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Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive…
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Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your…

by Martin Seligman

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An Aristotelian approach to psychology

The basic idea behind positive psychology is that, rather than solely treating mental disease and alleviating negative symptoms, the field of psychology should focus on defining mental health in positive terms and promoting positive emotions, character traits, and social institutions. But Seligman is even more ambitious than that: in the introduction, he writes that he seeks to overthrow what he calls the "rotten-to-the-core dogma", the oldest manifestation of which is the doctrine of original sin but which was dragged by Freud into twentieth-century secular psychology, which has since tended to regard happiness or any positive emotion as inauthentic.

This completely sold me on the book, and while it's far from perfect (I would take exception with Seligman on a number of points), it's general approach is very good. To a large extent, it's explicitly Aristotelian, and Seligman even argues for virtue ethics in the form of identifying and cultivating what he calls "signature strengths". He also draws on a lot of interesting recent research, including some of his own. His earlier book Learned Optimism and the more recent Flourish are also well worth reading.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R2Y0D3VC04WDNS ( )
  AshRyan | Apr 25, 2015 |
I'd known about Seligmman's work for quite some time. I first started taking questionnaires at his website back in 2008. The fact that three years later, I still haven't taken them all, should be a pretty good indicator that I've never been converted to a true believer. But I do keep coming back, so there are aspects of his work that I find interesting.

This book and the test center at his website are really tie-ins to each other. It was because my results kept saying "for more information, see the book," that I finally read the book. And while the book includes at least basic versions of all the tests, the book constantly refers you to the website to take the tests there. The website is nice in that it keeps track of all your results for you and records when you took each test.

I should back up. The intention of this book is to be a sort of handbook to the relatively new science of positive psychology. Of course, as you may have gathered from my review so far, it comes across as more of a guidebook to the current tests and surveys of the positive psychology movement. Which is, I suppose, a good place to start from, but I found myself wishing Seligman went a little further with it. Instead, each section introduced the concept behind some test, talked about why it was important, gave the test, discussed why certain answers were indicators of important behaviors/attitudes, and discussed the results. A few tips were given for "improvement" in that category, and then on to the next test!

Okay, so really, that only comprises the first half of the book. In the second half, Seligman deals with the concept of "signature strengths," which I am very interested in and was the tipping point for me to seek out the book in the first place. A group of researchers examined many of the cultures and religions of the world and came up with a list of 24 virtues or strengths that had near-universal appreciation. Their theory is, rather than dwelling on the virtues we are weakest in, true gratification and fulfillment comes from arranging our lives in such a way that we are using our signature strengths as much as possible.

This idea really appeals to me, and the last section of the book had some lovely suggestions on recognizing and supporting the strengths of our spouse and our children. There was some lip service given to using your strengths at work, but the "how" to do this seemed to be left a little vague.

The very last section on meaning and purpose was utterly fascinating as it referenced Asimov's "The Last Question," and fed directly into the future-focused theology I seem to be building into. Seligman and I have some philosophical differences that I found mildly irritating during a few points of the book, but this theory as a conclusion for the book was a very validating moment that greatly upped the chances that I'll pick up another work by Seligman in the future. ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
Interesting -- researching happiness is something unexpected. I hear that these techniques are gaining some traction in the classroom, but less so in the workplace -- though I heard about this at work. See http://www.authentichappiness.com ( )
  tintinintibet | Apr 18, 2011 |
Truly inspiting book - I wuld like to think this book will continue to develope- the use of the internet to authenticate and assist in the research is differnt and I hope will continue to give results that can be use dby the world. I enjoyed the book and the concepts involved.
  Brumby18 | Dec 21, 2009 |
Brilliant. Potentially life changing. ( )
  snarkhunt | Jun 29, 2009 |
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Book description
Drawing on groundbreaking scientific research, Seligman shows how Positive Psychology is shifting the profession's paradigm away from its narrow-minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion and mental health. Happiness, studies show, is not the result of good genes or luck. It can be cultivated by identifying and nurturing traits that we already possess -- including kindness, originality, humor, optimism, and generosity.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743222989, Paperback)

A national bestseller, Authentic Happiness launched the revolutionary new science of Positive Psychology—and sparked a coast-to-coast debate on the nature of real happiness.

According to esteemed psychologist and bestselling author Martin Seligman, happiness is not the result of good genes or luck. Real, lasting happiness comes from focusing on one’s personal strengths rather than weaknesses—and working with them to improve all aspects of one’s life. Using practical exercises, brief tests, and a dynamic website program, Seligman shows readers how to identify their highest virtues and use them in ways they haven’t yet considered. Accessible and proven, Authentic Happiness is the most powerful work of popular psychology in years.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:26 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Argues that happiness can be a learned and cultivated behavior, explaining how every person possesses at least five of twenty-four profiled strengths that can be built on in order to improve life.

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