I have long been an avid follower of the positive psychology movement. Be it justified or not, I am a bit skeptical about psychology as a discipline in general since I got the impression that a lot of established facts and practices in psychology are based on poorly executed studies.
It seems likely that positive psychology is plagued by the same fundamental problems as the general discipline; notwithstanding, the core ideas of positive psychology seem far more appealing to me than those of general psychology: to focus on our strength and what makes us happy instead of what is wrong with our minds.
I am writing this particular post since today I rediscovered an interesting article I found a while ago: Positive Psychology Progress. What particularly struck me in this article was a table which lists six virtues which are generally recognised in many cultures across the globe and character strengths which enable these virtues.
The six virtues identified in the article along with the strength which support them are more or less the following:
- Being wise and knowledgeable
- enabled by Creativity, Curiosity, Open-mindedness, Love of learning, Finding new perspectives
- Being courageous
- enabled by Authenticity, Bravery, Persistence, Zest
- Being kind, loving and understanding
- enabled by Kindness, Love, Social intelligence
- Being just
- enabled by Fairness, Leadership, Teamwork
- Being temperate
- enabled by Forgiveness, Modesty, Prudence, Self-regulation
- Seeking deeper meaning
- enabled by Appreciation of beauty and excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humor, Religiousness
Maybe it is my Prussian upbringing but I cannot fail to notice that the virtue of working hard for the benefit of others is not included in this list. To be fair, this is somewhat included under the virtue of courage as the character strength ‘Zest’ and ‘Persistence’ but to me personally this is not emphasised enough. Also I think there is a lot of good to be found in being courageous, and from reading some of Seligman’s books I gathered that he did a lot of work for the US military, so an emphasis on this virtue might have been derived from this. However, I find that courage is often closely associated with foolishness; and I have a feeling we would have far fewer armed conflicts if people happened to be less courageous.
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