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© Paul T. P. Wong. Overview  What is American Positive Psychology (PP)?  What makes life worth living or what is the good life?  What is the meaning.

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Presentation on theme: "© Paul T. P. Wong. Overview  What is American Positive Psychology (PP)?  What makes life worth living or what is the good life?  What is the meaning."— Presentation transcript:

1 © Paul T. P. Wong

2 Overview  What is American Positive Psychology (PP)?  What makes life worth living or what is the good life?  What is the meaning hypothesis according to Frankl & Wong?

3 Evolution of PP  The science of positive emotion, positive character and positive institutions (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000)  The study of what makes life worth living and how to work with stress and suffering (Peterson & Park, 2003)

4 What characterizes American PP?  It is primarily concerned with happiness and subjective well-being  Emphasizes peace and prosperity as the ideal condition for PP  Believes that meaning in life primarily comes from happiness, positive experiences and human strengths

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6 Seligman (2011): Five components of well-being

7 Virtues & Character Strengths

8 Peterson (2013) Major domains of the good life  Meaningful work  Love  Play  Service

9 Six Limitations of PP: 1. Too much emphasis on the neutral and positive territories of life 2. Not enough recognition of the positive potential of negatives & the negative potential of positives; 3. Not enough recognition of the importance of morality & responsibility 4. Not enough recognition of the impact of existential givens 5. Not enough recognition of the importance of philosophy of life 6. A lack of balance between individualistic and collectivist concerns

10 What is the meaning of life?  The most important question in psychology and psychotherapy: What makes life worth living? What is the meaning of life?  Different visions of the good life or worthy life  Meaning is important for survival and flourishing  Meaning involves all aspects of the person – cognitive, affective, motivational, social, cultural, spiritual and relational

11 Existential Positive Psychology (EPP) 1. The Meaning Hypothesis – life has intrinsic meaning 2. The Deep and Wide Hypothesis – suffering deepens & broadens resources 3. The Duality Hypothesis – positives & negatives work together for optimal functioning

12 The Meaning Hypothesis  The capacity for meaning seeking and meaning making (both existential & cognitive meaning)  The primary motivation for meaning (both global meaning & situational meaning)  Meaning offers us the best protection against existential anxieties and the best hope of living a worthy & vital life  A meaning mindset is more adaptive than the success mindset.

13 The meaning mindset vs. the success mindset Success Failure Meaning Fulfillment Emptiness Ideal Life Wasted Life Shallow Life Sacrificial Life

14 The Meaning Mindset 1. Life has intrinsic meaning and value 2. I have the capacity for meaning seeking and meaning making 3. Meaning can be discovered anywhere 4. I can live at a deeper level by detecting the meaning & significance of any situation 5. I can live at a higher plane by serving a higher purpose & being attuned to the transcendental realm and sacredness in daily living. 6. I can live fully by integrating by my potentialities with my vulnerabilities moment by moment

15 1.I can find something meaningful or significant in everyday events There is a reason for everything that happens to me There is no ultimate meaning and purpose in life There is no point in searching for meaning in life No matter how painful the situation, life is still worth living The meaning of life is to “eat, drink and be happy” What really matters to me is to pursue a higher purpose or calling regardless of personal cost I would rather be a happy pig than a sad saint I am willing to sacrifice personal interests for the greater good Personal happiness and success are more important to me than achieving inner goodness and moral excellence Life Orientation Scale

16 The Search for Meaning Based on:  Authenticity – seeking & pursuing a unique meaning that has real value for the person  Integrity – seeking & pursuing meaning that is consistent with one’s conscience & sense of responsibility  The search for situational & ultimate meaning is an ongoing & ever-evolving process.

17 Costs of Search for Meaning  One may have to suffer & give one’s life for an ideal or mission.  Soul searching to discover one’s calling may be a difficult process for some people.  Meaning-making and meaning-reconstruction after trauma can be painful.

18 Benefits of Meaning in Life  Mental & physical health  Survival & flourishing  Recovery & resilience  Religiousness & spirituality  Personal growth  Social harmony

19 Two Types of Situational Meaning 1) Cognitive Meaning, in terms of appraisal & attribution; it often involves intuitive information processing 2) Existential Meaning, in terms of personal responsibleness to the situation; it involves both intuitive conscience & guiding light from Providence or the Spirit

20 Ultimate Meaning  It is concerned with finding out how one fits in the large scheme of life.  “This grandiose order, I believe, is what Frankl understands by logos, ultimate meaning. We can never hope to ‘find’ it in its totality, we can only pursue it to the best of our abilities” (Fabry, 1987, p. 5)  “The Ultimate Meaning of one’s life is not a matter of his intellectual cognition, but rather of his existential commitment… Man takes a stand and makes a choice.” (Frankl, 1985, 84)

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22 Sources of Meaning 1. Achievement 2. Acceptance 3. Transcendence 4. Intimacy 5. Relationship 6. Religion 7. Fairness 8. Positive emotions According to Wong (1998), there are 8 sources of meaning and the good life.

23 Are you living a balanced life? Religion/ Spirituality Situational and Cultural Context AchievementAcceptance Self-transcendence Intimacy Relationship Fairness Positive Emotion and Well-being

24 The Deep & Wide Hypothesis  Suffering deepens our inner resources such as meaning, faith, courage, etc.  Suffering also broadens our resources such as creativity, innovation, & social support.  One can attribute positive meanings to suffering.  Personal growth is dependent on the benefits of suffering.

25 Meaning in Suffering  Suffering awakens the quest for meaning & the defiant human spirit.  Suffering beings, Homo patiente, are concerned with meaning while human beings, Homo sapiens, are concerned with success and happiness.  Suffering gives us opportunity to develop and express our highest values and noblest virtues.  The will to joy in the midst of suffering is both heroic & spiritual.

26 The Power of Negative Thinking `Negative no susume-plus shiko ni unzarishiteiru anata e` By Yu Mogami (2007)  This book shows people how to live a rich & vital life through harnessing the power of negative thinking.

27 The Duality Hypothesis  The meaning hypothesis recognizes the adaptive power of meaning-seeking & meaning- making.  The deep & wide hypothesis focuses on the adaptive benefits of suffering and negative emotion.  This duality hypothesis emphasizes the benefits and necessity of integrating approach and avoidance systems as being complementary

28 The Duality Hypothesis (cont)  Albert Camus: “There is no joy of life without despair.”  Rollo May: “The ultimate paradox is that negation becomes affirmation.”  Carl Jung: “It is evil to negate the dark side of personality (the Shadow).”

29 The Duality Hypothesis (cont)  When the two systems work together, the likelihood of survival and flourishing is greater than focusing exclusively on either approach or avoidance.  There is a down side to everything positive, and there is up side to everything negative. Positive and negative potentials are often two sides of the same coin.  PURE represents the positive system, while ABCDE represents coping with negatives.

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31 Meaning Intervention  Accept and confront the negative reality -- the reality principle  Believe that life is worth living and affirm what is good– the faith principle  Commit to worthy goals and responsible actions – the action principle  Discover the meaning and happiness of living – the meaning principle  Enjoy the success -- the reinforcement principle or Evaluate the above – the self-regulation principle

32 Normal Life Conditions Approach System (PURE) Meaning, happiness & Personal growth Threats Noxious conditions Avoidance system (Defense mech. + coping) Vigilance Safety and Survival Reduce Threats Transform Threats (ABCDE + PURE) Vicious Cycle A Dual-System Model

33 Individual differences and personal resources Positive Conditions Negative Conditions Positive Outcome Negative Outcome Approach Avoidance PURE ABCDE Cultural and Contextual Variables

34 Conclusion  The future of Positive Psychology and Meaning Therapy depends on integrating both disciplines, resulting in Existential Positive Psychology (EPP).  Research in EPP will increase our understanding of how to live well & die well under all circumstances.  EPP will enable us to design a better society or organization to optimize well-being.


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