I have been doing more interviews on this blog lately to get wisdom, cutting edge knowledge, and valuable insight from experts in the field of Positive Psychology, and this interview with Ryan Niemiec Psy.D. offers all of that and more.
Ryan is the Education Director at the VIA Institute on Character, and a fellow blogger here on PsychCentral who writes the blog Character Strengths.
He was kind enough to share his extensive knowledge about how we can use our character strengths to begin living life at our best.
I believe this is one of the most valuable topics in applied positive psychology so am truly grateful for his generosity.
I know the interview is long, but it’s certainly worth the read. I hope you enjoy!
Positive psychology is much more than “positive thinking,” and offers a vast array of insight and direction for how people can function more optimally. Positive psychology offers us added insight into how we can embrace change, feel positive about who we are, and enjoy healthy, responsible and fulfilled lives.
But, like anything else the application of this knowledge and information is very important. Particularly when it comes to how we apply positive emotions.
Recent research presented in the American Psychologist explains how positive emotions are not necessarily direct and distinct in the way they function and affect us.
According to these researchers, psychology is not necessarily positive or negative. Ascribing a label such as positive to emotions and states of mind like optimism, forgiveness, and kindness may be a misnomer when considering the bigger picture.
When people are at this point they certainly need help stabilizing their situation, and this is a crucial first step in helping people get what they want and need from life.
It is also possible that people have a greater motivation and desire for their life. Should the helping relationship be taken a step further to offer tools, skills, and resources allowing people a conduit for more optimal living?
Positive psychology is something that caught my attention because I got tired of focusing solely on illness and dysfunction. I wanted to learn how to be happier and enjoy life, instead of simply how to be less anxious and stressed out. I wanted to be able to help other people find greater fulfillment and meaning, instead of just deal with the necessities of life.
There are many things we can do personally and there are many techniques to apply to counseling, coaching, or other helping professions.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Positive Youth Development (PYD) expert Marilyn Price-Mitchell PhD. She is a developmental psychologist, educator, researcher, and writer who studies how today’s youth grow into healthy, successful, and engaged adults.
She synthesizes multidisciplinary research in psychology, education, sociology, child & adolescent development, social psychology, and neurobiology to bring evidence-based research to parents, teachers, civic leaders, mentors, coaches, and all those who support positive youth development.
She was kind enough to provide her insight and wisdom on this ever growing and valuable field. Whether you are completely unfamiliar with PYD or a proponent and advocate for it’s expansion, there is a great deal of knowledge to be gained below.
1. What unique value do you feel positive youth development offers society?
It gives us the opportunity to view children and adolescents more holistically. Child psychology, much like medicine, focused on a disease model, looking at ways to treat deficiencies in development instead of how to achieve well-being.
For many years psychology has focused on illness, taking a perspective of alleviating sickness as opposed to helping people reach their true potential and optimal level of functioning.
As Sigmund Freud has been quoted saying:
“I have found little that is ‘good’ about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash.”
I don’t know your perspective or attitude toward people and society, but this is clearly about as pessimistic and cynical as it gets.
Thinking of psychology through a mental illness lens limits the scope of how the world can become a better place, and how we as individuals can reach our full potential.
Fortunately, scholars recognized that psychology had become far too negative, and that it was time to focus more on the positive traits, experiences, and values that could lead to greater happiness, success, and achievement in the individual person and world at large.
From this realization, the positive psychology movement was born, and research started to examine the full range of human behavior.