Positive Psychology is a bunch of bullshit…but at least it embraces my sense of humor

Read a good critique of positive psychology.


Martin Seligman is a leader in research in positive psychology. He has written some popular books such as Learned Optimism.   The article has quotes from Confucius and Seligman and contrasts the two. Simply put , Confucius has a willingness to take on hard questions,  Seligman does not. He tries to set his work apart from moral dilemmas, isolating his research variables.  It seems he thinks he is above struggling with morals, and it is paying off for him. He got a $31 million contract from the military to make more resilient soldiers.


Seligman has been promoted to the level of his incompetance.

I do not believe that positive psychology equates to recognizing how people are able to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities.  The latter involves all mental states, including negative ones.

But how do you argue against something positive? Just dig a little deeper. This took me a few google searches.  



7 Responses to “Positive Psychology is a bunch of bullshit…but at least it embraces my sense of humor”

  1. Lisa Sansom Says:

    You may wish to do a few more google searches. Seligman doesn’t get any of that money from the military – all of his time is volunteered. As to the missing moral core, I quite agree and Seligman has said that his model is descriptive, not prescriptive. This is definitely an on-going debate in positive psychology circles. But it doesn’t mean that Seligman is “above struggling with morals” – you can’t extrapolate from the research to the man himself. It just means that he has chosen a model that doesn’t embrace the moral consideration.


  2. Elaine Says:

    you are dead ignorant about the scientific research in this field. Just read carefully. Positive psychology is the study of positive emotions . there is nothing wrong about doing research on what is positive. Like in any other part in the medical sciences there is pathology and physiology (all medical doctors study both) , so Positive Psychology is the psychology of the normal healthy side of the mind and the soul.

    READ and STUDY before you have an opinion.


  3. diddly Says:

    Lisa, I guess when I posted this I didn’t embrace the moral consideration either, so that makes me hypocritical. Is it ‘wrong’ for me to extrapolate about Seligman and to say something that may be inaccurate? That question is irrelevant in Seligman’s work. That makes it weak, in my opinion, becuase it stunts conversation and development of ways to help people in their lives as they exist.


    My opinion about positive psychology and other formulas and theories is based on research: ” Meta-analyses by Lester Luborsky (2002) show that the effect size that can be attributed to specific therapy techniques is only 0.2. Therefore, all therapies are considered equal and “all must have prizes”. On the other hand, scientists who believe in empirically supported therapies (EST) contend that it is not a fair picture of affairs. Amongst many others Chambless (2002), for example, support the EST movement because there is much evidence that specific therapies are helpful to “specific people in specific situations with specific problems”. The significance of the figure of 0.2 is then an artifact of grouping problems and therapies in a non-meaningful way.

    The “Dodo bird verdict” is especially important because policymakers have to decide on the usefulness of investing in the diversity of psychotherapies that exist. The debate has been very much heated since its re-inception in 1975 with a publication of Lester Luborsky. Depending on what the outcome of the debate is held to be, many jobs and also the healthcare for many individuals are at stake. (from Wikipedia) ”

    I threw out a negative opinion to stimulate some debate. I am not sure this is considered ‘normal’ or not by positive psychology therapists, but I am willing to get banged up a bit in order to challenge my own thinking.

    see –

    The Great Psychotherapy Debate Bruce Wampold.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. sbk Says:

    From earlier post “Positive Psychology is the psychology of the normal healthy side of the mind and the soul.”

    Since Positive psychologists (and psychology generally) have no apparent interest in a coherent theory of “mind” your statement amounts to “Positive psychology is normal healthy side of an unknown entity.” Where can I go to be further enlightened?


    • diddly Says:

      Positive psychology is not any more or less bs than any other theory. If it works for your clients or you , stick with it. But don’t force it on anyone, or try to make it fit for you when it doesn’t. FIT of approach to the individual turns out to be most important. “Feedback Informed Treatment” will reveal a lot to you in an internet search.


      • sbk Says:

        “Positive psychology is not any more or less bs than any other theory.”

        If you added the words “in psychology” to the end of the above statement about then perhaps.

        But compared even to Galileo’s theory of motion, it certainly is more BS. there is no coherent theoretical structure in most psychological “theory” (they are more stipulation than well-specified construction), and most (not some) of the factors comprising the theoretical edifice defy even propositional (much less formal) description (e.g., what, exactly is self, memory, mind…?)

        Perhaps you mean “theory” in the folk-intuitive sense (e.g., the theory of creationism is, on this view, as much a theory as is the theory of electromagnetism)?


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