Positive Psychology Creating possibilities – A perspective !
Psychology as a profession helps in changing one’s outlook to view everyday life situations in a better and more understandable manner. Psychology allows us to deal with situations, deal with self and others, build relationships and develop skills by conscious choice. As I work very closely with children age group 2 years plus to 22 years, this millennium youth has been very demanding and confusing to parents as well as educators. Raising children who are happy, healthy, knowledgeable and morally good is the ultimate goal of all parents and educators and a prerequisite for civilized society and functioning communities. Although specific definition of health, happiness and good character may vary across time, place and culture their importance for personal as well as social well being cannot be debated upon.
What is a good of a person, how can we measure it and how can we build good character among children and youth? These timeless questions were asked by the Athenians philosophers and are still posed by modern psychologists and educators. However Positive psychology has refocused scientific attention to character identifying it as one of the pillars of this new field and central to an understanding of the psychological good life. The basic premise of positive psychology is that the happiness and fulfillment of children and youth entail more than the identification and treatment of their problems. Is counselling limited to solving problems or is it a life skill used by teachers, parents, colleagues, friends to build good character, revive hope, give confidence and enable people; is the question we need to answer. If the answer to the above question is that good character is beyond just not having problems then we need to focus all our energies to use positive psychology in building good character.
Character refers to the aspect of personality which is morally valued. Good character is at the heart of positive youth development and so anyone who sees his role as that of guiding and grooming youth could use the positive psychology framework. Good character is associated with desired outcomes such as school success, leadership, tolerance and self-control. These character strengths are related to achievement, life satisfaction, and well being of children and youth.
Positive psychology is the scientific study of the optimal life experiences- people doing their best and people being their best. It is a newly christened approach within psychology that takes seriously as a subject matter those things that make life most worth living. Positive psychology does not deny the problems that people experience and positive psychologists do not ignore stress and challenge in their attempts to understanding what it means to live well. The most basic assumption here is that positive psychology urges to believe in human goodness and excellence and asserts that these are as authentic as disease, disorder and distress and hence should be given equal attention.
54% of India’s population is said to be youth ie below 25 years of age and they go to schools and colleges. We are already witnessing an emergence of increasing materialistic attractions among the very competent sections of the young people. The irony is that these youth who should be the change agents of the society fall short in matching up their character with the competence that they already have. Large chunks of the curriculum followed in school today caters only to information and knowledge needs of students but the insights to pupils on large issues are compromised. Unfortunately, skill development is largely left to the child’s own initiatives and efforts. All schools and their heads ideally will have to take up the mantle to balance academics with character building, values and ethics in schools and colleges. The education that does not build character, does not contribute to building society.
Counselling psychologists, working with schools have been providing assistance to students under the positive psychology frame. One such initiative is BUILDING POSITIVE TEAMS FOR POSSIBILITY- where unity building and team building are used for students to get to know each other and break the barriers. While dealing with students counseling psychologists want to help the students realize that even though they are all very different they have so much in common. They need someone to focus their positive energies into building a group that shares and cares. Within their group's students should be encouraged to confront their issues, identify the roots of the problems and learn coping strategies for the future. This gives ample space to develop character and values –the real skills for a good life.
Positive Psychology actually provides a comprehensive scheme for describing and understanding the good life. It identifies following domains as critical to the psychological good life and good character we aim to build in all young adults:-
- Positive individual traits-character, values, interests.
- Positive relationships-friendship, marriage, colleagueship.
- Positive experiences-happiness, life situations , fulfillment.
- Positive institutions-family, school, community etc.
People are at their best when institutions, relationships, traits and experiences are in alignment and doing well in life represents a coming together of all four domains. In a nutshell, the demand is we need to move from remediation to prevention. A crucial task for any counselling effort is, therefore, to identify a student’s strength and encourage its use. Such a balanced emphasis would build rapport, bolster student confidence which in turn should facilitate the success of character building through counselling.
Having said that education should aim to create a balance between competency and character and that schools have to take the lead, let me add that schools and teachers are not the only agents that educate ; homes, community and society at large is also an integral educating medium and we need to align all to reach this goal.