The like Seligman hoped for more than a

The new era of
positive psychology,
a Ted Talk given by Martin Seligman, discusses how psychology has previously been
viewed as studying what’s wrong with people and how to fix them—similar to how cures
to diseases are studied in medicine. Seligman centralizes around the idea that
rather than focussing on psychology associated with negative human behaviours,
we learn about the positive behaviours such as happiness and take these
findings to build up people, increase eudemonia, thus preventing having to find
ways to treat negative behaviours all together.

My initial thoughts were that I very much
agreed with Seligman’s arguments. Having grown up as an immigrant to Canada, I
had a multicultural upbringing—being influenced by both my parent’s traditional
Chinese views and the views in our western culture. A difference I’ve noticed
that stands out in western society is that there seems to be figuratively (and
literally) a “pill” to treat anything. I think that it’s true that we as a western
society are built around the system of treating the sick rather than
strengthening the healthy, whereas in Chinese culture, people have always
focused more on promoting well-being and longevity in the mind and body.

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Seligman goes on to discuss how our idea of
psychology has greatly evolved over the last sixty years towards this “positive
psychology” and having positive interventions such as finding out what makes
people happy. I found it interesting that even though Seligman gave this Ted
Talk in 2004—over a decade ago, the issues that were discussed are still hot
topics, and several of the positive interventions discussed have been
implemented like Seligman hoped for more than a decade ago. For instance, even
just looking at UofT: support/resources are widely available for mental health and
expressed as an important focus in positively benefiting society. We are now
talk about mental health a lot more.

Additionally, Seligman touches on his belief of
the eleventh reason of optimism to be how technology, entertainment, and design
can increase positive emotion, meaning and engagement—which I found scarily spot
on. Again, I was very surprised since this was pre-Facebook, Instagram, or twitter.

In a way, these social medias were created for this same intent—to increase
positive social interactions, although some see that now social media often creates
more perceived happiness with filters or how it’s only small moments/windows
into someone’s life. I think we can also say that though psychology has changed
greatly, the increase in meaning and engagement can sometimes artificial.

In trying to relate Seligman’s philosophies to my
own life, though I couldn’t help but to realize that though this very much
applies to me, I find it unsettling how much of a first world problem this is
and how the positive interventions Seligman states that builds upon our
happiness, positive emotions, Eudemonia and flow is very much a luxury. I became
aware I’m very lucky to have to struggle in discovering my meaning, picking
what path I want to take in my life that will make me the happiest, or how I
want to impact the world while my parents, being Taiwanese immigrants, didn’t
have such luxuries to consider rather that ‘the good life’ was making enough
income to buy food and necessities. This makes me want to understand how the
immigrant generational gap plays to this topic and if people like my parents would
have a different perspective of the meaning of positive psychology or how they
would respond to being given the luxury to search for purpose, meaning, and
fulfilment. Had the past generations been able to nurture their strengths or allowed
to discover flow have a greater sense of fulfilment and purpose? And finally, how
society would look like had they adopted this insight sooner and how it would impact
my beliefs and the way my generation was raised.