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Positive Psychology

positive psychology

By Peter Shepherd

My recent article The Wheel of Life discussed the "high end" of personal growth - the transpersonal realm where a developed personality merges into the "higher self" of unbounded consciousness. This is a world of integration.

I also emphasized in that article that although we have this spiritual dimension, that we may be aware of to a greater or lesser extent, nevertheless the foundation of our lives is the body-mind experience... we feel and express ourselves in the very solid, physical dimension of our life on Earth. This is a world of separation. Each of us is a unique player in the game of life and as a result of our experience, we learn: both positive learning (helpful skills, insightful knowledge) and negative learning (developing fears and limiting beliefs, for example). A few years on this planet and we can get into a right stew! I know I did. My attempt to sort out my personal life involved psychotherapy and I naturally wanted to pay back the help I received by helping others similarly: I became a psychotherapist.

It became apparent to me, however, that psychotherapy was focused too much on undoing the negative learning; there was an imbalance. We also need to make headway with our positive learning or we remain dependent on further therapy to continually dig us out of the next hole. We need tools for positive learning - indeed, simply having and using such tools makes the psychotherapy work largely unnecessary, except as a rescue stage for those new to personal growth.

It was this realization that first interested me in the personal development field. Following some years of experimentation and discovery, I became well grounded in Positive Psychology and had great results, both for myself and others I coached. This included Mind Development courses, taught by my mentor at that time, Gregory Mitchell. I developed further tools to fill gaps I perceived in the brilliant heritage that positive psychologists such as Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Eric Fromm and many others have left us. And I decided to devote my career to this direction - the Trans4mind website was born at this juncture, to share what I had learned... again, my "payback."

The Character Strengths and Virtues handbook by the Values in Action Institute, represents an attempt on the part of the research community to identify and classify the positive psychological traits of human beings. This manual identifies six universal values that lead to increased happiness when practiced...

  1. Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective
  2. Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality
  3. Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
  4. Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  5. Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self control
  6. Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

These qualities are innate potentials in each of us and are developed naturally as the result of positive learning. Practical applications of positive psychology therefore help individuals to identify their strengths and further develop these virtues, to build and broaden their lives - to develop an authentic wellbeing.

Wellbeing

What does wellbeing consist of? Positive Psychology suggests the PERMA model, which focuses on five aspects of life that can help people attain fulfillment, happiness and meaning...

PERMA
  • P - Positive Emotions
    You can be optimistic and view the past, present, and future from a positive perspective, appreciating all that you have, rather than taking it all for granted. So you'll feel really good about your life. Such feelings of happiness put any sadness, anger, stress or pain that occurs (or happened in the past) into perspective. See Trans4mind's section on Emotional Intelligence.
  • E - Engagement
    Doing the things you enjoy, that interest you, means you are rarely if ever bored. Instead, you spend much of your time absorbed, and in the flow. Get lots of ideas from the posts in Counterpoint Article Library.

    And physical wellbeing - having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis - enables this engagement. See Counterpoint for articles on Health & Fitness - plus Trans4mind's Nutrition: Medicine of the Future feature.

  • R - Relationships
    We need to interact with others in a positive way, building authentic and supportive connections with with family, community and colleagues. Strong relationships and love in your life. To give and receive with kindness, caring and empathy is wonderful food for the soul. See Trans4mind's free course on Communication and Relationships.
  • M - Meaning
    Understanding the purposes of your life, what you are aiming to achieve, provides powerful motivation - a reason to jump out of bed in the morning! Being content with how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day is evidence of your career wellbeing. Trans4mind's free online course, The Positive Approach, will help you take this further.
  • A - Achievement
    Recognizing the progress you are making towards your goals provides a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Recognizing fairness in your dealings and autonomy in your actions provides genuine life satisfaction. And effectively managing your economic life provides financial wellbeing. In the corporate space, Trans4mind Training provides one-to-one personal instruction in the personal development required to enhance corporate culture, benefitting both wellbeing and productivity.

With the help of all the Personal Development Resources at Trans4mind, you can progress in all these areas to achieve a profoundly satisfying sense of wellbeing. This empowerment will inspire you to be more creative and take more chances - in your family relationships, in your career environment, and in your community. To really feel happy and well - to find your true self.

Professor Martin Seligman discusses his formula for wellbeing:

Moving forward...

The way out is the way through - it's not by denial or avoidance, it's by acceptance and responsibility. The power of love, in other words, replacing fear. This is the way forward. But for most of us, we can use some support and guidance, to get our head above water and start to swim ahead - then we can approach dry land, walk, run and eventually learn to fly. The latter - ascending in the spiritual dimension - seems the trickiest bit, but actually it's a continuation of the same path: that of ever-increasing mindfulness and integrative love.

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Peter Shepherd
Peter Shepherd
Peter Shepherd is the founder and producer of this website. A transformational psychologist by background, he is author of 'Transforming the Mind' and 'Daring to be Yourself.' He is also developer and supervisor of The Insight Project. Learn more about Peter's life experience and his views on many subjects at his Biography Page.
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