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Why Positive Psychology? (Part 4)

This has been a question that challenges many ideals of what “conventional” Psychology really is. Or is there really a “conventional” Psychology at all? Is anything conventional at all?

I was reading Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology, Positive Prevention, and Positive Therapy in which Seligman was outlining the drivers of the Positive Psychology movement.

Why Positive Psychology?

Tracing the historical origins of Psychology, there was an urgent need for Psychologists to address and remedy people’s pressing problems right after the Industrial Revolution, brought about by World War II. This segregated the task (Seligman, 2007) of happy living and talent nurturing from the more profitable task of curing mental illnesses, a consequence of World War II.

Due recognition should be given to the efforts and knowledge contributed to the understanding of mental disorders (Seligman, 2007). Previously thought to be incurable or unrelieved, several disorders could now be cured or relieved, thanks to the industrious research conduced by several researchers throughout the history of Psychology. Nevertheless, the task of happy living and talent nurturing was neglected, and now is as good a time to pursue these undertakings with zest!

Most people are realistic, and focus on the now, rather than on the future, or the many “what-ifs” in life that crop up every now and then. It is much easier to attend to the tangible present, rather than the intangible future with its many twists and turns in fate. Also, negative emotions and human suffering provide the most tangible and immediate knowledge of the things that go wrong in life, hence, Psychology sought to resolve the root of the problems faced by many people. Almost everything (material or immaterial) stems from the psyche, the mind. However, a constant medicating of the mind will not result in a healthier-in-mind-and-body individual. It is what the Chinese people say, Medicate according to the problem – Dui zheng xia yao. It is perhaps great for acute physical illnesses, and detrimental for the chronic illnesses of the mental state.

As Seligman (2007) suggests, a more feasible, cheaper, and healthier alternative would be Positive Prevention. It is to prevent the mental illnesses from forming, that is, to teach people how to buffer themselves from life’s hard knocks. Liken Positive Prevention to armour worn in battle, it is the first line of defence from psychological damage. The best part is this alternative already exists in every one of us. We only need the tools such as techniques and knowledge and an inherent desire to utilise these self-reinforcing tools. With this utility, we are able to identify, harness and amplify our strengths and virtues in every aspect of our lives, in work, play, relationships and health.

Positive therapy and psychotherapy lends support to this interesting notion of Positive Prevention. There are myriads of therapies abounding, and there are huge contentions over the efficacies and side-effects (and placebo effects) of these therapies (Seligman, 2007). Hocus-pocus, mumbo jumbo, the what-not, all of these therapies have something in common.

They all employ Positive Psychology.

The “feel-good” tactics and strategies such as trust-building, rapport, relationship-building, authority recognition, public relations techniques, are the common element in these therapies. Furthermore, strength-building such as optimism-enhancing, courage-building, pleasure-finding, purpose-finding is employed particularly in psychotherapy. Evidently, Positive Psychology is nothing new, it is already in use in many areas of our lives, just that we do not seek it out consciously.

I urge everyone in this current age to seek out our strengths and virtues, harness and accentuate them to the best of our abilities. There is no better time than the present to start. Why procrastinate? What is stopping you? Reach your inner potential and maximise your functioning in life, not only to buffer against the disasters in your life, but to savour every pleasure and happiness you richly deserve.


Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Positive psychology, positive prevention, and positive therapy. In C. R. Snyder & S. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology. Retrieved February 10, 2008, from


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