Contemporary psychologists are making headlines by studying what
makes people happy and keeps them sane, rather than what causes
their neurosis. In The New Republic, journalist Gregg
Easterbrook uncovers the morose outlook of mainstream psychology
and highlights a more positive future.
Easterbrook finds 8,166 articles published in the last 100 years in
academic journals about ‘anger’ compared to 416 on ‘forgiveness.’
These kinds of disparities have helped lead positive psychologists
to abandon standard measures of a person’s mental wellbeing such as
Freud’s description of the best possible mental state for most
people as a kind of ‘ordinary unhappiness.’ They believe that
happiness is an attainable goal.
But it’s a condition that must be actively sought. ‘Positive
psychology further finds that happiness is hard,’ Easterbrook
writes. ‘[A] positive attitude toward life requires considerable
effort; people may slip into melancholy simply because it’s the
path of least resistance.’
Easterbrook also addresses optimism as a means to a healthier
lifestyle. ‘Being optimistic doesn’t make them [optimists] blind to
threats but rather makes them want to be around for the long haul,’
he writes. He’s not talking about a Pollyannaish kind of optimism,
but rather a more all-encompassing world view in which people
expect ‘tribulations and occasional unhappiness,’ but avoid
pessimism by understanding the natural course of events.
‘For roughly a century, academic theory has assumed that when
people lose their minds, the awful truth about life is revealed.
Now comes a theory that says the truth is revealed when people
acquire happiness and virtue,’ he writes.
–Sara V Buckwitz