Handbook of Positive Psychology/Authentic Happiness

By Goddard, H. Wallace | Family Relations, January 2004 | Go to article overview
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Handbook of Positive Psychology/Authentic Happiness


Goddard, H. Wallace, Family Relations


C. R. Snyder, & S. J. Lopez. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook of Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. 829 pp. Hardcover ISBN: 0-19-513533-4, $95.00.

M. E. P. Seligman. (2002). Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press. 321 pp. Hardcover ISBN: 0-7432-2297-0, $26.00.

It is hard to assess whether a movement will develop into a full-fledged revolution or pass as a mere fad. Since 2000, when Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi called for a positive psychology revolution, there have been important contributions to that body of work. The most substantial of those contributions may be the Handbook of Positive Psychology.

Weighing in at 55 chapters and 829 pages, the Handbook could help launch the revolution. In the introductory chapter, Seligman argues that "the disease model [of psychology] does not move us closer to the prevention of these serious problems." He then issues the call to action. "We now need to call for massive research on human strength and virtue. . . . We need to develop and test interventions to build these strengths. . . . We need to ask practitioners to recognize that much of the best work they already do in the consulting room is to amplify their clients' strengths rather than repair their weaknesses" (p. 5). Seligman even calls into question psychology's view of fundamental motivation by asking, "Why has [psychology] adopted the premise-without a shred of evidence-that negative motivations are authentic and positive emotions are derivative?" (p. 7).

If a revolution grows out of small victories, this book offers hope for a full-fledged revolution. Chapters on moving away from illness ideology (Maddux), on resilience (Masten & Reed), flow (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi), authenticity (Harter), moral development (Schulman), well-being (Ryff & Singer), narrative therapy (Niederhoffer & Pennebaker), growth from loss (Nolen-Hoeksema & Davis), and meaningfulness (Baumeister), provide refreshingly positive and insightful views of human nature.

Compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude have their own chapters, as does creativity, optimism, hope, self-efficacy, and gratitude. Even such badly neglected human virtues as humility hold honored places in this volume, and humor, meditation, and spirituality each are the topics of chapters. With such a sanguine and revolutionary orientation, the book easily could have become a sermon or a harangue.

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