Toward a Humanistic Positive Psychology: Why Can?t We Just Get Along? By Kirk Schneider, Ph.D. APA Convention Symposium 2006
In this talk, I propose that despite the nay-saying 1) positive psychology is justifiably a branch of humanistic psychology, and 2) a humanistic positive psychology would be salutary to the profession of psychology. From the standpoint of theory, I show how positive psychology shares humanistic psychology?s concern with what it means to be fully, experientially human, and how that understanding illuminates the vital or fulfilled life. However, I also show how the findings of positive psychology, particularly in the area ?happiness? research?or what has recently been termed ?human flourishing,? stop short of the fuller aforementioned aims. Specifically, I show how positive psychology appears to oversimplify both the experience of human flourishing and its social-adaptive value. While the positive psychology findings on flourishing are useful in limited contexts, e.g., in terms of their implications for the attainment of pleasure, physical health, and cultural competency, they are inadequate with respect to the more complicated contexts of creativity, emotional depth, and social consciousness. I will detail the nature of these discrepancies, such as their implications for perception of reality, psychological growth, and capacity for self-reflection, and consider their role in an expanded vision of human resiliency.
My work has over the years focused, in one way or another, on a study of ?alterity?. I have been interested, as a phenomenologist, in the personal means of access to that which is not my own experience, but which belongs to the Other ? and which nonetheless comes within the purview of my own experience. I started out with the phenomenon of how I, as a clinical psychologist, could possibly have access to the meaning of a patient?s experience ? and how I could approach the study of the other ?person? or ?personality?. Later I delved into the experience of gendered alterity, and in recent years I have begun to reflect on my encounters with primates at various zoos. While on sabbatical this past year I encountered people from the hill tribes of northern Thailand, and once again found myself reflecting on the experience of being face to face with an Other with whom I share no common language.
Despite the fact that the concept of mind as an immaterial entity dates back at least to the twelfth century CE, it still occupies a central place as the subject matter of modern psychology. Consider only a few of the numerous recent books with the word ?mind? in the title: How The Mind Works (by Steven Pinker), The Mind?s I and Kinds of Minds (by Daniel Dennett), The Maladapted Mind and Mindblindness (by Simon Baron-Cohen), Wild Minds (by Marc Hauser), and The Mating Mind (by Geoffrey Miller).