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Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment Paperback – January 5, 2004
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About the Author
- Publisher : Atria Books; Reprint edition (January 5, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0743222989
- ISBN-13 : 978-0743222983
- Item Weight : 10.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.44 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #15,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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During my teenage years I had a mild anger streak. Luckily with a little self-discipline I was able to overcome that. During college, I had a minor episode with depression. Luckily with friendly support and modern medicine, I was able to overcome that. In the last five years or so, I have experienced some extremely difficult moments that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I think it is a miracle that I was able bounce back from these difficult times. I can attribute my resilience to a myriad of things: great wife, religion, self-awareness, etc. It was a combination of all these things.
Over the years, I have read a lot about positive psychology. At first it sounded like cheap psychology but as I dug deeper into I started to see its true value. Instead of focusing on the problems and fixing them, positive psychology focuses on baseline and building on top of it. It was nice to see myself as a muscle to strengthen and not a problem to be solved.
If you want clear picture of positive psychology, how it works, how you can use it, then this book will guide you through it perfectly. While reading the book I immediately started rethinking how I approach my wife and my children. It has helped me be a better husband and father. I already bought another book by Seligman that specifically addresses raising children with positive psychology.
You can’t say it without getting weird looks. You can’t even think it without feeling like a hypocrite. Virtue? Isn’t that something Victorians believed in? Look where that got us: a world so full of oppression that the sun never sets on it.
I used to be in that camp. Virtue was a guilty pleasure of mine. I believed in it (sort of). But I always felt like either a faker or a cultural imperialist for doing so. Whenever the word popped into my mind, I gave myself one good mental flogging as penance.
The field of psychology seems to have been beset by similar demons. Much of the research agenda has been dedicated to identifying pathology (things gone very wrong), and mitigating it where possible.
That is, until now (or, to be more accurate, until about ten years ago). Martin Seligman is one of the founders of the field of Positive Psychology, a new branch of research that tries to identify what can go very right.
His findings are compiled in Authentic Happiness. The book has vindicated virtue, at least in my mind.
Seligman has spent the last decade plus trying to identify the sources of human flourishing. He has found a combination of six such sources appearing in literature from the Indus Valley to the Japanese Archipelago to the Mediterranean Sea (how about South America, Africa, or the annals of the Iroquois Nation? I’m not sure. I bet you’d find these traits in abundance there, too, if you looked).
The six (drumroll please) more-or-less ubiquitous human virtues as uncovered by Seligman’s team of graduate students are….
Ha! As if I’m going to just tell you. Go read the book!
Sike. I’ll tell you.
1) Wisdom and Knowledge
3) Love and Humanity
6) Spirituality and Transcendence (defined as moving beyond narrow self-interest)
Quibble as you will, this seems like a good place to start. The first step to becoming a better person is believing that it is possible. For a long time I didn’t. I thought that the best I could do was keep to myself; I cowered in fear of offending anyone’s sensibilities with my notions of good and bad, or of taking on a model I couldn’t live up to. I’m done with that.
I may go down, but at least I’ll go down swinging.
Top reviews from other countries
Seligman states clearly that he is not trying to offer advice that will resolve any current mental illness but rather provide options and avenues for increasing current levels of happiness. In doing so, he argues that the past is for naught and that early trauma of any kind should not prevent one from increasing one's present amount and type of happiness. Yet the past is not so easily dismissed, especially when childhood trauma remains heavily imprinted on one's consciousness. So, in this respect, I find Seligman's basic premise to be fragile in the extreme and his subsequent arguments wide open to challenge.
Finally, a major omission is Seligman's choice not to address the negativity imposed on us by others or by our environment. This omission is especially evident in his discussion of married love. This chapter offers little new beyond classic psychology. It was even quite galling to read the simplistic assertion that married life is happier while ever one can maintain the illusion of one's partner's virtues....Yes, of course, but what about the case of long-marrieds who know each other inside out and whose illusions faded long ago? To me this chapter was a cop out, nothing more or less.
Interested readers may also benefit from visiting the website that accompanies the book, in order to participate in the numerous surveys there. In my opinion, the website is worth more than the book itself, in terms of providing useful insights into the foundations of happiness and methods for increasing one's own personal quota.