Diagnosing strengths and virtues
Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour. It relies on scientific methods to collect data and understand behaviour. After World War II, the main aim of Psychology was to assess, understand, and treat various mental disorders. However, with time, Psychology became more concerned with dealing with mental disorders. The focus, unfortunately, shifted onto mere pathologies.
Taking note of it Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania started the Positive Psychology movement. The Positive Psychology movement states that Psychology should not just study disorders and what is wrong with people but should also focus on virtues and strengths, i.e. what is right with people. It tries to provide a complete picture of human nature by also looking at the bright side of a personality and not just his/her dark side.
Hence, Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human strengths and virtues and aims at enhancing people’s experiences of love, work, and play. Three main concerns of this movement are positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions.
Positive emotions encompass feeling content with one’s past, experiencing happiness in the present, and having hopes for the future. Positive individual traits entail the study of strengths and virtues. Building positive institutions incorporates developing strengths and virtues that foster better ideals such as justice, responsibility, tolerance, etc.
Positive psychology encompasses various aspects like positive education, positive health, positive psychotherapy, positive communities, etc. Positive education inculcates traditional skills as well as happiness in individuals. Another importance of positive education is that more happiness and well-being leads to better learning as it enhances the cognitive processes of attention and perception. Due to this the child can concentrate more on his studies and grasp concepts better.
Positive health refers to well-being which goes beyond the mere absence of a disease. Positive health seeks to identify various health assets and develop them. Positive emotions, satisfaction with life, hope, optimism, purpose, and meaning in life are the subjective health assets. Research has shown the importance of hope, optimism, and other constructs on health and well-being. The main interventions in Positive Psychology aim to enhance pleasure, gratification and meaning, thereby leading to happiness.
Unlike standard interventions for depression which only target its symptoms, positive psychotherapy aims to increase positive emotion, engagement, and meaning. Rather than just “treating” the individual, Positive Psychology emphasises on developing strengths such as courage, optimism, and future-mindedness, among others, by means of psychotherapy.
In a positive prevention, the job of a psychologist is to prevent problems like stress, depression, substance abuse, etc. Positive prevention focuses on building strengths in individuals since Positive Psychologists believe that possessing these strengths can present a buffer against mental illness. Such psychologists believe that by identifying and developing these strengths in people, with a risk, effective prevention can be done.
Positive Psychology finds <g data-gr-id="83">application</g> at workplace too, where it emphasises positive aspects like virtues and strengths rather than negative aspects such as work conflict, stress, burnout, and job insecurity. Traditional literature, unfortunately, has overtly focussed on the negative aspects.
Positive Psychology can help create a positive effect on the employees of a company. It is important to examine the role of pro-social behaviours, team building exercises, and positive relationships in the work domain. The field of Positive Psychology helps to creatively manage organisational behaviours and to increase productivity in the workplace through the application of positive organisational principles. These aspects were ignored by traditional psychology.
With respect to positive communities, Positive Psychologists feel that by focussing too much on the individual, one ignores the changes that have to be made at a systemic level as well. Hence, Positive Psychology not only focuses on developing strengths and virtues in the individual but in communities too, since individuals exist in one.
Therefore, it is quite evident that in times of conflict, competitions and turmoil, Positive Psychology is the need of the hour. It can have a great impact on achieving success at the workplace, building strong interpersonal relationships, raising resilient children, creating a balance between positive and negative emotions, and increasing happiness and well-being. Therefore, Positive Psychology should be incorporated in curricula so that right from the start children are trained to inculcate virtues and strengths. Such nurture will allow them to grow into adults who not only flourish in their personal or professional life, but also actively contribute to the development of a society.
The author is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi