Chapter 46The Uneasy—and Necessary—Role of the Negative in Positive Psychology


The author gratefully acknowledges Sabrina Plouzek for her assistance in the preparation of this chapter.

At the most general level, this chapter argues that from its inception, positive psychology has had a substantial negative core that at various points has clouded positive psychology's definition while also modifying and challenging the field in important ways. Organized into two broad sections, this chapter first examines positive psychology's definition and the extent to which negative phenomena have historically been included in it. The second section discusses how negative phenomena continue to confront positive psychology, suggesting possible modifications for its future. This second section specifically addresses work on (a) the role of negative emotions in coping with, and potentially growing from, traumatic events; (b) the importance of context as illustrated by recent challenges to attempts at characterizing certain psychological traits or processes as inherently positive; and (c) how students' unpleasant emotions in the educational process might be integrated more thoroughly into a positive psychology approach to education. Many of the issues in the chapter have been previously addressed to some extent by those inside and outside positive psychology. The chapter draws substantially upon and benefits greatly from these efforts (e.g., Held, 2002, 2004, 2005; Kristjánsson, ...

Get Positive Psychology in Practice: Promoting Human Flourishing in Work, Health, Education, and Everyday Life, 2nd Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.