Most everyone is looking for happiness. The shopping malls of the self-help industry feature thousands of different methods, beliefs, and practices for finding it. Many of these approaches are of limited value, and we do ourselves a big favor by avoiding them.
According to Martin E.P. Seligman, founder of positive psychology, people who apply his method “are the people with the highest well-being I have ever known.” Seligman’s approach encourages us to apply determination and grit in order to increase our positive emotions and relationships. We flourish, he claims, when we focus on engagement, accomplishment, and a sense of meaning. His latest book is titled, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (Free Press, New York, 2011).
Seligman’s approach can produce a temporary boost of happiness, or an illusion of it, but it doesn’t deepen our spirit, soul, or psyche. It risks turning us into smiley-faced puppet people instead of real and authentic individuals who are evolving through deeper awareness. Positive psychology advocates a kind of willpower-on-steroids programming that insists we can feel fulfilled and happy by believing we are making it happen. This system does not appreciate how, through unconscious conflict in our psyche, we compulsively replay and recreate unresolved negative emotions. [Read more…]