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Positive psychology concerns itself with positive experiences and positive traits of individuals.

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Introduction

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Positive psychology concerns itself with positive experiences and positive traits of individuals. It also involves the study of the institutions that facilitate development of the positive traits in the individuals (Seligman, 2003). While the main goal of clinical psychology is to lessen the suffering, sadness and worry of troubled individuals, positive psychology seeks to achieve much more than that. It seeks to go beyond relieving the suffering. Positive psychology relies on the premise that individuals deserve satisfaction joy and contentment; not just lessening their problems (Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). While clinical psychology focuses on correcting weaknesses, positive psychology lays more emphasis on building strengths with an aim helping an individual achieve his meaning and purpose in life.

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Positive psychology recognizes that removal of suffering does not automatically lead to contentment and achievement of one’s purpose in life. One has to have positive emotions and build a character that will help him attain the meaning and purpose he intends for his life (Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). Building a positive character, which is one of the goals of positive psychology, helps not only alleviate suffering but also helps do away with the main causes of suffering. Positive psychology yields best results when used along with clinical psychology.

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It is mostly used to complement clinical psychology. Positive psychology focuses on elements thought to be indicators of a good life. Good value in this context means what one holds to be the most important thing in his life (Seligman, 2003). Elements that define a good life are those elements that make life worth living and encourage one to develop a strong character. Positive psychology seeks to develop positive connections with others, positive individual traits and develop the qualities that regulate life.

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Basic assumption of positive psychology

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One major assumption of positive psychology is that there is a relationship between one’s emotional state and one’s well-being. Before the development of positive psychology, most people assumed that elimination of negative emotions alone was enough to guarantee wellbeing (Seligman, 2003). They thought that once negative emotions are done away with positive emotions immediately move to replace them. For instance, once one makes money, it eliminates emotions such as worry and desire leading to immediate happiness. Further studies have, however, revealed that when one does away with negative emotions they are replaced by neutral emotions (Waterman, 2013). It takes effort to move from the state of neutrality to a state of positive emotion. Hence positive psychology assumes that one’s emotional state plays.

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When negative emotion factors such as unemployment, stress, and low economic status are done away with, the individual feels better but this does not automatically lead him to happiness. A person who has a job may be more relaxed than he was when he was jobless but still has room for more happiness. Positive psychology takes it that eliminating negative emotions does not necessarily create virtues, strengths and the ability to flourish (Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). One may be free of depression and anxiety yet lack the will to make self-sacrifice, or show integrity.

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Emotions do affect mood. For instance, optimism is associated with positive mood. An optimistic person will always be on a good mood and vice versa for pessimism. However, the degree of pessimism has nothing to do with the mood. Hence it is possible for one to decrease his pessimism yet his mood will not change his mood from hay to unhappy.

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Positive emotions contribute towards one’s well being. Positive psychology assumes that the more positive emotions one acquires, the closer one gets to attaining happiness. However attaining total happiness and contentment in life cannot be done by acquiring positive emotions alone. One major motivating factor for human behavior is to find pleasure and avoid pain (Waterman, 2013). People seek to find as much pleasure as possible and avoid trouble as much as they can. Pleasure comes from satisfying ones needs and meeting expectations. Expectations can be biological, or as a result of social conditioning (Seligman, 2003). However, not all pleasurable experiences that lead one to grow psychologically. Such experiences need to be renewed after every short period if one is to remove positive. Pleasure is an important factor towards attaining human satisfaction.

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Attaining a positive emotional state is a very important step towards attaining human satisfaction. Bodily pleasures, for instance sex, last for a short period of time and have minimal effect on the general well being of an individual. Higher pleasures, for instance joy, are usually more complex, but their effects last longer compared to bodily pleasures (Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). Emotions like enjoyment do contribute a lot to overall well-being of an individual. Enjoyment comes as a result of going beyond expectations to come up with something that was not expected. By so doing one, not only convinces himself of his abilities but also makes others around him believe in him too; which contributes towards his well-being. Enjoyment not only gives one a sense of accomplishment but also makes one realize that it is possible to achieve even more than one already has.

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Positive psychology hence assumes that pleasurable experiences and enjoyment contribute towards an individual’s overall well being (Seligman, 2003). Although pleasure as an emotion is important to a person’s overall wellbeing, pleasure that seeks to benefit just the individual is self defeating and cannot eventually lead to contentment. Sensual pleasures only last for a short time. Once done, an individual then gets into a constant struggle to repeat similar pleasures. Too much focus on repeating sensual pleasures can lead one to attain undesired changes in personality.

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While search for pleasure is a basic motivating force behind most of human actions, it works best if the search is done while at the same time ensuring that one maintains positive social interactions with the rest of the members in the community. Focusing exclusively on self eventually does not lead to satisfaction as envisioned in positive psychology (Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). Search for personal pleasure has to be accompanied by positive relations with other members of the society. One has to be aware of the emotional needs of other members of the society. By having a positive relationship with the rest in the society, one improves the well being of not only the other members of the society but also his own.

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Positive psychology advocates for the idea that in striving to attain a good life for oneself, one should also contribute in creating higher levels of happiness for other people in the society. Hence one cannot create a good life, which is what positive psychology aims to achieve, without taking measures to create positive emotions such as joy, satisfaction contentment and happiness among those close to him (Seligman, 2003). Well, being is closely related to maximization of positive emotions such as happiness. It is also associated with oneself. Cultivating positive emotions help an individual expand his potential as well as achieving personal growth. This in return contributed towards achieving contentment and satisfaction which are major goals of positive psychology.

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Although positive psychology insists on positive emotions as a way to achieve satisfaction and contentment, negative emotions are also important. Ignoring the importance of negative emotions should be like to deny that there are numerous problems in the globe that need to be addressed (Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). Although undesirable, negative emotions help one to survive. For instance, without any sense of fear at all one would e vulnerable a wide array of dangers. Without skepticism, on the other hand, helps one avoid untrustworthy people. This helps an individual avoid situations that would prevent one from attaining satisfaction and contentment and happiness. Whereas positive psychology assumes that one can best achieve satisfaction and happiness by strengthening his positive emotions, negative emotions play a great role in reminding individuals that they are human. Hence, striving to attain emotions that are for the general benefit of the society at large (Waterman, 2013). Negative emotions like sadness, defeat and tragedy play a significant role in reminding an individual there is higher satisfaction as compared to sensual pleasures.

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People appreciate positive emotions better when they have experienced negative emotions at one time, or another. Although positive psychology emphasizes on positive emotions, it does not deny that there is a serious need to address injustices that affect the various sections of the society. Addressing such issues contributes to general well-being of the society. This in turn contributes towards the attainment of personal well being, which is a major goal of positive psychology. People regardless of what of part of the world they are strive to be happy and rely on systems set up by the society to attain this emotional state. Hence, ensuring emotional well being of the society make it easier to attain an individual’s own satisfaction. By helping others attain own satisfaction and happiness, one increases own satisfaction too.

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The idea that humans are driven by interests like aggression and egoism were once accepted as basic assumptions on which human behavior was explained. Positive psychology, however, does not hold the view that the society makes not make attempts to curb aggression in its midst (Duckworth, Steen & Seligman, 2005). Although it is true that humans are motivated by selfish gains, they have a lot of control on those emotions. Hence, positive psychology does not approve of the idea that only the lucky in the society deserve to have satisfaction and happiness.

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The assumption there is a relationship between emotional status and well being is important in that the things that make life worth living are mostly feelings. Happiness and well being can be attained by working towards attaining emotions like comfort. This may at times demand that an individual actively engages in search of positive emotions to the point of completely getting absorbed into the act (Seligman, 2003). Positive emotions can be geared towards being contented with the past, the present or the future. Positive emotions like satisfaction and pride have to do past actions while optimism and confidence have to do with the future. Good life may not necessarily refer to feelings but involves activities that one love doing. These activities all contribute to an individual’s overall wellbeing.

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That there is a relationship between emotional state and well being is an important assumption in positive psychology. Positive psychology works on the premises that positive emotions help develop the well being of the individual. Positive psychology, however, understands that merely replacing negative emotions with positive emotions does not elevate one into a state of satisfaction and total wellbeing. The role played by emotions by emotions; especially positive emotions in positive psychology cannot be ignored. Hence the idea that emotional state plays a major role in determining one’s well being is a major assumption that cannot be ignored.

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