Handbook of Positive Psychology

Handbook of Positive Psychology

Handbook of Positive Psychology

Handbook of Positive Psychology


Psychology has long been enamored of the dark side of human existence, rarely exploring a more positive view of the mind. What has psychology contributed, for example, to our understanding of the various human virtues? Regrettably, not much. The last decade, however, has witnessed a growing movement to abandon the exclusive focus on the negative. Psychologists from several subdisciplines are now asking an intriguing question: "What strengths does a person employ to deal effectively with life?" The Handbook of Positive Psychology provides a forum for a more positive view of the human condition. In its pages, readers are treated to an analysis of what the foremost experts believe to be the fundamental strengths of humankind. Both seasoned professionals and students just entering the field are eager to grasp the power and vitality of the human spirit as it faces a multitude of life challenges. The Handbook is the first systematic attempt to bring together leading scholars to give voice to the emerging field of positive psychology.


How often does one have the opportunity to edit the first handbook for a new approach to psychology? We had a “once-in-a-lifetime” scholarly adventure in preparing this Handbook of Positive Psychology. There was never a question in our minds about editing this volume. We were at the right place at the right time, and the book simply had to happen.

Fortunately, our superb editors at Oxford University Press, Joan Bossert and Catharine Carlin, shared our enthusiasm about the necessity of this volume, and they made this huge editorial undertaking seamless in its unfolding. The authors we invited to write chapters readily agreed. Much to our delight, this handbook almost took on a life of its own. We attribute this to the vitality of the authors, along with the power of their positive psychology ideas and science.

We complemented each other as an editorial team. Snyder was a stickler for detail and yet sought ingenuity in thought and expression. Lopez saw linkages in ideas, would call upon the related literatures, and brought unbridled enthusiasm to the editorial process. What this combination produced was a line-by-line analysis and feedback in every chapter. In short, we were “hands-on” editors. Given the stature of the contributing scholars, with numerous awards, distinguished professorships, and honorary degrees, they certainly could have balked at such editorial scrutiny. But they did not. Instead, they used our feedback and revised their already superb first drafts into stellar subsequent chapters. We are indebted to this remarkable group of authors for their patience in this process. Their dedication to excellence can be seen in the chapters of this handbook.

In order to help readers in gaining a sense of the topics contained in each chapter, we have asked our expert authors to identify sources that provide excellent overviews of their areas. Therefore, in the reference section of each chapter, the authors have placed an asterisk in front of such key readings. We encourage our readers to use these background sources when more detailed descriptions of a topic are desired.

Now, before you peruse the contributions of the outstanding scholars, consider the following … Imagine a planet where the inhabitants are self-absorbed, hopeless, and filled with psychological problems and weaknesses. Confusion, anxiety, fear, and hostility race through their minds. These creatures “communicate” with each other by lying, faking, torturing, fighting, and killing. They hurt each other, and they hurt themselves. Of course, this imaginary planet is not far away—we call it Earth. Although these problems do exist, they are made to loom even larger because of the propensities of psychology and its sister disciplines to focus on the weaknesses in humankind. Now let us imagine another planet where the inhabitants are caring, hopeful, and boundless in their psychological strengths. Their thoughts and feelings are clear, focused, and tranquil. These creatures communicate by spending time talking and listening to each other. They are kind to each other and to themselves. Again, this imaginary, not-so-far-

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