‘It is as if Freud supplied us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half’.
All we can ever hope to do Sigmund Freud once wrote, is ‘to change neurotic misery into common unhappiness’.
This pessimistic statement from arguably the most influential psychological theorist of modern times captured the mood that prevailed in psychology through most of the 20th century.
That is most psychologists – psychiatrists and psychoanalysts were essentially guided by a model of the patient that was based on what was wrong with people and how to deal with these deficiencies.
It goes without saying that it’s important that therapists’ energies are devoted to addressing the issues that trouble their patients.
However it’s become increasingly apparent that this near-exclusive focus on deficits and disorders doesn’t do justice to the rich potential of human existence.
What about the strengths and virtues that make some people so admirable and worth emulating?
What about those beautiful aspects of life that give us reason to get up in the morning?
What about cherished experiences of love and laughter – hope and happiness?
Why isn’t psychology striving to understand and promote these positive aspects of human lives?