The Psychology of Real Happiness

The Psychology of Real Happiness

Psychologist Martin Seligman helped change his profession’s focus from what’s wrong with people to what’s right with them.Interview by Wendy Schuman

Dr. Martin Seligman is a pioneer in the areas of positive psychology, learned helplessness, depression, and optimism and pessimism. Currently Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, he is the author of 20 books, including “Learned Optimism" and “The Optimistic Child." His latest book is “Authentic Happiness." He spoke with Wendy Schuman about how his work has influenced his views on happiness and spirituality.

You’re called the father of positive psychology. When you were president of the American Psychological Association, you brought a revolutionary change to the focus of what psychologists were doing. Could you talk about how that happened?
It used to be that whenever I introduced myself to people and told them I was a psychologist, they would shrink away from me. Because quite rightly the impression the American public has of psychologists is “You want to know what’s wrong with me." Having paid 35 years of dues learning what’s wrong with people, I had my own epiphany which convinced me that what psychology needed to do was to ask not just about the disabling conditions of life, the things that prevent us from having fulfilling lives, but what are the enabling conditions. I came to the belief that we needed to have a psychology to complement the psychology of suffering–a psychology of the best things in life and how to build them.

Were your colleagues at the APA shocked by this change from the mental illness model?
When I give speeches to colleagues, it’s the only time in my life that I see people weep in the audience, it’s the only time when I have heartfelt standing ovations. I think many psychologists went into it because they wanted to make people happy. They found that they were on this healthcare plantation in which their job was only remedial. Psychologists recognized they sold their birthright to become part of the healthcare system.

So you’ve enabled them to have a more meaningful impact on the world?
Most psychologists want to help you have more fulfilling lives. They want to ask the religious question. My colleagues were very open to this issue. So to my astonishment, because I had always relished being unpopular, this was the most popular thing I’d ever done.

What was the epiphany that led you to study happiness?
Almost everything I’ve done that involved big changes in life has happened in a flash. This happened when my daughter Nikki and I were gardening, and she was just five. I should confess that when I garden, I’m goal-directed, time-urgent. Nikki was throwing weeds in the air and dancing around, and I yelled at her. She came back to me and said, “Daddy, do you remember before I was five, I whined all the time, I whined everyday? Did you notice that since my fifth birthday I haven’t whined at all?" I said, Yes, Nikki. “Well, Daddy, that was because on my birthday I decided I wasn’t going to whine anymore. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being so grumpy!"


In a flash I saw three things: first that she was right about me, I really was a nimbus cloud, and probably any success I had in life was probably not due to being a grouch but was in spite of it. And I saw that our usual theory of child-rearing was incorrect. I realized my job with Nikki was not to correct her errors but to take this virtue that she had just shown and somehow amplify it, help her use it as a buffer against troubles. That raised the question of strength and virtue.

And finally I realized that my profession was half-baked, that the baked part was about suffering, but the unbaked part was about positive emotion and virtue and positive institutions. In that moment, in a classical religious sense, I acquired a mission. And that mission is still with me, it’s what I’ve been doing full-time since 1998.

In your book, you call it “authentic happiness." What in your view is authentic happiness?
I divide happiness into three completely different kinds of life: the pleasant life-and if you’re really good at the pleasures, if you’re in the upper 50% of positive affectivity, you can lead a pleasant life-that revolves around felt joys and pleasures. It turns out, though, there are a lot of people who don’t feel pleasure. Half the population is at the bottom. But often those people lead lives that are very close to what Aristotle called “the good life," which is the second route to happiness. It’s knowing what your highest strengths and virtues are and using them all the time-in work, in love, in play, in parenting. There are shortcuts to the pleasant life-drugs, loveless sex, television, shopping; but there are no shortcuts to the good life. It involves knowing what your signature strengths are, and then learning how to use them more often. That’s the reason I call this “authentic happiness."

And the third [route to happiness] is the meaningful life: that’s knowing your signature strengths, and using them in the service of something much larger than you are. There are no shortcuts.

Can you give me an example of using your signature strengths to achieve the good life, and then to achieve the meaningful life?
Sure. When I teach positive psychology-and it’s the most joyous teaching I’ve ever done, it beats abnormal psychology by a mile-we do exercises each week which are meaningful for the students. I’ll give you two examples. One of the assignments is to identify something they do at work which is tedious and to find some way to find some way of recrafting that part of their work to deploy their highest strengths. They’ve all taken the signature strengths inventory from the book, so they know what their strengths are.


One of my students is a waitress and she really hated being patronized by customers, plus it was physically tedious work. Her highest strength is social intelligence. She decided she would recraft her work to make her customers’ encounter with her the social highlight of their evening. She transformed something that was both tedious and negative into something that had “flow." That’s a “good life" example.

A “meaningful life" example is deploying your best strengths in the service of something larger. We do an exercise called “philanthropy vs. fun." The assignment is to do something fun and write it up, and do something altruistic and write it up. Here’s a typical report: When people do something fun, when it’s over, it’s over-for example, hanging out with their friends, watching television, listening to music. When they’re done, they’re done. But in the philanthropic activities, the effects are longer lasting. One of the women spent two hours on the phone tutoring her nephew in third-grade arithmetic. She said that the whole day went better for her. She could listen to people better, she was mellower, people liked her more. And one of the Wharton [School of Business] students said, “I went to Wharton to make a lot of money, because I thought it would bring more freedom and more happiness. But I found I could be happier helping other people than I could be buying things."

So money really doesn’t buy happiness. In your book, you mention that even winning the lottery doesn’t make people permanently happy. Why is that?
It turns out that each of us has our own set range for happiness, which is largely inherited-and there’s a study of lottery winners showing that after the initial elation of winning, they eventually revert back to their baseline happiness level. In fact, good fortune is no guarantee of happiness. You get used to your level of wealth and health, and even major events-like being fired or promoted-lose their impact on happiness in a matter of months.

In contrast, when you identify your highest strengths and virtues, the things you’re best at-and then you do the tricks of recrafting love and work and parenting and play to use them more-you create lasting happiness. So the whole point of positive psychology interventions that they are not only self-maintaining, but they snowball in a positive direction. That’s because you really have to do it yourself, it’s a discovery within you. It’s not doing something external. It’s finding what you’re really best at and doing it more.

Many people want to change their job or their life. They feel stuck, and they don’t know how to do that. You’re saying you don’t need to necessarily find another job but .
Recraft what you’re doing in line with your signature strengths. There are both exercises and self-assessment devices on our website – so it’s good link.

You speak in your book about faith and spirituality. What role do they play in happiness?
Quite a number of roles. First, there’s been evidence for a long time that people who are seriously religious are less depressed and happier and more optimistic. Secondly, people who are seriously religious are at a tremendous advantage with the third kind of happy life, the meaningful life. They use their signature strengths in the service of something much larger than they are, and that is a tried-and-true route to life satisfaction. But part of my concern is the enormous number of people who, like myself, have no religious beliefs, and yet want to lead a meaningful life. That’s what the last chapter in the book’s about.


I was reading your last chapter, and I sensed that here was a lifelong nonbeliever who seemed to be approaching some kind of view of God that he could accept. But then when I got there, I didn’t quite understand what it is that you found. I was wondering if you could elucidate it a little.
It was a major change in my life, and a big discovery for me. And I would like to share it and say it in a way that’s compelling for people who are secular. I have come to believe that there is a secular view that leads to God, and it leads to meaning because it’s grounded outside yourself.

In most religions, God has four properties: He or She is the Creator of the universe, and also omnipotent, omniscient, and righteous.. The objections to the idea of a creator are legion. But if you accept the Big Bang theory of creation, you are left with a God who isn’t a creator-but is omniscient, omnipotent, and righteous. The question is, does such a God exist? The answer would seem to be “Not now"-because you’re basically stuck with the problem of why there is evil in the universe and the question of how there can be free will if God is omnipotent. But will there ever be such an entity? The answer is yes, in the longest of runs.

It more or less fell into place when I read Bob Wright’s book NonZero. He describes life as a positive sum game in which complexity wins out. Evolution works strongly in favor of growth and complexity. In human history, we are going from knowledge to omniscience, from potence to omnipotence, from ethics and religion to righteousness..So, in my view, God comes at the end of this long process. This may not happen in our lifetimes or even in the lifetime of our species. But we can choose lives that are part of this pathway to God, lives that are meaningful and sacred. They’re in the service of God coming at the end. That’s the theology that I can accept.






















張貼在 未分類 | 發表留言



“The relationships we have with the world are largely determined by the relationships we have with ourselves." — Greg Anderson

“Self–esteem means that no opinion and no judgment are so vitally critical to your own growth and development as that which you hold of yourself." — Denis Waitley

“People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success." — Norman Vincent Peale

“The most influential person who will talk to you all day is you, so you should be very careful about what you say to you!" — Zig Ziglar

張貼在 未分類 | 發表留言

Meeting Pain With Mercy

Meeting Pain With Mercy

What would it feel like to open our hearts to our pain? A grief counselor explains healing from long-standing grief.By Stephen Levine

Reprinted from ‘Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart’ with permission from Rodale, Inc.

Some years ago, sitting next to a fifteen-month-old child whose cancer had begun in her mother’s womb, as I prayed for her life, something very deep inside told me to stop, that I didn’t know enough to make such a prayer. It said that I was just second-guessing God. That I could not really comprehend what her spirit might have needed next, that only this pain in this fleeting body, which was being torn from the hearts of her loved ones, might teach her as she evolved toward her ceaseless potential. That she, like us all, was in the lap of the Mystery, and that the only appropriate prayer was, “May you get the most out of this possible!"

Sharing our healing, we send wishes for the well-being of all those who, like ourselves, find themselves in a difficult moment, as the heart whispers, “May we all get the most out of this possible."

And we can say to ourselves, in appreciation of the healing potential of approaching with mercy and awareness that which so recently may have been an aversion to our situation, “May I get the most out of this possible."

It is said that nothing is true until we have experienced it, so as an experiment in sending love where the fear is, we can use the presence of mild pain to test the truth of softening and sending mercy into an area of our body that is perhaps captured in the constriction of fear. Knowing that working with physical pain demonstrates a means of working with mental pain as well, we can let go of the tension around physical discomfort.

If you watch closely, you’ll notice that when you experience physical pain, you ostracize and isolate that part of yourself. You close off what is calling out for your help. We do the same thing with our grief.

When you stub your toe, more than physical pain is generated; grief is released into the wound, followed by a litany of dissatisfactions and “poor me’s," a damning of God sent heavenward. When we trip and fall in the darkness we are all too ready to curse ourselves for being so clumsy, as well as for not being able to hold our bladder until dawn, for not counting the hours in our just-expended 1,000-hour lightbulb, and the bruise is suffused with self-judgment and an irrational sense of responsibility.

The next time you have a minor wound, such as a stubbed toe or bumped elbow, note how long it takes that wound–when you soften to it and use it as a focus for loving kindness–to heal. Then compare it with the number of days it takes a similar wound to heal when you turn away from it, allowing the fear and resistance that rushes toward it to mercilessly remain. Contrast the healing of an injury in the mind or body in which loving kindness has gradually gathered to one that has been abandoned.

This softening and opening around pain has been shown in several double-blind studies to provide greater access of the immune system to an area of injury. It opens the vice of resistance into a never-considered acceptance of the moment. It denies hopelessness a home. It proves we are not helpless, that we can actively intercede in what we previously believed we had only to endure.

Working with our pain, or the pain of loved ones, cultivates a mercy that allows us to stay one more moment at their bedside when we are most needed. It allows us to not run away.

To open some of our healing potential, soften around the pain to melt the resistance that isolates it. Enter it with mercy, instead of walling it off with fear. Pass through the barricades of fear and distrust that attempt to defend the pain. Let what seems an improbable love–the ultimate acceptance of our pain–enter the cluster of sensations that so agitate the mind and body.

It takes patience to let go of doubt. So many fears warn us against opening beyond the numbness that surrounds pain. But when we allow ourselves to be open to and investigate these fears, we come to see them and our negative attachment to them, our compulsive warring with them, as a great unkindness to ourselves. As we open into our pain we may weep with gratitude when at last the pain does not so much disappear as become dispersed through the gradually expanding spaciousness of awareness.

As pain teaches us that fear can be penetrated by mercy and awareness, from some inherent knowing there resonates from our suffering a perfect teaching in compassion. We find in our pain the pain we all share. Softening around pain with mercy instead of hardening it with fear, the heart expands as “my’ pain becomes “the" pain. Odd as it may sound, when we share the insights arising from our pain we become more able to honor the pain.

Following a tributary from the personal to the universal, we can find in our pain the pain of others as well. In our own wish to be free of suffering, others are calling out to be freed from their difficulties. Finding them in ourselves, the loving kindness that we extend to all sentient beings moves Earth toward heaven.

When we meet pain with mercy, there is a silent sigh of understanding and relief that can serve the whole world. There is exposed a meaning to life, a connection through ourselves to all others, that proposes a balm to the suffering in the world.


張貼在 未分類 | 發表留言







負面情緒是如何醞釀產生的呢?同樣地,只要細心檢驗觀察,答案就顯現眼前。當發現他人某些行為不如我意,或某某事件的發生不合我意,我就會感到十分不愉快。不如意的事發生了,內心開始感到忐忑不安,當渴望的有所障礙不能如願以償時,自己再次變得緊繃, 內心開始打結。然而人的一生中不斷重覆這種過程,不想要的就不斷發生,渴望期待的卻渺不可得,此生命運作過程導致身心兩方面皆被綁得緊緊, 無從自拔。充滿著緊張僵硬及消極否定,生命是那麼苦澀。









又假設理智獲勝,我不掌摑他。反之我說:「多謝你。現在我要坐下來觀察我的憤怒。」然而這有可能嗎?當我閉上眼睛試著觀察憤怒時,心中立刻浮現出憤恨的對象– 那引發怒火的某人或某事。那麼,我不是在觀察憤怒本身。 我只是在觀察引起情緒波動的外在刺激因素。這只會令憤怒增生加強;此誠然非解決之道。 因此欲觀察抽象的負面情緒、抽象的情緒,是很難的事, 必須先從外在的情境中脫離出來。

然而, 當我們覺察到事物的終極究竟實相,就找到了真正的解決方法。每當負面情緒在心中生起時,身體上同時就發生兩件事。第一是氣息失去正常的節奏。每當心中生起負面情緒,呼吸就開始加重。這是較容易覺察到的。與此同時,在較深入細微的層面,身體內開始產生生化反應 一也就是某些感受的呈現。每一個不淨煩惱都必然會在體內造成一種感受,這種感受或那種感受,在身體的這部位或那部位。




透過這自我觀察的技巧讓我們看到內在與外在的兩個真實實相。以前,人總是睜開眼睛向外觀望而忽略了自身的內在實相。我總是向外尋找令我不快樂的因素;我總是歸咎于外界並試圖改變外界的現實。 我對內心的實況一無所知,從不了解痛苦的源頭其實來自於內心,自己對愉悅或不愉悅的感受生起盲目習性反應。

現在經過訓練,我看到了銅板的另一面。我可以察覺呼吸及內心感受。 不論是氣息或感受,我學習以一顆平穩的心只是觀察,不再起反應,不再增加自己的痛苦。反之,我讓內心的不淨煩惱浮現然後消逝。



藉著學習保持內心的平衡穩定來面對內在的一切體驗同時也發展出對外在一切境遇的豁達,不再執著。然而,不執著不等於逃避現實或無視世務問題。修習內觀靜坐的人對於他人的苦楚變得更加敏感,而且會盡一己所能解除別人的苦困-心中充滿愛,慈悲與平穩,不帶半點焦躁不安。他獲悉聖潔的無分別心 -知道如何保持以一顆平穩的心完全投入,全力以赴幫助他人,如此一來,當他為他人的安祥與快樂而努力時,他還是持續地保持著如此安祥與快樂。

這就是佛陀所教導的:生活的藝術。佛陀從沒有建立或教導過任何宗教、或主義。他未曾指示他的跟隨者做任何儀式或典禮、任何盲目或空泛的禮節。反之,他只教導藉由觀察內在實相,如實地觀察自然本性。 人由於無明,不斷產生傷人傷己的習性反應。但是一旦發展出如實觀察如其本然實相的智慧,我們就得以脫離這慣性反應。當盲目反應停止時,他就有能力做出正確的行動-出自平穩洞察實相真理的心,而這些行動會是積極的、有創造力的,對自己及他人都會有所裨益。

這種直接體驗自身的實相、自我觀察的技巧,就是所謂的「內觀」靜坐(Vipassana meditation)。在佛陀時代的印度語言中, passana的意思是睜開眼看,如平常一樣;但是Vipassana(內觀)則是如實地觀察事物,並非如其所見。必須向內貫穿表面的實相,從而深入到整個身心結構內的終極究竟實相。當體驗過實相之後,我們就學習到不再盲目地起反應,不再產生不淨煩惱- 自然而然,舊有的不淨煩惱逐漸被根除而得以離苦得樂。

訓練的第二步驟是要將心專注於一點即氣息上,藉此培養心的控制力,馴服狂野的心。嘗試延綿不斷覺知息入息出。這不是一種呼吸練習: 因而不要刻意控制氣息。反之,要如實觀察自然的呼吸,氣息的進入,氣息的呼出,如此一來心逐漸的平靜下來,不再被激烈的負面情緒所主宰。再者,當注意力集中時,心思就變得警覺、敏銳,此刻才有能力執行洞察的工作。

苦是每個人都要面對的問題, 因此任何人都可以實踐修習這個修行方法。一種普遍性的疾病,是需要普遍性而非宗派性的療方。 所以當一個人感到憤怒時,他的憤怒不是佛教徒的憤怒 、印度教徒的憤怒、或基督徒的憤怒。憤怒就只是憤怒。隨著因憤怒變得焦躁不安時,這焦躁不安不是基督徒的、印度教徒的、或佛教徒的。這疾病是普遍性的。因而此療法也必須是普遍性的。


藉由觀察內在實相,如實地觀察事物的實相-這就是在實際、體驗層面認識自我。在修習的過程中,就會逐漸從不淨染污的痛苦中解脫出來。 從粗重、外在和淺顯的表面實相,貫穿深透到身心的終極究竟實相。再進一步,超越這一切,接著體驗超越身心的實相,超越時空及超越相互依存的限制領域的實相:從所有的不淨、雜染、痛苦中徹底解脫的實相。這終極究竟實相,不論冠以任何名稱都無關重要;重要的是,它是每一個人的終究目標。





張貼在 未分類 | 發表留言


張貼在 未分類 | 發表留言

The Blue Sky March 藍天進行曲 –

張貼在 未分類 | 發表留言

Dad’s Music

張貼在 未分類 | 發表留言