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negative -positive psychology -NEPRINTAT-JHP-held-2004

negative -positive psychology -NEPRINTAT-JHP-held-2004 -...

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10.1177/0022167803259645 ARTICLE Negative Side of Positive Psychology Barbara S. Held THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY BARBARA S.HELD is the Barry N.Wish Professor of Psychology and Social Studies at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. She is the author of Back to Real- ity: A Critique of Postmodern Theory in Psychother- apy (1995), in which she provides theoretical and philosophical analysis of the postmodern/linguistic turn in psychotherapy.She is currently at work on its sequel, in which she extends her philosophical cri- tique to interpretive trends in psychology. She has served on several editorial boards, including the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology . Her popular book Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching: A 5-Step Guide to Creative Complaining (2001), in which she challenges what she calls the “tyranny of the positive attitude in America,” has garnered worldwide media attention. A clinical psychologist, she practiced psychotherapy for many years. She lives with her husband on the coast of Maine, although she escapes as often as possi- ble to New York City, where her kvetching is seen in a positive light. Summary This article explores three ways in which the positive psychology movement’s construction and presentation of itself are negative. First, the negative side is construed as the negative side effects of positive psychology’s dominant, separatist message. Second, the negative side is construed as the negativity that can be found within the positive psychology movement. Here the author elaborates on the negative or dismissive reactions of some spokespersons for the movement to ideas or views that run counter to the movement’s dominant message: (a) negativity about negativity itself, which is explored by way of research in health psychology and coping styles; and (b) negativity about the wrong kind of positivity, namely, alleg- edly unscientific positivity,especially that which Seligman purports to find within humanistic psychology. This constitutes an epistemo- logical position that contributes to “reality problems” for positive psychologists. The author concludes with the implications of posi- tive psychology’s “Declaration of Independence” for psychology’s 9 Journal of Humanistic Psychology , Vol. 44 No. 1, Winter 2004 9-46 DOI: 10.1177/0022167803259645 © 2004 Sage Publications
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much discussed fragmentation woes. She appeals to the wisdom of William James for guidance in finding a third, more positive mean- ing of positive psychology’s negative side.This third meaning can be gleaned from a not-yet-dominant but more integrative message emerging within the movement, one compatible with the reactions of some humanistic psychologists to positive psychology. Keywords: positivepsychology;scientificrealism;defensivepessimism; fragmentation; postmodernism; optimism; negativity Although positive psychologists claim to study what is good or vir- tuous in human nature and call for a separate and distinct science to do so (e.g., Aspinwall & Staudinger, 2003a; Seligman, 2002a, 2002b; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, 2001; Seligman & Peterson,2003;Sheldon & King,2001;Snyder & Lopez et al.,2002),
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