Different scholars have diverse perspectives regarding positive psychology. Positive psychology refers to the scientific study of the individual virtues and strengths that enable them to achieve their desired goals in life. Positive psychology continues to record tremendous transformations coupled with new inventions and change of views among theorists, despite the significant contributions provided by several ancient psychologists such as Maslow and Jahoda in 1954 and 1958 respectively. These scholars targeted to promote positive psychology in several areas including youth development, educational curricula, psychotherapy, health, neuroscience, coaching, occupational and workplace psychology. The indigenous positive psychology proposed by early psychologists presented positive psychology as a field with different assumptions.
One of these conventions is that both positive and negative emotions achieve diverse roles where negative emotions exists as a tool for survival while positive emotions appears to share a close association with growth and flourishing. Miller (2008) asserts that the embedment of the new science of positive psychology lies on an entire series of fallacious opinions. These arguments entail tautology, circular reasoning, unclear definition and application of terms, identification of non-existing causal relations coupled with baseless generalisation. Consequently, positive psychology simply relates mental health with a particular type of personality such as cheerfulness, goal- driven, outgoing and status-seeking extravert. In the article “A Critique of Positive Psychology,” Miller successfully and effectively persuades his readers to have a different opinion over the views and perspectives of various psychologists regarding the new science of happiness by criticizing their works.
Miller’s critic of the findings presented by different ancient scholars regarding the science of positive psychology is worth. Miller (2008) argues that positive psychology similarly referred to as the new science of happiness relies on the use of selfless activities to achieve happiness, attain the meaning of life and enhance the traditional virtues. Contrary, positive science has no concern with the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure as well as immediate sensual gratification.
Natural selection is hence an essential determinant of the positive development and adaptation of different individuals to the progressive life changes. Understanding the steps towards attaining success through positive psychology is an imperative step that cuts across all areas of life. In education, positive psychology impacts both multiple and emotional intelligence which results in the achievement of individual life goals. Miller (2008) agrees with the findings of the founders of positive psychology such as Martin Seligman who hypothesised that achievement of happiness requires individuals to utilize and enhance their positive character traits. Moreover, having an optimistic and positive attitude helps individuals to attain their goals.
For instance, individual happiness constitutes of positive emotions and feelings regarding the past, the presence and the future. These positive emotions are wide and include contentment, pride, satisfaction, confidence, serenity, hope, faith and trust coupled with a variety of positive activities that generate the above feelings. These arguments depend on highly questionable affirmations: primarily, conceiving of life occurs in terms of goal setting and achievement. Secondly, emotions, desires, dispositions, feelings, beliefs, traits, and values that combines to form one form one’s personality as well as attitude are consciously managed or controlled.
Individuals can be categorized as either optimists or pessimists. The expression of an individual’s positive virtues and traits in absorbing activities is a critical determinant of one’s well-being. The aforementioned assertions have their appropriate and respective assumptions. Psychology presents that life entails a combination of goals that an individual is always in the process of attaining them. Miller (2008) proposes that positive psychology enhances life and affirms that all individuals can achieve their goals provided that they have positive attitudes. However, individual goals must be realistic and achievable. There is no need of setting goals that can assist in the achievement of one’s happiness provided that each individual’s mind is success-oriented.
Miller successfully attains his goal of criticizing the existing works regarding positive psychology by ascertaining that human beings are more conscientious and do not require to set goals for attainment. Miller holds that goal setting may be applicable in the case of machines such as computers that need directions to perform their stipulated duties. Human beings are rational and can perfectly explain their behaviour regarding different moods, traits, emotions, feelings, values and beliefs. The aforementioned factors play an essential role in providing intelligible and rational description of individual’s actions as either goal-driven or purposeful. People develop different behaviours and traits that help them adapt to different environmental contexts. This assertion implies that each and every character trait that may enable an individual to achieve his/her ultimate goal in life is always subject to assumptions and propositions.
Optimism shares a close association with both happiness and circular reasoning. Borrowing findings from Seligman’s findings, Miller (2008) agrees that learned optimism has two vital concepts including the explanatory style and the learned helplessness. Learned helplessness results in quitting as a result of an individual believing that he/she is doing do not matter. The explanatory style exists in two forms; both optimistic and pessimistic and refers to the way an individual understands the occurrence of events. Explanatory style develops as thoughtful habit from an individual’s childhood and progresses into adolescence and depends on how an individual perceives him/herself in life in terms of value and worthiness.
Explanatory style helps in determining whether an individual is optimistic or pessimistic in life. Parents are influential determinants of whether children will be pessimists or optimists. Parents who keep on complaining and criticizing on the actions performed by their children propagate a feeling of valueless in their children. Such children may develop into life pessimists. Contrary, parents who empower their children and motivate them to take actions during both easy and challenging situations help to enhance the positive development of their children and propagate the feeling of optimism. Failing to empower children during their early developmental milestone results in learned helplessness which is a chronic form of mental illness and abnormality.
Miller (2008) corrects Seligman assertions by ascertaining that not all instances of pessimism have a shared relationship with learned helplessness. Pessimism is, therefore, not long-lasting as claimed by Seligman since positive psychology can help in transforming pessimists into optimists. Miller (2008) strengthens his argument by ascertaining that some positive traits in a given individual may even be negative in another person. However, positive psychology lacks imperative terms such as an introvert and extrovert that could help in explaining the issues of pessimism and optimism in life. Early researchers such as Haidt explored the character traits of both extroverts and introverts. Miller (2008) initially agrees with Haidt findings that extraverts are usually happier and healthier’ as opposed to the introverts. Miller strengthens his assertion by claiming that introverts usually enjoy only when compelled to be more outgoing. In successfully achieving his goal of criticizing Haidt’s work, Miller asserts that not every individual needs constant cheering up or amusement to achieve happiness.
Consequently, persistence is a key determinant of success. In most cases, individuals termed as optimists keep on persisting until they achieve their goals as opposed to their pessimist counterparts who give up easily. The pessimistic style prevents people from achieving their goals successfully. It is, nevertheless, plausible to claim that pessimistic explanatory style individuals have a higher likelihood of suffering from copying up difficulties or adjusting when facing new challenges, pressures and circumstances. Nonetheless, virtue in the absorption of individual’s behaviour plays an influential role when determining whether an individual is either pessimist or an optimist.
Psychologists such as Haidt assert that the ancient ordinary virtues have found a new life lease in reference to the form of Seligman’s diagnostic manual of signature strengths. However, it open that the reformation and re-conception are the only potential bearing in mind the existence of virtual elimination from the picture of the very things that, at least in the Aristotelian tradition, give the concept of virtue a meaning. Individuals are hence the main determinants of their success despite the existence of other factors that may affect the realization of setting goals. Learning from friends through close association such as the character traits exhibited by the extroverts as opposed to the introverts can assist individuals to grow positively in life.
Miller’s criticism of the existing works regarding positive psychology is a success. Miller has effectively attained this goal by demonstrating that positive psychology encompasses many issues as opposed to the normal tautologies assertion and circular reasoning. Comparative research concurs with Miller’s assertion that not all everyone termed as a pessimist have a negative tendency of looking at things in their worst perspective. However, pessimists have a higher risk of developing depression characterised with a pessimistic explanatory approach that leads to losing their determination and ultimately giving up in anything they may try to do.
It is true to ascertain that optimistic individuals have a high degree of happiness that transforms into success when engaging in different activities. Positive minded personalities have more determination and struggle tirelessly to achieve their ultimate goals. Such personalities enjoy continuous positive feelings regarding their past, the presence and the future. The achievements of positive-minded personalities act as a motivator that stimulates them to continue working hard in life.
However, problems set in when the identified degree of happiness appears as a mental-health model attained with the significant re-crafting of individual’s attitudes. Millers claim that people should be left free to trace and define their happiness provided that life is mission that gives individuals the opportunity to not only explore the purpose but also find the meaning of their lives is effectively pursued.
Miller’s criticism is however successful when as he looks at Seligman’s explanations of pessimists and optimists to lack imperative attributes that can enable individuals to attain a certain level of true wisdom or self-knowledge as well as growing as a real human being. In deed positive psychology provides an alternative recipe for attaining success in one’s life as opposed to fostering the actual learning which enhances self-knowledge and wisdom a well as ignoring the political as well as social measures that may improve individual’s contexts.
Miller, A. (2008). A critique of positive psychology—or “the new science of happiness.” Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(3–4), 591–608.