Positive Psychology

Dear Sane One, We Need You.

I can’t see you, but I know you’re there. Lurking.

You scroll down, reading, arguing in your head, but never responding. You listen to your husband, wife, neighbor, uncle as they rant. But you don’t engage. Nod, fake smile, change the subject.sanity1

You call yourself independent or maybe conservative. You’re one of the sane ones, but what can you do? Most of these issues are complicated, you realize, but all of that gets lost. There are only two loud voices screaming from the the end zones: Lock Up All the Kids or Open Borders. At least that’s what it seems like to you.

You don’t want to get involved. It’s not worth it, you think. But here’s the thing: You have to get involved. At least a little bit. We desperately need you.

I don’t have to convince you that the President is bananas. You already know that. He’s activating the worst in us, creating chaos, stoking the brush fire–the flames fuel him.

That’s where you come in. You’re important, because you’re a sane one. No single savior will descend from above, bringing the rain that cools the country–not Mueller, not Biden, not Oprah.

Instead, we need 75 million saviors, each putting out the fire, bucket by bucket, patch by patch. Each of us has a role to play, including you. Especially you, because you’re a sane one, and it’s so tempting for you not to get involved, to focus instead on books and grandkids and baseball and wine.

sanity2Politics are so ugly right now, and you won’t let it devour your energy. Because you’re sane. But, we need you. It grows uglier by the day because you’re sitting it out.

You don’t have to attend a rally or march (though you could). You don’t have to knock on doors or volunteer for candidates (though you could). You don’t have to participate in 45 comment discussions on Facebook (though you could).

Just don’t stay silent, sitting idly while the fire burns in your patch.

Point out when someone defends the grotesque. Be firm in rejecting lies. Do more than roll your eyes when excuses are made. Stand up for the better angels of our nature.

Do it your way, in your own corner, at your own tempo, but…Do it.sanity3

You may not realize it, but there are others, quiet ones, fellow lurkers, who will listen to you. Who are influenced by you. Who are inspired to say a little more by your example. Because you’re sane, and they respect that. You’re conservative or independent, and yet you speak out. They’ll see that. You can make a difference.

When you are 98 years old, remembering what life was like in this era, in the middle of the inferno, you’ll be proud. When your great grandchildren ask about it, you won’t say “I kept my head down and my mouth shut.” Instead, you’ll say that you let your sanity shine and tried to put out the fire as best you could. It will be your finest hour.

 

Advertisements

Your Life Can Be Better — Without Winning the Lottery

Let me guess…

You’ve heard about “The Power of Positive Thinking” and consider the idea bunk.  One cannot will themselves happy, you think. It is nonsense that pretending to be cheery is the best medicine for troubling life events or circumstances.  Barbara Ehrenreich spoke for many in her book “Bright-Sided” when she cautioned that what the world needs is hard-nosed realism.  Ehrenreich’s critique is helpful to dispel the fluff.   There is a difference between the positive thinking of self-help prose like “The Gift” and the actual science of positive psychology.  Positive psychology is an academic discipline that works on ways to objectively measure levels of well-being.  Practitioners include the world’s foremost psychologists who design sophisticated double-blind, placebo-controlled experiments to figure out how people can flourish.

Most people still lump together positive psychology and self-help jibberish.  This is unfair.   Here’s the one-sentence definition of the field: If traditional psychology is about relieving misery, positive psychology is about helping non-miserable people flourish.

More should know about positive psychology, because it has implications for all of us.  You should read (or at least skim) three books on it…

1. FlourishMartin Seligman — Seligman is the Godfather of positive psych, and Flourish is his latest summary of the current state of the field.  He explains that well-being can best be categorized in five spheres using the acronym PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.  What is usually thought of as “happiness” (i.e. being cheery) is only the first part of that definition, positive emotion.

“Life satisfaction essentially measures cheerful mood, so it is not entitled to a central place in any theory that aims to be more than a happiology.”

2. FlowMihaly Csikszentmihalyi — The oldest of the three, Flow refers to a state of being where one is completely engrossed in what they are doing.  The E of PERMA (Engagement) is essentially Flow.  This is one of the first books I read on the subject and continue to be entranced by it.

“Inner conflict is the result of competing claims on attention.”

3. The Happiness HypothesisJonathan Haidt — The book takes ten famous pieces of advice over the years and explains how they mesh with modern understandings from the scientific world of positive psychology.  There is no single book about weaving this discipline into one’s real life that is as clear or well-presented.  Many (including me) believe that his “Rider and the Elephant” analogy is the single best explanation for what we can and cannot control about well-being.  For the “real” science folks out there, Nature‘s review of Haidt noted, “by some margin the most intellectually substantial book to arise from the positive psychology movement.”

 “A good place to look for wisdom, therefore, is where you least expect to find it: in the minds of your opponents.”