Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the human mind, but not only has it traditionally focused predominantly on pathology, damage and weakness, but sadly most people expand their knowledge of psychology – the workings of their own mind – in a predominantly reactive way, if at all, in their life. They wait for pathology, damage, weakness or trauma to be identified or to occur, then they try and understand how to treat, repair or mitigate it. I myself fell into this pattern in my life.
My introduction to positive psychology came only after experiencing significant trauma, where despite some ‘traditional’ interventions being instrumental in helping to move past the traumatic life events, I realised I still needed to counteract the damage resultant from these difficult experiences. My personal experience was that positive psychology interventions and increasing my understanding of the neuroscience and other aspects of my biology that have been linked to human flourishing, were what was instrumental in increasing my level of physical and mental well-being, helping me to move past survival to thriving again. More significantly the health and well-being improvements I have experienced have been more sustainable than other interventions I tried, due in large to the ease of application of this knowledge and practices in my everyday life. We all have a brain, body and mind, but so few of us take the time to truly understand how we can use our biology to tap into our immense human potential to thrive.
I am immensely grateful for the research and work that has been undertaken to better understand and promote what makes humans flourish and function optimally as my life is testament to the power of positive psychology in helping to counteract psychological damage and weakness resultant from trauma. More significantly, though, I am grateful that it offers all individuals, including my children, the opportunity to take a more pro-active approach to their mental and physical health and well-being – to not only help protect against damage or the inevitable troubled times that are part of life, but to help people live their best lives, in the absence of or even alongside pathology. Health and well-being programs founded on applied positive psychology and neuroscience help us to move from surviving to thriving in life, complementing traditional psychology and mental health interventions.
Despite the proliferation of research and significant scientific evidence that has emerged and grown since Martin Seligman’s Presidential Address over 30 years ago, sadly many people remain reluctant to enlist the help of those practising in the area of positive psychology because of the assumption still prevalent in much of society that you need to understand psychology or seek help from a psychology practitioner only if you have something ‘wrong’ with you, something negative to deal with, a pathology, weakness or damage to correct or trauma to overcome. This pattern, coupled with the gross misinterpretation by many that positive psychology is about being happy all the time, or denying the experience of negative emotions, are what Relativity4 seeks to expel.
My hope is that over time, through increased education and ultimately application of positive psychology, we will see the removal of the prefix positive, and it will be treated as just another part of psychology – the scientific study of the human mind. That this in turn will help to break down the stigma of psychology being something you need to understand only because you need to correct pathology, damage or weakness which currently traps the majority of the population into reactive instead of proactive approaches to their own health and wellbeing.
Our goal at Relativity4 is to help contribute to a pendulum shift so that more people are both eager and able to learn about the workings of their own brain, mind and body, not because they have something to fix but because they simply want to live their best life – to show up as the best version of themselves. As we increase the number of individuals who are flourishing, because they have access to understand and integrate in their lives practices that positive psychology research and advances in neuro imaging and neuroscience continue to show can help humans to thrive, then we stand a chance at changing our workplaces, schools, communities and societies for the better…and that is a world I would like my children, grandchildren and great great grandchildren to grow up in.
Understanding and applying positive psychology and the neuroscience and biology we all share as humans, has not only helped me find fulfillment and joy in my life but it has helped shape my children, and will in turn positively impact their future children. Learning, applying and sharing this knowledge has the potential to change generations.
I hope you’ll join me on the journey.