Originally Published on OpEdNews
This article is a revised version of the article I originally wrote and published in 2015.
It is not enough to resist or fight the system and the problems that exist. It is absolutely inadequate to aim for repairing the symptoms of what is broken. We need big, positive visions, which lift our sights higher, towards horizons where there are bright futures, not scotch tape and bubblegum fixes for the pathological system we currently inhabit.
Back in the early eighties, when I was a lonely pioneer in the field that has become Positive Psychology (I called it Positivity back then,) most of the world of psychology focused on pathology. Clinical psychologists asked the questions:
· What is the diagnosis?
· What are the pathological symptoms?
· What is the etiology that has led to the current clinical pathology?
· What treatments, interventions and drugs are needed to eliminate the symptoms and pathology?
I had a different idea. How much can we help people by, instead of fixing what is broken or pathological, teaching them how to move in positive directions, helping them to develop positive skills. Instead of treating symptoms, we could help them develop habits and behaviors and attitudes that would lift them, regardless of the symptoms, towards greater health, happiness, inner strength and well-being. Of course, there was and is a place for pathology oriented "treatment" of psychological problems, but people back then were not talking about positive ways to lift people towards robust health, as opposed to the mainstream model of helping people to be not ill. My overhead projector presentation included a transparency that said something along the lines--
Be Well, not not-sick.
Since those early days, starting, for me ,in 1981, the field of Positive psychology has emerged as a major new idea that has sprouted wings and legs of its own. The International Positive Psychology Summit meeting has over 1200 attendees and hundreds of presentations, and Positive Psychology has become a field unto itself with graduate departments at major universities.
Nathan Nahm, in his article concludes, "It is high time that every one in America woke up for the reality we face. Stupid or not, we cannot have a useful prescription to our problem, if we don't have a correct diagnosis."
Nahm is talking about our economic political situation. Nahm's remark and Henry Giroux's big questions in his writings, remind me of my quest, earlier in my career, to re-think the way that we help people become and stay psychologically healthy.
Giroux says, in his book, The Violence of Organized Forgetting:
"It is not enough for people of conscience only to expose the falseness of the stories we are told. Educators, artists, intellectuals, workers, young people and other concerned citizens also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our communities and ourselves."
The field of positive psychology has evolved by describing different aspects and elements of living a positive life and maintaining a positive state of mind, attitudes, emotions, even ways of seeing-- ie., the phenomenology of positivity.
Why can't the same concept be applied to people, to cultures, to nation states, to politics and economics?