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Re-Envisioning The Human Mind: Positive Psychology in a Nutshell

All BecauseYOU programs are focused on a strengths based approach that look at the entire individual. Positive Psychology is one such approach. Click here to know more about our upcoming programs.

This is a special two-part series. Read Preeti's blog on Integrating Positive and Community Psychology.

Academic Psychology has had a rather short history, just shy of 150 years. In this time, the field has seen numerous views on the human psyche – humans have been likened to limited capacity communication machines, non-volitional hedonistic beings seeking gratification of physical wants, information processors like computers that function on inputs and outputs, systems that learn to react to environmental inputs, and so on. Following the second World War, there was an emphasis on developing a medical, biologically-based understanding of the enigma that is the human mind – copious amounts of funds and research were dedicated to understanding ‘devious’ behaviors, identifying faulty genes that lead to such behaviors, developing classifications of illness, and developing treatments to overcome the illnesses and reach ‘normal’ functioning.

Despite these wide-ranging efforts to paint a precise picture of the human mind, there was always something lacking – an understanding of human beings as more than their limitations, diseases, and deficiencies. The father of Positive Psychology – Martin Seligman – recognized the potential of Psychology to focus not just on weaknesses, but also strengths. Not just repairing the worst, but also building the best; not just understanding how to overcome prejudice, but also learning to foster acceptance; not just healing the wounds of the distressed, but also fulfilling the lives of the healthy. And hence emerged the explosively popular Positive Psychology – the philosophy that takes into account human strength, potential, and growth.

The central tenet of Positive Psychology is that a study of human beings can never deem itself complete if it shines an exclusive focus on ‘fixing what is wrong’ – it must reach beyond, to study how humans can thrive and reach their maximal potential.