What is Positive Psychology all about?
Positive psychology is about us. What we like to do, and are not even necessarily good at, what brings us alive, and what we contribute to the world through the interaction of our stories.
Understanding positive psychology through computer games
The internet and computer games help us understand the structure of positive psychology. As games become more sophisticated, the game is not even designed (c.f. Second Life).
The (mis) maths of positive psychology
Even the maths of positive psychology is different.
Old school psychology is based on regression. I have variable X (which becomes a strength when positive psychology is misapplied), and I have something of interest Y that takes place independently of X and at a later time. We are lined up on X and Y to see who is better or worse. And all we ask is whether we can predict who will be better or worse at time Y, with the information we have at time X. This is all we are doing with the statistics we learn so painfully at uni. Are the differences between you and me at this minute going to persist in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 days, etc.
Who cares, frankly? It’s like people who predict the outcome of a cricket game rather than watch it. They’d do better to enjoy the game evolving ball by ball. Better yet, they could take part with everything and have the real possibility of winning ~ and losing.
Understanding the maths of positive psychology
The new maths describes what is happening internally to one person (or group) and it understands that there will be several things happening and affecting each other (a recursive non-linear model).
So you spend some time thinking about the world. Then you spend some time reflecting. Then you go back to reflecting about the world.
The point is we are vary our behavior all the time, and what we do at one minute is determined by what we did the previous minute and the reaction we got from the world and ourselves. That’s obvious right. Well, actually it is not built into standard psychology.
Happiness is simply being willing to engaged with this dynamic process of changing from minute to minute determined by who were a minute ago and the reaction from the world.
Positive psychology and story-telling
The strengths-based positive approach to undertanding psychology focuses on is our narrative. We continually make sense of our lives and we are engaged in this to-and-fro business of making sense and taking action. We like our stories and we do better when we are around people who like them too. When we are ignored or our stories are deemed irrelevant, we sag.
Belonging is important. I can study it with a questionnaire, true. But I cannot make it happen with a questionnaire.
We need real people to listen to our narratives. We need real people to like us. And we need real people to like in return.
There are no guarantees either. Real people may not listen. They may not like us. We may not like them.
But do we enjoy finding out? Do we enjoy the adventure? What is it like to have the adventure? What do our stories look like when we stop adventuring? What happens to us when we stop adventuring? Can we start again? How would we start again? How do 2 or more people adventure together? How do our stories intertwine?
And most importantly of all? How does the adventure of being a psychologist intertwine with the adventure of our clients? Where are we going together? When do we hear each other? When do we like each other?
Oh, we must be real. We must be real.