting psychology to its two neglected missions, making normal people stronger and more productive, as well as making high human potential actual.
Among the strengths built in psychotheraphy are: courage, interpersonal skill, rationality, insight, optimism, honesty, perseverance, realism, capacity for pleasure, putting troubles into perspective, future-mindedness, finding purpose.
One illustrative deep strategy [positive psychology technique] is "narration." I believe that telling the stories of our lives, making sense of what otherwise seems chaotic, distilling and discovering a trajectory in our lives, and viewing our lives with a sense of agency rather than victimhood are all powerfully positive. I believe that all competent psychotherapy forces such narration, and this buffers against mental disorder in just the same way hope does.
The emphasis in managed care organizations on delivering only brief treatments directed solely at healing damage may rob patients of the very best weapons in the arsenal of therapy--making our patients stronger human beings. By working in the medical model and looking solely for the salves to heal the wounds, we have misplaced much of our science and much of our training. By embracing the disease model of psychotherapy, we have lost our birthright as psychologists, a birthright that embraces both healing what is weak and nurturing what is strong.
Why has psychology been so focused on the negative? Why has it adopted the premise--without a shred of evidence--that negative motivations are authentic and positive emotions are deriviative? There are several possible explanations. Negative emotions and experiences may be more urgent and therefore override positive ones. This would make evolutionary sense. Because negative emotions often reflect immediate problems or objective dangers, they should be powerful enough to force us to stop, increase vigilance, reflect on our behavior, and change our actions if necessary... So, on one level, psychology's focus on the negative may reflect differences in the survival value of negative versus positive emotions.
Perhaps we are oblivious to the survival value of positive emotions precisely because they are so important. Like the fish that is unaware of the water in which it swims, we take for granted a certain amount of hope, love, enjoyment, and trust because these are the very conditions that allow us to go on living. They are the fundamental conditions of existence, and if they are present, any amount of objective obstacles can be faced with equanimity, and even joy. Camus wrote that the foremost 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.
I predict that in this new century positive psychology will come to understand and build those factors that allow individuals, communities, and societiies to flourish. Such a science will not need to start afresh. It requires for the most part just a refocusing of scientific energy... As a side effect of studying positive human traits, science will learn how to better treat and prevent mental, as well as some physical, illnesses. As a main effect, we will learn how to build the qualities that help individuals and communities not just endure and survive but also flourish.
When asked about personal strengths at a job interview, most people respond with some sort of forced, vague, and/or canned response that is somewhat awkward and incongruent. Even when folks know the question is coming, they struggle with an answer. "Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at—and even then more people are wrong than right". The awkwardness in responses to this question perhaps can be explained by a cultural reluctance to boast about ourselves, because many people are raised with modesty as an aspirational virtue. Conversely, in today's American culture, it is perfectly acceptable, and often encouraged, to focus on what one does not do well.
There are several theories as to why we have a tendency to focus on the negative. One such belief is that focusing on weaknesses or problems is an adaptive strategy. Throughout our history, focusing on our weaknesses or on what goes wrong in situations has promoted survival because what goes wrong has had dire implications. In today's society, however, what we do not do as well, and the problems we face on a daily basis have more mundane consequences.
A strength is a capacity for feeling, thinking, and behaving in a way that allows optimal functioning in the pursuit of valued outcomes. This definition refers to the potentially broad benefit of strengths and yet does not suggest that strengths carry any inherent moral value. This is arguably a pragmatic definition, capturing the phenomena likely of interest in the real world.
Clifton... viewed strengths as extensions of talent. More precisely, the strength construct combines talent with associated knowledge, skills, and effort and is defined as the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a specific task.
The word discover, when used to describe the process of learning about and incorporating one's strengths, is apt terminology because it implies the pre-existence of the strengths, finding something that is already there in you.
To engage in feedback analysis, proceed as follows. Whenever you make a key decision or take an important action, write down what you believe the results of your actions will be. Then, approximately one year later, compare the expected versus actual results and reflect on how you (and your strengths) influenced meaningful outcomes. When practiced consistently over several years, feedback analysis will show you exactly where your strengths lie. In addition, it will also highlight what you are doing or are failing to do that inhibits reaching the full potential of your strengths. Furthermore, it will also show you the areas in which you are not competent and should refrain from performing.
Discovering your strengths gives you the tools to both distinguish yourself from other people and connect with them. Know that your constellation of strengths is different, that not everyone thinks or acts the way you do, particularly when it comes to what you do best. This kind of uniqueness is different from simply saying you're different and special because now you have the proof to back it up.
Seligman talks about deployment of strengths as an essential component to increasing positive emotion, engagement, and well-being. The more you use your strengths, the more positive experiences you will have. Seligman also talks about how using your strengths in the service of something larger than yourself (school, church, community) leads to an increased sense of meaning, purpose, engagement, and connection.
According to Tom Rath, Clifton's grandson, a strength is consistent and near-perfect performance on an activity. This definition is comprised of three factors: talents or naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior; knowledge, which consists of facts and lessons learned; and skills, or the steps of an activity. These combine to create your strengths. Additionally, two principles are embedded in this definition of strengths. First, for a cluster of activities to be labeled as a strength, they must be performed consistently; that is, the strength is a predictable part of an individual's performance. Second, the strength does not need to be present in all aspects of an individual's life in order for the individual to excel. Embedded in this definition is the assumption that by maximizing on strengths, an individual will excel.
Often our society focuses on weaknesses to the exclusion of strengths. According to strength research, examining or sharpening our strengths may be more beneficial.
Capitalizing is defined as turning something to one's advantage. By capitalizing on strengths, individuals turn personal strengths into personal advantages. For example, once a student identifies his or her strengths, the student then incorporates these strengths into daily life, which leads to personal advantages (i.e., academic success, interpersonal confidence, career interests).
Three overarching constructs appear necessary for the capitalizing process to occur: (a) continual social support, (b) experiences of success, and (c) the reinforcement of personal strengths. For the capitalizing process to occur, students need to feel continual support, to have some successful experiences (in school specifically), and to feel as if their strengths really do work for them. These three constructs are interrelated and overlapping.... It is through the ongoing and cyclical relationship of these constructs that capitalizing may be achieved.
It is my opinion that these constructs of social support, successes, and reinforcement of strengths are necessary but not sufficient for capitalizing to occur. If one or more of these constructs were missing, the processing of capitalizing might look quite different....Moreover, I believe that a change in the capitalizing process may be seen with the absence of any of the three constructs of social support, successes, and reinforcement of strengths in which the students identified as being vital in living their strengths.
Among the mechanisms of agency none is more central or pervasive than beliefs of personal efficacy. This core belief is the foundation of human motivation, well-being, and accomplishments. Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties. Whatever other factors serve as guides and motivators, they are rooted in the core belief that one has the power to effect changes by one's actions.
It is exceedingly difficult to maintain hope and optimism if one is plagued by self-doubt in one's ability to influence events and convinced of the futility of effort. Indeed, empirical studies confirm that optimism, positive thinking about the future, hedonic balance with positive affect exceeding negative affect, and satisfaction with one's life are rooted in a sense of personal efficacy.
Human well-being and attainments require an optimistic and resilient sense of efficacy. This is because the usual daily realities are strewn with difficulties. They are full of frustrations, conflicts, impediments, adversities, failures, setbacks, and inequities. To succeed, one cannot afford to be a realist. Realists forgo the endeavor, are easily discouraged by failures should they try, or they become cynics about the prospect of effecting personal and social changes.
Turning visions into realities is an arduous process with uncertain outcomes. Innovators and social reformers do not come from the ranks of realists. Societies enjoy the considerable benefits of the accomplishments in the sciences, technologies, arts, and social reforms of its persisters and risk takers. The risks of overconfidence are studied extensively, but the self-limiting costs of underconfidence are largely ignored. This bias reflects the conservative orientation of our theorizing.
Resilient self-efficacy provides the needed staying power to weather a lot of frustration and to override repeated early rejections. The functional belief system in difficult undertakings combines realism about tough odds but optimism that one can beat those odds through self-development and perseverant effort. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, reasonable people adapt to the world, unreasonable people try to change it; therefore, progress depends on the unreasonable ones.
When people are asked for their regrets in life, for the most part, they regret the actions not taken rather than the actions taken. They regret the educational opportunities forsaken, the careers not chosen that would have provided satisfaction and fulfillment, the risks not taken, and the relationships not cultivated or short-changed.
People's beliefs in their efficacy can be developed in four ways. The most effective way of building a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences. Successes build a robust efficacy. Failures undermine it, especially in early phases of efficacy development when people feel insecure about their capabilities. If people experience only easy successes, they come to expect quick results and are easily discouraged by failure.
The second way of developing self-efficacy is by social modeling. Models are sources of aspiration, competencies, and motivation. Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by perseverant effort, raises observers' beliefs in their own abilities.
Social persuasion is the third mode of influence. If people are persuaded to believe in themselves they will exert more effort. This increases their chances of success. Credible persuaders must be knowledgeable and practice what they preach. Effective efficacy builders do more than convey faith in others. They arrange situations for others in ways that bring success and avoid placing them prematurely in situations where they are likely to fail. They encourage judgment of success by self-improvement rather than by triumphs over others. Pep talks without enabling guidance achieve little.
People also rely partly on their physical and emotional states in judging their efficacy. They read tension, anxiety, and weariness as signs of personal deficiencies. Mood also affects how people judge their efficacy. Positive mood enhances a sense of efficacy; depressed mood diminishes it. Efficacy beliefs are strengthened by reducing anxiety and depression, building physical strength and stamina, and changing negative misinterpretations of physical and affective states.
Efficacy beliefs regulate human functioning through four major processes: cognitive, motivational, emotional, and decisional processes. Such beliefs influence whether people think pessimistically or optimistically, in self-enhancing or self-debilitating ways. Efficacy beliefs also shape people's outcome expectations—whether they expect their efforts to produce favorable outcomes or adverse ones. In addition, efficacy beliefs determine how opportunities and impediments are viewed. People of low efficacy are easily convinced of the futility of effort in the face of difficulties. They quickly give up trying. Those of high efficacy view impediments as surmountable by development of requite competencies and perseverant effort.
Last, but not least, efficacy beliefs determine the choices people make at important decisional points. By choosing their environments they can have a hand in what they become. Beliefs of personal efficacy can, therefore, play a key role in shaping the courses lives take by influencing the types of activities and environments people choose to get into.
Social cognitive theory distinguishes among three modes of agency. They include individual, proxy, and collective agency, each of which is founded on belief in the capacity to effect change. In personal agency exercised individually, people bring their influence to bear on their own functioning and on environmental events. In many spheres of functioning, people do not have direct control over conditions that affect their lives. They exercise socially mediated or proxy agency. They do so by influencing others who have the resources, knowledge, and means to act on their behalf to secure the outcomes they desire. People do not live their lives in individual autonomy. Many of the things they seek are achievable only by working together through interdependent effort. In the exercise of collective agency, they pool their knowledge, skills, and resources and act in concert to shape their future. People's shared belief in their collective efficacy to achieve desired results is a key ingredient of collective agency.
Personal efficacy is valued, not because of reverence for individualism, but because a resilient sense of efficacy has generalized functional value regardless of whether activities are pursued individually or by people working together for common cause. Research testifies to the cross-cultural generalizability of self-efficacy theory.
Our discipline is more heavily invested in theories of failure than in theories of success. Risk factors command our attention. Enablement factors, that equip people with the skills and resilient self-beliefs to manage their lives, receive less notice. When enabling factors are considered, as in resilience, they are depicted in static, epidemiological terms as protective factors.
A key factor [for resilience] is the development of a stable social bond to a competent and caring adult. Such caregivers offer emotional support, guidance, and promote meaningful values and standards. They model constructive styles of coping and create opportunities for mastery experiences. Enabling caretaking builds trust, competencies, and a sense of personal efficacy.
Intellectual competencies, which are essential for managing the demands of everyday life, are also uniformly strong predictors of successful development under adversity
Theories of resilience should be recast in proactive agentic terms, rather than in epidemilogic terms of protective factors buffering against the negative effects of adversity.
People play a proactive role in their adaptation. They do not simply undergo happenings in which environments act upon their personal endowments. Through the exercise of self-regulatory influence they have a hand in which environments they get into. They create supportive environments for themselves by seeking out beneficial social networks. They develop competencies that enable them to transform taxing and threatening environments into benign ones.
Prosocialness has a strong positive impact on later academic achievement and positive peer relationships. But early aggressiveness has no significant effect on either sphere of functioning. Such findings underscore the value of investing resources to develop and promote children's prosocialness. Doing so enhances the academic learning environment, facilitates academic success, and builds enabling social-support networks.
According to the prevailing theories of human stress, it arises when perceived task demands exceed perceived coping capabilities. But there is another demand-capability relation that is largely ignored even though it is an important stressor. People also experience emotional strain when they are trapped in activities that permit them little opportunity to make full use of their talents.
In social cognitive theory, the exercise of moral agency has dual aspects: inhibitive and positively proactive. In the inhibitive form, people refrain from behaving inhumanely to avoid self-condemnation for violating their moral standards. However, there are many social and psychological maneuvers by which moral self-sanctions can be selectively disengaged from inhumane conduct. This enables people to behave transgressively and injuriously while preserving their self-regard.
In the positively proactive form, people behave humanely by investing their sense of self-worth so strongly in humane convictions and social obligations that they act against what they regard as unjust or immoral even though their actions may incur heavy personal costs.
People do not operate as autonomous agents, nor is their behavior wholly determined by situational influences. Rather, human well-being and attainments are products of a reciprocal interplay of intrapersonal, behavioral, and environmental determinants. All three of these complimentary classes of determinants—cognitive, behavioral, and environmental— can be enlisted in the service of human well-being. At the cognitive locus, self-hindering habits of thinking are supplanted with positive, enabling ones. Functional cognitive skills are cultivated for comprehending and managing one's environment in beneficial ways. The cognitive focus also involves commitment to values that give meaning and purpose to one's life.
Efforts at the behavioral locus center on cultivating competencies and adopting behavioral pursuits that bring satisfaction through what one is doing. Efforts at the environmental locus are aimed at creating hospitable environments that foster personal development and provide supporting resources and opportunity structures that enable people to realize a satisfying and meaningful life.
Positive psychology is not confined to the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, contentment does not make for personal growth and social efforts to improve the conditions of life. The striving for satisfaction and well-being must be considered within the broader purposes of life. Self-satisfaction comes from fulfilling standards linked to something one cares about. Personal investment in a desired future helps people to organize their lives, motivates them, enables them to put up with hassles along the way, and gives them meaning, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment. Without commitment to something one feels is worth doing, individuals are bored, apathetic, and seek escape from the tedium in diversionary activities and hedonic gratifications.
People gain satisfaction from ongoing advancement toward what they value rather than suspend satisfaction until they fulfill the distal goals they set for themselves. Ongoing engagement in things one cares about provides the basis for a satisfying and meaningful life.
The state of ones' satisfaction and well-being is determined, in large part, relationally rather than solely by the absolute properties of one's life condition. For example, in contemporary society, even people of modest means are considerably better off than the royalty of yore in terms of objective life conditions, for example, advanced health care, electrification, countless labor-saving devices, running water, cornucopia of appetizing food, limitless media entertainment, and speedy transportation, just to mention a few of the benefits.
In temporal comparison, subjective well-being and satisfaction with one's life depends on whether it is better or worse than it was before. Even small gains can be dissatisfying if they fail to match larger prior ones. Accomplishments in one's worklife that surpass earlier ones bring a continued sense of self-satisfaction. But people derive little satisfaction from smaller accomplishments, or even devalue them, after having made larger strides.
People's judgments of their lot in life are also heavily influenced by unavoidable comparison with that of others. In social comparison, wellbeing and satisfaction depend on whether the quality of one's life compares favorable or unfavorably with the quality of life others enjoy. The people chosen for comparative evaluation make a big difference in one's level of satisfaction. Even the rich, who compare themselves against the super rich flaunting their affluence, can drive themselves to discontent despite their objective wealth.
People judge their satisfaction by what they make of their lives. In aspirational comparison, people's subjective well-being and satisfaction are influenced by how their life status measures up against the life ambition they set for themselves. For those who live up to the valued standards they set for themselves, life is likely to be satisfying and self-fulfilling. In contrast, those who see their life hopes dashed and opportunities foreclosed view their life as a disappointment.
Because of the relational nature of subjective well-being and satisfaction, individuals who vary markedly in objective life conditions may nevertheless be similarly satisfied with their lot in life. The combination of some improvement in one's life circumstances, being slightly better off than one's cohorts, and having low ambition for upward mobility can produce some measure of satisfaction with even a marginal existence. Conversely, stagnation or decline in one's life circumstances, seeing one's cohorts prosper, and adhering to high social status and riches as the standard of adequateness will breed discontent even in individuals living under objectively affluent conditions.
An important aspect of a two-dimensional model is that the two dimensions can change independently. Think of debt and income. They can go up and down independently of each other. Getting a raise can help you lower your debt, but it does not lower your debt all by itself....Our research is showing that positive and negative attitudes toward members of "other" groups are just such a pair. A change in the level of one does not necessarily bring about a change in the level of the other. Research finds that, while allophilia and prejudice are generally negatively related as one would expect, there are conditions under which they are positively related.
This suggests two important conclusions: (1) Allophilia and prejudice must both be studied and measured in order to fully comprehend intergroup attitudes and relations; (2) Reducing one group's prejudice toward another group will not necessarily lead to positive feelings for that group.
Positive and negative intergroup attitudes, being independent dimensions, have distinct antecedents. General support for this claim can be found in classic work on operant conditioning—the manipulation of consequences to modify behavior. Lewin posited that experiencing another person as being beneficial to one is an important basis for feeling attraction to that person; whereas experiencing someone as harmful to one is an important basis for feeling repulsion toward that person. Indeed, a wealth of research has found that these basic processes (benefit/attraction, harm/repulsion) are distinct and independent.
That is, feeling that a person is not as harmful as one thought and therefore feeling less repulsion toward him or her will not be a particularly strong cause for feeling attraction. That would require feeling that the person is more beneficial than one thought. All of this suggests that the perception of some benefit from another group would be an important basis for positive attitudes toward that group. The benefit need not be material; it could be a social or psychological benefit, such as perceived acceptance.
In other words, positive intergroup behaviors are predicted better by how much a person likes the other group than by how much a person does not dislike the other group. Research on allophilia has further found that an attitude held for a particular group is a stronger predictor of positive behavior toward that group than are more general pro-social and altruistic orientations.
A key contribution of the TDMIA is that once we acknowledge positive and negative intergroup attitudes as two distinct and independent dimensions, we can address them each individually, moving beyond tolerance (the successful elimination of prejudice) to allophilia.
The allophilia construct and related research on the Two-Dimensional Model of Intergroup Attitudes (TDMIA) suggest that we should work at least as hard to promote these positive attitudes between groups as we do to reduce prejudice and hatred.
To make a weed-choked garden blossom, one needs to pull the weeds and to plant and nurture seeds. For at least 50 years, in the context of relations among groups, much attention has been paid to the weeds. Allophilia research and theory turn our attention to the seeds.
Arguably the most popular viewpoint adopted by authors of popular relationship self-help books, essentialist theories view specific attributes as fixed and unchanging characteristics of a category or a social group... Essentialist perspectives on masculinity treat men as possessing universal and fixed attributes that are difficult to change. Moreover, essentialist approaches to masculinity tend to emphasize differences between women and men, often treating them as polar opposites on a variety of attributes.
A recurrent theme in the above relationship self-help books is that men are either innately unemotional or have difficulty expressing feelings, whereas women are emotional or have a preference for expressing feelings. A variety of theories have been used to support essentialist approaches to masculinity, the most popular of which are biological and psychoevolutionary theories.
Biological theories attribute differences between women's and men's behavior to biological processes associated with the brain and/or hormones. ...In contrast to biological theories, psychoevolutionary theories explain differences between the sexes as arising from a process of natural selection over thousands of years resulting in differences in gene pools.
Undoubtedly, the appeal of essentialist perspectives on masculinity lies in its simplicity. By explaining men's emotional behavior in terms of sex differences in one or a few innate attributes, essentialist theories provide simple answers to questions such as "Why does my boyfriend refuse to share his feelings about his latest job loss?" However, as enticing as essentialist perspectives on masculinity might be to consumers of relationship self-help books, they have been generally rejected by most scholars in the social sciences outside the field of psychology and by many psychologists.
In contrast to the focus of essentialist theories on men's innate attributes, gender role socialization approaches emphasize the influence of social forces such as the media, parents, and peers on men's emotional lives. Currently the dominant theoretical approach adopted by psychologists who research masculinity issues, gender role socialization theories propose that women and men learn gendered behaviors and beliefs from their environment through repeated rewards, punishments, and modeling. Masculine gender roles are behaviors that are consistent with societal messages about masculinity. Included in these societal messages is the idea that being emotional is a sign of femininity and weakness, and is hence incompatible with being masculine. Consequently, men who are emotionally inexpressive are viewed as conforming to societal gender expectations whereas men who are emotionally expressive are believed to be violating these expectations.
Mahlik and colleagues proposed a set of 11 masculine norms that exist in the dominant U.S. culture: winning (the importance of competition and success), emotional control, risk taking, violence, dominance (the notion that men must be in charge), playboy (frequent sexual encounters), self-reliance, primacy of work (work is critical to men's identity), power over women, disdain for homosexuals, and pursuit of status. Because men have unique socialization histories due to different environments and role models in their lives, men are likely to vary in the extent to which they conform to each of the above norms.
O'Neil, Good, and Holmes proposed that men typically experience gender role conflict in six different contexts; when they (a) deviate from or defy masculine gender role norms; (b) fail to meet masculine gender role norms; (c) experience discrepancies between their real and ideal self-concepts based on masculine gender role stereotypes; (d) personally devalue, restrict, or violate themselves; (e) encounter personal devaluations, restrictions, or violations from others; and (f) personally devalue, restrict, or violate others because of masculine gender role stereotypes. In sum, O'Neil and his colleagues theorized that traditional gender role socialization provides contradictory and unrealistic messages resulting in considerable intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict.
Consistent with these notions,' research based on gender role conflict theory has shown that men's difficulty expressing emotions is associated with numerous problems including anxiety symptoms, a negative view of help-seeking, hostile and rigid interpersonal behavior, and lower relationship satisfaction as reported by men's female partners.
Instead of accepting men's emotional inexpressiveness as a naturally occurring attribute, gender role socialization approaches invite men to examine how and why they conform to the masculine norm of emotional inexpressiveness. Gender role socialization theories that focus on the dysfunctional aspects of masculinity (e.g., gender role conflict theory) also draw attention to the need for men who struggle with expressing feelings to change rather than blame their inexpressiveness on innate attributes.
Social constructionist and gender role socialization perspectives share a common emphasis on the importance of social factors in shaping men's gendered behaviors and a rejection of essentialist beliefs about masculinity and emotion. However social constructionist approaches differ from gender role socialization approaches in a number of important ways. In contrast to gender role socialization approaches, social constructionist approaches emphasize a much more contextual view that treats masculinity as flexible and fluid.
Wetherell and Edley argued that men do not permanently adhere to any particular masculine norm but are constantly choosing from a variety of masculine norms to apply in specific situations. Consequently, labels such as inexpressive, expressive, emotional, and unemotional are overgeneralized descriptions of men's emotional lives. Instead, men are viewed as choosing to express or suppress their feelings based on their perceptions of what masculine norms apply in specific situations. Some men might believe that it is permissible to shed tears of joy at a sports event but not in a workplace setting.
A distinctive contribution of social constructionist approaches to masculinity is the idea that masculinity is actively constructed in social situations. Put another way, men are viewed as actively making meanings of masculinity in specific social situations rather than being passively influenced by social forces such as the media, parents, and peers.
In sum, social constructionist approaches to masculinity provide a sophisticated portrait of men's emotional lives by proposing that there are no enduring, universal masculine traits prescribing how men experience, identify, and express emotion, but rather a variety of ways in which masculinity and emotional behavior can be constructed in different cultures, historical contexts, and social situations.
Love can hurt. If you haven't had your heart broken already, chances are good that you probably will, someday. After a painful breakup, you may feel like a loser. But along with sometimes-intense negative emotions, relationship breakups can offer opportunities to learn more about yourself and to improve your future relationships. Our hope is that this chapter will help you understand not only the pain involved in breakups, but also how you can grow stronger, perhaps even benefiting from the experience.
Responses from undergraduate students who had recently experienced a breakup revealed that there were three common types of negative life changes after a breakup: (a) loss of friendships, (b) finding it harder to trust others, and (c) experiencing lower self-esteem
Another general negative change not captured above is the loss of routine with an ex-partner. Although seemingly mundane, the loss of small shared routines like reading the paper or driving to work together can be some of the most difficult aspects of the loss of an intimate relationship.
Although negative emotions and substantial distress are common following the end of a romantic relationship, both positive emotions and positive experiences of growth and self-improvement also occur and may be quite common.
Even a person who is feeling substantial emotional pain may become a better person as a result of having experienced a painful breakup, perhaps developing skills they can use to make future relationships better.
In fact, students saw many more positive changes in their lives since the breakup than negative ones: On average, students reported five positive changes from the breakup for every negative change they reported.
Finally, in two groups of individuals who said that a breakup was their worst lifetime event, between 49% and 77% also said that something positive came out of the experience. Thus, reports of growth following relationship breakups appear to be quite common.
One recent study found if people reported that they had experienced little positive change or personal growth as a result of being in a relationship with their partner, they reported that they had experienced more growth when they broke up, partly because the breakup of these low-quality relationships led them to rediscover themselves, did not make them feel as if they had lost an important part of themselves, and generally made them feel good.
More agreeable people also report experiencing more growth after a breakup, as do people who thought the breakup was a result of environmental forces on their relationship (e.g., having to work long hours, or having a parent who disapproved of the relationship) rather than seeing the relationship, the partner, or one's own faults as the reason for the breakup.
We found evidence that being a victim of infidelity was more stressful than simply breaking up from a monogamous relationship where no infidelity was involved. For example, victims of infidelity reported significantly more symptoms of posttraumatic stress as a result of their experiences than did people who had experienced the breakup of a monogamous relationship. And, as is common following more serious stressful events, victims of dating infidelity reported significantly more positive changes from their experience than did individuals who broke up from monogamous relationships.
Elaine and Arthur Aron suggested that people fall in love because they want to expand themselves. They posit that this need for self-expansion is a basic human motivation and includes not only love, but all desires to influence or hold power over others, to possess things, to take in information and become more cognitively complex via learning, and in general to make things and people outside oneself part of oneself and one's own identity.
Falling in love may have wonderful benefits, but it is not the only way people can expand themselves. Some researchers have observed that a bad love relationship can actually restrict and confine the self, and breaking up under these circumstances should lead to a rediscovery of the self and new opportunities for growth via self-expansion.
Learning how to cope with the loss of a romantic relationship requires a balanced consideration of both the positive and negative life changes that can occur as a result of the breakup. As we have already seen, most people—even those who experience tremendous personal growth—also report negative life changes associated with breakups, such as feeling less trusting or losing friendships.
In sum, denying or minimizing negative life changes may prevent you from being able to accurately evaluate unpleasant and distressing, but nevertheless important, relationship information. Fully appreciating the "negative" as well as positive changes in your life following a breakup may help you to grow from the experience and avoid similar negative experiences in the future.
Nonetheless, it is important not to pay so much attention to the negative effects of the breakup that you ignore beneficial outcomes. Simply noticing positive life changes can be one way to alleviate some of the distress typically associated with negative life changes. In other words, just thinking "The breakup was a bad thing, but at least some good came out of it," may make you feel better.
As is generally the case with positive psychology, the goal is not to feel positive all of the time at the expense of being accurate about difficult things in life. Rather, a positive psychology approach to coping with a life stressor is about having a balanced perspective that includes thinking through negative aspects of losing an important close relationship and also thinking positively about how one can learn and grow from the experience.
Women tend to report more growth following stressful events, including breakups and divorce, than men do. Theorists have speculated that this may be because women have betterdeveloped social support networks and more close confidantes and intimate friends they can turn to after the breakup, whereas men may not confide in or feel close to anyone except their ex-partner. Although it is not clear that this is why women report more growth after a relationship breakup, we do know that having more social support is related to reporting more growth after stressful events in general, for both men and women.
In sum, good advice for maximizing positive outcomes after a breakup is to increase your reliance on caring members of your social network, avoiding making requests of those individuals who offer help with "strings attached" or otherwise make you feel badly for asking for help. People who ask others for help with concrete needs (perhaps needs the ex-partner used to fulfill, such as giving you a ride to work or bringing groceries when you were ill) as well as with social or emotional needs seem to reap the most benefits.
Research suggests that the people who best cope with stressors, including breakups, are those who have a strong sense of control over aspects of the situation that are happening in the present, such as your ability to recover from the breakup successfully. Gaining this sense of control may be partly dependent on doing things to take care of yourself and make the best of the situation, but may also be partly dependent on noticing the things you are already doing to improve your life and move beyond the breakup.
Finally, another area where your point of view about the breakup may impact your ability to grow from the experience concerns why you believe the breakup occurred (which researchers call your "attributions" for the breakup). In our research, we have found that people who attributed the breakup to environmental factors outside of the relationship (such as long work hours or disapproving family members) also reported that they had grown more from the breakup.
In research on divorce, on the other hand, blaming the divorce either on yourself or on environmental factors is associated with poorer post-divorce adjustment and greater attachment to the ex-spouse, whereas attributing the causes of the divorce to the relationship itself (rather than to either partner) was associated with feeling that the divorce had caused improvements in one's life and was generally a good idea. Although these findings may seem contradictory (and indeed present a mixed picture with respect to environmental attributions), they do suggest that it is important to avoid blaming yourself or your ex-partner to promote your well-being.
If the motivation for love in the first place is to grow and expand yourself, then engaging in novel, exciting, self-expanding growth activities on your own, whether rock climbing, Whitewater rafting, oil painting, or learning Japanese, should do much to assuage the pain of loss. In addition, such activities bolster a sense of mastery and self-worth and may enable self-rediscovery and a comforting realization that the relationship was not ideal.
The more we know about the benefits of telling one's emotional story in the wake of stressful events, the better equipped we are to harness these processes to promote our own and other people's healing and growth following life stress, and to fight tendencies towards helplessness, bitterness, or despair that traumas may provoke.
Putting a traumatic event into words can transform the event and add new, potentially hopeful meanings to it, so that our stressful experiences can become a source of personal empowerment and inspiration to live a fuller, more meaningful life, help relieve the suffering of others, or bring about positive changes in social institutions.
This, then, is one of die potential benefits of emotional storytelling after stressful experiences. It can transform one's experience from a personal tragedy to a collective moral account. In their potential ability to touch the humanity and hearts of other people, to provoke moral indignation, instill compassion, and inspire action, words can provide the writer with a sense of purpose and potential control over future events that can counteract the helplessness and loss of meaning, which characterize the experience of victimization.
Individuals with posttraumatic stress symptoms may need professional help to deliberately confront and stay with these frightening memories and images until the affect abates somewhat and the individual can think clearly enough to make sense of them and organize them into a coherent story. Converting the memory pieces into an organized, emotional narrative allows the individual to match and integrate this information with other knowledge and experiences, potentially resulting in new meanings that resolve the incongruity.
Emotional storytelling then, serves to integrate the memory of the trauma more explicitly with other experiences and views of self, thereby enhancing the individual's ability to cope with it....Emotional storytelling then, should promote cognitive integration and acceptance of the trauma and enhance the individual's repertoire of coping strategies to deal with the painful affect. Trauma is placed in context as one experience within an individual's life, rather than being the sole defining feature of that life.
Ronnie Janoff-Bulman describes three types of assumptions that are shattered by traumas, particularly those that involve interpersonal violence, exploitation, or indifference. These assumptions are that the world is meaningful, that the world is benevolent, and that the self is worthy. When innocent people are victimized, whether by a deliberate aggressor (e.g., in the mass college shootings at Virginia Tech), as an unintended consequence of another person's carelessness (e.g., in a drunk driving accident), or by forces of nature and human indifference (e.g., in the aftermath to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita), there is often a senselessness to this suffering that defies meaningful explanation. Furthermore, these events challenge our sense of safety and invulnerability in the world and our faith in the goodness of human nature. In trying to make sense of experiences of victimization or loss, the survivor might conclude that these outcomes were deserved; that his own actions brought them about.
For some, the meaning of a trauma may be in not letting this event define the self or the course of one's life and in not becoming a victim of it. Other narratives may serve to reaffirm the individual's faith in human nature or in a higher power, despite this event.
Telling our emotional stories then gives authentic voice to these inner struggles, allows us to bear witness to our own suffering and that of others, and can help us to reconnect with and respect our own reactions, without judging them. The act of sharing one's story with a real or imagined compassionate other also has the potential to strengthen relational bonds, thereby providing an antidote to feelings of loss, alienation, or victimization evoked by stressful events.
We tell our emotional stories to evoke affirming reactions from others that help to rebuild the assumptions of self-worth and human benevolence that have been challenged by stressful events.
For many people, the reactions of the real or imagined audience are what give meaning to their stories; the desired reactions are as individual as the events themselves.
For the individual who has been rejected by a former spouse or lover, the imagined outcome of emotional storytelling may be for the lover to be overcome by remorse or regret and, perhaps, to return to the relationship. For the gay youth who is in the closet or the African American who encounters racial prejudice, writing or telling his emotional story may convey the wish to be understood in his shared humanity, and, ultimately, accepted and embraced, rather than being excluded by a prejudiced society. For all of these individuals, writing their stories of stress may help them to view their own experiences through the eyes of an empathic other, thereby implicitly lending validity to their experiences and reactions.
Empathic listening, acceptance, and support may promote emotional healing, whereas refusing to listen, minimizing the magnitude of the event, or judging the person's reactions may silence the speaker or lead him to question the validity of his own reactions, potentially interfering with the healing power of storytelling.
Having a mentally unresolved stressful event and not being able to share one's emotional story with others and be heard may produce feelings of interpersonal alienation, anger, or helplessness that lead to depression.
Telling one's emotional story at "optimal distance" means that a person's awareness is divided between experiencing the affects associated with the trauma, while at the same time noting a "context of present safety." Although these definitions are vague in relation to the specific environmental stimuli required to create such a safe context, they do highlight four important factors that can be empirically tested: (a) the person has to have experienced an emotionally unresolved stressor, (b) the person has to intensely or authentically experience the emotions associated with the event, (c) he has to be able to divert attention from the memory to the current context, and to realize that there is no imminent threat, (d) she has to perceive a sense of control or mastery over the affect, in other words, to perceive she is able to handle it without being overwhelmed or going crazy.
Pennebaker and colleagues claimed that most individuals deliberately hold back from open expression of their thoughts and feelings associated with past traumas, either because of fear of being overwhelmed or for fear of being socially stigmatized, criticized, or rejected. Over time, chronic emotional inhibition is presumed to be physiologically stressful and effortful, placing "wear and tear" on the body and impairing immunity and disease resistance. Therefore, providing people with the opportunity to write expressive narratives was designed to relieve the stress of chronic inhibition and provide generalized health benefits.
These broader effects of essay writing cannot be explained by purely physiological processes and suggest that engaged emotional storytelling may enhance interpersonal and work functioning. One explanation for these findings is that unresolved traumas and associated cognitive ruminations may divert attentional resources from current life tasks. If writing facilitates greater resolution and acceptance of these past or ongoing stressors, the individual is free to live more in the moment, with greater participation in and enjoyment of current activities and relationships and, potentially, greater academic or job success.
Providing a safe context for emotional storytelling may be most helpful to those who deliberately hold back from expressing stress-related feelings in their daily lives, either because they are frightened of being overwhelmed by these feelings, or because they are concerned about the negative reactions of others or harm to others that may result from their disclosures.
Emotional storytelling, then, represents a particular application of positive psychology, one that emphasizes confronting one's memories of and reactions to stressful and traumatic events to increase perceptions of control over these reactions and to uncover the potential for psychological growth inherent in these events.
Our current research shows that teens today often conceptualize citizenship as obeying laws and not as correcting social injustice. How do we socialize young people into citizenship in such a way that attention to equity and social justice becomes part of their duties as citizens— part of their natural landscape?
Positive youth development has three important ideas: (a) Development is promoted by developmental assets, both internal and external; (b) communities vary in the qualities that promote the development of these assets; (c) societies at large vary in the qualities that promote these assets. Forty assets have been identified. And it is clear that the more internal and external assets youth have, the healthier and more successful is their development into adulthood. Yet research indicates that young people have only 16.5-21.6 assets on average. Hence, we as a society need to do much more to promote the positive development of our young people, and promoting civic engagement is one way of doing that.
"Five Cs" of positive youth development have been described: character, competence, confidence, connection, and caring (or compassion). Youth who exemplify these five Cs are likely to be productive members of their community; that is, they are likely to be civically engaged. Contribution is often referred to as a sixth C, and it most directly represents civic participation.
Having an active, engaged, and informed citizenry, irrespective of political orientation, party affiliation, or specific civic beliefs is a goal that benefits the many and not the few. Walzer offers the following: "A citizen is, most simply, a member of a political community, entitled to whatever prerogatives and encumbered with whatever responsibilities are attached to membership. The word comes to us from the Latin civir, the Greek equivalent is polites, member of the polis, from which comes our politics."
Another issue for the definition of citizenship is whether concern for others and altruism should be viewed as a component of citizenship. Working for one's community by doing service is, for example, usually seen to be somewhat altruistic. But, can one be quite selfish and oriented entirely to one's own material or occupational success and still be considered a good citizen? What is your view? Would you answer the same if the person is self-oriented but also involved with and committed to the nation state, in regard to voting, campaigning, following news, and so on? At any rate, citizenship is certainly a quite complex domain of adult behavior. As a result, the developmental path into citizenship is by no means clear.
Certainly education is an especially important early influence. Both the extent of civic education adolescents receive in school as well as factors such as school climate and teacher behavior have been shown to predict later civic participation. For example, teachers who treat students fairly promote the development of just behavior in teens. Classes that promote open discussion of issues promote higher levels of understanding of civics materials.
Youth need to understand how their government works, how they can legitimately influence it, when it is important to take action to change things for the better and how to do so. Civic education should be of the same national priority as math and science; it is as important to functioning as an adult in society as are math and science, and it is also as important to the functioning of the country. Civic knowledge is also important because it is the single most important predictor of voting; students with more knowledge are more likely to vote in political elections.
School extracurricular activities have been shown to be particularly important early contributors to later civic involvement. Participation in school government, clubs, publications, even athletics are in many ways similar to participation in politics later in life. The difference is that they support people's schools rather than their country. It is therefore not surprising that teens who participate in these school activities are more likely to participate in civic and political activities later in life.
The difference between this [service] learning and more typical academic learning is the incomparable feeling of accomplishment and the ability to see directly the impact on something and someone larger than a subject in an academic class.... Service has been found to relate to a host of positive outcomes, of which increased civic engagement is only one desirable goal. Service has been found to increase prosocial skills, to relate to positive self-esteem, to promote identity development, to relate to career choice, and to promote civic engagement. Service also relates to future service and enhances moral development.
PPT is an approach that explicitly builds positive emotions, strengths, and meaning in a client's life to undo psychopathology and promote happiness. In this chapter I argue that psychotherapy needs to go beyond negatives and also should cultivate positives.
Psychologically, stories of evil arouse our curiosity more than accounts of virtue, integrity, cooperation, altruism, or modesty do. The attraction to negatives is perhaps the courtesy of our Stone-Age brain, which evolved putting out fires, attacking trespassers, and competing for food, shelter, and mates. In evolutionary terms, life until recently has been a Darwinian test of fitness. Research shows that negatives carry more weight and impact, and that our brain is wired to react more strongly to bad than to good....Negative impressions and stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than are positive ones.
While the focus on pathology has effectively eased symptoms, it has not necessarily enhanced happiness, which is still neglected in the therapy process. Despite understanding the evolutionary, philosophical, social, and psychological underpinning of the pervasive impact of negatives, there is little empirical justification for psychology's predominantly negative view of human nature, and this view impacts psychotherapy significantly.
Ryff and Singer have suggested that the absence of well-being creates vulnerability to possible future adversities, and that the path to lasting recovery lies not exclusively in alleviating symptoms but in engendering the positives. Psychotherapy needs to be a hybrid enterprise—promoting happiness as well as alleviating psychopathology.
First, striving to obtain goods and goals does not bring us more than momentary happiness. We are incredibly adaptable creatures who quickly habituate goods and goal. After achieving one, we pursue the next target and keep on replacing targets. We just don't habituate; we also recalibrate. Second, after the strong influence of genes upon a person's average level of happiness, environmental and demographic factors have little influence on happiness. Gender, climate, age, education, and financial status have little impact on our happiness. Yet, we spend disproportionately large sums of time and effort in pursuit of some of these factors.
In demystifying the notion of happiness, Ben- Shahar further notes that money and material goods are not happiness but subordinate to it and have no intrinsic value in themselves. They are desirable, as having them could lead us to experience positive emotions or meaning. Happiness is also not a sacrifice; neither is it a trade-off between present and future benefits. It is not a choice between pursuing meaning or pleasure. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about circling aimlessly around the mountain. Happiness is enjoying the journey itself as well as completing the journey. Most important, it is about synthesis, about creating a life in which all of the elements essential to happiness are in harmony.
Positive psychotherapy (PPT) is a therapeutic approach within positive psychology to broaden the scope of traditional psychotherapy. Its central hypothesis is that building positive emotions, strengths, and meaning will not only undo symptoms but also is efficacious in the treatment of psychopathology.
A fundamental assumption of PPT is that clients have an inherent capacity for happiness as well as susceptibility to psychopathology. Clients have good and bad states and traits that influence each other. Psychopathology does not entirely reside inside clients. The interaction between the clients and their environment generates both happiness and psychopathology. This is in sharp contrast to the notion that human behavior is primarily motivated by unconscious sexual and aggressive drives. Seligman calls this the "rotten-to-the-core" dogmatic view of human nature, which reduces the client to a mere slave of damaged habits and sexual drives. Governed by this questionable view, the function of psychotherapy would essentially be to restrain aggressive and sexual drives.
Within the framework of PPT, clients are perceived as autonomous, growth-oriented individuals equipped with a sophisticated executive center in addition to an amygdala. Undoubtedly, clients seeking psychotherapy are prone to attend, perceive, analyze, and internalize negatives more sharply than they do positives. Drawing their attention to positives therefore takes on added importance. Clients have the potential to rise above natural selection and consciously civilize their actions and habits to alter genetic influences. Thus, a client's behavior is best understood in terms of dimensions, not categories. Dividing behavior into categories or pigeon-holes obscures reality. As Alan Watts said, "however much we divide, count, sort, or classify [the world] into particular things and events, this is no more than a way of thinking about the world. It is never actually divided".
In the traditional, pathology-oriented model of psychotherapy, these negatives are perceived, analyzed, and further synthesized into the personality structure, with an underlying assumption that symptoms are authentic and central ingredients of psychotherapy whereas positives are by-products of symptom relief or at most clinical peripheries that do not need exclusive attention. So steeped in this assumption is mainstream psychology that the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) labels affiliation, anticipation, altruism, and humor as "defense mechanisms".
Sharply criticizing this assumption, Seligman has asked: "How has it happened that the social sciences view the human strengths and virtues—altruism, courage, honesty, duty, joy, health, responsibility and good cheer—as derivative, defensive or downright illusions, while weakness and negative motivations—anxiety, lust, selfishness, paranoia, anger, disorder and sadness—are viewed as authentic?"
The function of psychotherapy is not only to help client put out fires, eliminate dangers, reduce hostility, or alleviate moral, social, and emotional malaise—it is also to restore and nurture courage, kindness, modesty, perseverance, and emotional and social intelligence. The former may make life less painful, but the latter are what make it fulfilling. Therefore, psychotherapy—the most visible face of psychology— should explicitly incorporate strengths as they are as real and authentic as weaknesses and misery.
Clients have been socialized to believe that therapy essentially entails talking about troubles. Some clients at the onset of therapy even tell their therapist, courtesy of a Google search, that their troubles correspond with a specific DSM disorder. Most of those seeking treatment view themselves as deeply flawed, fragile, victims of cruel environments or casualties of bad genes. Undoubtedly, talking about troubles with an empathetic, warm, and genuine therapist can be the powerful cathartic experience deemed necessary for any form of psychotherapy. For this reason, all major approaches to psychotherapy emphasize that the therapist-client interaction should be positive and that the psychotherapist should generally be empathetic, genuine, warm, and professional.
However, this leads to the assumption, without much empirical evidence, that a strong therapeutic relationship between client and therapist is best built while discussing troubles. So, clients and therapists talk about instances when parents did not meet needs, not when these needs were fulfilled; antecedents of interpersonal conflicts are explored rather than situations when an adaptive compromise resolved a conflict; emphasis is on times when clients were transgressed by others, not when they forgave or were forgiven, on the selfishness of others, not their compassion, on insults hurled, not genuine admiration and appreciation received. It is not that troubles are not worth discussing but this discussion is not the sine qua non of building a strong therapeutic relationship. Powerful and healing therapeutic bonds can also be built by discussing deeply felt positive emotions and experiences.
Discussing positives can provide psychotherapists with powerful tools to understand a client's psychological repertoire, which can then be effectively utilized to counter troubles.
Clients seek therapy because of negative feelings and thoughts that are painful and hard to let go. However, if psychotherapy becomes an exercise analyzing the minuscule details of negatives, including tracing down their childhood origins or monitoring every distorted thought, then a vulnerable client will be less motivated to explore anything else. In addition, locating causes of resentments in unsupportive parents and significant others, or attributing problems to environment and bad genes, may be counterproductive for some clients, who may come out of therapy believing that "It wasn't my fault anyway."
PPT advocates a more serious consideration of the client's intact faculties, ambitions, positive life experiences, and strengths and asks how these can be marshaled to treat and buffer against psychopathology. It contends that positive emotions, strengths, and meaning serve us best not when life is easy, but when life is difficult.
PPT is primarily based on Seligman's theory of happiness. According to this theory, the vague and fuzzy notion of "happiness" could be decomposed into three more scientifically measurable and manageable components: positive emotion (the pleasant life), engagement (the engaged life), and meaning (the meaningful life).
The pleasant life successfully pursues positive emotions about the present, past, and future. The positive emotions about the past are satisfaction, contentment, and serenity. Optimism, hope, trust, faith, and confidence are future-oriented positive emotions. Positive emotions about the present are divided into two crucially different categories: pleasures and gratifications.
Positive emotions are not a fleeting luxury but a vital need. They change people's mind-sets, widen the scope of their attention, and increase intuition. Positive emotions speed up recovery from the cardiovascular aftereffects of negative affects and alter front brain asymmetry and increase immune system functioning. Positive emotions broaden the thought-action repertoire, leading one to increased wellbeing, which in turn builds social and psychological resources and, in so doing, increases life satisfaction.
The second "happy" life in Seligman's theory of happiness is the engaged life, a life that pursues engagement, involvement, and absorption in work, intimate relations, and leisure. Engagement is synonymous with Csikszentmihalyi's notion of flow. Flow is a psychological state that accompanies highly engaging activities: time passes quickly; attention is completely focused on the activity; total absorption is experienced; even the sense of self is lost.
Seligman proposed that one way to enhance engagement is to identify clients' salient character strengths and then help them to find opportunities to use them more. He calls these signature strengths. Every client possesses several signature strengths. These are strengths of character that a client self-consciously owns, celebrates, feels a sense of ownership and authenticity about ("This is the real me"), and feels excited while displaying.
This also allows a client an opportunity for growth around his or her deepest psychological resources (signature strengths). The assumption is that when such growth occurs, happiness will take care of itself. Therapeutic interventions have been designed with the aim of transforming daily negative experiences into more positive ones by increasing engagement.
Compared to sensory pleasures, which fade quickly, these activities last longer, involve quite a lot of thinking and interpretation, and do not habituate easily. These activities are essentially signature strengths in action. The client is coached that happiness does not simply happen, but is something that they themselves make happen.
The third "happy" life in Seligman's theory of happiness is the pursuit of meaning. This consists of using signature strengths to belong to and to serve something the client believes to be bigger than the self. Victor Frankl, a pioneer in the study of meaning, emphasized that happiness cannot be attainted by wanting to be happy—it must come as the unintended consequence of working for a goal greater than oneself. People who successfully pursue activities that connect them to such larger goals achieve what we call the "meaningful life."
Easterbrook has observed that most Western societies are undergoing a fundamental shift from "material want" to "meaning want." PPT asserts that lack of meaning is not just a symptom but a cause of depression and a number of other psychological disorders. Through the meaningful life, PPT helps clients to forge connections to deal with psychological problems.
The full life consists of experiencing positive emotions in the past and future, savoring positive feelings from pleasures, deriving abundant gratification through engagement, and creating meaning in the service of something larger than the self. The three lives noted above—pleasant, engaged, and meaningful—are neither exclusive nor exhaustive. Most engagement experiences have the potential for meaningfulness.
Substantial time is spent coaching clients to re-educate their attention and memory to what is good in their lives, with the goal of providing them a more balanced context in which to place their problems. The goal is to keep the positive aspects of clients' lives in the forefront of their mind, to teach behaviors that bring positive feedback from others, and to strengthen already existing positive aspects rather than teaching the reinterpretation of negative aspects.
While the focus is helping clients explore their positives, it is inevitable that clients will discuss or even, in some cases, display negative emotions and experiences. In PPT, the expression of negative emotions is never dismissed nor superficially replaced with positive ones. Rather, the stance is to explore the role of negative emotions. One PPT exercise explicitly asks clients to write down bitter memories or resentments and then discuss in therapy the effects of holding onto them. This allows the easing of cognitive and emotional constrictions associated with the memory.
Psychologically disturbed individuals exaggerate the natural tendency of remembering the negative. They gravitate toward attending to and remembering the most negative aspects of their lives. Several PPT exercises aim to re-educate attention, memory, and expectations away from the negative and the catastrophic and toward the positive and the hopeful.
This chapter analyzes self-reports of turning points, defined as a perceived, long-lasting redirection in the path of a person's life. The particular focus in this chapter is on the psychological turning point, defined as an instance when a person undergoes a major transformation in views about the self, identity, or the meaning of life.
Psychological turning points may involve objective shifts in the social environment that bring about profound psychological change, such as the death of a life partner, the loss of a valued career, or the social recognition of accomplishment. They may also involve shifts in identity and meaning brought about by a more gradual process of change or through personal reflection.
According to Clausen, self-reported psychological turning points reflect personal judgments and appraisals of the direction and meaning of one's life, as well as the transitions or stressful events that may have triggered them. Self-reported psychological turning points can also include highly personalized periods of change or decision, such as career and relationship changes. Psychological turning points are useful to study in their own right because they offer a snapshot of how people at a particular point in time perceive psychological growth and change across their course of life and what they believe has triggered psychological change. They might also be viewed as self-perceptions of important life themes, or the "stories" that people live by.
The impact of a life transition or event on an individual's belief system is thus dependent on the previous characteristics of that belief system. A major event or transition may invoke revelation, reevaluation, and change, or it may simply reinforce extant beliefs. The former is more likely to be remembered as a psychologically salient event, because it results in "change."
A psychological turning point is a period or point in time when a person has undergone a major transformation in views about the self. Life events and difficulties; life transitions; and internal, subjective changes such as self-realizations or reinterpretations of past experiences may be associated with the feeling that life has reached a "turning point". A turning point may be either positive or negative in character, or both.
Similarly, those who feel they have accomplished too little for their years or stage in life or who have not yet reached a symbolic marker of maturity may experience a sense of loss, sadness, or disabling self-criticism. The latter is in fact one classic interpretation of the midlife psychosocial transition, the need to progress from stagnation to generativity. More popularly, this transition is one way some people understand the term "midlife crisis".
Respondents attributed their psychological turning points to a variety of causes. The majority of respondents connected turning points to concrete changes in the environment, either major negative events or long-lasting chronic difficulties. Only a minority of respondents (fewer than 1 in 10) reported that they found out something upsetting about themselves through reflection, meditation, therapy, or prayer. Nearly 75% of respondents attributed turning points to objective situations that had raised the level of challenge in their lives or revealed previously unnoticed character flaws.
Those participants who reported only a positive psychological turning point (learning something good about themselves) were more likely to attribute the cause of the turning point to a positive event, even a relatively minor one. These positive or minor events were described as having symbolic value in their lives, most particularly taking on additional roles and social responsibilities. These included getting married, finishing school, having a child, adopting a child, and starting a new business. Other respondents reported learning something good about themselves from experiencing the appreciation of others, at work, from their families, or from social groups and public institutions. Another type of attribution was succeeding in challenging situations, such as managing the care of an elderly parent or accomplishing difficult tasks at work. Several respondents reported learning new things about themselves from mastering new tasks, like learning how to use a computer for the first time in their lives. Finally, some respondents reported that they learned good things about themselves through praying, meditating, fasting, or deep religious experiences.
The majority who described negative impacts also went on to describe how the same situations had had positive impacts, even when the situation was very stressful. These impacts are best described as lessons learned rather than positive reappraisals of the situations to which the turning points are attributed. The majority of narratives about positive impact were reports of successful coping with the situation that caused the psychological turning point or plans for avoiding such problems in the future. The self-reported positive impacts group into several themes.
Does tragedy only reap sorrow? People who report having experienced psychological turning points, even those that involved extremely stressful situations, also reported the experience of positive psychological growth. The major finding of these analyses is that perceptions of growth and strength are often born out of suffering and setbacks, as well as accomplishments and achievements.
The analyses of the qualitative data on psychological turning points raise several issues. When people reported the negative psychological impacts of learning upsetting things about themselves, they described depression, failed coping, and devaluation of the self. When they described positive impacts of negative psychological turning points, they reported how they coped successfully with the consequences of the events or difficulties that caused the turning point.
People may report experiencing positive psychological growth because they believe they coped well with exceptionally challenging situations. They attribute success to solving the problem, to taking steps to avoid similar problems in the future, and to acquiring new knowledge and self-knowledge.
At least in their original forms, optimism and pessimism were not symmetric. Optimism as discussed by Leibniz was cognitive in its emphasis, reflecting a reasoned judgment that good would predominate over evil, even if goodness were associated with suffering. In contrast, pessimism as discussed by Schopenhauer had an emotional referent: The pessimistic individual was one for whom suffering would outweigh happiness. Note therefore that someone can be optimistic in the cognitive Leibniz sense yet pessimistic in the emotional Schopenhauer sense.
At present, the well-known approaches to optimism and pessimism as individual differences include lines of research into (a) dispositional optimism and (b) explanatory style undertaken.
As we see it, the most typical and robust mechanism linking optimism and outcomes entails behavior. We speculate that optimistic individuals may be more likely than pessimistic individuals to enter settings in which good things can and do happen. The more general point is that positive psychologists should not look just within the person but also at the person's setting, including his or her culture. Optimism may influence not only the settings that people choose but also what they do in these settings. Just as important, settings differ in the degree to which they allow positive characteristics to develop and be deployed.
To Scheier and Carver, virtually all realms of human activity can be cast in goal terms, and people's behavior entails the identification and adoption of goals and the regulation of actions with respect to these goals. The authors therefore refer to their approach as a self-regulatory model.
Optimism enters into self-regulation when people ask themselves about impediments to the achievement of the goals they have adopted. In the face of difficulties, do people nonetheless believe that goals will be achieved? If so, they are optimistic; if not, they are pessimistic. Optimism leads to continued efforts to attain the goal, whereas pessimism leads to passivity.
Seligman and his colleagues have approached optimism in terms of an individual's characteristic explanatory style—how he or she explains the causes of bad events. Those who explain bad events in a circumscribed way, with external, unstable, and specific causes, are described as optimistic, whereas those who favor internal, stable, and global causes are described as pessimistic.
People who encounter a bad event ask "why?" Their causal attribution determines how they respond to the event. If it is a stable (long-lasting) cause, helplessness is thought to be chronic. If it is a pervasive (global) cause, helplessness is thought to be widespread. If it is an internal cause, self-esteem is thought to suffer.
Said another way, optimistic explanatory style is more entwined with agency than is dispositional optimism, and this distinction seems an important one for researchers and theorists to keep in mind. Both approaches either ignore whether optimism or pessimism might be warranted by the objective situation or assume that their reality basis does not matter. Perhaps this is why many researchers approach optimism and pessimism in broad cross-situational terms.1 In any event, we think the veracity of optimism and pessimism is too important to overlook. Sometimes causal explanations or expectations are well-grounded in reality; they are accurate given the individual's setting and his or her resources.
Sometimes causal explanations or expectations are objectively unrealistic, in which case positive thinking not only pays no dividends but may have considerable costs. For example, a recent study found that the positive associations between negative life events and depressive and physical symptoms were exacerbated by high dispositional optimism. That is, dispositionally optimistic individuals who experienced the greatest accumulation of negative life events over a one-year period (implying that their optimism was unwarranted) reported the highest levels of depressive and physical symptoms.
A composite account of optimism and pessimism should (a) distinguish positive expectations from negative expectations; (b) acknowledge the person's sense of agency (or not) with respect to the outcomes that are the subject of expectancies; (c) allow for the possibility that these beliefs may be accurate, inaccurate, or indeterminate; and (d) specify whether optimism and pessimism are rendered in mainly cognitive terms or mainly emotional terms. Consider what it means to take seriously these different features. Optimism and pessimism are complex constructs, and it makes no sense to speak of the former as always desirable and the latter as always undesirable.
Western cultures have been described as being individualistic. In such cultures, individuals are expected to seek independence from others by attending to the self. As a result, individuals from such cultures grow to develop a sense of the self largely independent of others. In cultures where the independent self is predominant, we find a self-enhancing bias involving overly positive views of the self, illusions of control, and unrealistic optimism.
In contrast, the focus in Eastern cultures traditionally has been on a view of the individual who maintains a fundamental relatedness with others. Attending to others, harmonious interdependence with them, and fitting in not only are valued but are often expected, which results in an interdependent view of the self. Within collectivist culture, the resulting bias appears to be toward self-effacement: the tendency to see oneself as being more typical or average than others.
As Norem and Cantor and Aspinwall and Brunhart argued, optimism and pessimism are not simply what people have because they are optimists or pessimists but rather a reflection of what people do (e.g., using a particular way of thinking about certain things) in relation to a specific goal. Hence, Asian Americans also might use their pessimism as a strategy to think about potential negative consequences as a means to motivate themselves toward proactive behavior (e.g., problem solving) while at the same time preserving social harmony through the expression of modesty (e.g., not setting themselves apart from their peers).
The general theme that runs through what we have written is the idea that distinctions matter. Optimism and pessimism are not simple opposites, and findings with respect to the one construct cannot be flipped into conclusions about the other.
We do not doubt that some form of optimism or the absence of some form of pessimism is linked to the good life around the world, but just which forms will probably vary. If we wish to encourage well-being and help people flourish, we need more than a one-size-fits-all optimism-boosting program.
In this chapter we suggest that one important way people find meaning in their lives is by becoming deeply involved in activities that afford them scope. Even apparently trivial activities become meaningful over time if done with care and concentration. And many cultural domains—such as the arts, literature, and scientific research— allow persons to build meaningful lives by providing almost unlimited opportunities for engagement.
Indeed, what most distinguishes the notion of vital engagement from related concepts in the study of lives is attention to the experiential. We focus on the relationship between a person and the environment (experience in the sense of Dewey, 1958, 1963) and on the subjective phenomenology of this transaction.... From this perspective, people are capable of actively forming goals, investing their attention selectively, and constructing the meaning of their experience.
In the course of daily life, people encounter a vast amount of information. Information appears in consciousness through the selective investment of attention. People's subjective experience, the content of consciousness from moment to moment, is thus determined by their decisions about the allocation of limited attention. As William James observed years ago, with perhaps a touch of exaggeration: "My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind".
The quality of the attention paid to the world affects the nature of people's interactions and the quality of their subjective experience.
The concept of vital engagement is meant to capture a certain way of being related to the world—one of engagement or felt connection to the object or other that is experienced as vital in two senses. These are the relationship's felt significance or meaningfulness to the self and the vitality experienced when interaction with the object is going well for the individual. A polar opposite relationally is alienation, which implies an active separation or estrangement between self and object rather than connection and belonging.
Dewey's model for optimal functioning was artistic-aesthetic experience: transactions between person and environment that fully absorb the individual. He maintained that any experience— repairing a car, gardening, cooking—has artistic-aesthetic quality if characterized by "active and alert commerce with the world; at its height [this] signifies complete interpenetration of self and the world of objects and events".
The self becomes "engaged, engrossed, or entirely taken up with some activity because of its recognized worth". In vital engagement, the relationship to the world is characterized by completeness of involvement or participation and marked by intensity. There is a strong felt connection between self and object; a writer is "swept away" by a project, a scientist is "mesmerized by the stars." The relationship has subjective meaning; work is a "calling." The object—whether it is a cultural domain like poetry or a person, group, institution, political cause, or something else—is experienced as significant and worthy of attention. Likewise, it is valued aspects of the self that are absorbed or invested in the relationship and realized or expressed through it—a poet's gift, a scientist's iconoclasm, a journalist's belief in democracy.
We will define vital engagement in this chapter as a relationship to the world that is characterized both by experiences of flow (enjoyed absorption) and by meaning (subjective significance).
Influenced in part by Dewey, several contemporary researchers define interest as a long-term, historied relationship between a person and an object of interest. The concept is interactionist, locating interest in the relationship between the person and object.... Prenzel identified the following characteristics of interest relationships: (a) relevant skills and the internal representation of the object are complex, (b) positive emotions attach to the object and to interaction with it, (c) person-object interaction is intrinsically motivated, and (d) the object is valued.
The flow state has the following characteristics: intense and focused concentration on the here and now; a loss of self- consciousness as action and awareness merge; a sense that one will be able to handle the situation because one knows how to respond to whatever will happen next; a sense that time has passed more quickly or slowly than normal; and an experience of the activity as rewarding in and of itself, regardless of the outcome. Parameters of experience that foster the flow state have been identified: clarity about one's immediate goals, throughout the interaction; continuous and unambiguous feedback about the progress that one is making as the activity unfolds; and finally, perceived opportunities for action that stretch one's existing capacities. In flow, people thus feel that their capacities are being fully used. Entering flow depends on establishing a balance between perceived capacities and perceived challenges; remaining in flow depends on maintaining this balance.
A given individual can find flow in virtually any interaction, even the most trivial, depending on the skills that are brought to it and the challenges that can be identified in it. To date, the largest body of flow research has focused on what can broadly be characterized as forms of play. Though other considerations like health and fitness and fame and fortune might motivate participation in "play" pursuits, a key motive is just the sheer enjoyment of the activity.
Flow occurs in social interactions, though research on this topic is more limited. It occurs, in particular, within exchanges such as business transactions and the coordinated activity of team sports. In unstructured social situations, participants' positive affect is not usually accompanied by intense concentration; nevertheless, flow can occur in informal interaction and in conversation.
In a flow activity, motivation is emergent in the sense that proximal goals arise out of the interaction between person and object. Because the subjective state is intrinsically rewarding, people seek to reproduce flow experiences. As they master challenges in an activity, however, they develop greater levels of skill, and the activity ceases to be as involving as before; they must identify increasingly complex challenges if they are to continue experiencing flow.
An experience that draws a person into participation in the world yet holds little subjective significance may be absorbing—but not vitally engaging. Involving activities are vitally engaging to the extent that they hold meaning for the individual. The flow model insists neither that challenges nor skills must be strongly valued for an experience to be involving. It is the level of perceived challenge in relation to the person's level of skill, or capacities for action, that is an essential condition for flow and not the qualitative dimension, its perceived significance.
The question is how enjoyable experiences become subjectively meaningful or significant as well—that is, how flow leads to vital engagement. The answer proposed is that meaning can grow out of flow in the context of a sustained relationship with an object. We view long-term engagement with art or science as a model for vital engagement in other spheres of life.
The desire for meaning is viewed as a basic human motivation. A sense that life has meaning is associated with well-being and is seen as necessary for long-term happiness. The sources of meaning in most people's lives (e.g., relationships, life goals, religious participation), the ways in which meaning is structured (e.g., through goal hierarchies), and the functions served by meaning all have received research attention.
Much that is meaningful is taken for granted, woven early into experience, and as likely to be unarticulated as articulated; this is meaning that a person is "born into" by virtue of family, culture, and history. Alternatively, meaning may be actively formulated in response to a problem encountered during the course of a life; the resulting crisis of meaning "pushes" a person to create new goals or understandings.
Finally, a "pull" model of the origin of meaning contrasts with both the enculturation and the "push" models. As a person is drawn onward by enjoyable interaction with an object, the meaning of the relationship gradually deepens. In this discussion of vital engagement, the focus will be on meaning that is rooted specifically in positive experience rather than in negative experience or early experience in general.
When work is experienced as a calling, it exhibits the coincidence of positive subjective experience and meaningfulness that defines vital engagement. Individuals who view their work as a calling report both higher work satisfaction and higher satisfaction with life in general than those who view their work as a job or career.
Data from a longitudinal study [found] that teenagers still committed to involvement in their talent area were more likely than their less committed peers to have found the activity both absorbing and important earlier in high school. Of particular significance, neither pattern of incomplete engagement boded well for teenagers' continued commitment.
What one can accomplish in a domain must be valued by the actor if it is to be vitally engaging. It is possible for an individual to see no future for him- or herself in an activity or to devalue the endeavor or the opportunities for action that the activity presents. This valuing is part of the information in consciousness that shapes a person's encounters with the domain. To say that meaning emerges is to say that interactions with the domain transform this information in consciousness.
When a person begins to perform within the rules of a symbolic domain, meaning begins to accrue from several sources: an identification with the domain, its history, traditions, and goals; a feeling of solidarity with the field and its practitioners; a self-image arising from one's own practice— from the peculiar style of one's work. Thus, with time, the sheer practice of one's calling generates layers of important meaning.
At the outset of a career, teachers can play a critical role in conveying the meaningfulness of a life in science or art to students who already enjoy the activity. In Bloom and colleagues' study of the development of talent, many young adult sculptors and mathematicians recalled that the most decisive factor in forming a commitment to a career was close contact with a teacher who was a working professional and modeled participation in the discipline as a vitally engaging way of life.
A person's relationship to his community of practice, and interactions with specific members of it, can help create and sustain an emergent sense of the enterprise's significance. This connection to a community of practice is only one of the ways in which the gradual accumulation of connections tends to lead to a more complexly meaningful relationship to the world.
For many people, of course, the primary goal in life is to be happy. Yet research indicates that happiness is most often a by-product of participating in worthwhile projects and activities that do not have as their primary focus the attainment of happiness. Whether they focus primarily on basic research or intervention, psychologists also see goal-striving as vital to "the good life." Psychological well-being has been defined as "the self-evaluated level of the person's competence and the self, weighted in terms of the person's hierarchy of goals". Frisch defined happiness as "the extent to which important goals, needs, and wishes have been fulfilled".
Most thoughts and accompanying emotional states are determined by goals. Klinger has demonstrated that our preoccupations and the emotions we feel are tied to the nature of our goals and the status of these pursuits. Further, because quality of life is determined by the contents of consciousness, goal striving should be at the forefront of a science of positive psychology. Goals are the concretized expression of future orientation and life purpose, and provide a convenient and powerful metric for examining these vital elements of a positive life.
The goals construct has given form and substance to the amorphous concept of "meaning in life" that humanistic psychology has long understood as a key element of human functioning. Some have argued that the construct of "meaning" has no meaning outside of a person's goals and purposes—that is, what a person is trying to do. Goals are signals that orient a person to what is valuable, meaningful, and purposeful. This is not to say, however, that all goals provide meaning or even contribute to a sense of meaning. Many goals are trivial or shallow and, although necessary for daily functioning, have little capacity to contribute to a sense that life is meaningful.
Achievement/work includes being committed to one's work, believing in its worth, and liking challenge. Relationships/intimacy includes relating well to others, trusting others, and being altruistic and helpful. Religion/ spirituality includes having a personal relationship with God, believing in an afterlife, and contributing to a faith community. Transcendence/ generativity encompasses contributing to society, leaving a legacy, and transcending self-interests.
In both community and college student samples, we have found that the presence of intimacy strivings, generativity strivings, and spiritual strivings within a person's goal hierarchy predict greater SWB, particularly higher positive affect. Conversely, power strivings tend to be associated with lower levels of SWB, especially with higher levels of negative affect.
Power and intimacy strivings reflect the broader motivational orientations of agency and communion. Intimacy strivings reflect a concern for establishing deep and mutually gratifying relationships, whereas power strivings reflect a desire to influence others and have impact on them. The ability to engage in close intimate relationships based on trust and affection is the hallmark of psychosocial maturity and a key component to psychological growth.
Individuals high in power strivings may also be committing their lives primarily to obtaining extrinsic sources of satisfaction such as materialistic goals that fail to meet the basic needs for relatedness and autonomy. Generativity strivings, defined as those strivings that involve creating, giving of oneself to others, and having an influence on future generations also seem to result in higher levels of life satisfaction and positive affect. Generativity is a concern for guiding and promoting the next generation through parenting, as well as through teaching, mentoring, counseling, leadership, and generating products that will survive the self and contribute positively to the next generation.
Although generativity is a concern for promoting the well-being of later generations, there is an immediate positive impact on the promoter's own well-being... Generative concerns most likely contribute to well-being by fostering behaviors and commitments that create and sustain positive interpersonal and transgenerational relationships. Spiritual strivings refer to goals that are oriented around the sacred. They are those personal goals that are concerned with ultimate purpose, ethics, commitment to a higher power, and a seeking of the divine in daily experience.
Spiritual strivings are related to higher levels of SWB, especially to greater positive affect and to both marital and overall life satisfaction... Investing goals with a sense of sacredness confers on them a power to organize experience and to promote well-being that is absent in nonsacred strivings.
Rather, certain clusters of goals consistently tend to foster higher levels of well-being than other types of goals. Intimacy, generativity, and spirituality are intrinsically rewarding domains of goal activity that render lives meaningful and purposeful, particularly compared to power strivings or strivings for self-sufficiency.
Each of these three goal types reflects an active engagement with the world, a sense of connectedness to others, to the future, to the transcendent, and thus contain a glimpse of eternity.
Kasser and Ryan have distinguished between goals that serve intrinsic needs and goals that are extrinsic in that they serve other, less inherently satisfying needs. These researchers have demonstrated that the rated importance of the extrinsic goals of financial success, social recognition, and physical attractiveness were negatively related to several measures of well-being, including vitality and selfactualization.
The authors concluded that there is a "dark side to the American dream"—that a relative emphasis on fame, fortune, and success to the neglect of intrinsically meaningful goals is likely to lead to psychological and interpersonal problems.
When it comes to psychological well-being, what people are striving for—the content of their aims and ambitions—does matter. Not all goals are created equal, and not all goal attainment is equally healthy. At first glance, this observation might seem blatantly obvious, yet goal theories of affect have been known to indiscriminately equate goal attainment with positive affective outcomes, regardless of goal content.
Orientation refers to individual differences in the mental representations of goals. Although it might be argued that this distinction is purely a semantic one, with no practical significance, it does appear that there are psychological benefits (and con
versely, psychological costs) associated with different forms of goal framing. One goal orientation that appears to have important consequences for SWB is the degree to which individuals are striving for positive, desirable goals as opposed to striving to avoid negative, aversive goals. The distinction between approach and avoidance is fundamental and basic to the study of human behavior and motivation. The difference between these two orientations is whether positive or negative outcomes are used as a benchmark for self-regulatory activity. Approach goals are positive incentives to be sought after and moved toward whereas avoidant goals are negative consequences to be avoided or prevented.
On average, between 10 and 20% of a person's goals tend to be avoidance goals. A number of studies have now documented that avoidant striving is associated with less positive psychological outcomes as compared to approach striving.
A person is likely to be less satisfied with his or her marriage if his or her spouse is predominantly concerned with avoiding negative outcomes. Thus, avoidant striving appears to exact an interpersonal as well as an intrapersonal toll on well-being.
Although not all avoidance goals may be inherently harmful, in general avoidance goals must be considered a psychological vulnerability that places individuals at risk for emotional and physical ill-being.
To move toward a comprehensive formulation of the positive person and the good life in terms of goals, I would argue that we must look to the virtues underlying goal striving. Virtues are essential person characteristics that can differentiate successful from unsuccessful goal strivers. Virtues are acquired excellences in character traits, the possession of which contributes to a person's completeness or wholeness.
Prudence, patience, and perseverance. Each of these reflects a disposition that can counsel goaldirected action. Each of these is involved in self-regulation, which involves setting appropriate goals and persisting in the face of setbacks and failure.
Patience is the "ability to dwell gladly in the present moment" when one would rather be doing something else. Patience is not just aimlessness, an absence of striving. Patience enables people to be attentively responsive to others, to be responsive to opportunities for goal attainment. Roberts contends that patience "is a necessary condition for the accomplishment of anything worthwhile".
Although patience is about the present, perseverance focuses on the future. Perseverance is the ability to keep commitments, to be steadfast, to endure despite obstacles, to make sacrifices, and to resist temptations to give up. For the good life, perseverance must be combined with the right kind of goals.
A wise person knows which goals are ultimately fulfilling and which offer only the illusion of fulfillment and thus will order his or her life accordingly. According to the research reviewed in this chapter, wisdom would be manifested in the choice to pursue positively framed, self-transcendent strivings in a prudent, patient, and persevering manner.
Relationships are an important, and perhaps the most important, source of life satisfaction and emotional well-being. For example, a survey of more than 2000 Americans conducted in 1971 concluded that marriage and family life were the best predictors of overall life satisfaction among the major domains of human activity.
People routinely list successful close relationships among their most important life goals and aspirations, and not doing so is significantly correlated with undesirable outcomes. When describing the factors that give life meaning, most people mention close relationships more so than other activities.
Some theories go so far as to posit "positive relations with others" as an intrinsic component of psychological well-being and not just as a cause of it. These theories vary, or in some cases are silent, about precisely what constitutes a positive relationship.
On the distress side of the spectrum, relationships are well-established as one of the most potent causes of human misery. More than half of the respondents in a large national survey asked to describe "the last bad thing that happened to you" recounted an interpersonal event, primarily disruption or conflict in a significant relationship.
Troubled relationships are the most common presenting problem in psychotherapy, and the loss of, or failure to attain, desired relationships are a major source of depression, loneliness, alienation, and self-destructive behavior at all stages of the life cycle.
Our goal is to demonstrate that positive processes have been underinvestigated by relationship researchers and to suggest several strategies for rectifying this unevenness. We propose that this involves conceptualizing positive relationship processes not as the opposite of negatives but rather as the result of a conceptually and functionally independent system.
In short, research on relationships and interpersonal events supports the same conclusion that Taylor drew in her review of the extensive literature on adaptation to life events: "Negative events appear to elicit more physiological, affective, cognitive, and behavioral activity and prompt more cognitive analysis than neutral or positive events". It is therefore not surprising that studies of conflict and other negative interactions predominate in the literature relative to studies of more positive interactions.
Laboratory studies of social judgment and decision making have repeatedly demonstrated negativity bias—a tendency to rely on negative cues more than on positive cues... Several explanations have been supported. First, as mentioned previously, the sort of negative information that people encounter in everyday life tends to be more evaluatively extreme from the hypothetical neutral point than is positive information, which enhances its impact.
Second, automatic (i.e., not consciously or deliberately mediated) vigilance tends to be greater with regard to negative stimuli than to positive stimuli. Moreover, once noticed, negative stimuli influence automatic evaluative categorizations more than positive stimuli do, a stage of cognitive processing that precedes conscious awareness. Manusov, Floyd, and Kerssen-Griep's finding that spouses were more likely to notice each others' negative nonverbal acts than their positive nonverbal acts is consistent with these findings.
Third, negative acts are believed to be more diagnostic about a person's inner qualities than are positive acts, which are more likely to be attributed to situational demands and social desirability. Positive acts are considered to be less informative about an actor's attitudes and dispositions because politeness rules, social norms, and the desire to create favorable impressions tend to impel positive behavior by most people. Negative actions run contrary to these strong situational demands and thereby are presumed to be more revealing about the person's inner states and dispositions. Being late for a date or job interview is more diagnostic than being on time.
Fourth, negativity bias involves the venerable concept of expectancy violation. Outcomes that deviate from expectations—what Helson called adaptation level and Thibaut and Kelley termed comparison level—tend to generate more pronounced reactions than do outcomes consistent with expectations.
In long-term relationships, the expectancy violation process is commonly cited to explain why, as mentioned earlier, "one zinger will erase 20 acts of kindness", and why spouses in successful marriages tend to exhibit at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative behaviors. More often than not, spouses expect their partners to treat them well; negative acts therefore tend to deviate more from expectations than comparably extreme positive acts.
Ironically, it would seem, the better one treats a partner, the higher their expectations may rise and the more distressing the same mildly negative act may be.
We propose that the field's inclination to treat negativity bias as received wisdom may have led it to neglect positivity, which, as we will argue, may have important implications for relationship functioning and well-being.
Considering the appetitive and aversive systems as independent suggests two basic conclusions. First, even if the same amount of negative stimulus produces larger changes than the same amount of positive stimulus, the operation of either system is generally uninformative about the other. Instead, these processes must be disentangled to be understood, both in terms of their distinct influences on social behavior and in terms of their interplay.
What does this model imply for the primary topic of this chapter, relationships? That the processes involved in obtaining desired positive, relationship outcomes may be distinct from those involved in avoiding negative, distressing outcomes. In practical terms, the absence of conflict and criticism in a relationship need not imply the presence of joy and fulfillment, just as the presence of joy and fulfillment need not denote the absence of conflict and criticism.
Findings, of course, depend on where researchers choose to look, and today, researchers are more likely than not to investigate causal antecedents and consequences of negative processes in relationships, such as conflict, criticism, betrayal, stressful events, divorce, bereavement, rejection, social isolation, jealousy, violence, loneliness, and intrusiveness.
Perhaps this focus reflects the clinical roots of relationship research (not to mention the impact of mental health funding): Many popular paradigms were designed to provide a scientific foundation for intervening with distressed couples and families. Nonetheless, if positive and negative processes are functionally independent, the failure to examine positive processes makes it unlikely that evidence for their impact will be found...Rare are studies of interactions focused on purely positive interchange—affection, companionship, shared activity, and just plain fun.
Whereas short-term regrets tend to focus on acts of commission—something one did and wishes one had not done— long-term regrets tend to concern acts of omission—something one wishes one had done. The former usually involve behaviors that have had negative consequences, whereas the latter typically refer to bypassed opportunities for desirable outcomes. Hence over time the emphasis of regrets shift from enacted negatives to foregone positives.
In other words, the assumption of intrinsic positivity may have led some researchers to seek to understand the causes and consequences of destructive forces in relationships, treating positivity as a baseline or default condition not warranting investigation in its own right. We see little reason to concur with this assumption; most researchers readily acknowledge that relationships are often toxic and destructive.... Of course, our contention that positive interpersonal processes and phenomena may be functionally independent from negative processes and phenomena suggests one possibility for rectifying the existing imbalance.
The aversive dimension encompasses the desire to avoid danger and to feel safe and secure in relationships, implying a desire to avoid destructive interactions such as conflict and the possibility of rejection. On the other hand, the appetitive dimension involves the pursuit of growth, fulfillment, and pleasure in relationships. It is this latter dimension that is typically most salient when people initiate close relationships; few seek out others with the goal of avoiding negative outcomes.
From early adolescence on, when people discuss the kinds of relationships they want, intimacy is usually at or near the top of the list (e.g., "having a few special friends who care about you"), which helps explain why a large portion of goal-directed social activity is aimed at obtaining or enhancing intimacy. Describing intimacy as an actively sought social goal highlights its relevance to the appetitive dimension and suggests one way of characterizing this dimension— namely, in terms of qualities that promote growth, flourishing, positive affect, and movement toward personal ideals and goals in the context of an ongoing connection with others.
The impact of shared intrinsically motivated activity on relationships, a topic well-suited to a positive psychology of relationships, has not been investigated. We speculate that such activity may be particularly relevant to appetitive processes in relationships for several reasons. First, intrinsically motivated activity involves central, self-determined goals, the sharing of which ought to enhance the perception of shared selves and responsiveness critical to intimacy. Also, because intrinsically motivated activity generates positive affect, partners may come to associate the relationship with the intrinsic enjoyment of the activity itself. This principle may be especially important when circumstances constrain opportunities—for example, during early parenthood or when economic resources are limited. New relationships deepen in part because of the excitement and personal fulfillment that derives from meshing one's life with that of another person; maintaining those gratifications once a relationship has become routine presents a key appetitive challenge to all close relationships.
Pleasure and fulfillment surely make for quality in life. The more of each, the more quality. Hence, the more pleasure and fulfillment are part of our most common daily activities, the better. It is probably true that work, leisure, and eating constitute the three major waking activities of most humans. From the economic point of view, work accounts for almost all of income, and food and leisure account for most expenditures—food in the developing nations and leisure in the developed nations.
We propose that intrinsic value and fulfillment are two critical characteristics of activities that enhance their positivity and contribution to the quality of life. Intrinsic value is found in the accomplishment of an activity for its own sake, as opposed to accomplishment for some other purpose, such as for its instrumental value.
Fulfillment refers to a sense that one is a better person, in terms of personal or societal goals, as a result of participation in an activity. Fulfillment and intrinsic value are clearly related; indeed, a sense of fulfillment may encourage intrinsic value. On the other hand, they are opposed in the sense that fulfillment, especially when expressed as improving the world or the lives of others, has an instrumental quality.
Work represents nearly half of waking life for most adults. Most people must work to make a living, which makes work an obligation rather than a choice. Even so, the experience of work is often quite varied, ranging from work as a drudging necessity to work as a source of joy.
The most common constructs studied in the meaning of work literature include work centrality, work commitment, job involvement, work involvement, intrinsic-extrinsic motivation, and work values.
An ongoing debate in the meaning of work literature centers on whether the meaning of work is determined internally (i.e., within the individual) or externally (i.e., by the job and wider environment). Are the changing meanings of work a function of changing work environments, or have people's needs in these work environments changed?
Bellah and colleagues described three dominant orientations that reflect the experience of work in the United States. In the first work orientation, people view work as a job, focusing on the material benefits of work to the relative exclusion of other kinds of meaning and fulfillment. The work is simply a means to a financial end that allows people to enjoy their time away from work. Usually, the interests and ambitions of those with jobs are expressed outside of the domain of work and involve hobbies and other interests.
In contrast, those with career orientations work for the rewards that come from advancement through an organizational or occupational structure. For those with careers, the increased pay, prestige, and status that come with promotion and advancement are a dominant focus in their work. Advancement brings higher self-esteem, increased power, and higher social standing. Finally, those with calling orientations work not for financial rewards or for advancement but for the fulfillment that doing the work brings. In callings, the work is an end in itself and is associated with the belief that the work makes the world a better place...A physician who views the work as a job and is simply interested in making a good income does not have a calling, whereas a garbage collector who sees the work as making the world a cleaner, healthier place could have a calling.
Overall, it appears that those with calling orientations have a stronger and more rewarding relationship to their work, which is associated with spending more time in this domain and gaining more enjoyment and satisfaction from it.
The three work orientations reflect different types of connections to the domain of work—connections that vary in their intrinsic and instrumental focus and in their implications for other domains of life. Those with jobs are not likely to have a passionate connection with their work, because the work primarily represents a means to an end. Those with careers may be more deeply engaged with their work, because the work is a source of achievement in the rewards, positions, and power it yields. Only for those with callings is work a wholly enriching and meaningful activity that is a passion in its own right.
As well, those with callings report higher job and life satisfaction than those with jobs or careers. They also derive more satisfaction from the domain of work than the domain of leisure.... Clearly, for those with callings, work is one's passion, whereas for those with jobs and careers, the deeper satisfactions are found in leisure or in relationships outside of the workplace.
Unlike work, which for most people is a necessity, leisure activities have an optional quality. One would and should be surprised that people did not get pleasure out of their leisure activities. This pleasure usually means that leisure activities have intrinsic value; it is usually the case that we engage in them for the enjoyment they inspire.1 Nonetheless, there are important differences in leisure activities with respect to how fulfilling they are and hence the extent to which they enrich life. There would seem to be two aspects to fulfillment in leisure activities. One has to do with mastery, self-improvement, and the richer pleasures that come from accomplishment and expertise. There is a sense in which a highly educated musical listener or football fan may get more out of these leisure activities than one without expertise might. A second aspect is the sense of purpose or moral accomplishment that comes from feeling that one contributes to a better life for those close to one or those far away. Both mastery and contribution add to the meaning of life.
Specifically, respondents felt that their passions sustained their mental health by offering them an outlet for stress and emotions, boosting their self-esteem, providing an escape, and offering a way to achieve focus, control, and creative expression.
There is, of course, a relationship between callings and passions. For people with callings, work takes on most of the characteristics of passions; some describe work as their passion and intentionally allow their work to consume their leisure time. Self-realization, intrinsic value, and social fulfillment all play major roles in passions and callings.
Tibor Scitovsky made the important distinction between pleasures and comforts. According to Scitovsky, comforts are background improvements in life, such as air conditioning, which make life generally easier but which are things we adapt to. Pleasures are unique events, like good meals, evenings with friends, vacations, and concerts, which have the type of variety and distinctiveness to which we do not adapt. As a result, it is proposed that pleasures contribute more to the quality of life than do comforts.
Overall, the more we know about the acquisition of intrinsic value, the development of values that extend beyond the self, and the way that the cultural ecology promotes these, the more we will be able to make the most of most moments in our waking lives.
For the purpose of this chapter, I will restrict my definition of community service to mean taking actions, carried out within an institutional framework, that potentially provide some service to one or more other people or to the community at large.
Sociologists have proposed for many years that there are benefits of social participation. In the 19th century, Durkheim argued convincingly for the importance of group ties, norms, and social expectations in protecting individuals from suicide. The role-accumulation approach within role theory assumes that social roles provide status, role-related privileges, and ego gratification, as well as identities that provide meaning and purpose and thus enhance psychological well-being. Within this tradition, Thoits suggested that voluntary roles, such as friend or group member, may be more responsible for the positive effects of multiple roles than are obligatory roles such as parent or spouse.
Snyder, Clary, and Stukas have been carrying out a systematic program of research focused on understanding volunteer motivation. They have identified six functions that volunteering serves: value-expressive, social, knowledge, defensive, enhancement, and career. They have consistently found greater satisfaction on the part of volunteers based on meeting their motivational needs.
Thus, both sociological and psychological theories predict that performing community service will have benefits for the helper. Mechanisms are suggested from the very macro, based on integration into society, to the very micro—psychoneuroimmunologic. From both sets of theories we are led to believe that the impact will vary depending on a "fit" between the helper's needs and the nature of the actions performed. And both sets of theories suggest that having a feeling of volition and control will enhance the positive effects.
There are good reasons to believe that participation in many forms of extracurricular activities will be healthy for children. First, any productive use of time can simply interfere with the opportunity to engage in antisocial or otherwise undesirable activities.
It is also argued that such programs can have effects on the growth of intellect, mastery, social responsibility, social skills, and leadership abilities. Focusing specifically on the potential impact of community service activities, Moore and Allen stated, "By enhancing these competencies in adolescents, volunteering may also increase adolescents' resistance to other problems, such as teenage pregnancy, school drop-out, and delinquency".
In a longitudinal study of the impact of the first year of college, Lee found no impact of volunteering on self-esteem or academic selfefficacy. Students' self-esteem generally went down over the year, and the most powerful variable contributing to this was grade point average. Participating in volunteer work did have a significant impact on volunteer role identity. That is, such participation strengthened students' self-concept as volunteers. Perhaps at this critical life turning point, academics assume a highly focal position, such that other activities can have little impact on overall evaluation of the self.
Stukas and colleagues concluded that service learning can have effects related to all six of the functions. In terms of self-enhancement—feeling better about oneself—they noted that service learning can affect personal efficacy, self-esteem, and confidence. In terms of understanding, there is evidence that service learning can influence students' appreciation for and attitudes toward diverse groups in society, including elderly individuals and people of other cultures and races.
In terms of value expression, some studies have shown an increase in altruistic motivation and social and personal responsibility. With regard to career development, there is some evidence that "volunteer work predicted intrinsic work values, the importance of a career, and the importance of community involvement, even when factors related to self-selection . . . were taken into account". Finally, in terms of protection—by which Stukas et al. mean reduction of stress, feelings of alienation, or guilt—service learning can distract students from personal problems and perhaps give them an opportunity to work through those problems. Tollman and Muldoon claimed that some benefits of service learning are stronger for "at-risk" students. Such students may be able to compare themselves to others with even worse problems, for example, which allows them to put their personal failings in perspective.
Stukas et al. emphasized four features of the programs that appear to be related to positive effects if learning is to be enhanced. These are as follows: (a) being autonomy-supportive—that is, allowing participants a voice in determining the details of service activities; (b) matching goals and activities—that is, allowing students' needs and interests to help shape the activities to contribute to the attainment of goals; (c) attention to the relationship among all participants, involving mutual respect among instructors, students, and community members; and (d) inclusion of opportunities for reflection, which "cement the link between experience and theory".
The inescapable conclusion regarding volunteering by elderly individuals is that it is highly beneficial. There appears to be a strong and consistent effect, such that the more an elderly person volunteers, the higher is his or her life satisfaction. The impact is greater on those who need it most. Similarly, some volunteering enhances physical health and even can stave off death. The only caveat appears to be that for physical health, more is not always better. Volunteering in moderation that does not physically tax the elderly individual appears to be best—as with exercise, food, and wine, moderation in all things.
In studies of youth... the focus has been on how volunteering can prevent youth from doing things that are damaging to them, both in the present and in the future—premarital sex, drugs, drinking, crime. The other focus has been on how volunteering can teach something—citizenship, problem-solving, moral reasoning, empathy, or how it can make kids feel better about themselves.
Midlarsky has proposed five "analytically distinguishable reasons that helping others may benefit the helper": (a) by providing a distraction from one's own troubles, (b) by enhancing the sense of meaningfulness and value in one's life, (c) by having a positive impact on selfevaluations, (d) by increasing positive moods, and (e) through enhanced social integration based on social skills and interpersonal connections. Clary et al. suggested that what makes one satisfied—and thus presumably happier and possibly even healthier—will depend on one's goals and one's actual volunteer experience.
Finally, different kinds of volunteering and helping may well have different effects on health, and not all forms of helping may be beneficial. In the work on adolescents, the suggestion was made that the most positive effects come when the volunteer feels some autonomy and choice.
Elevation is elicited by acts of virtue or moral beauty; it causes warm, open feelings ("dilation"?) in the chest; and it motivates people to behave more virtuously themselves (to "covenant to copy the fair example"). Elevation therefore seems to fit easily into modern appraisal theories of emotion. Yet elevation, and some related positive moral emotions1 (e.g., awe, gratitude, admiration), have received almost no attention from emotion researchers. I suggest that attention to such emotions is crucial for a full understanding of human morality, and I think that a major contribution of positive psychology will be to explore and publicize these positive moral emotions.
There is a third dimension along which people can vary, which appears to be nearly as ubiquitous as solidarity and hierarchy. This third dimension might be called "purity versus pollution," or as will be explained shortly, "elevation versus degradation." Social practices, emotions, and the underlying logic of purity and pollution are somewhat similar across widely disparate cultures, religions, and eras. The basic logic seems to be that people vary in their level of spiritual purity as a trait (some are high, such as priests and saints; others are low, such as prostitutes or those who work in "dirty" jobs) and as a state (one is high after bathing and meditating; one is low after defecating or when in a state of anger). Purity and pollution practices seem designed to ensure that people interact with each other, and with sacred objects and spaces, in ways that keep the impure (low) from contaminating the pure (high).
If disgust is the emotional reaction that we feel when we see people move down on the third dimension, then is there a corresponding emotion we feel when we see people move up? I believe that there is. One of the basic themes of positive psychology is that psychology has focused too much on what is negative in human nature and has often missed the brighter and more beautiful side. My own research on disgust illustrates this point. It was not until I had studied disgust for eight years that it even occurred to me to ask about the opposite of disgust, an emotion triggered by people behaving in a virtuous, pure, or superhuman way. I have called this emotion "elevation", because seeing other people rise on the third dimension seems to make people feel higher on it themselves. Once I began looking for elevation I found it easily. I found that most people recognize descriptions of it, that the popular press and Oprah Winfrey talk about it (as being touched, moved, or inspired), and that research psychologists had almost nothing to say about it. Here are some of the things I have learned in my first three years of research on elevation.
In both studies we found that participants in the elevation conditions reported different patterns of physical feelings and motivations when compared to participants in the happiness and other control conditions. Elevated participants were more likely to report physical feelings in their chests, especially warm, pleasant, or "tingling" feelings, and they were more likely to report wanting to help others, to become better people themselves, and to affiliate with others. In both studies happiness energized people to engage in private or self-interested pursuits, whereas elevation seemed to open people up and turn their attention outward, toward other people.
We cannot have a full understanding of human morality until we can explain why and how human beings are so powerfully affected by the sight of a stranger helping another stranger.
Based on my preliminary research on elevation, it appears that Jefferson got the major components exactly right. He described the eliciting condition for elevation as the presentation to our "sight or imagination" of any "act of charity or of gratitude." He described the motivational tendency as "a strong desire in ourselves of doing charitable and grateful acts also." He described the affective phenomenology (what it feels like) as feeling "elevated sentiments," and a feeling of moral improvement (feeling oneself to be a "better man"). Jefferson located the physiological response in the chest cavity, and he described it as a sort of "dilation."
Jefferson even proposed, 230 years ago, that elevation is the opposite of social disgust (which he called the emotional reaction to seeing or reading about "any atrocious deed").
One of the goals of positive psychology is to bring about a balanced reappraisal of human nature and human potential. We can grant that people are capable of perpetrating great cruelty on one another, but we must also grant, and study, the ways in which people are good, kind, and compassionate toward one another.
Maslow studied the changes that peak experiences can bring about in people's identities and in their spiritual lives, but since then there has been little empirical research on such issues. I believe that powerful experiences of elevation can be peak experiences. Powerful moments of elevation sometimes seem to push a mental "reset button," wiping out feelings of cynicism and replacing them with feelings of hope, love, and optimism and a sense of moral inspiration.