Can you run 50 Marathons in 50 Days? The Queen of Sisu Can!

It sounds impossible – but of course it´s not. Some 75% of the 1.500 miles in total have been conquered already. By whom?

By Emilia Lahti. Emilia is a fellow Penn Mappster and has embarked on a truly remarkable journey at the beginning of this year: On January 18th, she started a 1,500-mile / 50-day running journey across the length of New Zealand. Her goal: to raise awarenss for nonviolence and peace. Ph.D. student Emilia is survivor of domestic violence and has initiated this project (“Sisu not Silence” to raise awareness around this neglected issue. In her words:

Much like running a thousand miles, healing from past trauma and impacting social change are also trials of endurance that begin by taking one step at a time. The key to overcoming goals that may seem impossible is to aim for relentless forward movement – no matter how slow the pace may feel at times.

You can follow her progress (and support her) via her homepageFacebook, and Instagram. Go, Emilia!

Emilia Lahti | Sisu not Silence

Are you ready for the 2. Wave of Positive Psychology?

I guess there ´s a heck of a lot of people out there who haven’t even heard about the first wave of Positive Psychology – and now, there´s supposed to be a second one? Yes, sir!

For quite some time now, Positive Psychology has been criticized for focusing way too much on the positive side(s) of life, while (by and large) ignoring negative phenomena – which, after all, is why Positive Psychology was founded in the first place. I feel this criticism is unwarranted pertaining to the academic/research side of things. E.g., research on Post-Traumatic Growth has always been readily embraced. But I guess in terms of marketing PP to the public, there´s more than a bit truth to this allegation.

Last year, Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener published their book The Upside of Your Dark Side, others are following suit now. There´s a very recent article on Psychology Today by Tim Lomas: Second Wave Positive Psychology: An Introduction. Here´s the central part:

Second Wave Positive Psychology is underpinned by four dialectical principles: appraisal; co-valence; complementarity; and evolution.

Appraisal means that we cannot appraise something as either positive or negative without taking context into account.

Co-valence reflects the idea that many situations and experiences comprise positive and negative elements.

Complementarity is about the idea of Ying and Yang, that positive and negative are co-creating sides of the same coin.

Evolution draws on Hegel’s notion of thesis-antithesis-synthesis.

In this case, traditional psychology can be seen as the thesis, Positive Psychology is the anti-thesis, and SWPP could evolve into a synthesis, where the truths of both thesis and antithesis are preserved, while their flaws are overcome.

Just in case you´ll find that article stimulating: it is based on an academic paper which can be found on Research Gate: Second Wave Positive Psychology: Exploring the Positive–Negative Dialectics of Wellbeing.

Another synopsis of SWPP is proposed by Paul T. P. Wong in this article: What Is Second Wave Positive Psychology and Why is it necessary?

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Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then…

Nico_Mika_ParkWord.

Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

(L.R. Knost)

No Pain, no Gain? Think again! We are able to experience Post-Ecstatic Growth, Science says

Post Ex GrowthOriginally coined by German philosopher Nietzsche, the following quote has become a piece of common knowledge: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”. Most people have – at one point or another – made the experience that going through really tough times may render us stronger than before, and not shattered as one would initially expect. In psychology, this mechanism is labeled Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG; here´s an overview of the idea).

Some people might even claim that there is no gain without pain. Turns out, that this view may be wrong, or at least incomplete. In a 2013 article published in the Journal of Positive Psychology titled Gains without pains? Growth after positive events, Ann Marie Roepke, Ph.D. student at Penn´s Positive Psychology Center, presents evidence for what she calls Post-Ecstatic Growth, based on a survey among some 600 people. Basically, Roepke had people name the one experience in peoples lives that they remember as the most positive (e.g., the birth of a child). Then, she asked people to specify which category best characterized their positive event, based on Seligman´s PERMA framework and which positive emotions had been evoked by the event (e.g., in awe, inspired, uplifted, joyful, content, fascinated etc.). Additionally, she assessed the outcome of that event, for instance, feelings of personal growth or “doors opening up” for new possibilities in life.

In short, Roepke found clear evidence for the existence of Post-Ecstatic Growth. Here are some excerpts from the discussion section of her article:

Positive events can, in fact, catalyze growth. Although hedonic happiness levels tend to return to baseline after positive events, important changes in eudaimonic well-being and in worldview may remain. Four domains of growth are particularly important after positive events:

  • new meaning and purpose in life;
  • higher self-esteem;
  • spiritual development;
  • and better relationships.

Some positive experiences are more likely to lead to (self-perceived) growth than others. […] Events that evoke stronger positive emotions are more closely linked to growth. This is consistent with Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory: positive events can provide opportunities to expand one’s thought-action repertoire, and this expansion can be perceived as growth. Indeed, participants who reported that a positive experience opened their eyes to new opportunities, goals, roles, and values also felt they had grown more. […] Inspiration, awe, and elevation are especially important positive emotions for growth. […] In contrast, more hedonic positive emotion (e.g. feeling joyful and content) predicts less growth.

Inspiration is related to meaning, a sense of connection to something greater than the self. Meaning, like inspiration, is closely tied to growth: meaningful experiences are associated with more growth than experiences of accomplishment, engagement, relationship, and hedonic positive emotion.

Roepke´s conclusion:

Our best moments can inspire us, connect us to something greater than ourselves, and open our eyes to new possibilities, ultimately giving rise to growth.

Hence, there is gain without pain. If we seek out the right positive experiences, we are able to experience gain from previous gains, possibly entering into an upward-spiral of growth.

5 recent Positive Psychology Books taking a very special Angle on the Subject

By now, there are hundreds (or probably thousands…) of books on Positive Psychology. Most of them are general introductions to the subject or books focusing on the use of Positive Psychology in organizations (please see the general and organizational book lists on Mappalicious).

So today, I compiled a list of recent publications that looks a little different. All the books look at Positive Psychology from a very distinct and special angle. Enjoy!

 

Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener look at the positive value of our negative emotions, thereby challenging the assumption that Positive Psychology is all about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses.

http://www.amazon.com/Upside-Your-Dark-Side-Self–Drives/dp/1594631735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422713137&sr=1-1

 

Kate Hefferon sheds light on the role of the body in Positive Psychology, thereby filling a gap in the extant literature that mostly focuses on the psychological side of things.

http://www.amazon.com/Positive-Psychology-Body-Somatopsychic-Flourishing/dp/0335247717/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Rafael Calvo and Dorian Peters show us the (near) future of technology, where smartphones and wearables, together with the appropriate applications, will help to foster and sustain human well-being.

http://www.amazon.com/Positive-Computing-Technology-Wellbeing-Potential/dp/0262028158/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Michael Bishop aims at integrating philosophical and psychological theories of well-being and proposes a new theory for understanding flourishing.

http://www.amazon.com/Good-Life-Philosophy-Psychology-Well-Being/dp/0199923116/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422714230&sr=1-1

 

Finally, Stephen Joseph takes on one of my most favorite subjects: post-traumatic growth. He explains how we can navigate (traumatic) change and adversity to find new meaning and direction in life.

http://www.amazon.com/What-Doesnt-Kill-Psychology-Posttraumatic/dp/0465032338/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422714146&sr=1-3

Sisu – Transforming Barriers into Frontiers [TEDx]

Emilia Lahti, a fellow Penn MAPPster, and Queen of Sisu (as I like to call her) has finally given a TEDx talk. Sisu can be defined as fortitude, perseverance and indomitable determination in the face of extreme adversity. It´s part of the Finnish culture but obviously is not limited to Finns – everybody can display (and profit from) Sisu at times. Here you go…

Trials and Tribulations: How much Negativity do we need for a Positive Life?

Positive Psychology is not only about smiley-happy faces and rose-colored glasses. I´ve already written about Post-Traumatic Growth, and the Japanese art of Kintsukuroi as a metaphor for the state of flourishing after experiencing adversity. Yesterday, my fellow Mappster and “Queen of Sisu”, Emilia Lahti, shared a study on Facebook that sheds additional light on these issues. The question is:

Is a Life without Struggles and Hardships a desirable one?

The short answer is: probably not. In a study bearing the Nietzsche-inspired name Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability, and Resilience the researchers find that experiencing a moderate amount of “trials and tribulations” over one´s lifetime may foster resilience, resulting in advantages for mental health and well-being. Have a look at this table:

Lifetime AdversityWhat you see is data on a representative U.S. sample of more than 2.000 people. It shows the relationship between participant´s “Cumulative Lifetime Adversity” (CLA; people were asked for negative events in their life, e.g., serious illnesses, bereavement etc.) and several scores for mental health (Life Satisfaction) and its opposites (e.g., signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Precisely, you can see several U-shaped relationships, and one inverse-U-shaped one. The U-shaped ones depicts the relationship between CLA and signs for the absence of mental health, and the inverse shows the relationship between CLA and life satisfaction.

What it means: those people that display the highest levels of satisfaction and the lowest level of “symptoms” have experienced a moderate to average amount of adversity over their lifetime. High levels of adversity can really knock us down and leave us shattered. At the same time, having (almost) no prior experience with hardships can render us vulnerable to corresponding events in the future – and less satisfied with life in general.

So basically, Nietzsche was right. There is saying in Germany:

When you fall down: Stand up. Straighten your crown. Walk on.