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What is Positive Psychology? (Part 2)

In my first post, I defined what Positive Psychology is – “The study of the strengths and virtues that enable[s] individuals and communities to thrive and find happiness” (Positive psychology, n.d.). That is but one of many definitions abundant in this thriving new movement. To me, Positive Psychology epitomises all things optimistic, and naturally, strengths and virtues of people fall into Positive Psychology, as they are “feel-good” kind of things.

Is everything that makes you feel good positive? That is an interesting question I will consider in due course.

Going by psychological convention, manuals are possibly a convenient method of classifying the unclassified. When there is a yin, there is also a yang. After concentrating on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a ray of sunshine is paved with the development of Values in Action (VIA) Classification of Strengths Manual (Seligman, 2003, as cited in Pawelski, 2004). The VIA comprises 24 strengths categorised under six virtues: Wisdom and knowledge, Courage, Humanity and love, Justice, Temperance, and Transcendence (Seligman, as cited in Pawelski). The strengths listed under these six virtues are great fodder for more research which I hope to undertake in the future.

The study of Positive Psychology also seeks to address not only positive individual traits (classified by the VIA), but also on two other related issues: positive subjective experience and conducive environments for positive traits and experiences (Peterson & Seligman, 2003). In a morbid metaphor, the study of traits is the skeleton, and the experience, the flesh on the skeleton. Together, they exist together (that is, the environment) to create happiness.

Traits, experience and the environment are the ingredients of the spectrum of emotions. Be it happiness or sadness, the study of “negative” Psychology, without which, would not have laid the foundation for the current interest and popularity in Positive Psychology.


Pawelski, J. O. (2004). The promise of positive psychology for the assessment of [and building] character. Retrieved January 24, 2008, from

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2003). Values in action (VIA) classification of strengths. Retrieved January 24, 2008, from

Positive psychology. (n.d.). Webster’s New Millennium™ Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.7). Retrieved January 17, 2008, from website: psychology

1 comment

1 What are your signature strengths? A tabulation of the VIA virtues and strengths — … Smile! Are you shining yet? { 03.22.08 at 23:05 }

[…] an earlier article, What is Positive Psychology? (Part 2), I mentioned the Values in Action (VIA) Classification of Strengths Manual. This VIA was formulated […]

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