A Balanced Psychology and a Full Life

1161 words 5 pages
Summary: This article is written by Martin E.P Seligman, and is largely about the modern

interpretations of happiness and the way psychology has been dealing with improperly by only

looking at how to minimize pain and not maximize happiness. He starts the article by recounting

some of history of psychology that led to the current state of affairs, beginning at World War 2.

He claims that right before WW2 there were 3 main objectives to psychology: curing mental

illness, making untroubled people happier, and studying genius/talent. These all fell by the

wayside after WW2 however as all of the funding began to flow towards the study of mental

illness, not towards the study of mental health. This was mainly because
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He starts his second session saying that although he is trying to answer the

question of how to increase happiness, he also understands that it is seemingly impossible for

him to come up with a universal definition. This however actually works in his favor, as it allows

him to short of poke at the edges of happiness and still make claims about it without angering or

confusing anyone else. Because he only gives different components of what “might” make

people happy but wouldn’t encompass all of happiness, he allows his essay to fit in with a variety

of different possible philosophies on happiness. Instead of telling people definitive answers he

only offers them possible solutions, so that if any or all them fail to make someone happy, it is

not his methods that are at fault, but rather that person’s philosophy on happiness simply needs

different components to make it work. So he is being both as vague and as precise as he needs to


Another method Seligman uses is a conciliatory or charitable approach toward a field in

which he disapproves of its direction. It is very clear that he disagrees with a lot of the direction

of modern psychology. He skirts around direct attacks, saying things like psychologists have

forgotten their mission; that they are ignoring 70 percent of the population, and that profit from

helping mental disorders has taken priority over helping others who might not have obvious


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