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The Positive Psychology paradox

There is a paradox at the heart of Positive Psychology. And it is this: the brain finds it very easy to be negative but it is very important for human beings to experience positive emotions as it is in this emotional state that we build our health, our relationships and our intellectual and psychological reserves.

Such a paradox leads ultimately to the conclusion that it is important for human beings to learn how to side-step the natural negativity of the brain and to experience more positive emotion. Positive psychologists believe that the research into happiness and other emotional states now gives people access to information on how to minimise negativity and live a more positive and fulfilling life.

The Easterbrook Paradox

Positive Psychologists, such as Seligman, often refer to the 'Easterbrook Paradox'. This refers to the argument put forward by Gregg Easterbrook in his book The Progress Paradox which is subtitled: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Easterbrook's argument is that most people living in western society have never had it so good in terms of income and life-style yet happiness levels have hardly budged and there is an epidemic of depression. Easterbrook's analysis is very much grounded in some of the major tenets of Positive Psychology. For example he argues: the negative tendencies of the brain encourage people to feel pessimistic; we need to learn to experience more positive emotion by living more in accordance with the value system of our ancestors and their emphasis on hope, love, compassion and forgiveness; our material needs are being met in the modern age but we need more meaning in our lives to feel happy. 

Copyright: Centre for Confidence and Well-Being, 2006
 

 
 
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