I continue to thorougly enjoy my MAPP (Master in Applied Positive Psychology) course. My classmates are amazing, and the professors are wonderful – a stellar combination of knowledge and entertainment! I won’t go into details of the hourly blow-by-blow at this time, but will slowly process and blog as time goes on. Right now, I am enjoying the ride. I got to meet the members of my “cohort” as well – this is the small group that I will be doing some assignments with – and they are all fabulously impressive individuals. I’m not just writing that because they may read this – I truly mean it and I am looking forward to wrking with each and every one of them.
But right now, let me walk you through an interesting thought experiment that we did in one of our MAPP classes.
Imagine that you are walking through the woods (or whatever) and a genie appears to you. She is so taken with your personality and your way in the world, that she offers to turn you into a superhero. The first thing that you have to do is choose your cape, and you have the choice of two colours, each of which comes with its own superpower.
There is the RED cape, which will give you the power to fight against bad things and there is the GREEN cape which will give you the power to grow good things.
Which cape do you choose? (No loopholes – you must pick one, and only one, cape.)
This illustrates a key difference between what I will call “traditional psychology” and “positive psychology”.
Traditional psychology has been concerned with stopping bad things – with helping people afflicted with mental illnesses, for example, to get better. To do research into areas such as personality disorders, addiction and trauma. Traditional psychology has been concerned with people who are in the negatives.
Positive psychology is concerned with making good things grow. It is about flourishing, resilience and positive emotions. It is about helping people who are already doing well to do even better.
Clearly there is a role for both, and traditional psychology has worked for many, many people, and I would never discount its place in the world – and nor would any of my MAPP professors. But what about the role for positive psychology? Historically, it has been diminshed – almost non-existant. Even if you are doing well, is there not room to do better? To be better?
So which would you choose – and why?