Positive psychology started (1998) as a movement that tried to shift the perspective of the science of psychology more to the positive, and extend its application to the advancement of human strengths, well-being and flourishing. Fortunately, the movement succeeded to achieve this objective to a high degree and has influenced almost all other branches of psychology. These days its theories are used in organisational psychology, counselling psychology, coaching psychology, and in clinical psychology.
Considering the primary nature of positive psychology and the core questions that motivated the movement, positive psychology was defined as; the science and practice of improving well-being (Lomas, et al., 2014) with the dominant objective of generating appropriate PPIs (Positive Psychology Interventions). Moreover, positive psychology is described as a fundamentally applied discipline that provides a complete scheme of interventions, tools and practices designed to enhance well-being and promote flourishing.
The second wave of positive psychology
A criticism of the early years of positive psychology, was its stance towards the so called “negative emotion”, what Held (2004) called “negativity about negativity itself”. People thought negative emotions were harmful and tried to suppress and avoid them. However, since Darwin, scientists knew about the adaptive nature of all emotions and explained them in terms of how they prepare us cope with adversities, or help us take advantage of opportunities present in a given situation.
During the past decade, criticisms of positive psychology have been addressed by a number of prominent positive psychology researchers who paid attention to the criticisms and appreciated the dialog. The debates created an environment where the movement of positive psychology changed, grew, and developed into its present level of maturity. Held (2004) called this development, “the second wave”, and Wong (2011) subsequently, named the movement as “positive psychology 2.0”.
Kashdan and Biswas-Diener (2014a) who also contributed to the second wave, emphasised that positive emotions play an important role in our overall happiness and success (about 80%). But they advised their readers to tap into the whole range of their emotions which include the negative ones (the other 20%). I do not fully endorse these arbitrary percentages (80/20), but I do agree with the message that Kashdan and Biswas-Diener sought to convey. In other words, we should feel; fear in situations where there is a possibility of harm, anger when there is a need for standing up for our own rights, frustration when things don’t go as expected, or regret when we do something wrong.
Additionally, Kashdan and Biswas-Diener (2014b) asserted that all psychological states have adaptive benefits, even those known to be negative. Thus, they proposed that people who are able to tap to the whole spectrum of their emotional state can live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
The argument of the second wave, clearly points to the complex and somewhat unexpected effects of all emotions in varying situations, and refutes the dualistic thinking which was prevalent in the earlier stages of the positive psychology. And so, encourages critical thinking and the epistemic approaches that include a metacognitive component, i.e. thinking about our thinking, to ensure we can see what might be wrong with a claim or the inferences that we make (Sternberg, Roediger & Halpern, 2007, p.12).
I believe the book, Second Wave Positive Psychology: Embracing the Dark Side of Life (Ivtzan, et al., 2016), most thoroughly described the second wave by explaining how positive psychology evolved to where it is today. The book deals with the dialectic nature of emotions, as well as the dynamic interplay of opposing dispositions inherent in every event of our lives.
This book champions the position of positive psychology, stressing the fact that embracing the so called “dark side” of our lives, in the manner suggested by positive psychology, always yields positive outcomes (growth). The authors clarified this new vision, and showed how the second wave has extended the frontiers of positive psychology to almost every domain of our lives. They showed how positive psychology, in its search for meaning, transformation, and growth, investigates not just happiness and hope, but also the most difficult and painful aspects of our experiences in life.
Why is it called Applied Positive Psychology?
Theoretical sciences (also known as basic, pure, or fundamental sciences) are the scientific disciplines that provide hypothetical explanations and theories about the natural phenomena. In general, basic sciences aim to develop new knowledge and shed light on the wonders of the world. Theoretical physics, pure mathematics, and molecular genetics are examples of basic sciences.
In contrast, applied or practical sciences are those that study the application of the existing scientific knowledge to our daily lives. In other words, applied sciences aim to develop procedures, techniques, and technologies that ease our difficulties, increase our efficiency, and help us solve real-life problems. Medical microbiology, mechanical engineering, and industrial architecture are examples of applied sciences.
It’s important to note that many applied disciplines (both in psychology and otherwise) do not use the word 'applied' although they are obviously practical disciplines. Organisational psychology, educational psychology, and counselling psychology are only few examples of applied disciplines in the field of psychology.
During the past decade, positive psychology graduates have formed a new generation of psychologists, practitioners, coaches, and consultants whose job is to promote and facilitate happiness, well-being and human flourishing across a wide range of industries.
Positive Psychology Consultancy
Positive Psychology is known as the scientific study of optimal human functioning and focuses on how we flourish both in our personal and professional lives. In that sense, positive psychology consultancy provides practical business solutions to organisations that are keen to benefit from scientific discoveries in the field of positive psychology. These discoveries have led to new methods that help businesses create highly productive policies that promote well-being, commitment, and innovation. And consequently, take the organisation to a sustainable success.
- Held, B. S. (2004). The negative side of positive psychology. Journal of humanistic psychology, 44(1), 9-46.
- Ivtzan, I., Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Worth, P. (2016). Second Wave Positive Psychology Embracing the Dark Side of Life. Oxon and New York: Routledge.
- Kashdan, T. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2014a). The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self - Not Just Your "Good" Self - Drives Success and Fulfillment. Hudson Street Press. New York.
- Kashdan, T. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2014b). The Power of Negative Emotions: How Anger, Guilt and Self-Doubt are Essential to Success and Fulfilment. Oneworld Publications. London.
- Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2014). Applied Positive Psychology: Integrated Positive Practice. SAGE.
- Roll-Hansen, N. (2009). Why the distinction between basic (theoretical) and applied (practical) research is important in the politics of science. London School of Economics and Political Science, Contingency and Dissent in Science Project.
- Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction (Vol. 55, No. 1, p. 5). American Psychological Association. How Much Positive Is Still Positive? 24
- Sternberg, R. J., Roediger III, H. L., & Halpern, D. F. (Eds.). (2007). Critical thinking in psychology. Cambridge University Press.
- Uchida, Y., Townsend, S. S., Markus, H. R., & Bergsieker, H. B. (2009). Emotions as within or between people? Cultural variation in lay theories of emotion expression and inference. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
- Wong, P. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 52(2), 69-81.
- What is basic research? (pdf) retrieved from http://www.nsf.gov/ (National Science Foundation) 05/09/2015.