It's Time to Take the "Positive"Out of Positive Psychology
What is the prescription for optimalliving? The burgeoning field of positive psychology appears to have many of theanswers: We should be kind and caring to others, forgiving of transgressions,gracious and compassionate in our daily lives, and upbeat and optimistic aboutthe future. Following this simple plan should keep us happy and healthy.
But as with most things, it turns out thatthe answer might not be that simple (link is external). What's good may notalways be good, and what's bad may not always be bad. Being kind and caring isa good thing-as long as the person you are kind and caring towards deservesyour kindness. Being forgiving may produce contentment-except when the forgiverhas no plans to make amends. Being optimistic about the future may keep yourspirits up and help you feel happy-unless you are a gambler who believes thenext bet will be the big one.
但在大多数情况下，（与外部链接后）事实并没有那么简单。好的开始并不总是好的结果，而坏的开始也并不一定总是坏的结果 。善良且富同情心是好的--前提是你善待及关心的人值得你对他好 。宽恕原谅可能带来满足--被宽恕者没有打算赎罪除外 。对未来感到乐观可能让你充满精神且让你开心--除非你是个赌徒且总是相信下一个赌注将有好结果 。
We have labeled certain traits and states"positive" and others "negative" but according toresearchers Jim McNulty and Frank Fincham "psychological traits andprocesses are not inherently positive or negative; instead, whetherpsychological characteristics promote or undermine well-being depends on thecontext in which they operate."
我们把一些特点标记为"正面"，另一部分标记为"负面"，但根据研究者Jim McNulty和Frank Fincham, "心理特质和过程并非天生的正面或负面，取而代之，心理特征是否促进或破化幸福感取决于他们的操作
How do we take the positive out of positivepsychology? According to McNulty and Fincham, we stop assuming that"positive" traits such as kindness are always beneficial forwell-being and instead dig a big deeper to figure out when, for whom, and towhat extent, being kind and caring, forgiving, or compassionate, actually leadsto greater happiness and health. What does this mean exactly?
They suggest three approaches:
1. Consider the context. In order tounderstand when traits and processes are beneficial, we need to consider themwithin the social context. "Positive" traits and processes may not bepositive in all conditions, and under certain circumstances, they couldactually be harmful. Forgiving your spouse might strengthen your relationshipif her transgression is forgetting to turn off the lights, and it's clear shefeels bad about her forgetfulness. But if she is constantly belittling you infront of your friends, and shows no remorse for her actions, forgiveness maynot be the best approach.
2. Consider the sample. The positivepsychology movement helped psychologists realize that we cannot understand thewhole of the human condition if we focus only on those who have problems.Likewise, we cannot understand how to promote well-being if we focus only onthose who are already happy. In order to uncover the secrets to living a happyand healthy life, we must examine the effects of psychological characteristicsnot just within samples of people who are functioning optimally, but also thosewith dysfunction. Perhaps optimism is only beneficial for those who havesomething to be optimistic about. To find out, we must conduct studies on boththe college undergraduate with the bright future and the medical patient whowas diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
3. Consider the timeline. Most psychologicalresearch is cross-sectional (measuring how a bunch of people feel at one pointin time). To find out how psychological characteristics truly influencewell-being, we need to look at them longitudinally (sampling the same people atmany different time points throughout their lives). This is important becauseresearchers are discovering that what can be good in the short term might bedetrimental over the long run. Spouses who deal with serious relationshipproblems by being kind to each other instead of critical report feeling betterabout their relationships in the moment, but over time they become lesssatisfied relative to spouses who were more critical. Why? The critical spousesactually deal with their problems which helps to improve their relationships.
Why does this matter? The positivepsychology movement is widespread and many of us have taken the movement toheart. Therapies, self-help books, and better living apps are now centered onthe promotion of positive characteristics, such as being more kind andforgiving. But if characteristics like kindness and forgiveness aren'tnecessarily a good thing for everyone, than we need to move forward withcaution, only promoting these characteristics in the contexts in which they arelikely to be fruitful.
Did you hop on the positive psychologybandwagon? Do you agree it's time to take the "positive" out ofpositive psychology? Suggestions for other ways to do this?