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Pitfalls Of Positive Psychology - Self-development
Pitfalls Of Positive Psychology - Self-development

Video: Pitfalls Of Positive Psychology - Self-development

Video: Pitfalls Of Positive Psychology - Self-development
Video: What is Positive Psychology? 2023, June

Positive psychology has long become a fashionable trend, not only in the parapsychological environment, but also in the mass public consciousness. However, are the ideas of positive psychology so useful?

The direction in psychology called positive psychology is relatively young: its emergence is associated with the works of M. Seligman 1, A. Linley, S. Joseph 2, and others, published in the late 1990s - early 2000s.

The main idea of these works is an attempt to overcome the view of psychological assistance that was established by that time in classical psychology as a correction of shortcomings, the concentration of psychologists on negative phenomena and symptoms: psychological trauma, disorders, deviations, etc. The new approach proposed to focus attention on the strengths personality and make the goal of psychotherapy and psychocorrection not getting rid of negativity, but the formation of psychological well-being and happiness.

In the next 20 years, there was a rapid, even explosive growth in the popularity of the ideas of M. Seligman and his supporters 3. Positive psychology has spread not only in academic circles, but also in the mass consciousness - while some of the ideas put forward by its creators have noticeably changed and simplified.

Modern practitioners: psychologists, business trainers and coaches - broadcast as self-evident truths about the following postulates:

  • each person is completely responsible for his own life 4;
  • in order to change life for the better, it is enough to change yourself 5;
  • positive thinking allows a person to become the creator of their reality 6;
  • we ourselves attract negative or positive to ourselves with our own thoughts 7.

While visually appealing, these ideas carry several serious dangers that can threaten clients of psychologists who are guided by these principles. What are their traps?

Trap one: dissociation of feelings

By focusing exclusively on “positive” feelings: joy, happiness, pleasure, confidence, we actually drive out our own “negative” emotions from consciousness: anger, sadness, resentment, confusion. However, a mentally healthy person cannot display only the “right” half of the emotional spectrum: we all from time to time face injustice, loss, disappointment - which means we have a need to respond to these situations with the help of appropriate experiences.

Ignoring this need, an attempt to drive "bad" emotions into the subconscious by the force of a rational decision - for example, the phrase "resentment is just a matter of my choice" - can lead to a deterioration in contact with my own feelings, which means psychological and psychosomatic disorders.

Trap two: the illusion of control

One of the key ideas of "positive" popular psychology is that a person is completely and solely responsible for his own life. This idea undoubtedly looks attractive: it is enough to work on yourself a little, start thinking "right", start "right" habits - and you can say goodbye to stress forever, and at the same time attract a lot of money, complete freedom and a family of those into your life. what they paint on mayonnaise ads.

Alas, instead of controlling our own lives, we will only get his illusion: we are not omnipotent, and many external circumstances are beyond our control - or only to a small extent.

Sudden illnesses, accidents, force majeure and ordinary bad luck just happen - usually at the most inopportune moment. Evaluating each such case as the result of one's own insufficient efforts or refusing to “take a break” in order to rest and assess the damage, concentrate only on how to quickly and better solve the problem that has arisen is a direct path to burnout, and in severe cases, psychogenic depression.

Trap three: breaking ties

A dangerous joke with adherents of positive psychology is played by a phenomenon known as "neophyte delight": discovering a new idea, a person begins to preach it to the place and out of place. Endless advice in the style of “just don’t think bad”, distributed to the right and to the left, can become a difficult test for friendships or even family relations: it is quite possible that in an effort to “think positively” their author forgets that his addressees are real people with their own feelings, beliefs and unlimited resources.

However, this danger has another side: some people go so far in being carried away by the ideas of "continuous positive" that they deliberately cut off communication with friends who allow themselves to speak openly about their own problems, complain of fatigue or seek support from loved ones.

Needless to say, if the “balance of power” is changing, and these people themselves need help, there is a high probability that the new social circle will just as easily cut them off for “insufficient positivity”?

What to do?

Does this mean that the ideas of positive psychology are meaningless or harmful? Not at all. Harmful to the haste with which some practice to start a career in coaching or counseling 8. As a rule, in such cases, the knowledge they receive turns out to be superficial - instead of reading primary sources like the works of the aforementioned M. Seligman, future psychologists often content themselves with retelling them in textbooks or in lectures of numerous "express courses" of retraining in a "fashionable" specialty.

The uncritical perception by clients of the postulates promising "instant and quick" achievement of continuous happiness is also harmful - bitter disappointment will surely come behind these promises

The path to truly significant changes in life, alas, is never easy and quick. Psychotherapy is a long and difficult work on realizing both your capabilities and your own limitations. Equally challenging is teaching the art of helping - thoughtful, involving not only mastering the practical tools of diagnosis and counseling, but also a careful study of the scientific basis on which their application is based.

Accepting the world and yourself as a part of this world as a whole, without dividing it into positive and negative sides, is difficult, but the result is much more durable.


  1. Seligman M. Positive psychology // JA Gillham (ed.) The science of optimism and hope: Research essays in honor of Martin EP Seligman. - Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2000. - P. 415-429.
  2. Linley PA, Joseph S. Toward a theoretical foundation for positive psychology in practice // A. Linley, S. Joseph (eds). Positive psychology in practice. - Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2004. - P. 713-731.
  3. Leontyev D. A. Positive psychology agenda of the new century // Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics. - 2012. - T. 9. - No. 4. - S. 36-58.
  4. Sinyushko A. About responsibility. Why people avoid taking responsibility // - URL: (date accessed: 1.02.2020).
  5. Mayboroda A. How to change and change your life // - Psychologist's advice. - URL: (date accessed: 1.02.2020).
  6. Volkova E. Positive thinking: how and why does it need to learn? // - Power in thought: School of wish fulfillment. - URL: (date accessed: 1.02.2020).
  7. Fedorova I. The Law of Attraction // - Popular psychology. - URL: (date accessed: 1.02.2020).
  8. Ulanovskiy A. M. Coaching with an eye to science: practice of positive life // Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics. - 2012. - T. 9. - No. 4. - S. 59-80.

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