VIA Manual; Positives : “Mental disorders, illness, stress, anxiety, suicide, dysfunctional, mentally disturbed, psychopath, dangerous, harm, self-deficits”; only a few words or terms that can carry such negative stigma in general society. What about if someone thought of ideas about not necessarily ignoring these problems that so many of us face, but recognising people’s inbuilt qualities or attributes and abilities? Well, in 2004 (although it actually started well before this, in fact it was first unleashed in the 1920s), another movement has been reinforced in the form of “POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY” which is a study of optimal or superlative human functioning with a focus on strengths, goodness and integrity of people. Positive psychology also focuses on promoting general well-being, including physical health aspects (Miller & Shelly, 2000, p. 328). The name “Via, or Via manual” is like a nickname or abbreviation for ” The Values in Action Classification of Strengths” (Via Character, n.d.). Perhaps some may see this as a breath of fresh air and welcome such ideas with open arms. The study of positive psychology does not dismiss or ignore mental disorders and so-forth and it certainly acknowledges psychiatric problems but shifts a focus onto positive attributes and qualities in human make-up.
Perhaps shifting some of our attention to positive aspects of the depths and mysterious wonders of the human mind may help or assist many of us to develop, learn more, become more content and perhaps even build on the repertoire of tools that can be used to overcome, deal with or manage mental health problems. Maybe it sounds like “positive thinking?” Well, positive thinking may be fruitful as long as it’s realistic and in context. I remember in high school I knew a teenager who had a “mad” passion to become the captain of a particular national football side when in all reality it was never EVER going to happen. Expressions such as “where there’s a will, there’s a way” sound inspiring and are upbeat. Surely this is better than being downcast, melancholic and negative about things. There perhaps also needs to be a realistic balance. This young teenager may have had all the will in the world, but not the natural potential, therefore squashing and destroying the second part of this cliche that of being “the way”. Goals should be attainable, realistic and not too out of reach and often need to be attained by achieving one small goal at a time on the way to bigger goals or the ultimate goal/s that a person may set or aspire to achieve.
Some may take a concept of positive psychology as a resourceful and inspiring set of ideas that may initiate a turn in how we approach many problems in life, but others may interpret such concepts or theories as being a little unrealistic in terms of dealing with “root” problems or core issues therefore have no great discernible effects on serious problems such as severe mental health problems that many practitioners treat with medications and/or medical procedures. However, as positive psychology doesn’t dismiss psychiatric problems, maybe it could at least contribute to some positive results for those battling mental health problems even it was just a little or in some ways. As positive psychology is reasonably new it will take us some time to become more aware of possible influences it may have.
What then does positive psychology attribute as desirable or positive qualities in human existence? It recognises six main clusters of qualities that pertain to human strengths. These six main clusters are:
* Wisdom and knowledge.
Wisdom and knowledge include:
* Love of learning.
* Critical judgement and open-mindedness.
* Perspective (wisdom).
Courage (overcoming opposition):
* Integrity and honesty.
* Vitality (enthusiasm).
* Intimate attachment.
* Social intelligence.
* Fairness and equity.
* Caution/intelligent care (discretion/good judgement).
* Forgiveness and mercy.
* Appreciation of beauty, wonder.
* Gratitude (wanting to give thanks).
* Hope and optimism.
* Humour, playfulness.
* Spirituality, purpose.
Could positive psychology be likened to other schools of thought?
Perhaps in some ways, yes. In the 1940s psychotherapy began to expand its horizons as far as opening up to new schools of thought in therapeutic approaches aimed at helping with problems such as depressive symptoms, low self-image and a whole array of presenting life problems. Carl Rogers pioneered which was then known as non-directive counselling, later to be called client-centred therapy and now known as person-centred therapy as alternative approaches with different philosophies to overcoming certain problems in life. The person-centred approach is built or founded on principles that recognise human potential and the power within oneself to grow and heal providing we have particular resources such as someone who will whole-heartily and genuinely listen to us and accept us and empathise with us (Myers, 2005, pp. 504-505).
Rogers emphasised human qualities. Things took a turn. There was now an alternative focus on personal attributes and the non-reliance on others to analyse and interpret hidden motives to reveal healing results, but recognising attributes in relation to overcoming adversities, problems and challenges. People are seen to be able to develop their natural potential (and reach their inherent ability) and find meaning themselves. There is a POSITIVE focus. We ALL have inbuilt qualities and according to certain views of person-centred therapy, people are trustworthy, resourceful and quite capable of self-direction and management. Person-centred therapy has much to offer but its principles are often applied together with other types of help (psychotherapies) to assist those with psychiatric struggles/disorders (Bohart, 2012).
If positive psychology shares some similar philosophies, can it help those with mental health problems? Possibly yes to a degree, but it appears quite likely that existing techniques/methods/approaches used to help people with psychiatric problems will remain in play and be further developed. With this said, positive psychology is also open to advancement and fostering new ideas and building on current ones that can be utilised to help people with particular issues such as low self-concept and stalemated growth in their potential to actualise and become fulfilled people of whom may be battling with symptoms of depression, low affect and problems which may stunt out existence. Shifting a focus from not only “diagnostic problems” but helping to “diagnose” human qualities may prove to be quite beneficial or fruitful to many.
Of course, there are specific types of psychotherapy (for example, Cognitive Therapy) which have yielded good results with specific problems or disorders such as depression, and other types of therapy or ‘schools of thought’ are often very fruitful in the general arena of mental health, yet Positive Psychology may also prove to become more beneficial for particular people with particular areas of concern in their lives. If you happen to have any insights or experience with Positive Psychology, drop a line; send a message, others may appreciate it
Later, we will look at a number of various types of therapies which are applicable in the field of mental health. For now though, here is a video which talks more about Positive Psychology:
Here is a link to an article from Black Dog Institute.
Thank you for visiting Beyond My Label. Remember, you are not a label!
(2012) Can you be integrative and a person-centered therapist at the same time?, Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 11:1, 1-13,
Myers David G., 2005, Exploring Psychology, Sixth Edition, Worth Publishers, New York.
Miller, A.R. and Shelly, S. Ph.D. 2000, The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Personality Profiles, Alpha Books, Indianapolis.
Via Character, (n.d.). The VIA classification of strengths. Retrieved June 23, 2018, from http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths