The Power of Positive Thinking, Circa 2007
Good old Norman Vincent Peale. Fifty years ago, he was telling people in The Power of Positive Thinking that if you had more positive thoughts, your life would get better. I read all his books when I was a teen, and I have to say, they did help. Then I grew up and discovered that positive thinking won't solve all of life's problems, even if it does make them a little more palatable.
Positive psychology looks to be a stepchild of Peale's ideas — with a bit more scientific sheen. Basically, it's psychology that looks at the positive aspects of being human to understand "What's it all about?" And just like Peale's work, it includes a healthy dose of religion.
This has some psychologists upset. In almost an echo of the argument over evolution and intelligent design, traditional psychologists worry that this new field will be twisted into a vehicle to advance religious beliefs. But religion has been of interest to many prominent psychologists and thinkers over the last century, including William James and Carl Jung.
John Shook of the Center for Inquiry says that as long as positive psychology remains rooted in the real world, it could teach us a lot about what makes people happy. In fact, when Chantal Allan interviewed Shook, an atheist, for Day to Day, he said that research into positive psychology could show that what makes a person happy is basically the same for believers and atheists.
4:36 PM ET | 09- 4-2007 | permalink