Moving beyond the basics of positive psychology, e.g., Maslow, developmental schemas, strength-based perspective, internal resilience, psychology of religion, hope-based psychology, etc., I experience a re-orientation by way of a fresh, close reading of Aristotle’s virtue ethics and Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue. From here I now seek to develop a thorough, comprehensive, practical understanding and framework that emerges from what C. Peterson and M. E. P. Seligman have begun: a “Manual of Sanities” in a collaborative text, Character, Strengths, and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (Oxford, 2004). From Aristotle, MacIntyre, Peterson and Seligman, and others, and with my innate desire and need, I reclaim ethics’ and psychology’s early concern with virtue and character by drawing on ancient and recent hard-learned lessons about how to conduct good psychological science while developing an informed, earnest praxis that is in contrast to the DSM’s focus on illness and deficit, hence the categorization of “a manual of the sanities.”
The niche of positive psychology evolves from the need to deconstruct modernity’s need to categorize illness and pathologies, which includes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) with its first edition printed in 1952 (DSM-I) and its most recent (DSM-V) in 2013. See ‘Stopping the “Madness”: Positive Psychology and the Deconstruction of the Illness Ideology and the DSM’ by James E. Maddux in Handbook of Positive Psychology, C. R. Snyder, Shane J. Lopez, Editors, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002, 13-25.
Widening the focus includes paying attention to human strengths and environmental resources. This perspective should tap into an insider rather than the outsider perspective; e.g., the person and/or system experiencing the behavior, feelings and problems and relative potency of positives versus negative factors. Expanding our attention includes the use of various approaches that see life beyond the baseline offering not only interventions in therapy; they promote health at every level. A brief list of approaches includes that following with some examples:
- Emotion-focused (resilience, concept of flow, positive emotions)
- Cognitive-focused (creativity, Well-being, hope theory, self-efficacy)
- Self-based (authenticity, humility, reality negotiation)
- Interpersonal (compassion, forgiveness, altruism)
- Biological (toughness, role of neuropsychology, biology of social support)
- Specific Coping Approaches (sharing one’s story; pursuit of meaningfulness, humor, meditation)
While this subject is vast, growing and vitally needed to promote more fully human functioning (“complete mental health”), I provide verse to convey the mystical measure of fullness.
“The dead man erases the word for God to better understand divinity.”
Marvin Bell, The Book of the Dead Man (13.1, 11)
A Body of Broken Bones
An Erasure of “A Body of Broken Bones” written by Thomas Merton in
A Thomas Merton Reader Thomas P. McDonnell, Ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc. 1962.
Dan Seifert, August 2014
Identity in one mystical measure of fullness,
perfection remaining distinct nevertheless
omnia in omnibus.
Fire alone refine, separate slag and dross,
consume entirely in hidden rock and dirt;
suffer dismemberment. Body
drawn and quartered in agony,
vegetates to avarice and lust of breed,
divisions, wounds tear from union—
another member torn
limb from limb.
The innocent who love—
hidden, possess the secret
imprisoned in inescapable egotism.
Love suffer[s], resetting a body
of broken bones: every lost member
of human hatred born in isolation.
Others projecting proud, happy hate
consumes its own spiritual ruin.
Strong hate support[s] idol of war
with great toil, drink[s] blood, eat[s] flesh,
thrive[s] on collective fanaticism.
Unworthiness lies at the root,
blind to self, seeing wrongs
in someone else. Aware-ness tempt[s]
a subtler, searing, nauseating hate:
everything fainted, everything foul.
Weak hate is weak love.
Begin the fight to love—discovery[ing]
no special consequence while
hatred smolder[s] under gray ashes;
the pain of reunion heal[s] all wounds.
The basic tenant in Natural Law—
treat others as we would like them to treat us—
demanded of every human being is willed
whether I find the formula satisfactory.
Compassion, suffer, share with others
joys, sufferings, ideas, needs, desires,
even groups regarded as hostile.
Contemplate the recovery of our union,
peace in the unquiet city of those
fighting for possession,
monopoly of goods and pleasures.
Flight from the world, free from self-concern—
it is dangerous to merely be alone.