Other Side of Positive Psychology

If you’re not up on positive psychology enter “positive psychology’ into the healthy memory search block.  In brief, it  emphasizes the focus of psychology on positive factors rather than conventional problems such as depression, neuroses, and psychoses.  The title of this session, presented at the 27th meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) would lead one to believe that this session was going to debunk positive psychology.  Instead it produced research shoring up some holes in psychology and providing methods for making positive psychology more effective.

An optimistic outlook and positivity alone can be counterproductive and have the opposite effect.  They discussed mental contrasting mechanisms for considering possible future outcomes.  One of these mechanisms is captured in the acronym WOOP.  This stands for wish, outcomes, obstacles, and plan.  So one begins with a positive realistic wish.  Then one imagines possible outcomes of this wish, including negative and neutral outcomes with the goal of identifying unintended outcomes.  Then one thinks of possible obstacles to achieving positive outcomes.  When these obstacles are identified, then feasible plan(s) are developed to overcome these obstacles.  If an effective plan cannot be developed, then one would abandon this wish, and wish for something more achievable.

An important concept that was discussed is emodiversity.  Emodiversity is an appreciation for the desirability of experiencing a variety of emotions.  It is neither possible nor desirable to be positive and happy all the time.  In music, there are the blues.  In the theater, there are tragedies.  These are legitimate emotions to be experienced and appreciated.  Problems occur when one becomes stuck in them.  Diversity is key.  Hence, emodiversity.

So instead of debunking positive psychology, this session discussed research for making positive psychology more realistic and achievable.  If the session could be summarized in one phrase, that phrase would likely be to “keep an even keel.”

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